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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org