8 June, 2023


ARAGALAYA! The People Have Stood Up, But Will Politicians & Political Parties Step Up?

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

“One family has been allowed to rip-off the whole country!…Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims are all here, as one nation…we are here because when one person steps forward we all have to do so too, in support and solidarity…we know those fellows aren’t in that building but we want to send the message about what can happen if the people rise up!” ~ motorcycle-helmeted young demonstrator addressing Army and Police at Mirihana

“Seems the only solution
Is a new revolution” ~
Fight for You, sung by H.E.R (from Judas and the Black Messiah)

It was from the thick crowd of bilingual middle-class protestors, men and women, including professionals and entrepreneurs, that the most hard-hitting and radical of slogans I have ever heard in Sri Lanka was chanted. It was a one-word description/definition of the ruler, deriving from the irrationality of decisions, and chanted repeatedly, insistently and loudly. Once the word is out—and that word, especially—a ruler is doomed.

If the ruler and the ruling clan think that things will settle down, the economy will pick up and the citizenry will forgive and forget; if the regime thinks it can continue in office even with the induction of the military for the next 2 ½ years, then that is evidence of the diagnostic accuracy of that single-word ‘signature’ slogan descriptive of the ruler’s mentality, that was chanted most frequently and with greatest resonance at Mirihana last night.

How best to characterize Mirihana? My wife’s niece, a lawyer doing her postgraduate studies in the UK, wrote on FB that she wished she was at the protest and that she is proud of being Sri Lankan. Her FB ‘slide’ may have summed up Mirihana best: ‘THE PEOPLE vs. The Family’.

The protest and the slogans resonated widely throughout the nation. It also resonated among Sri Lankans living overseas. It also went global (thanks initially to Al Jazeera).

Sri Lankan society from all parts of the country sat up, admired and applauded the demonstrators. The reactions I got from the visiting domestic help to medical specialists with PhDs and UN officials in retirement, was one of amazed appreciation and enthusiasm.

Can the regime tear-gas and disperse a whole nation as it did the Mirihana protestors around 4 a.m.? Can it disperse an entire people with rubber-bullets and water cannon? Can it shoot the whole citizenry? That is simply an impossibility.

First it was the Presidential Media Division (PMD) which blamed “organized extremists”. Then it was echoed by Minister Sarath Weerasekara. Then came Prasanna Ranatunga Minister of Tourism who engaged in an exposition on “organized extremism”, exhibiting his ignorance of the crucial difference between “militancy” and “organized extremism” and naming the JVP and the SJB.

This is dangerous. The UNP framed the JVP for the July 1983 riots, thereby drove it underground and caused a massive civil war. The Gotabaya administration which is vastly more unpopular than the UNP of 1983 should not try to bite off more than it can chew, namely both the JVP and the SJB—its jaws just aren’t big enough.

The Mirihana protest was organized by middle-class civic networks, an important new phenomenon in Sri Lanka. In the first phase the protest was noticeably of the educated middle-class, with numbers swelling not only because of the power-cut but also because the Mirihana residents had been sorely inconvenienced and alienated by the ‘special arrangements’ since 2020 due to the President’s insistence on continuing to reside there.

The Mirihana middle class mobilization was a microcosm of the island’s middle classes, and the regime does not seem to be aware that in a middle-class society, if you by make their lives impossible, they come at you with all the education and skills at their command. No regime can lose the middle classes and remain in power, certainly not when it has lost the peasantry and the working classes already, as the incumbent regime has.

The mood at Mirihana shifted due entirely to the characteristic action of the regime. The unprovoked, unconscionable use of tear-gas, rubber-bullets and water-cannon caused a segment of the crowd which had previously not been at all violent, to resist by throwing back the rear-gas canisters. The mood of resistance hardened further when a protestor, shot either with a rubber-bullet or live ammunition, bloodied from a wound in his side, was rushed to hospital.

The regime then deployed armed soldiers and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) with camouflaged paint were seen rolling through at least one city street.

As happens everywhere in the world when the authorities initiate escalation and resort to violence, the ratios in the composition and temper of the crowd recomposed kaleidoscopically. The middle-class component thinned-out, while the word of the brutal crackdown reached inner-city youth who streamed towards the action to show solidarity.

What happened from then on was Act 2 of the Mirihana drama. Its high point was an unforgettable cameo of a youth in a motorcycle helmet, standing alone, making a powerful yet poignant social critique and moral appeal to the armed soldiers.

Act 3 was around 4 am when tear-gas and other methods of suppressive coercion was massively used and the protestors resisted with the rubble of masonry from a nearby worksite.

Meanwhile, inspired by the Mirihana mobilization and triggered by the regime’s violence, protests spontaneously broke-out on the Colombo-Kandy Road in Kelaniya and as far afield as Anuradhapura.

The social resistance that emerged at Mirihana was revelatory of the mass mood. The people are ahead of the political parties and the politicians. The people have instinctively understood the prerequisite for a solution to the economic problem, given that all decision-making is centralized in the hands of one man who has a tendency to make irrational policy decisions and therefore cannot be counted upon to make rational ones.

The politicians of center-right and left are respectively saying “go to the IMF” and “tap the potential of the expatriate workers”. The people are saying “GOTA GO HOME!”

As of this morning 45 arrests had been made. Those demonstrators fought for all of us. They deserve solidarity and support.

Future historians will write that the masses of Sri Lanka began to write their own history on March 31st 2022, at Mirihana, a suburb of Colombo, actually of the administrative capital Kotte, instead of having political parties and politicians write it for them. The mass resistance was met with the regime’s repression but was not defeated or cowed. Mirihana is a miniature of the process that will determine this country’s future.

The word that is most in currency after the Mirihana mass resistance is: “ARAGALAYA” (Struggle). The struggle to remove the ruler, the ruling clan and the regime has begun.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 11

    DJ, seems to have found a new life after Mirihana “ARAGALAYA”. Can we expect an article a day to keep us away from boredom. Bring it on DJ ??

    • 10

      Remember, this time of previous govt, DJ was posted to be the ambassador to Russia.
      Now him being unemployed, may be he has lot to trick against until next position is offered to him.
      No wonder, DJ would get in to the pocket of NPP/JVP next days… ofcourse, the signs would be contrast about its victory in next election.

      • 11

        “The reactions I got from the visiting domestic help to medical specialists with PhDs and UN officials in retirement, was one of amazed appreciation and enthusiasm”
        Wow,wow!! What an elite bunch dropping in daily at the DJ residence! Some people just have to blow their own trumpets.
        Still, although there is criticism of Gota , why is there no overt mention of the Godfather, Mahinda? Would Gota have been the President if Mahinda wasn’t disqualified? It is Mahinda who ruined the country. Any new constitution must include a clause banning ex-heads-of-state entering Parliament.

        • 7

          OC, you are spot on!! That was exactly the question sprung up in my mind too! GR is just the poster boy. One who robbed the country left right and centre was bloody MR starting from 2004 Tsunami fund!! And no one yells at him, demands him to go home!! And the bloody zombie even visits GR’s home with his mongrel son with no shame whatsoever!!

          • 4

            Dayan, nothing will happen. If the protest is peaceful, government will ignore it, but if it turns violent it will be brutally put down. Only army can remove the government, but those in high ranks are with the government. Basil with Gota concurring has surrendered to India, which has implications on sovereignty and security. With India in this position, will the army bold to confront India. China and Pakistan will try to upset this status by instigating Buddhist priests and Muslims. Some Buddhist priests have indicated that they want Basil and Gota removed and install Mahinda who is China lackey. People seem to be more angry with Mahinda, who they say is the biggest fraudster. Pakistani agents are at work instigating Muslims who have posted anti-Indian rhetoric in social media saying that they are scared that Srilanka will become a state of India. Some Muslims have posted anti-Tamil rhetoric saying that by interacting with overseas Tamils, they may give ministry posts to LTTE sympathizers. What harm if a capable person who can save the country is given top position. The maritime agreement with India, which allows India to search ships entering and leaving shores of Srilanka, effectively prevents China inducting defence related men and material. If protests go out of hand where Srilankan security forces are unable or unwilling to put down, Basil will not hesitate to call for Indian troops.

          • 1

            OC and Jit, why looking for answers from DJ. Remember MR ‘s words “my brother will become President and I will be the PM”, what he avoided saying “then we as a family will make merry so that rest can starve”. Even then, 6.9 million went for it.

    • 6

      The opposition and the American citizen Rajapakse regime all see the IMF as the ONLY SOLUTION to this staged Economic crisis which is a culmination of US hybrid ECONOMIC cyber maritime trade and Covid-bio War on Sri Lanka to crash the economy and deliver Lanka to IMF and Washington Consensus after MCC failed. This hybrid economic and maritime trade war with burning ships -MV Pearl and MS DIamond disaster have been ongoing since the Easter attacks 2019 on Shangri La and other luxury hotels using religion as a smokescreen!!

      So there is no hope for Lanka from the puppet politicians, who are all bought by external actors, as is the case in Pakistan as PM Imran Khan has said, pointing to the US as behind the conspiracy to get him to resign… Long live Miracle of Modayas!

      • 5

        DJ: Let’s not fool ourselves: this is a CIA Arab Spring Colour Revolution to distract and push Lanka into IMF arms.. both the Rupee crash and USD and energy crisis as well as, the Protests are STAGED to get Sri Lanka in Washington’s and the IMF clutches…
        This is all about GEOPOLITICS and much less about Economics.. Now the stage is set for IMF to come like GOD to bailout suffering Sri Lanka.. But Lanka needs an independent Economic and Energy Policy and buy its oil, gas, etc from Russia at discount prices like India is doing..
        Going to the IMF means that Sri Lanka cannot have an independent economic or ENERGY policy, or buy, oil, gas, or jet fuel and source its energy needs from Russia which is selling discount oil to India.
        When did America actually build anything? What have they built in this cournty – they only steal power plants like Yugadhanavi, asset strip in poor countries with their Hedge funds like Black Rock and promote fake human rights and democracy while backing dictators who use ethnic and religious masks like fig leafs.. LIke the American Rajapakse brothers..

    • 6

      DJ, did you hear , your FS colleague and MR’s relative Jaliya . W PLEADED GUILTY to defrauding SL government.

  • 15

    One needs to read the current events in Colombo (ie Mirihana) as a turning point in the socio-demographic picture in Sri Lanka. Youth are mobilized; they are articulate and willing to sacrifice their freedom for the future of the country. Consistent peaceful agitation will pay dividends as did Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha (peaceful resistance or non-cooperation) against British oppression. They must not respond violently to any baiting or taunt from inciters employed by the goons from within the system.

  • 5

    The “ARAGALAYA” (Struggle) with the “Slogan” – “GOTA GO HOME” and started from “Mirihana” will continue and probably be “Peaked” on coming 3rd April.

    The writer – a “VIYATHA” (Intellectual) says in this essay: ” The people are ahead of the political parties and politicians”.

    Accordingly, people would go ahead and succeed in the “Aragalaya” to force “GOTA TO GO HOME”. Can the writer say “What Comes Next” without the “Political Parties” and “Politicians”? Who will “Dictate” what should be done and by “Whom”? What do the PEOPLE expect after the “Success” of the “Aragalaya”? Is it “No Line Ups”? No more Scarcity of essentials? No more “Militarized” administration? All the “225” will be sent home or jailed? All our “Foreign Reserves” will increase and our “Debt Burden” will be eased?

    Perhaps, Dr. DJ could write the next “Essay” on “What To Expect” and “What To Do” (could be another “Aragalaya”) after the success of the “Aragalaya” sans the “Political Parties” and “Politicians”.

    • 3

      Simon Mahathmaya (Mister) (not mahaththaya – mahathaya is a sinhalese term being used by locals to call anyone thinking that ” you have no value”…. condesending term – thanks to Sepal Amarasinghe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDqUQx4SGOk, this became clearer.),
      The main reason for today s chaos is lack of political literacy also among the local graduates.
      Even GLP s political literacy is highly questionable.

      Apolitical man elected to be the president, with the support of 69 lacks of all walks of people in the hell, proved it well that he would not be appropriate to control over ” Maradana Toilets”, let alone to dream of wonders to be made by such a person ?

      As repeated many times, POST TURTLE is the political term. For some reasons, local MEDIA giants, yellow pets, filmstars, and all other men in sl spot light made a ” FAKE PUBLIC PERCEPTION” about a man, whose profile is no different to a politial refugee with no basic education.
      Did SRILANKEN authorities (incl. Election Commission and others ) did their home work before giving NANDASENA due nomination to be the presidential candidate ?

    • 3

      Dr. DJ: Why don’t the so called protestors say “Gota go Home to AMERICA?
      Why are the CIA backed Arab Spring like Sri Lankan “protestors” so discrete about the foreign hand waging Economic War on Sri Lanka after the failed MCC Compact? The role of the American Rajapakse brothers role in the Economic disaster in Sri Lanka which is being pushed to IMF and Washington for which the rupeee was crashed, rather than de-dollarization being discussed?! LIke Imran Khan said both Pakistan and Sri Lanka are being targetted by the American DOCTOR OCTOPUS . (DOC. OCT. the cyborg in Spiderman Films)!
      Like the CIA backed Arab Spring protestors the foreign hand behind the disaster is not named by these protestors–
      Why is the American connection of the 2 Rajapakse brothers never mentioned by these so-called protestors???! DJ we need answers…

    • 2

      Simon, I’d love to read your comments if they were free of so much inverted commas please!

  • 4

    My Dear LM: Thanks. After a long silence. Now I see the situation in a “Bubble”. This must develop and come to a boiling point. Yet, it must not be allowed to go waste and “Highjacked” by the “Hawks” in waiting to grab the prey. Did you see what the “11 Party Brigade” of Wimal, Gamanpila, Vasu, MY3, Tissa Vitharana have “Proposed”? They want to form an “Interim Government” with all the political parties in the Parliament and decide to go for an election. This is an “Illicit Brewery” to put all the “Old Wine” in a “New Bottle” and once again to hoodwink the masses. I am sure, “Sajit P” and “Ranil W” are in it.

    This must not be allowed, because it is to build an “ESCAPE ROUTE” for “Rajapakses & Co.”

    • 4

      Coming to boiling point is ok but it should not cooled down with another fake racist drama like another bomb blast in a buddhist temple. This regime is capable of doing such drama,s. Important is the change should come from the heart not from the emotions.

    • 0

      “I am sure, “Sajit P” and “Ranil W” are in it. “
      Much depends on the way the wind blows.
      Whoever takes over now, cannot put back the economy on track. Short-term measures on top of what are already in the process can eliminate shortages in the medium term, but taking over now can prove a liability.
      The protesters are no more enlightened than those who voted overwhelmingly for the UNP in 1977.

  • 2

    So the game plan is clear. Sri Lanka will be in Lockdown on the basis of the compounding and staged politico economic crisis and Media narratives.
    The Endgame of the compounding crisis and staged protests is the IMF debate and Washington’s to take over Lanka’s economy on April 8 in Parliament..
    The past 4 years, since the Staged Easter 2019 attacks (that were claimed by ISIS which was set up by the CIA after the Invasion of Iraq to do Regime change in Syria), in March-April Sri Lankans are put in lockdowns that compound the economic disaster.
    This is a pattern for past 4 years and on some pretext in March-April lockdowns happen and QUAD war game staged on the coasts as well.: After the Easter attacks there were 2 months of economically destructive lockdown while in 2020 and 2021 Covid-19 was used as an excuse for almost 2 years of economically devastating lockdowns which enable external actors to asset strip lands and mineral and capture systems and institutions while society and economy was decimated. The American Rajapakse brothers are addicted to curfews… This year the Endgame of the curfew is to facilitate and prevent protests against the IMF and Washington’s capture of Sri Lanka’s economy with the collusion of the corrupt and incompetent US citizen Basil Rajapakse – Minister of Economic Disaster.
    This is a Full Spectrum Dominance (FSD) operation. Sri Lanka is paying for rejecting the MCC compact in 2019, just as Pakistan must pay for Imran Khan’s visit to Russia!

  • 1

    Ravana’s Ilankai and Gotabaya’s Sri Lanka

    The Ramayana War is getting re-enacted in Lanka with unerring parallels. Like the short duration of the authentic war, the current encounter even with all its enormity is destined to be nasty and brief. The two greats were Rama and Ravana and their armies were locked up in mortal combat. Among the many lost in battle were Kumbakarnan the indomitable brother of Ravana. The services of INDRAJIT the son of Ravana were also lost as he was killed in battle. Not to mention were the loss of many of the able lieutenants of Ravana. His pitiable predicament was beyond description. Yet Kamban the Tamil poet, the author of Kamba Ramayanam ventured to portray his position over a thousand years ago.

    “The King of Ilankai (Lanka) was like one with heart buffeted as in a storm. He was like a debtor overwhelmed by grief at his inability to repay his debts. What an exact parallel between ancient Lanka and modern Sri Lanka!

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.