29 November, 2022

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 “Aragalaya” – What We Struggle Against

By Ravi Perera

Ravi Perera

“Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed, by the masses” ~ Plato 

“Just as it is not religion which creates man, but man who creates religion, so it is not the constitution which creates the people, but the people which creates the constitution”~  Karl MarxContribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law

By its reach and impact, the on-going “aragalaya” (struggle) could justifiably claim a unique place in the history of this country. We have not witnessed a political phenomenon replete with this potentiality in our times; not at any election, not in any social convulsion. And, we have had these aplenty, so many elections since 1948, and nearly every decade, deeply wounding upheavals; ethnic wars, insurgencies; in their different ways, expressions of bitter disapproval of the status quo. 

We live in an exceedingly inter-connected world, with countries competing in every field; pitting their cultural attitudes, leadership quality, skills, stamina and the necessary resources against each other. Adding greater focus to comparative progress, we live in Asia, home to many countries which starting from a low base, have in a period of less than two decades, turned themselves into economic dynamos. Our nation story is very different. The seventy plus years since independence is long enough to provide historical perspective to Sri Lanka’s evolution, the many elections held, the various governments installed, and the attendant consequences thereof.

  How a country is led is the responsibility of its elected governments. One does not need an acute critical faculty to realize the appalling incapacity of our leadership; a governance with a repeating theme; beginning with much fanfare, proceeding with big talk and buffoonery, only to eventually end in abysmal failure. While we flounder, every other country in the neighbourhood has overtaken us! This monumental incompetence is broken only by periodic convulsions; ethnic, religious, economic or some other grievance leading to bloody challenges to the legitimacy of the rulers; young rebels eventually meeting a tragic end at the hands of young soldiers, all of this little island.

It is extremely unusual for a purported democracy to be rocked by so many armed rebellions of its own people. After all, a democratic system, particularly, the electoral method, is designed to represent the popular will, to minimize disaffection, ensure fairness and obviate the need for violent agitation. Why divide against itself, when the system, in the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln is a – “A government of the people, by the people, for the people”?

Clearly, something is amiss, there is an undiagnosed malaise affecting the social order.  

We cannot claim historical ownership to a single system or idea which go to form our overall governance structures. They, the parliament, the police, the press; are all imported concepts, having originated and gradually solidified in cultures and climes vastly different. What we have is a huge mimic of something alien, a second-rate aping of ideas imperfectly understood. Obviously, they struggle in the unfavourable environment, often ending up as a grotesque caricature of the original.

The first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is said to be Sir Robert Walpole whose position as the First Lord of the Treasury (1721-1742) gradually evolved, due to various historical reasons, to that of the Prime Minister. We can assume that Walpole conducted himself in such a manner that there was no clamour in England to do away with this office! (compare with the poor reputation of Sri Lanka’s hybrid presidency, the brain child of   JR Jayawardena, often given sage like status by his admirers – after every incumbency, there is a renewed demand to do away with the presidency! So much for our institution building!)  

Walpole’s career was not without blemishes, however, after him the office of the Prime Minister became established in the United Kingdom, evolving through the years. Today, the office of the Prime Minister is the most powerful position in the Kingdom.

As a gesture of gratitude for his long years of service, King George 11 offered No 10, Downing Street as a gift to him. But Robert Walpole refused it as a personal gift, insisting that it becomes the official residence of the First Lord of the Treasury. Thus, No 10 Downing Street became one of the most famous addresses of the world.

Robert Walpole’s family who were members of the Whig Party did not claim a lease on the office of the Prime Ministership. The Conservative Party (originally Tory Party) had Robert Peel as their first Prime Minister (1834) while much later, in early 20 Century, Ramsay MacDonald became the first Labour Party Prime Minister. Neither the Conservative Party nor the Labour Party became fiefdoms of these leaders.

It seems English eyes view public office very differently. 

As played out since 1948, Sri Lankan Elections can only confirm which set of undesirables get the baton next. The political parties are in the firm grip of a few individuals/families, who when the elections come up, offer themselves as candidates to lead the country. One of the families will inevitably win, name themselves the leaders of the nation; express many profound thoughts, start all kinds of projects, address many international conferences; eventually they too will fail, as they must. Given their make-up, it will be against laws of nature if they succeed. They are rejected at the next election, only to offer themselves again and yet again for leadership.

 This domination by a few hyped-up opportunists is not only limited to political parties, even in the commercial sphere most companies are by and large led by former students of one or two schools. These are the same schools that produce the leading politicians of the country. Either the students attending these few schools become natural leaders by some mysterious process, or, there is something very unwholesome operating in this country of 22 million people.

Although there is a tendency to equate the few thousands inchoate, leaderless group of protestors camped out at the Galle Face Green as the “aragalaya”, the concept commands a meaning which runs through the entire spectrum of this society; across all economic, ethnic, religious definitions; in fact, any citizen who has even a semblance of social awareness, is in the “aragalaya” today.

They should be. After seventy plus years of tomfoolery by this so called elite, the country is bankrupt, its economy in disarray, its currency in free fall, its passport a liability; Not only have lives of the people become impossibly hard, even the future of their children has been blighted; what is there to hold them back? 

“Who killed Cock Robin “the famous nursery rhyme is said to be a reference to the political fall of Sir Robert Walpole. The origin of the question “who killed Cock Robin”, however is lost in the misty past, going to a period even before Walpole. There is no uncertainty as to who killed the Sri Lankan economy. There are but a few in the dock, perhaps two dozen or so high level decision makers holding office after independence, some fancying themselves as economic wizards, even now presenting themselves as the redeemers.

Ultimately, we must accept the truism that the people get the governments they deserve. In Sri Lankan eyes, until this collapse, there was nothing wrong with our leaders, in fact if you go by the common media, we have some remarkable leaders. The outside world may scoff at them, consider them poseurs out of depth, but to our purblind voter, here on the Sri Lankan political stage was something magnificent.

Year 2022 was the turning point. The temple they had worshipped for long was shown to be only a den of thieves, the officiating priests were unmasked, all their rituals were only tricks to retain power, remain in control and make money. Upon Learning the truth, the people seethed, ashamed of themselves for being such dupes.

If this nation is to have a future, if it is to mean anything in the world, this is the time to be reborn, become different; become strong, become able.

To condemn the miserable leaders the country has been burdened with, is the most natural reaction to our plight. These so called leaders had not only made all the wrong decisions, they corrupted all systems and subverted vital institutions, including political parties. There was no social resistance, the people were weak and deficient. And, that suited the leadership.

If the “aragalaya” is to have any meaning, while throwing the entire leadership lock, stock and barrel to the dustbin of history, we must also throw away our own former selves, our accustomed way of thinking and working; that half-baked quality, inefficiency and the incompetence which now seem to define this nation.

The known, the familiar environment in which we function, may not be valid any longer.

There is this entrepreneur friend of mine who not so long ago started a large hotel and restaurant. To push the new business forward he organized many promotions at the hotel. One year he held an “Oktoberfest” to coincide with the popular German beer festival. Sparing no effort to make it authentic, he even brought down a band of musicians and a Chef from Germany for the occasion. On examining the kitchen, the German Chef refused to work in it, saying that its cleanliness was far below the standards he expects when serving the public. They got to work, the staff led by the German Chef were down on their hands and knees scrubbing and cleaning the kitchen an entire day. It was a relatively new kitchen, until that day no one had realized how much cleaning it needed. There were two standards of cleanliness operating. To my friend, this was an eye-opener.

We see the limitations, failings and the corruptions of our leaders. Whether our own failings are as obvious, is not certain. Clearly, in capabilities, efficiencies and standards there is much to be desired.

This “aragalaya”, is a desperate demand for a fresh beginning, a new Sri Lankan to emerge. And that, is sure to prove the most difficult “aragalaya” of all.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    12

    “Neither the Conservative Party nor the Labour Party became fiefdoms of these leaders.”
    But manipulative cliques have all along controlled the Tory establishment. When it cannot choose the prime minister, they at least decide who will not be prime minister.
    Labour has a history of manipulation pressure groups that represent different wings of the party. Labour Left has been systematically undermined with the help of the media. As a result Britain ends up with Labour prime ministers who deliver a Tory agenda. Tories loved Blair even more than some of their liberal prime ministers.
    *
    Parties rule at the mercy of a ruling class, whose internal squabbles are seen by as ‘democratic’ politics.

    • 4
      0

      // Labour prime ministers who deliver a Tory agenda //
      Absolutely! Margaret Thatcher’s best legacy was getting Tony Blair to implement her policies. In the pursuit of power, Blair forgot what he was supposed to represent. That history is now playing out again with Starmer.

      • 7
        8

        SJ , the author is saying that British parties are not family oriented. You are saying there are cliques within these British parties that attempt to influence the party policies
        Isn’t this the case with any organisation in a democracy? Groups and lobbies pushing their agenda. If the majority is won over, that is it.
        Can you suggest a better way of running these organisations ?

        Both SJ and Singar are saying Blair followed Thatcher policies. I am not a deep student of British politics so cannot say anything so confidently.. However I think there are many shades and nuances in these things. What the two of you are saying is your own opinion. I don’t think majority in UK will agree with you!

        You two who live in a bankrupt country are criticizing UK which is a US Trillion dollar economy. You think UK should follow your opinions ?

        • 2
          2

          Actually, Deepthi, the UK is in deep crisis right now & the present contenders for the premiership don’t give rise to any optimism. May I direct you to a recent article in the Guardian, “Thatcherism is an obsolete ideology – but it’s the only one that Sunak & Truss have.”
          https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/aug/19/thatcherism-obsolete-ideology-rishi-sunak-liz-truss-tories

          • 3
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            Good piece, that.
            The Sunak-Truss competition is very interesting. When they appear on TV, he appears bright, which is because she sets such a low bar. But in fact he is not clever at all because he fails to judge that telling more lies and acting with greater callousness, which he is doing admirably, won’t offset the colourful feature in him that would trump when Tory party members post their votes.

          • 0
            0

            Singer AV — & Deepthi, too — here’s another Guardian piece on the situation in Britain right now:

            https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/aug/22/england-citizens-ungoverned-unstable-strikes-civil-disobedience

          • 4
            0

            Manel Fonseka

            “Actually, Deepthi, the UK is in deep crisis right now & the present contenders for the premiership don’t give rise to any optimism. “

            UK is experimenting multicultural governance, which of course has appointed 4 or more ministers from ethnic minorities including powerful ministry Finance and Home affairs whereas Sri Lanka is reluctant to appoint minorities to any of the powerful or important ministries, for example Defense, Finance, ….. ?

            Please listen to “Dr. Palanivel Thiagaranjan On The Challenges In Developing TN As A One Trillion-Dollar Economy”.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1XyThpvv7o

            Please tell me can any of our ministers match Dr Palanivel in every aspect of being Finance minister?
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1XyThpvv7o

            ““Thatcherism is an obsolete ideology – but it’s the only one that Sunak & Truss have.”

            However if you look back (according to my Elders) Gota promised all kinds of things of which he had no clue at all. We ended up in the 1970’s NM, Siri Mao economy. It was the right time to encourage the entrepreneurs to transform the Agriculture based economy to light industrialization. The Socialists missed an opportunity. Remember we still import rice as well as import industrial goods.

            We have 100% catch up to do.
            Mao’s red book is not the way forward.

        • 7
          4

          DS , agree, especially the last two lines. Sounds like a person living in Myanmar criticizing Indian democracy, not being perfect. In the U.S , Republic party for a long time was known as Lincoln’s party , later Reagan’s and now called as Trump’s party, depending on the deep impact made by the few. (unfortunately for all the wrong reasons , in case of Trump). Does it mean the grand old party is all about these three gentleman ??? We should find the opinion of British , about we Lankans having 75 years of Family dynasty / kleptocracy, starting from Senanayaka, Bandas, JR / RW, Rajapaksas, Premadasas ——-( RETARDS).

          • 5
            5

            “DS , agree, especially the last two lines.”
            A bankrupt country can have resourceful minds.
            India is not bankrupt, but that is no assurance that the mind of one living there is not pathetically bankrupt.

            • 4
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              Havent we heard enough from you retired professor?? Person who is blind to your own matters but do in depth analysis on hearsay and sterotypical thinking.

              • 2
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                Your desperation shows in your personal attacks.
                If you have heard enough, let others who have not have their say.
                Meantime, have a Kit-Kat, as the old ad goes.

                • 0
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                  Prof KIA, “If you HAVE heard enough, let others who HAVE not HAVE their say” . Which dictionary to check GOOD , BAD or the one you’re using ??

            • 3
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              “A bankrupt country can have resourceful minds”. Read it again and again. What an oxymoronic statment from a retired professor. So called resourceful minds ( like yours) sealed the fate of our banana republic.

              • 2
                3

                Checked with a good dictionary before using unfamiliar words.

        • 6
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          DS
          I do not expect anyone to take instructions from me. I express views and let them float. You are free to read any meaning into each.
          If you seek clarification, being controlled by a clique is most dangerous as what goes on behind the scenes is seldom revealed.
          Family rule and family domination in politics is common in South Asia, as the dominant ideology is still feudal, despite the economy and form of government accepting capitalism and bourgeois democracy.
          Feudal residues are there in all societies. What decides matters eventually is not the family. The Nehru family was almost continuously on top in India for almost half a century (but for a short blip in the 1970s). That did not mean that the family decided everything.
          The majority in Britain are unprepared to be rid of a parasitic monarchy that they are saddled with. That majority does not even realize that their country is virtually a colony of the US if not an unofficial state of the US.
          Should it matter to me if they, or for that matter you, do not agree with me?

        • 9
          6

          DS,
          “You two who live in a bankrupt country are criticizing UK which is a US Trillion dollar economy. You think UK should follow your opinions ?”
          Neither SJ or SAV are responsible for Sri Lankan bankruptcy. Nor are they responsible for your shallow understanding of British politics.
          By the same token, you aren’t responsible for the UK
          “US Trillion dollar economy.”
          Do not borrow feathers.

        • 4
          6

          Hi Deepthi,

          // I am not a deep student of British politics so cannot say anything so confidently//

          Thank you. Best keep quiet and listen then.

          • 6
            6

            Interesting name Mr Velan ! You want me to listen to you on British politics !

            Since you know so much about Britain and British politics , why don’t you write something about it so that we can all read and realize your depth of knowledge about this subject ?

            However I think if you were to put your thoughts down it will only go to show how foolish you are on Britain !

            • 2
              1

              Hi Deepthi: With all due respect, Sir, it was your claim that you have not studied the subject in depth. Yet you venture to predict you can judge how foolish I might be, were I to write about British politics. Bit of a contradiction there, no?

              • 1
                3

                SAV
                Such self appointed censors do not bother to consider their own conduct.
                By DS’s own logic, he/she should abstain from commenting on Sri Lanka, a country that has changed very much in many respects (well beyond recognition for many living abroad) in the past decade or so.

                • 2
                  3

                  SJ,
                  DS is not known for either logic or consistency. I have a suspicion that these supposed foreign residents actually live here.

          • 3
            4

            OC & SAV
            Watch out. The usually isolated DS has desperate volunteers from unexpected quarters this time.

            • 4
              0

              SJ, we are not having a popularity contest here.There is no clique, other than your paranoia. Currently I am a dual citizen ( US and Lanka) having OCI status, to reside here in India. Though there may be plenty to discuss about these countries, right now Lanka, is my utmost concern. It’s we who are facing , uncertainty, bankruptcy, suffering, starvation,—-. By the same token, just the name Rishy Sunak, appearing in the potential premiership of UK , alone is good enough for me to consider as progress. Anyone including OC, SAV are free to criticize (me) without belittling like you ( not just nit pick).

              • 3
                0

                chiv

                Our Mao’s Man types:
                “Groups with open political identity are very democratic.
                Cliques operating behind the scenes are not– they are very anti-democratic.”

                Perhaps he forgot the THE GANG OF FOUR (siren bang) which comprised Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, and her associates Wang Hongwen, Yao Wenyuan, and Zhang Chunqiao.
                https://alphahistory.com/chineserevolution/gang-of-four/

                The man lost not only his mind but common sense too.

        • 1
          0

          Groups with open political identity are very democratic.
          Cliques operating behind the scenes are not– they are very anti-democratic.

    • 2
      2

      I don’t know what you are talking about the Sri Lankan hotelier. I believe, if they are dealing with Europeans, they must have known the norms for a long time.
      Oktoberfests in Germany always end up being chaotic in their nature. However, it cannot be compared to the chaos in the UK and Sri Lanka. It was a beer festival but stopped due to the threat of COVID for all these 3 years. Even if the Germans die without food, the dirty kitchen will not be allowed to operate. It is in their blood. Their toughness is a tool to work in many fields. Most of the older generations don’t care much about eating, but cleaning their house, car is at the top of their weekend agenda. Men are involved in cleaning vehicles and gardening, while women do most of the house cleaning. People who don’t care much about their diet, but like to see the well clean windows of the house. That’s how fun their style is. My neighour, Wolfgang müller, 85, a former public servant, is very busy with cleaning of his garden every saturday. Alone looking at him is a greater insipiration to me. They dont have fears against anything but to go for it is their life motto.

      Almost everyone with some sense (but the question about the nubmers of ones with rationality in Srilanka remains further) respected struggles and struggles in the beginning. Alone to look at that ” jeen grandma” was great to me. However, it transformed to a place where colmoboite to enjoy their free food, ended up my support.
      But the way the university boys and girls and the frontline supporters made it into a mess, that’s why I stood against them.

      • 1
        0

        Dear LM,
        .
        That last sentence of yours reveals a lot! You’ve become so German now that it was the mess that you found revolting; that then had nothing to do with principles, or with the ethics that were involved.
        .
        Nothing wrong with that, but it is important that we come to terms with the fact that we, ourselves, don’t face up to the fact that we usually are unaware of the extent to which our subconscious minds determine our attitudes.
        .
        You are much more honest than most people! But consider this: what the Rajapaksas had been doing was so selfish and evil, that a violent upheaval was the result. If Ranil persists with his present policies, another upheaval is inevitable.
        .
        Didn’t you know that the Aragalaya made an attempt to clean up before they left? Give those poor fellows a chance. Don’t side with the dying generation that I belong to!

        • 1
          0

          Dear LM, and others who feel like that about the Aragalaya, an earnest appeal:
          .
          This video is only 2′ 20″. Please listen to it; it’s in English.
          .
          You have been dealing with stereotypes. The Aragalaya is not something as simple as what you think it. This ought to convince you.
          .
          However, there is a danger. You will then split up the Aragalaya, and approve only of those who seem to be the cultured middle class, not the rough-hewn country bumpkin types. This is why I unambiguously proclaim my identity, and location. Dear LM; I know you to be kindly and generous, but don’t you see the extent to which your seeing it from abroad distorts the reality as I know it?
          .
          There is no solution. However, try to understand the extent to which you have changed. You were speaking up for liberalism. Now you have begun to side with the oppressors; and the tragedy is that you can’t see the change yourself.
          .
          Panini Edirisinhe (NIC 483111444V) of Bandarawela

          • 1
            0

            Dear SM
            .
            which video ?, you have failed to add the link, please add it again.
            .
            And, you have insisted that I am irrational, but to correct you, I am not. I support the “struggle” anymore, but I don’t support the vandals. BTW, you have the wrong picture of present-day Germans. Germans today are not heartless. The way they make every arrangement for the (majority) Ukrainians and Syrians who are caught in brutal wars today, I feel they must be real Buddhists compared to our Sinhala Buddhists. My colleagues offer their own apartments free to Ukrainian families. Some of them become foster parents to the ukraninian youth. Some of them don’t care about their lives but use their free time to help Ukrainians. Ukrainian-German relations are very strong. This reminds me of how our FAKE monks treated the Myanmar refugees in Sri Lanka 4 years ago.
            :
            Did you know that Germans were among the most who donated a lot to recover Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit?
            I intend to seek support from my colleagues to help hospitals in Sri Lanka when there is stability in our mothe

            • 0
              0

              Dear SM
              .
              Unfortunately, you have failed to add the link, please add it again.
              .
              And, you have insisted that I am irrational, but to correct you, I am not. I support the “struggle” further, but I don’t support the vandals. BTW, you have the wrong picture of present-day Germans. Germans today are not heartless. The way they make every arrangement for the (majority) Ukrainians and Syrians who are caught in brutal wars today, I feel they must be real Buddhists compared to our Sinhala Buddhists. My colleagues offer their own apartments free to Ukrainian families. Some of them become foster parents to the ukraninian youth. Some of them don’t care about their lives but use their free time to help Ukrainians. Ukrainian-German relations are very strong. This reminds me of how our FAKE monks treated the Myanmar refugees in Sri Lanka 4 years ago. they were like barbarians.
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBf1tN8HhE8
              :
              Did you know that the Germans were leaders among the most who donated a lot to recover Sri Lanka when the tsunami waves masacarred lanken fishers living in coatal belts ?
              I intend to seek support from my colleagues to help hospitals in Sri Lanka when there is stability in our motherland in the near future.

      • 0
        0

        “… that’s why I stood against them”
        You can come up with a more honest reason if you try.

  • 0
    0

    It’s TIME UP for the CLEAN & ABLE parliamentarians of the present set up are given the cabinet posts in the Interim GoSL of all parties.
    I am sure if the President can do that Aragalaya movement will be pleased and can then hope for the economic & POLITICAL revival.

  • 0
    0

    How joy full relegion and intact for 2500,this 70 odd may seem to be doomed, not as we think. its being blessed still

  • 3
    0

    Ravi Perera,
    You say, ‘Something is amiss. Clearly, there is a malaise affecting the social order’.
    O.k. Tell us what that malaise is. Why is everyone afraid to go there.
    Until, you are ready and willing to say what that malaise is, no aragalaya can save you, me or the country.

    • 2
      2

      Dear Mr Nathan,
      Let me add something from my knowledge.
      .
      #####
      You say, ‘Something is wrong. Clearly, there is confusion affecting the social system.
      ####
      Dear Nathan,
      You say, ‘Something is wrong. Clearly, there is confusion affecting the social order.

      The people are suffering from oppression knowing that Rajapaksa is the ghost of any great crime in this country. If the Rajapaksas are the main part of it, there is no excuse even for extra-judicial killings.

      Example 01
      That rugger player Tajuddin was caught in the “Jamal Khashoggi” style murder mystery because Rajapaksa’s bastard sons were directly involved. However, the body was not dismembered as Jamal’s bodies were subjected to, instead the body parts were hidden in freezers at the private clinic. College Laboratory. … Remember that brutal recent past?
      .
      The irony is that knowing all this, Sri Lankans (all Sri Lankans, regardless of their race, religion or other barriers) are willing to be corrupted and destroyed by the Rajapakses because the Sinhala Buddhist priests expect them to. got it ?
      OK, tell me what that disease is. Why is everyone afraid to go there?
      No struggle can save you or me or the country until you are ready to say what that confusion is.

  • 2
    0

    I haven’t been reading Ravi Perera’s many articles. A mistake, probably.
    .
    I found this articles extremely well-written and thought provoking. But the problem is that there is too much to read, but at least we can skim and scan.
    .
    It is even more true that there are far too many YouTubes.
    .
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YouTube
    .
    I was most surprised to find that Wikipedia is unable to provide us with statistics which are up-to date. There is this sentence in the very first paragraph:
    .
    “As of May 2019, videos were being uploaded at a rate of more than 500 hours of content per minute.[9][10]”
    .
    That was copy/pasted just by me just now, 00:28 on 23/08/2022. Clearly nobody knows, and nobody is in control.
    .
    leelagemalli and I are now agreed that Sepal Amarasinghe is a terrible danger. A few days ago, I spent about four hours analysing how he works. The result is to be found in two comments, here:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/ranils-post-imf-challenge/
    .
    How many will read it? There’s so much now on the web that it becomes impossible to get the message across.

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