3 December, 2022

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Aragalaya (Re)defined; Beyond The Slogan

By Vishwamithra

“They’d want you to diffuse; Into the smoke but do they know; They give birth to clouds; Who bring rain and thunder?”  ~Zufishan Rahman, Foxfire

Fonseka

Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka in one his latest speeches addressed the essence of the Aragalaya directly. The rally was organized by a group of political activists; they presented the occasion as a mass rally against the suppression of the rights of the people and was held at the famous Hyde Park, Darley Road. Sarath Fonseka is relatively a novice to mass politics. His entry into politics as Presidential Candidate in 2009 was observed by many a political pundit and intellectually rich man and woman with suspicion and caution. They were awed by his presence but at the same time put away by his unorthodox utterances. A soldier whose entire working life was dedicated to the defence of the land did not know how to address mass political rallies other than in sharp and undiluted commands.

In 2009 those cosmetically rich political sloganeering and politically correct communications seemed to be alien and strange to the then retired Army Commander General Fonseka. At that time, although his commitment was total, his understanding of the inscrutable political currents was much more desirable. Now he seems to have matured far beyond those who have spent last two decades in politics and parliament. Sarath Fonseka’s leap from that mundane podium to a higher and idealistic pedestal is remarkable as is being observed by many a keen political spectator today. 

In order to achieve real and tangible results of the Aragalaya, Fonseka emphasized, it needs to be instituted on solid a foundation, both ideological and pragmatic and led by honest, incorrupt and incorruptible leaders. It is  a tall order. Given the current sociopolitical circumstances, one wonders whether it is even in the realm of faint possibility to look for and find such leaders. A very few, in fact only a handful, are left.

Ironically, it is Sarath Fonseka, a former military commander, whose experience in politics is far less than that among those who are currently engaged in politics seems to have time and heart to aggressively and wholeheartedly address the Aragalakaruwos directly. Evan his language aimed at our youth is highly appropriate and germane to their demands and needs. The advances our Field Marshal has made in the sphere of political speechifying are remarkable and sometimes amazing. In fact, Fonseka has schooled all other political leaders as to how a compassionate leader, either from the government or opposition ranks should speak and conduct himself before the cream of our country- youth. It is indeed a sad commentary about Sajith Premadasa, Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Champika Ranawaka, all of whom are eyeing the top job in the country.

Politicians aside, how can we define or redefine the purpose or concept of the Aragalaya? Is it a concept, a living organism, a dream, a bundle of hopes and aspirations, a political philosophy or an ideology or a mass movement or even a carnival as some of those who took part in the street-demonstrations treated it as? Does it have a beginning, middle and an end? Does it need a leader? Does it stop when state-suppression increases or does it gather momentum in the middle of such suppression? Or is it a continuing process, a cascade of episode after episode? Is it an end or a means to an end? And who are the stakeholders of an Aragalaya?  

Each participant in the Aragalaya would render his or her own interpretation or definition. Such interpretations and definitions would be entirely based on the individual standpoint of the one who defines it. The context for each and every definition would differ and would be the next logical phase of his or her given definition. Volumes have been penned by great writers of yesteryear on mass movements; they have enunciated the significance of one aspect as against another element that seems to be missing in comparative terms when one talks about numerous mass movements the globe has witnessed. It might be extremely painstaking to answer all these questions to the satisfaction of all readers, yet an attempt has to be made. It is intellectually challenging and grueling and almost humanly impossible to be non-prejudicial in making any objective analysis of a mass movement.     

Nonetheless, it is prudent for mundane writers like us to present a credible and authentic context for such an Aragalaya; whether it stands a chance to achieve success, if it is possible at all. How does one create a believable context, both sociopolitical and economic, if the ultimate purpose of such creation is to engender a ‘system change’? The potential birth of a brand new reality, a reality that is more akin to utopia rather than to a reality on earth, the obvious necessity becomes the creation of a context that would be conducive to such an eventual result.

Political consultants and pundits earn their pay in this field: creation of contexts, backdrops and the essential environment that would lead to the ultimate result at the end of this vast process of ‘brand-creation’. It sounds cynical, but that is the stark reality of politics; it is defined as pursuit of power and nothing else. What really matters is that, in the event those goals as set forth by various protagonists in pursuit their own power, whatever the field be, do not produce beneficiary results for the ultimate consumer, the public, then that pursuit invariably becomes another private profession in search of personal profits. That is the dark side of this enterprise called politics. 

Years that preceded the Rajapaksas have witnessed this grisly paradigm every now and then. But it was only ‘every now and then’, essentially an ‘exception’ as against the ‘general.’ When that exceptional thread gets woven into the larger fabric of society, the consequences are insufferable. What was beheld and experienced in the last few months, from about February this year even up to date, even under Alibaba Ranil Wickremasinghe, is immensely injurious to the healthy development of any society, leave alone a small island-nation such as Sri Lanka. When corruption becomes entrenched in a system that is being practiced at all levels, from political leadership to all ranks of the administrative setup, such corruption becomes unidentifiable. Failure to identify the disease would not result in finding a lasting cure. On the contrary, it would only make the disease linger on, leading up to painful death. That is not a reality one would like to reconcile with.

Against such a brutal backdrop, how is one expected to find a constructive context?

Leon Trotsky, a revolutionary to his teeth once wrote thus on the ambiguous relationship between the stages as well as layers of a revolution: ‘The masses go into a revolution not with a prepared plan of social reconstruction, but with a sharp feeling that they cannot endure the old regime. Only the guiding layers of a class have a political program, and even this still requires the test of events and the approval of the masses’. Trotsky emphasizes the necessity of ‘guiding layers’ thereby weaving an indispensible strand of a guiding party that ultimately, not only ‘guides’ but would eventually reap the harvest of the outcome of the revolution. 

Whether Trotsky implies the essentiality of a ‘guide’- a super stakeholder of ‘change’- the current sociopolitical conditions in Sri Lanka demand, if a ‘system change’ is the ultimate goal, the movement so loosely structured as an organization, the creators and movers of the ‘Aragalaya’ are way behind in their plans, strategy and execution for a successful exercise of political activism. Leadership for a successful movement may come from anywhere. Maybe from within itself and if that does not happen, it’s up to any other branch of civilian and political life of Sri Lankan society.

What lies beyond the slogan? What’s the philosophy or the guiding principle of the Aragalaya? Are those principles in consort with the demands and aspirations of the majority of the people of Sri Lanka? Because if they are not, the same fate that befell Rohana Wijeweera and the old JVP would be their fate too. Whatever the principles and policies that are being promulgated, in order to be adopted by an Aragalaya-led government, they need to be approved at least by a scientifically conducted survey of opinion (a poll). In the wake of any oppressive measures executed by the State, what is waiting at the tail end of the Aragalaya?  Are the leaders ready to accept anything that is hurled at them by the State machinery as punishment for action taken by the leadership of the Aragalaya? Are they ready to be imprisoned, tortured or killed? If such brutal ends are not envisaged, don’t plan these Aragalayas.

When one looks at the periphery of and beyond the Aragalapitiya, what appears within looks utterly predictable and mundane; but outside the periphery is laid out a totally different landscape. Field Marshal Fonseka addressed those issues that lie beyond. AKD and Champika and Sajith too must do the same. Because time is fast running out. This country belongs to the young; if they, the youth, realize that the collective experience of those of their elders is meaningless unless the elders are willing to sacrifice, the young will leave the old behind at the proverbial station. The youth will steer the train. 

The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com  

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Latest comments

  • 7
    0

    Thanks, Vishwamithra, for putting us on the right track.
    .
    Before all else, each of us must understand that just as we are not perfect, so we must not expect perfection from others.
    .
    This is very different from excusing or tolerating corruption. You have done well to focus on Sarath Fonseka.
    .
    I have an instinctive dislike of military types, but Fonseka has achieved heroic stature. Not by his “exploits on the battlefield”, but by enduring all the humiliations heaped on him by the criminal Rajapaksas. He had to carry even shit buckets in prison, didn’t he?
    .
    I wish that hadn’t been the case.
    .
    It is in our minds that thoughts run. I can forgive him, when all things are considered. However, I must be realistic; it’ll be much more difficult for a Tamil to do so.
    .
    Other comments must have come in by now, but I cannot see them.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe
    .

  • 8
    5

    “Ironically, it is Sarath Fonseka, a former military commander, whose experience in politics is far less than that among those who are currently engaged in politics seems to have time and heart to aggressively and wholeheartedly address the Aragalakaruwos directly.”
    The author seems to have forgotten all those Brigadiers who were strutting around just an year ago, “efficiently ” managing everything from rice distribution to fertilizer and medicine. The fact, dear Vishwa, is that those who join the Army are, to put it mildly, more noted for brawn than brain. The fact that a “war-winning” President couldn’t win an economic war and was kicked out should have convinced even the most patriotic that ex-soldiers have NO place in politics.
    Oh, BTW, isn’t SF a National List MP?

    • 4
      3

      OC
      I will not be so dismissive of soldiers. There are several on the left and right of the class divide that became great leaders of the state.
      The issue is whether the author has seriously studied the politics of his beloved soldier-leader.
      *
      Note
      The great philosopher Wittgenstein was a Lieutenant serving on the Italian front with an artillery unit. (He was captured in 1918 and spent the end of the War as a prisoner of the Italian army.) Attraction to the army need not be a sign of poor intellect.

      • 7
        0

        SJ,
        Perhaps the author’s hero worship pissed me off. People tend to take uniforms too seriously, as they do robes.

        • 2
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          Interesting comment. Sri Lanka is built on this process as Muyanmar and Thailand.

      • 5
        0

        There are also Dwight Eisenhower, Colin Powell etc as examples of soldiers who became political leaders.

        • 4
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          Paul,
          “There are also Dwight Eisenhower, Colin Powell etc as examples of soldiers who became political leaders.”
          But why unfairly leave out Hitler, Franco, Mengistu, Mobutu, Idi Amin, Pinochet, the 2 Zias, Suharto…….?
          Churchill too, who invented concentration camps.

        • 4
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          Paul

          Of course they did.
          However if you look at Colin’s military and civilian career both were tainted by accusation of his involvement in covering up Mỹ Lai massacre and simply lying to the UN about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which he never had.

          As long as one knows how to adjust oneself to the circumstances everything is hunky dory.

        • 2
          0

          Paul, ” there are also Eisenhower and Colin Powell “, but they are not from China.

          • 0
            4

            I say you are reading some history.
            That is an improvement.
            Read more, and widely.
            Best Wishes.

        • 4
          0

          Paul

          Below there is a message for you from SJ.

          • 3
            0

            Paul

            Sorry above there is a message for you from SJ.

            • 2
              2

              When did you become my delivery boy?
              Wrong address though.

    • 3
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      old codger

      Fonseka is a racist.
      You must have forgotten the interview he gave to Stewart Bell, National Post on
      23 Sept. 2008.
      Excerpt:
      In an interview, Lt.-Gen. Fonseka talks candidly about the war, which he believes will be over in less than a year, and his views on the militant Tamil nationalism that has spilled from Sri Lanka into countries with ethnic Tamil diasporas, Canada included.
      “The national leadership basically is determined to solve this problem,” he says. “The task given to us is to eradicate terrorism … If we have the same commitment one more year, the LTTE’s destination is, I think, decided.”
      In the general’s view, the war is driven by Tamils who want a homeland and have chosen Sri Lanka as the place. But he says the country’s ethnic Sinhalese majority will never allow the ethnic Tamil minority to break the island apart.
      Lt.-Gen. Fonseka is a competitive swimmer who won the U.S. Green Card lottery but has remained in Sri Lanka, heading the army he has served for three decades. He is lucky to be alive. On April 25, 2006, a suicide bomber attacked his limousine in Colombo. He was seriously injured in the assassination attempt and nine others were killed. The Tamil Tigers never claim responsibility for such attacks but were almost certainly behind it.
      Continue:

      • 2
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        old codger

        Continue

        Continued:

        “I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people,” he says.
        “We being the majority of the country, 75%, we will never give in and we have the right to protect this country.
        “We are also a strong nation … They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things.”
        He dismisses concerns by international human rights groups about the conduct of his forces, saying that while civilian deaths are inevitable in war, relatively few non-combatants have died in the Sri Lankan conflict.

        Elsewhere he also said:
        {Fonseka said the LTTE separatist ideology would damage India’s sovereignty.
        “If the LTTE is wiped out, those political jokers like Nadumaran, Viko and whoever who is sympathising with the LTTE will most probably lose their income from the LTTE,’’ the Army commander said}.
        Dec 08, 2008
        https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news

        On the eve of 2010 Presidential election he promised to drag the entire clan to Galle Face green. Did you know why?

        This shameless racist does not give a damn about people and their right to life, democracy, …

      • 2
        0

        old codger

        Continued:

        By the way the same jokers sent food, medicine, … etc to help save life in this island. Incidentally those two ministers who were involved in the mercy mission are from Tamil Nadu.

        Empty vessels make the most noise .

    • 1
      1

      So, dear oc, was Ranil Wickremasinghe.
      .
      And after Ranil was made “Executive President” by those who were the traditional opponents of his party, Vajira Abeywardana was also made a national List MP. This, to me, defies all canons of Logic and Ethics.
      .
      All quite legal, of course.
      .
      I don’t like military people, but in real life situations all sorts of complexities begin to be seen. So, I recognise Fonseka as a man whom I’m inclined to view favourably. Those are my personal thoughts, and I think that I’m entitled to hold such views. Recognising Fonseka as a leader is not something that individuals are entitled to do.

      • 0
        0

        “Recognising Fonseka as a leader is not something that individuals are entitled to do.”
        Who took away that right?

  • 5
    0

    Aragalaya Movement (AM)should select people who are the REAL Patriotic SL citizens. Tamils too are patriotic to their motherland and wish to make sure that the isle is a pluralistic ( multi ethnic multi religious) & secular society with English as THE Link Language between all divided societies. First and foremost is to establish LAW and ORDER in the country where justice is dished out to the CROOKED ones. Aragalaya needs to have council of advisors who can interact with the current GoSL which most citizens DESPISE.

    • 4
      0

      Naman

      “Aragalaya Movement (AM)should select people who are the REAL Patriotic SL citizens.”

      How do you define patriotism or being patriotic?
      Some people believe letting China rule this country is a patriotic act on their part, or encouraging China to protect/swallow this island is patriotism or keeping a deafening silence on Chinese human rights violation is double patriotism, …..
      In the case of people like Wimal, Dhinesh, Champika, Udaya, …… Weeping Weerasekera, … .. racism is patriotism, .. In the case of middle class keeping themselves to themselves is patriotism and letting the crooks, racists, murderers, ….. get away is patriotism, …

  • 5
    0

    Why can’t the AUTHORS of articles to CT summarise the IDEAS of Aragalaya Movement and make all the SL citizens to be aware of them. Parents and spouses of country’s security forces need to get a clear picture of our economy and how the politicians have wrecked the country.

    • 3
      1

      Naman,
      “Why can’t the AUTHORS of articles to CT summarise the IDEAS of Aragalaya Movement and make all the SL citizens to be aware of them.”
      First we must decide which Aragalaya we are talking about.

      • 5
        1

        OC
        The moment some of us decide to talk, the subject loses relevance.
        Naman’s challenge will help to expose some of the bankruptcy of thought.
        *
        Has anybody for or against the Aragalaya stated what its aim was beyond “Gota go home”?
        When it seemed to be winning, everyone wanted a piece of the action– however remote.
        Everyone who got involved had his/her own purpose for the Aragalaya. Details did not matter as long as it was seen to be on a winning streak.

  • 1
    4

    Vishwamithra supplies a good example of how one can have a successful career as a writer as long as he possesses the talent to fill his writings with erudite-sounding verbiage (or garbage?) but has poor judgement on issues. In his blind infatuation with the Aragalaya, he has sunk to a nadir with this encomium of one of the lowest and most despicable characters ever to darken the political stage of this cursed nation: Sarath Fonseka, a man who, of late, by his utterances relating to the Aragalaya has revealed his true colours. His lust and hunger for power is obvious to all except the very naive and biased. He supported the Aragalaya hoping that he would be catapulted to Presidency on its back. He was so desperately craving another July 9th and must now be a very disappointed man by the way the protest movement has turned out. A man so callous that he would think nothing of swimming through a lake of blood the size of Baikal and scale over a mountain of dead bodies the height of Mt. Everest just so he can place his rotten posterior in the President’s chair.

    Continued.

    • 1
      5

      Continued from last comment.

      The Vel Vidane’s statement about the need for “incorrupt and incorruptible leaders” is a bit rich, coming from a man who was sentenced to jail on actual evidence of irregularity relating to an arms contract. He also famously defended politicians’ possessing luxury vehicles saying that if they used ordinary vehicles the world outside would think Sri Lanka was a beggar nation! A recent statement of his reported by the media is another gem: “Corrupt leaders cannot be eliminated in an election”!

      The readers may recall that he was also one of the two prime suspects for being the culprit of Lasantha Wicrematunge’s murder. I don’t have enough evidence to bet on this, but, if a gun was held to my head and I was compelled to bet, I would without hesitation bet on SF being the culprit.

  • 1
    1

    OC
    As far as I am concerned there is only ONE Aragalaya. The one which wants to see
    1] Corrupt politicians/ business people/Media people/Judiciary/ Defence employees face a Specially created courts. The innocents who are in prisons released ASAP.
    2] Parliament dissolved at the earliest possible time—Feb/march 2023 & Elections held under strict rules and regulations.
    3] New Constitution(NC) to be presented to SL citizens ASAP. NC will have clauses abolishing Executive Presidency ; banning Ethnonationalism; making English as link Language as in India; Barring clergy from Politics; establishing Independent Bribery & Audit commissions; Having Judiciary above the political rulers etc
    The above will be agood start

    • 2
      0

      Naman,
      Your list has a lot of things I agree with. But can you point me to any instance where the Aragalaya has, for instance:
      1. Demanded that innocents be released (especially Tamils)?
      2. Demanded barring of clergy from politics.?
      Do you think the guys who demonstrated yesterday were in agreement with all these ideals? If not, who ARE these people ?

      • 4
        0

        old codger

        1. I don’t remember hearing or seeing Aragalaya demanding the release of Tamil prisoners. However to their credit they allowed/organised the remembrance of Mullivaaikkal Massacre (genocide?). Unlike the Chinese the Aragalaya is willing to learn and adapt, a good indication of evolution.

        2. How could they? Many of their kith and kin are toiling the land which belongs to the Vihares. Would you offend your local priest, monk, imam,….. aiyer, … ?

        • 1
          0

          Native,
          Do you think the current claimants to the Aragalaya title would allow a Mullivaikal remembrance?

          • 1
            0

            old codger

            “Do you think the current claimants to the Aragalaya title would allow a Mullivaikal remembrance?”

            I am not sure.
            Today during a parliamentary debate Channa stood on his foot to raise point of order while Sitharthan was talking about Gurunthur.
            I am surprised to see him at the parliament.

            We know Weeping Weerasekere has gone extremely mad, yet he attends parliament, and prove himself to be madder than when he is outside parliament.

            Day before yesterday the police handling of student protest was barbaric. Probably Ranil might have decided to quit politics altogether in about 2 years. Perhaps this is the last chance to take revenge on people who didn’t vote for him.

            What do think about Sumanthiran’s anti PTA rally/signature campaign?

  • 5
    0

    The Aragalaya, the right to protest and freedom of speech reminded me of an incident in Uganda. The dictator Idi Amin was asked by a journalist whether he allowed freedom of speech. “Of course I allow freedom of speech, I guarantee it” replied Amin, “But I cannot guarantee freedom after the speech.”

  • 1
    0

    Aragalaya is engineered by those who are unhappy with the existing system (political, ecoomic, governance) and have enough understanding of the big picture within the walls of power centres. Players are many but in time to come those most effective will emerge as leaders or leading groups. Aragalaya is an evolving process, it seems. It is evolving as a result of contest of political ideas, actions by the govertnment and reactions by aragalaya activists. Following questions posed by the author are very important to examine: “Politicians aside, how can we define or redefine the purpose or concept of the Aragalaya? Is it a concept, a living organism, a dream, a bundle of hopes and aspirations, a political philosophy or an ideology or a mass movement or even a carnival as some of those who took part in the street-demonstrations treated it as? Does it have a beginning, middle and an end? Does it need a leader? Does it stop when state-suppression increases or does it gather momentum in the middle of such suppression? Or is it a continuing process, a cascade of episode after episode? Is it an end or a means to an end? And who are the stakeholders of an Aragalaya?”

    • 0
      0

      Contd.., Irrespective of the attempts by established institutions to curtail and control, ideas emerge in the minds of people and spread. Community or the people are the larger entity. Ideally, Community action is much more important than the actions. by government agencies.However, as Sri lanka has not been fully decolonised yet, government is held above the people -not necesarily by consensus but by the use of force and power. This is absurd. Ideas are emrging from tne community or people of various ranks and they are being articulated and promoted by activist groups. Government and ruling partieswhile opposition paries also do the same. So, aragalaya has to be perceived as a movement for change that embodies seeds of change. Whether it is a coherent movement is questionable but what is important is that the movement continues until change is achieved. Leaders emerge out of their actions not only words. A movement has to be based on an organisastion of some sort. A People’s Council can be a vehicle for this purpose.It can draw representatives from various sectors and activist groups to coordinate, plan (poliotical, economic,media) strategy, future policy, and international presence.

  • 2
    0

    It is good that elder politicians like Sarath Fonseka are encouraging the youth to take back their country from the clutches of the utterly corrupt and parasitic geriatrics who will want to hold onto power until they die. The horrific humanitarian crisis is claiming hundreds of lives daily, for lack of basic medicines, lack of food (seven million starving) and malnourished children unable to study or develop normally. This scenario has to be stopped at all costs. The full backing of a united population is necessary for the educated young intelligentsia who are simply striving to win a future for their children.

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