By Ratna Bala –
“Whenever man and woman strengthen their back up they are going somewhere. Because a man can’t ride your back unless it’s bent”
“The forces that threaten to negate life must be challenged by courage. … This requires the exercise of a creative will that enable us to hew out a stone of hope from a mountain of despair.” – Martin Luther King.JR
What is the purpose of Aragalaya at GotaGoGama?
Although Aragalaya initiated as GotaGoHome protest it has awakened all Srilankan citizens from slumber to realise the dangerous rotten state they have been driven into by their leaders pretending as their protectors.
It has awakened them to be aware that their leaders are riding on their back to extract the nation’s wealth.
This awakening has rewarded the nation with unity among polarised multi-ethnic, multi religious and multi cultural communities.
This awakening is transforming the nation’s attitude and behaviour. We are shouting loud and clear. Not anymore! Enough is enough! We will not tolerate this corruption and the lies propagated by our leaders anymore!
This awakening brings thousands and thousands of people from all social groups to the streets to express their longing, hope, expectations and desires to see their country prosper with good governance without corruption and promoting justice, peace and equality.
This awakening gives us strength and stamina to stand up and straighten our backs!
Can this Aragalaya at GotaGoGama of the awakened people accomplish its goals? Can they solve our economic and political crisis?
What are their goals?
What are the reasons for current economic and political crisis?
In general deficiencies and dilemmas of representative democracy with specific characteristics related our history have contributed to current state of crisis. In representative democracy there are three main reasons for failures.
1) Failure of systems and institutions caused by loopholes enable for those who have self-interest to be able to take control and manipulate
2) the electorate who elect their leaders ill informed and not taking their responsibility to hold the leaders accountable
3) Certain groups who do not have a chance to take control of power and manipulate the system and the electorate to acquire the outcomes they want.
Without critical inquiry we as the electorate have been taken through darkness into a deep hole created by dividing the nation along ethnic- religious lines by our politicians to take control of the leadership and exploit it for their self benefits. Leaders were able to abuse their power freely as the people who elected them lived in clouded conscience unable to realise how they were condemned to stay bent in an ethnocentric religious black hole while their leaders with their extended family and friends abuse and accumulate wealth of the nation. This ethnocentric religious manipulation is the main default line created to stabilised self-interested leaders who were given freedom to extract and exploit the state coffers and institutions. Government institutions instead of being inclusive institutions have become extracting institutions. Constitutional amendments were made to strengthen their grip on power. Bribery, blackmail and bullying are used to silence and suppress opposition in parliament. People were fed with communal hatred speeches to be kept in hysterical down-trodden ignorance. Constitutional changes or elections did not to promote inclusiveness and pluralism. Military personal who normally grab power through coup, in Srilanka, with mind numbing ethno-religious dialect, militant Monks explicit exhibitions, display of brain washed intellectuals and with some sort of coup like mysterious Easter Sunday bombing able to convince 6.9 million people to vote for him to be elected as president!
We have had 30 years of brutal war with callous disregard for death, devastation and desperation inflicted upon the minorities. There are mothers still sitting on the streets looking for answers about their lost children. There are minorities silent suffering with humiliation of being treated as second class citizens in their own country. Large Diaspora somehow escaped the merciless war and were able to establish themselves in their host countries with dignity and respect feel alienated from their motherland. We have an extortionate defence expenditure in the name of safeguarding the nation from devastated innocent people. This alienation of large section of our population must have significant impact on the economy and existence of our nation.
Easter bombing, Tax reduction, organic fertiliser saga and Covid pandemic only brought forward this crisis sooner than later.
If the electorate are awaken from their clouded conscience they will be able to see that sharing power in reasonable manner with genuine devolution is a prerequisite to fix the default in democracy and establish progressive inclusive institutions and systems.
Can Aragalaya at GotaGoGama can change the system?
An awakened electorate with informed, critical and a creative mindset as expressed in Aragalaya at GotaGoGama may have the potential to achieve this goal!
What we know about it’s potential?
Leadership in governance which bring substantial benefits to the people can be categorised into three main groups.
1) Redefining leadership
2) Transformational leadership
3) Revolutionary leadership – involve violence, not for us!
It’s important to remember Democracy with its failures and chaos can provide a fertile ground with an opportunity for selfish political or military leaders to introduce dictatorship through strengthening authoritarian measures
Redefining leadership is trying to do what is possible in existing circumstances by mobilising the people towards feasible better solutions. They are mostly in the form of new legislations, some constitutional and economic reforms to address crisis, grievances and promote better standards for people. this kind of leadership can be provided by an individual or collective leadership by redefining what is possible and introduce a significant policy change in better direction.
Transformational leadership is making a significant positive decisive change transforming the political or economic system without resorting to violence. Transformational changes most likely to occur when the existing system is in severe crisis and when a transformative leader is found for the people to trust and rally behind. Transformational leaders like Abraham Lincoln or Nelson Mandela are rare. Transformational system changes are rare in democracies as they very unlikely to find a transformative leader.
Can Aragalaya produce a transformative leader for our country?
Can Srilanka be the first in the world to bring about transformational system change without a genuine transformative leader.
we have gone through 30 years of war without finding a peaceful solution. We failed to promote democratic inclusive government and remain reluctant to devolve and share power
We kept our back bent for 70 years for our leaders ride on us!
At present our people irrespective of class, ethnicity, religion and caste currently facing unimaginable economic crisis.
We Srilankans are a bunch of strange people with a great sense of friendship and tolerance.
At present in our Aragalaya at GotaGoGama we are expressing sincere solidarity and courageous creativity.
This may be that rare possibility for transformative system change.
For this we need extraordinary solidarity and perseverance
We collectively have to act responsibly in decisive inclusive manner.
If we are fortunate Aragalaya can give an opportunity to find respectable genuine representative leader or leaders among us for transformative change.
We must formulate clear objectives!
First have a clear redefining goal. As this is the definitive possibility at present. Appeal to all MPs, all social groups, trade unions, professional bodies and students to demand in solidarity to achieve the redefining goal which can move our country forward in an inclusive nature with broader power sharing to keep democracy alive.
Be aware what you like to achieve as redefining goals and transformative goals are different.
Have clear understanding transformative leadership need much more collective intellectual and moral integrity to push through powerful obstacles. At present we do not have what is necessary for transformational system change. It could manifest along the way if solidarity persist and awakened conscience remain intact for the duration it take for a transformational change.
What can be our redefining goals?
Demand exit of family rule to give room for inclusive government sharing power among different social groups
Form a representative group of members from Aragalaya to engage with parliamentary parties and MPs.
Formulate a team of representatives from all social groups participating in Aragalaya to continue their support and solidarity.
Encourage all parties in parliament to form ‘transitional’ government.
Fix a time period for next election.
Engage with representatives at the Indian, American and China embassies. Request their support for our goals.
Ask parliament to give space to your representatives to engage to formulate a future form of government
Demand inclusiveness of your representatives to initiate participatory budgeting to formulate spending priorities. (Participatory budgeting was one of main reason how Brazil achieved enormous economic growth.)
Demand measures to prevent corruption and restrict privileges of MPs
Demand to implement what is already in constitution to devolve power. Sharing power is core value of democracy. Devolution of powers ensures inclusiveness and promotes unity as it acknowledges pluralistic nature of the nation. It reassures equality and promise they are valued with dignity, respect and trust.
“Morality can’t be legislated. But behaviour can be regulated. Law may not change the heart. But it can restrain the heartless” – Martin Luther King.JR
Beyond this any changes in the system could fall into transformational change.
Any attempt for transformational change without mass awareness and education and clear leadership with intellectual and moral reform have high risk of succumb to brutal iron fist of authoritarian state.
Don’t we need transformational change? Yes we do! Just think how we are treating women in our nation. We can even say men in our country living on women’s labour!. All three major sectors generating foreign currency income to the nation, remittances from Middle East, textile export and tea export all employ mostly women. In the tourist industry they make up significant percentage. Large sections of service providers as teachers and health professionals are women. But we share negligible amount of power with them in the government. How can their needs be addressed adequately without their participation. Of course, we need a big transformational change in the system to treat our sisters and mothers equally with respect and dignity.
But at present Aragalaya do not have enough intellectual and moral reform and the leadership to enforce transformational changes in the system.
Only evolutionary changes within Aragalaya will decide the future potential for transformative change.
They can be formulated and expressed later during election campaign
For now just focus on redefining goals
We can Continue Aragalaya in different format to combat the needs of the economic crisis.
Discuss creative ways to resolve economic crisis.
Appeal to wealthy people to join hands and sacrifice some of their wealth as tax to sustain the livelihood of poor and vulnerable families.
Discuss innovative ways to create jobs.
Empower and engage in another constructive form of Aragalaya in the fields to transform agriculture.
Introduce new innovative methods to improve production to achieve a near self sufficiency in food.
As Russia- Ukraine war also worsening food and oil supplies we need a revolutionary approach to jump start agriculture in sustainable environment friendly way to full fill our food needs.
Our farmers need our help and support!
By continuing this Aragalaya in the fields we can win the hearts and minds of our people and give them the necessary energy to bear the burden of hardship.
If Aragalaya at GotaGoGama continue to grow in strength and help us to stand up long enough while keeping our backs straight we may find a transformational leadership emerging among us. Then a transformational system change may be possible with solidarity of all social groups.
I am sure, all who wish to see the country moving away from extracting institutions with selfish leaders and desires a better representative democracy with inclusiveness and sharing power with all social groups will feel proud of Aragalaya at GotaGoGama for System Change!
Best wishes beloved brothers and sisters!