Devani, the brave Forest Officer can be a harbinger for change

ECONOMYNEXT – Devani Jayathilaka the young woman Forest Officer who stopped State Minister Sanath Nishantha in his tracks is the viral favourite of Social Media these days.

The Gampaha District Forest officer objected to Nishantha’s attempt to take over government forest lands for a children’s playground in Negombo.

The video of her arguing her point and standing her ground in the face of intimidation from the Minister’s goons has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people, and the comments on Facebook and Twitter are very complimentary bordering on adulation.

Even the government she stood up to, joined the chorus. Probably they had no choice or they wanted to share a bit of the sunshine falling on this officer.

On Thursday the Cabinet Spokesman Minister Bandula Gunewardena said that the whole Cabinet “stands with her.”

S M Chandrasena the Forestry and Wildlife Minister echoed those sentiments and offered an absurd excuse for Nishantha. “He would have been ignorant of the Wildlife Protection Act,” the Minister said. Really?

He told reporters that it was the people who elect men like Nishantha and “if we don’t give nominations to these people there won’t be anyone to nominate for the elections.”

In the meantime, Social Media took the opportunity to try and figure out why an officer simply doing her job to prevent irreparable damage to the environment could become such a celebrity.

After all, she was doing the job she is being paid for.





On Facebook, Upali Karunaratne wrote that “in showering praise on Jayathilaka, Sri Lankans were condemning the lawless, unjust country we live in.”

Karunaratne added, “when someone does stand up to this state we need to rally around that person and create unity amongst those opposed to injustice.”

He went on to say that Sri Lankans have been rendered impotent by the way this country is run.

“The way political power is used illegally, the law which bends to political power, are the seeds that have brought about this impotency,” he wrote.

There are many spirited Public Servants who have stood up to our corrupt system. Last year’s winner of the Integrity Idol award presented by Transparency International based on public votes went to a school principal.

P A C Priyadarshani, Principal of St Mary’s College in Mathugama tackled one of the most contentious issues in the country which is fraught with corruption – admissions to Grade One in government schools.

Priyadarshani set up a points system and admitted children strictly according to that. She came up against people who offered her money and of course political pressure, but she withstood that.

And the Jayathilakas and Priyadarshanis are a rarae aves – rare birds – in this country.

That is because our lawless system has seen to it that corrupt politicians will encourage and promote officials who feed into the graft and greed.

These two courageous women are anathema to most of our politicians.

So what will the outpouring of love, praise and adulation for Jayathilaka mean?

Will there be a revolt of the Public Servant, pointing out the law to the errant or ignorant politician?  

Or will there be a crackdown on such spirited rare people who are the true patriots?

Many people who voted for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa are expecting him to produce an honest and upright administration which will work for the ordinary citizen.

This incident must put pressure on our politicians to clean up the system and make it just and fair.

Those who voted for the Yahapalanaya coalition in 2015 also wanted that. They were deeply disappointed.

Will we be fooled again?

Latest Comments


  1. “The Boy Who Stood On The Burning Deck”. This young LADY is the brave heart of the Nation, and should be cared for against , conspiring goons of politicians who have under various pretexts raped our precious land and illegally grabbed acres of our precious assets. Any dirty finger or dirty word at her should be seriously viewed and severe action taken. What a discovery.

  2. This is a typical example of the mindset of many uneducated politicians in Sri Lanka. They don’t think that the low & order is an issue for them. Hope the new president will turn this around. Until such time there is no hope in Sri Lanka. Jayawewa Dewani.

  3. harbinger..???
    One sparrow doesn’t make a spring. But if the first one does not come, none else can come.

  4. Hats off to Devani the courageous forest officer who stood her grounds against a powerful politico and his henchmen.She explains it all that is that is the kadolkele is lungs of fauna and flora(animals and plants) of Negombo lagoon. Having spent a good time of my adolesent years in Negombo I feel that the beautiful Negombo lagoon is gasping for her last few breaths.This body of water is extremely polluted with houehold garbage in addition to gasoline,kerosine etc from many boats using this body of brackish water. Today fish caught in some parts of the lagoon tastes kerosine.
    Kadolana provides a nursery for fish, crabs,shrimp etc helps propagation of their species. Kadolalana helps erosion of land.
    Muthurajawela which is in the southern boundry of Negombo lagoon has been dumped with medical garbage many years ago. As I learned it is leaching into surrounding marsh lands. I wonder can this affect the water quality of Negombo lagoon?
    The question: when there is so much other land in this area that could be used to develop into a play ground, why on earth is this politician has focused so much of his attention on the one and half acres of kadolana? Readers please take some time to think about this.

  5. This is the change I expected from the Government Officers as well as General Public. Don’t be scared to open your mind. This is what the President want from the Public Servants. Brovo “Devani” You are a true leader!

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