1 July, 2022

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Aragalaya For Creating A Classless Sri Lanka

By Fr. Rashmi Madusanka Fernando –

Fr. Rashmi Fernando

Today, 21-million-Sri Lankans are facing almost two-hour-long daily power cuts, steep price hikes of goods and services, and scarcity of fuel, food, essential items, and medical facilities. The worst affected by the prevailing situation are the poor and the daily wagerers of the country who consist of most of the population as against the privileged few who are the elite. It is at a historical moment like today that the youths of the country -the future of the nation- have got themselves organized for an incessant struggle, known as the Aragalaya, against its corrupt politicians, political allies, and the system of government, and it continues for the successive third months.

While the Aragalaya continues to happen in various parts of the country, its epicenter is commonly agreed to be in front of the Presidential Secretariat at Galle Face Green, Colombo, not far away from the so-called Supreme Assembly of Sri Lanka -the parliament at Diyawannawa, Colombo. While the parliament is expected to acknowledge the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which in its Preamble says, “whereas it is essential if a man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law” (United Nations, 2015), the people of the Aragalaya believe that all three main pillars of any democratic system of government, namely the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary, are either dysfunctional, or malfunctional, or corrupt or non-sovereign in the context of the island nation today.

Therefore, faced with Sri Lanka’s worst-ever economic and political crisis since its independence from the colonial rule in 1948, of course for reasons which are either obvious and/or made oblivious to the citizens by the authorities of various governments existed for the past 7 decades. If the people’s struggle has become so intensified and incessant today, it is mainly because of the family politics of the Rajapaksa regime which is believed to have ruined the country given to their pride, non-patriotic decisions, corruption, and the use of thuggery, especially since 2019. The Catholic Bishop Conference of Sri Lanka (CBCSL) explains the current economic and political situation thus created in the country in their recent statement as follows:

People are stranded on the roads without basic needs such as food, fuel, and domestic and industrial gas. Patients are left in the lurch without the medicine needed to sustain their life. Parents are yearning to find milk food for infants and children. The tragedy that has struck our nation is in no uncertain terms the worst of our times. The political and economic crisis has made people suffer unjustly. Those responsible for this horrendous economic crisis are yet to be exposed. The country has been brought to a standstill and a hand-to-mouth existence (CBCSL, 2022).

What has come to the fore, therefore, is a tug-of-war between two camps – the camp at Diyawannawa consisting of the 225 parliamentarians and their allies, and the camp at Galle Face Green consisting of the classless, colorless, creedless struggle of the common people who are battered both directly and indirectly by the whims and fancies of those in the first camp. In other words, what we have here in Sri Lanka at the moment is indeed yet another tale of two cities of our time –the city of Parliament, and that of the Aragalaya also known as the ‘Gota-go-gama’ (gama meaning ‘village’), not vastly different from Dickens’s (1859) A Tale of Two Cities which was set against the conditions that led to the Reign of Terror and the French Revolution.

It is here that I am tempted to believe that the values exemplified and the battles-fought-for-future at each of these two cities, while they are very different from each other, their differences are nevertheless similar to the ‘Two Standards’: the ‘standard of the Christ’ and the ‘standard of the world’ spoken by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (commonly known as the Jesuits), whose conversion experience following the battle in Pamplona, Spain celebrates 500 years this year (1522-2022), and that of the Church’s age-old treasure of the Spiritual Exercises. Taken in this light, it could be said that the Aragalaya launched in front of the Presidential Secretariat is indeed a common struggle of the ordinary masses for creating a classless society in Sri Lanka. It is because, the Aragalaya aims at creating a just and equitable society marked by modesty, simplicity, and humility by annihilating the privileges enjoyed by the class of powerful Sri Lankans by way of their unquenchable indulgence in the benign secularisms, search for pleasure, and remorseless succumbing to wises in the world.

Therefore, if whoever wants to see a classless country in the future, the making is already here and now at the Aragalaya and, therefore, it is my belief, that despite all the hurdles that come on its way, the struggle should continue if it is to create a classless better tomorrow. In so doing, let us not be demoralized when we lose a battle or two at one barricade or another because of teargassing or water attacks or lathy-charges or unwarranted arrests made by the duty-bound, government-deployed, uniform-bearers of the Sri Lankan police and the triple forces or, as ordinary people, by the lengths of the lines we stand in or by the hunger we feel for ourselves and in our children. Instead, let us get together and push the limits of our tolerance, both individually and collectively, to fight, not some isolated battles, but a common war, the Aragalaya, until we create that desired classless Sri Lanka tomorrow.

*Fr. Rashmi Madusanka Fernando, SJ is a Jesuit Priest who is currently reading for his Educational Doctorate from Creighton University, Omaha, USA.

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  • 10
    3

    “Aragalaya For Creating A Classless Sri Lanka”

    Give Ranil Wickremasinghe a public whipping: 40 lashes of the cat o’ nine tails and nail him to a cross in the Galle Face Green.

    That’ll banish Churchill and W G Grace from his Lankan, Uncle Tom mindset ………


    Speaking of Lankan Uncle Toms ……… greetings from absolutely beautiful English countryside of Orton Hall https://ortonhall.co/ ………. brilliant English summer morning …….. tea and scorns on the lawn …….. Native are you starving?

    • 8
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      scorns for Sinhala_Man …….. scones for others ……. :))

      • 6
        2

        What the devil do you mean, nimal? Please explain.
        .
        I’m happy that you’re visiting these places, although I haven’t – not physically, anyway. As I’ve told you many times the “GambadaIngirisiIskoleMahattaya” has never been outside Asia, and is mainly confined to his birthplace, Bandarawela.
        .
        However, I do know that Cumbria is in the Lake Districts and was much written about by Wordsworth.
        .
        Here’s a Jesuit, who has apparently taken the place of Cambridge-educated Paul Caspersz (he did a lot of good work), writing from Nebraska, USA, dreaming of a classless society. And nimal “scorning” me in the belief that I don’t know what a “scone” is.
        .
        Hardly anything to eat here; too old to walk to procure food. What to do? Will submit something at the bottom of this page:
        .
        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/hamaduru-ethics-or-deontology-the-challenge-before-modern-sri-lankans/

        • 3
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          “And nimal “scorning” me in the belief that I don’t know what a “scone” is.”

          Don’t sweat …….. made a spelling mistake only you would’ve noticed! :))

        • 8
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          SM,
          Perhaps Nimal is complimenting you? Only you would know that “scone” is pronounced “scorn”.

          • 5
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            Only it isnt, actually, old codger. Sorry about that.

            • 4
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              Crazy. But that’s English for you.

              • 0
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                Thanks for siding with me today, Manel.
                [edited out]

                • 2
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                  SM,
                  I wasnt aware that I did.
                  How did u get that impression?

              • 2
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                Manila,
                Thanks for the correction. You should know better than SM, I suppose.

                • 2
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                  Manel,
                  Sorry my browser mangled your name above.
                  But on the other hand,
                  https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/how-correctly-pronounce-scone-like-19553604
                  Seems it’s a matter of dispute.

                  • 0
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                    No.problem, OC, but if I were in England right now – a distant prospect, alas – I would ask for skons in a tea shop.
                    The Queen’s no example for me of how to speak English.
                    Despite her having her coronation & Jubilee on the same day as we celebrate my mother’s birthday.
                    Which, sadly, I was unable to attend this year…in London

                    • 3
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                      Manel,

                      I had some friends whose mothers/grandmothers were English. One guy (not Old Codger) went to the UK embassy for something and tried to talk up some English girl…….. to impress he said his grandmother was English and the girl said if he had any English blood in his lineage and he could prove it ……. he could request for UK residency/citizenship ……… and within months most of them ended up in England.

                      Your mother is living in England, please inquire from the UK embassy ……. you’ll be able to get your English passport back.

            • 3
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              Manel
              OC is having some fun.
              Do not spoil it.

    • 1
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      Actually, oc, I’ve been pronouncing “scone” to rhyme with “bone”.
      .
      Much more to be said about the pronunciation of “scones” dear oc – tomorrow. nimal would have been using my pronunciation in America; but he would have corrected himself in Grasmere, where your pronunciation, rhyming with “gone”, prevails.

      You’re right about your pronunciation being identical with “scorn”, except that the phoneme there is long, whilst nimal’s delicacy has a short phoneme. You and I are sophisticated enough to know what a phoneme is, but nimal wouldn’t be. This is what I’ve been teaching “school teachers” since 1974 when I began training them.
      .
      Then I entered the University, in 1982, where we also had to learn this:
      .
      https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00437956.1962.11659765
      .
      Generative Grammar, inspired by Noam Chomsky. And I taught that too, during the brief year of lecturing in Peradeniya (Professor Thiru Kandiah having left) . Unfortunately, and ironically, I know little of the even more advanced work, the Aṣṭādhyāyī , written by this man, 2,400 years ago:
      .
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C4%81%E1%B9%87ini
      .
      Thankfully these complications didn’t surface when we were discussing the recent Kumar David article:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/should-english-be-lankas-national-language/
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe

      • 0
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        ” You and I are sophisticated enough to know what a phoneme is, but nimal wouldn’t be.”

        phoneme, in linguistics, smallest unit of speech distinguishing one word (or word element) from another, as the element p in “tap,” which separates that word from “tab,” “tag,” and “tan.” A phoneme may have more than one variant, called an allophone (q.v.), which functions as a single sound; for example, the p’s of “ …

        nimal eats phonemes for breakfast ……… along with scorns, scones, kirihodi and pittu ……:))


        Didn’t expect a simple spelling error would go this far! …..I cant spell to save my life ……. perhaps, I should write the new SL constitution …… it’ll be open to many interpretations!! …… :))

        • 1
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          Nimal, thank u for the suggestion about getting an English passport. But why would I want to? As I was born there I still have “right of abode”. I cant travel these days for other reasons.
          Perhaps I shall start selling English lessons! I wonder what the going rate is these days with the renewed rush to emigrate. It’s very very sad how SL has been drained of her people over the years. I feel that somehow the spirit shown by Aragalaya is a step away from this…dont desert the country — FIGHT for it!.

          • 0
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            Manel,

            Sorry, I thought I read somewhere, you were regretting for letting go of your English citizenship to obtain Lankan. Could’ve been someone else.

            Have to write about the Aragalaya ……. and deserting the country ….. sometime later.

            Preparing to go for a hike in the beautiful countryside ……. phoneme and phonics in fine fettle ……. shall try them on descendants of lords and squires that wait hand foot on us in the manor. :))

      • 1
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        SM,
        “You and I are sophisticated enough to know what a phoneme is,”
        Sadly, I’m not THAT sophisticated. I have mostly forgotten whatever grammatical rules I might have learnt, but I have the knack of knowing mistakes when I see them even if I can’t explain why.

  • 4
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    The writer explains that the “Aragalaya” at Gale Face and other parts of the country is to establish a “Classless” society. Well-intended indeed.

    I would see it in a different way. I wish that “Aragalaya” would install a “CLASSY” class that would “INHIBIT” the Ruling Class and inclusive of the “Beauricrats” from all types of “CORRUPTION”, “CRIMES”, “NEPOTISM” and be “CONSCIOUS” of their duties to the PEOPLE and be held “RESPONSIBLE” and “ACCOUNTABLE”.

    Isn’t that the “LOUD” and “CLEAR” message “Aragalaya” that has already been conveyed? It is something more than “Classlessness” and MOST of “CLASSINESS”.

    • 1
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      I believe the govt didn’t use the last option, they may do that to keep in power the last option could be as what happened in Tinnaman Squire or Nanthikadal……

  • 0
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    Classless Sri Lanka but then the title ‘Aragalaya’ has no proper Tamil and English translation. It is Aragalaya written in Tamil and is ‘Aragalaya’ written in English. I still do not know the meaning of it. So this what the sneak preview would be in a classless Sri Lanka. This what is meant by ‘Classless’.

    • 0
      1

      Blabla,
      .
      I’m not a scholar of Sinhala, but “Aragalaya” means “Protest with connotations of disturbance”. Speaking strictly for myself, I’m quite happy with the word being inserted into Tamil or English discourse. Words are coined all the time; however, I don’t like it being overdone.
      .
      After all the English “pariah” has come from Sinhalese “paraya” – most appropriate for Gota. “Atoll” has come from Dhivehi, “atholl”, and means much the same as “althul” (i.e. – inside). “Mango” comes from a Tamil word.
      .
      And D.S. Senanayake is said to have coined the word “asweddumization”. I was going to say not in any Dictionary, but now we have the Internet:
      .
      https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/124454/are-we-using-aswaddumization-word.
      .
      “Gotabaya, gedera palayang!”

      • 2
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        Actually the word Pariah is Thamizh and the English word Pariah I including the Chingkallah word Bereva of Paraya is derived from derived from this Thamizh word. Pariah or Pulavans are an outcaste who beat the para melam(drum) or parai from which the Chingkalla word Bera is derived. The Chingkalla Betewa are the descendants of the Tamizh Pariah.

  • 2
    2

    What about a struggle to destroy class as well as ethnic and religious discrimination, a struggle just to create some sort of classlessness amongst the Sinhalese is still going to fail, as the main issue for the cause of this failure has not been acknowledged or tackled, the ethnic and religious discrimination by all Sinhalese led governments from the time of independence against the island’s Tamils and now the Muslim Tamils or Sri Lankan Moors is the root cause of this problem. Some Sinhalese people have now realized this truth belatedly but many still have now, including the many senior politicians, cabinet ministers, the Yellow pets, as well as many members of the Sinhalese and Catholic and Protestant clergy. They still want a Sinhalese-only Buddhist land. The country can go the hell the people can starve and suffer, as long they achieve this. The British gave them the opportunity in 1948 and what they could not achieve for the past 2000 years, they want to achieve it and not lose this opportunity given to them on a platter by the British.

  • 4
    1

    This is a rather naive analysis of the Aragalaya. The GGF protestors are supported by many innocent and generous middle class people, monks, priests etc. But who leads the Aragalaya? Is it not the IUSF, the JVP and the FSP? Their plans for the country are very different from those of their well-meaning supporters. That is why they insist on a general election, they want power. The only thing the GGF protestors have in common is that they want Gota to resign. In a strange way it is Gota who is now holding the country together.

    • 0
      2

      Svenson,
      It’s very unlikely that the IUSF/FSP would win any more votes than even Vasu in a general election.

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