Politicians and their goons may be divided on anything but the plunder of the public wealth. They may kill one another in the run up to an election and go all out to topple governments but on the question of their privileges, perks and corrupt activities, their cooperation has never been lacking. What is going on at Maligawatte, Colombo is a case in point.
A group of politically backed Mafiosi, belonging to different parties, is going hell for leather in its bid to grab the recreational areas of the sprawling housing complex consisting of 3,000 units at Maligawatte. Last week, they, accompanied by a posse of policemen who were obviously in their pocket, descended on the `green lung` of the housing scheme to block it out for the construction of some shops. But for the vehement protests by the Argus-eyed residents, determined to keep the land grabbers at bay, they would have accomplished their mission with ease.
We thought after the recent disappearance of the so-called God Father of the Colombo underworld, the city was free from land grabbers. But, now it appears that they are still not without leadership. They have got hold of some influential politicians and their bureaucratic lackeys (or boorucrats?) to legitimise their sordid operations. They seem to have graduated from seizing private land to grabbing state land!
They have already encroached on state land in several other places like the Pettah fish market. But, the law enforcement authorities, who don`t hesitate even to crack the skull of a poor man for the crime of knocking up a petti kade to eke out a living, have chosen to look the other way.
Strangely, it is not the encroachers who get hauled up before Courts but the civic minded people who protest against them at the risk of life and limb to protect public property! The bovine King Kekille, who always had the innocent party in a dispute penalised may be long dead but we don`t seem to be short of his descendants in high posts.
The late President Premadasa, who evinced a keen interest in densification to solve the burning problem of housing in the city, had the wisdom to provide the Maligawatte scheme as well as other housing complexes with recreational areas for the benefit of the flat dwellers crammed into `small boxes`. He got those places planted with valuable trees like teak, which, as any tyke knows, help reduce air pollution and beautify the concrete jungle. Now the Mafiosi and their political masters are eyeing those valuable trees as well! This plunder is going to happen under the nose of the Police and with the connivance of certain public institutions.
Ironically, the attempt to encroach on the Maligawatte land has come at a time when the UDA is rightly clearing the pavements of hawkers. It was only a few moons ago that the government liberated the Mavilaru anicut and the adjacent land from the clutches of the terrorists. But, here in the centre of the capital city, politicians and their henchmen are allowed to grab public land with impunity!
The aggrieved Maligawatte residents have sought the intervention of President Mahinda Rajapakse to keep violent encroachers at bay. He must heed their appeal and rein in the whole caboodle of the ruling party politicians, including the anti-social elements in the garb of politicians, trying to take control of the city. They are promising a clean city administration but the city will be a much better place if those shady characters could be thrown behind bars. The President is reported to have ordered suspension of construction work and a probe into the incident. But, the public has little faith in political probes, as they are loaded in favour of politicians and their bogeymen.
What is called for is an immediate end to the sinister move to deprive the Maligawatte flat dwellers of their `green belt`. And fast!