28 February, 2024

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Aragalaya’s Unfinished Business  

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

If not for the aragalaya of March 2022, which continued for nearly four months until it was forcibly ended by the current President Ranil Wickremesinghe (RW) after pretending to support it, none of the political changes, such as the resignation of the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, the appointment of RW as replacement, eviction and short-term exile of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and the final elevation of RW himself to presidency, would have taken place. But those changes were not what the aragalaya youth were aspiring for. They put their demands in a nutshell and in the form of two catchy slogans: “System Change” and “No 225”.  The second was, in essence, their vote of no confidence on the entire parliament, which they viewed and has been proved since as an unwilling and incapable lot to deliver the primary demand – system change.  But because of the absence of any clear leadership there was practically no one among the aragalaya crowd who could articulate what they meant by system change. Its quintessential meaning however, was evident from the politically neutral and ethnically inclusive character of their revolt.  Their expressions and behaviour made it clear to those who wanted to listen and observe that a growing generation of young men and women had come to realize the need to renounce the divisive and pernicious ideology of Sinhala Buddhist majoritarianism which had caused so deep a fissure in Sri Lankan society and ended up bankrupting the country’s economy.  In the perspective of that generation therefore, the current economic crisis is only one deadly symptom of a deadlier disease that required radical treatment.       

That message however, did not seem to have percolated within the community of elders, a vast majority of whom stood to benefit from the status quo and believe in its durability and desirability once the economic crisis is won over, adjustments made to accommodate the reasonable grievances of minority communities and provide incentives for the young generation to join the system. RW represents the epitome of this thinking. His attempts to entice the youth to join his 25-year economic marathon and his decision to implement fully the Indian inspired 13th Amendment are reflections of this thought. They are meant not to change but to fine tune the existing system.  Unsurprisingly, except for the NPP and its new avatar JVP component all other parties are in cahoots with this philosophy.  NPP on the other hand agrees with aragalaya’s call for system change and see it as prerequisite for the nation’s ultimate redemption. 

Since there is a general consensus between the President and his government on the one hand and majority of the opposition parliamentarians on the other, to isolate the economic crisis from system change, RW has thrown the gauntlet to the opposition and challenged its leaders to come out with an alternative to the IMF backed revival agenda, or, at least propose improvements on it for him to submit for consideration by the IMF board. So far none had been suggested except to cry over unfair taxes, increased utility tariffs and privatization of state-owned assets, all of which were included, as per order from IMF, in RW’s 2023 budget. These measures no doubt, would inflict more pain to a citizenry subjected already to numerous hardships since the advent of the global pandemic. The opposition therefore expects to capitalize on increasing public discontent if an election were to be held soon.  Curiously, while both the government and the opposition seem to have agreed on the indispensability of an IMF solution to the economic crisis, they disagree on the dispensability of any election at this point of time.  Hence, the controversy over the Local Government Elections (LGE) scheduled to be held on 9 March this year. While the opposition, including NPP, considers LGE as a referendum on RW’s Presidency and his government, RW views it as a nuisance to be dispensed with in the interest of the economy.  Hence his manoeuvres over tactics to postpone LGE indefinitely or cancel it altogether. It appears that he is winning this battle.

As far as the IMF and its shareholders are concerned whether LGE is held or not, and depending on its outcome whether a general election would follow and change of government also eventuate or not is immaterial because, as noted earlier, there is broad consensus between RW and the opposition on the indispensability of IMF’s role in economic reparation. Even the Central Bank is in compliance with that choice. 

In fact, IMF itself is a guardian of the neoliberal economic order or system, of which Sri Lanka is a member since late 1970s. Therefore, as long as that system is left unthreatened by any party or coalition of parties IMF would be happy to work with and extend help, but subject to certain strict conditions, which is what happening now. According to RW, the country had met all fifteen conditions laid down by IMF and prospects of an early release of the $2.9 billion under its Extended Fund Facility are bright. When one considers in addition the geopolitical interests that IMF’s shareholders have on Sri Lanka RW’s confidence seems to be justifiable.      

 The only dark horse in this scenario is NPP with its commitment for system change. Opinion polls indicate that a reasonable chance exists for NPP to pass the post or at least to hold the balance of power were an election to be held now. Understandably, IMF would prefer to avoid such an eventuality.      

To the aragalaya youth however, there is unfinished business. System change requires outright renunciation of Sinhala Buddhist majoritarianism and demands a constitution that reflects that renunciation and guarantees the democratic rights and freedom to all communities and citizens. Under that constitution which would be based on secular principles, the present 13th Amendment would become superfluous. On the contrary, under the existing system that amendment will have only zero chance of being implemented fully. That impossibility might have been the tactical reason why AKD boldly supported RW’s proposal to implement that amendment, because he knew that RW would never be able to do. The system won’t allow him. Similarly, AKD is also silent on the issue of power devolution because power devolution became a necessity to prevent the excesses of majoritarian rule. Under the new constitution however, power would be devolved through the democratic process and guaranteed by the constitution. These are details which need to be sorted out by constitutional experts once the people give mandate to a team that is committed to change the system. 

In the meantime, the aragalaya mission has to resume its journey from where it was forced to stop. The time has come to complete its business possibly in coalition with its sympathizers. To the country and its people at large a regime change by ballot, as RW seems to promise, would be meaningless without system change.   

*Dr. Ameer Ali, Murdoch Business School, Murdoch University, W. Australia

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Latest comments

  • 8
    1

    Correct me, if I am wrong Ameer Ali.
    Shouldn’t your, “except for the NPP and its new avatar JVP component” read ‘except for the JVP and its new avatar NPP component’.

    • 7
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      Aragalaya’s Unfinished Business? Yes it is. It is an unfinished revolution.. wounded animal is very dangerous.
      Unless complete systemic change is carried out, any other piecemeal measures will be interim and the misery continues. The best is to have a short still painful single deep surgery.
      The wound itself will be healed quickly and it will be the beginning of a new era.

      • 5
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        Aragalaya was an informal organization.it was not a political party, if it is then it would have a clear vision and a leadership to guide and take the movement towards the ultimate objectives.
        Aragalaya youth thought innocently that it was all the mistakes of Gota and once he goes home things will be back to normal

        Few of then thought to send home all 225+1, but it did not went down to the rank and file,

    • 5
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      N
      There is always room for time warp in subjective political analysis.

      • 3
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        Aragalaaya youth as well as others ,watching the drama, especially the fall of Gota and rise of Ranil and the consequent crushing of Aragalaya would have taught valuable lessons as to what went wrong and how the perseverance of the dirty politicians help in wriggling out of difficult situations to survive and to fight another day. It is in their instinct?
        It may be a long process. It may not be possible to restore unless the mess is cleared up with a new, fresh beginning.
        First thing is not to lose hope.
        Hope should be eternal in the human breast!

  • 5
    2

    Certainly, the aragalaya has to continue. Its unfinished business until a system change & the current 225 are kicked out. Holding them accountable & punishing offenders would be a bonus.

    NPP appears to be the hero in the making but I have doubts as long as they are holding hands with the JVP. Can a bunch of ‘liberals’, intellectuals, trade unionists & a party with communist ideology, yet to denounce their violent past past, compromise on power sharing? They have contrasting ideology, so where do they draw the line? OK, so the NPP are educated & intellectuals, so lets see their political manifesto in detail. We need more than blaming the past, lets see their strategy & action plan to turn around the economy & reform the system

    • 5
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      Raj-UK: Please Google> NPP.LK and read through the “Rapid Response” publication.

      You could get some ideas to dispel your doubts.

      Thanks.

      • 5
        5

        S
        Not that I agree with your stand, but to say that ideas may dispel doubts but not prejudices.

      • 6
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        Simon Man

        A few days ago a small stand containing Buddha’s Statue suddenly appeared on the premises of Nilavarai, Natural underground water well in the North. Following an investigation and protest a soldier was identified being responsible for this miracle.

        During the investigation he admitted being responsible for ( another attempt to grab land through Buddhism) the miracle and told the police he did that because Buddha told him in his dream to plant it in that plot.

        Buddha has asked me in my dreams to do lots of things in the past.
        Will I be responsible all my acts if I obliged Buddha’s requests?

        His illegal act alone does not end there.
        What will happen to South India where Buddhist heritage is found in many places? Will our Surgeon General Shavendra Silva, Kamala and Wimal send 350,000 lazy bums to liberate and occupy those places such as Sanchi, Kanchipuram, Nagapattinam, Uraiyur, Kaveripattinam, Perambalur, Bharanikkavu, …………. because something told them……something in their dream?

        If SJ says in his dream Mao, SiriMao, …. had told him to convert this country into a Chinese Colony do we have to accept it or oblige him?

        • 4
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          NV: To find a “BUDDHA” in Sri Lanka is difficult as to find a needle in a hay sack.

          • 1
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            Simon
            He seems emotionally disturbed, please leave him alone..

        • 3
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          OMG Native, you can be really funny and yet absolutely right, providing necessary amusement to those desperately needed ( looking for it here). What a story, only in SHAM LANKA . If this dosen’t qualify what else can ???

      • 2
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        Simon

        I did but 1 line description of polices don’t say much. Unless a detailed description of how the policies are going to be achieved, a vague sentence doesn’t carry any weight. How are they going to fund their wish list? Will they cut military spending & use it on health care & education? Apart from budgeting 5% of GDP for Health & 6% on education, it doesn’t say much. Holding those accountable for the corruption is commendable but what about about recovering the loot syphoned out? Anything about the environment & green energy? Abolishing perks of Parliamentarians is fantastic but do they include generous pensions for a few years in service? Seems we are going to keep the President & PM roles but are they fit for purpose? Not a waste of public funds in times of austerity?

        The opposition in the UK Parliament have a ‘shadow cabinet’ which ‘shadows’ every move of their respective Ministers in govt. & are able to offer solutions to how they would address matters on which they differ. For example, Labour spells out how they will tackle the economy with costings included, not just ‘we will do ……)

        • 0
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          Raj-UK: It is a Policy Statement. The detailed workings of those “Policies” have already been explained at all the Public Meetings and through the Media enough times. That is why the people are assembling in large numbers at all those meetings right through at District, Constituency, and village levels. I see it happening on a meaningful level.

          You have missed all that and I understand your inability to reach all that.

        • 0
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          Raj,
          .
          To move to affairs of State – it is so much more complex.
          .
          I greatly appreciate your comments; they are sincere and concerned.
          .
          I’m convinced that the NPP (which includes the JVP), are doing the right things. Possibility: I’m totally wrong! I have been following much more carefully than you possibly can. I myself may have some reservations on certain scores. But those who must make the decisions must take account of factors I have no notion of. Ultimately, we must make this leap of faith in the dark.
          .
          This is the point at which we must whole-heartedly back them. Not for ever! Once we’ve got more decent people running the country, we will have to fine-tune.
          .
          Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela (NIC 483111444V)</b

  • 2
    3

    I agree with DR.Ameer Ali.The country needs a SYSTEM CHANGE,not a REGIME CHANGE.
    This is the only way out of the Impasse. Aragalaya should start its 2nd leg of the journey towards a System change. to prevent political parties dreaming of a Regime Change…………

    • 1
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      Plato: I think that “System Change” includes a change in the “POLITICAL CULTURE”. That invariably needs a “Regime Change”.

      You would have seen that “Change” – the “Political Culture” is urgently needed from what was demonstrated in Parliament a few days back viz. the speech of the President, its contents, and behavior and that of the remarks made by none other than the Leader of the House and the Minister of Education. Apart from that, just consider the number of MPs of this Regime and the Parliament as a whole body who could be trusted for such a “System” change. As it stands, this Parliament is like a “Gambling Den” (belonging to Soththi Upali’s son, another UNP Goon) of Mariya Kade in Maradana.

      So don’t you think the first step must be a “Regime Change”?

  • 2
    2

    Aragalaya Mark #1 is unfinished business to those who thought that it was like the arrival of the Messiah.
    It is finished business for the NGOs and foreign interests, besides those with petrol tanks to fill.
    *
    Aragalaya Mark #2 has another agenda and has no seaside venue. It is being heavily targetted by the government and shunned by people with parliamentary ambitions.
    Feigning support comes easy even when what is supported is unknown– especially if it seems a little fashionable.

  • 1
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    In 2015, America and India got together and brought a regime change in Langkang, hoping that the new Internal government would stand up against the Chinizisation of Langkang. But the foxy Evil Emperor thought it was a free license for him to play his games in his own methods. So, he expected the Western countries were going to pay for him to pay off the Chinese loans and then he would be free to do all what he preferred to, especially completely disregard the UNRC resolution 30/1. The bad luck of Evil Emperor that didn’t happen. The money needed to pay China back on the white elephant projects did not come from the countries who made the regime change. The Evil Emperor retaliated by selling the Hangbangtota port to China. This was a real surprise for India and the West. So, this time, when the Evil Emperor formed the new government, they were very alert. So, it ended up as the IMF stuck to very rigid, unexpected conditions. Everybody knows that the Western Countries and India arranging the IMF loan this time are very open that there won’t be any give out for Sri Lanka to pay back China’s loan and it has to be written off by China. In turn this angered China and China did everything to put a hold on the IMF loan.

  • 1
    0

    We have no idea where these loan matters are going to end up. but now we see the Democratic members of the IMF want to see that China is not breaking up the efforts to solve the bilateral loans. They seem to believe that leaving Langkang alone to pay its loans has cripple Langkang and made it surrender to China. The best indicator of this was on China’s CCP’s 70th anniversary, in 2019, Evil Emperor and Rowdy King simultaneously declared that Ma O brought freedom to Langkang. But their aroused and churned status is not a guarantee for the Evil Emperor that he is getting the loan in time or even if he ever will get it. The evil Emperor could have avoided this stalemate if he had implemented at least part of UNHRC resolution 51/1, i.e. at least the area of arresting those who were responsible for the economic crimes. We all know Evil Emperor undertook all these troubles only to save old Rowdy King out of his troubles, not really to use the IMF loan to resuscitate the economy. Evil needs the loan to keep China cool and deliver its veto vote in the UN when it is needed.

  • 2
    0

    In his diary, Evil shows no investigations against the old Rowdy King. This stand of Evil doubly alerted the IMF who was already suspicious of the Evil Emperor using its loan to settle China’s loan. Now our Emperor understands that the IMF stalemate was in fact created and floated by his suspicious, foxy maneuvers.

    As a quick fix, Evil offered Sampanthar Aiyya that he would implement 13A. Sampanthar Aiyya believed it. But the entire world is Skeptical about it. So, he later backed off from that 13A offer. Now he’s saying that his only intention is to bring an economic recovery to the country. The world is not ready to see Evil Emperor anymore honest or dishonest in his talks after this 13A backup. Evil Emperor has sensed the IC’s pulse on this 13A game. This was clearly demonstrated in this last Parliament speech. To make our long story short it is not sure if the IMF loan will do anything for the current economic troubles anytime soon. Further, in November, Mr. 40% and the Old Rowdy King had asked the Evil Emperor to give a minister position to the X Playboy Minister. The Evil Emperor promised to make a cabinet change in November, January and in March. These are the times he expected to have the IMF loan approved by its directors. Alas, again nothing happened.

  • 2
    0

    So far, no cabinet reshuffle or any minister of position was given to X Playboy Minister. The Old Rowdy King’s attempts to recapture the Prime Minister position also appears not to be successful too.

    The recent Gallup poll, like opinion checking, has shown that the Slap party is one of the last ones in the list. Old Rowdy King is becoming more and more nervous because of the Evil Emperor’s repeatedly changing his words & positions. He is fearing that giving up his prime minister position last time has wiped out his chance of having diplomatic immunity hereafter. He is completely frustrated with the achievements of the Evil Emperor in his security matters. He would not mind if the protesters chased the Evil Emperor from the government or he may even support them if they would do it for sure.

    From the very beginning the Evil Emperor knew that reviving the economy was not that simple. So, he hoped to give minister positions to Royals only after having tricked the IMF to get the loan and after that could give necessary Minister positions to protect them. We now know where everything has ended up. His violent suppression of protest has created fear in the minds of Royals. The Royals didn’t want the violent force to suppress protesters because they were concerned about the world opinion on them.

  • 1
    1

    But the Evil, with his frozen ice mind, went ahead and suppressed all protests violently. Yesterday Playboy Minister said that if anybody can find anywhere the stolen money that they are keeping, he would be willing to hand it over to the government. This is because he saw the crowd that gathered for Anura’s protest. Anora stated in front of the public media, to that crowd that when he gets through the election, he will bring back all the money the Royal have stolen from the people. While royals are much behind in the polls, for good or bad, JVP is reading in the polls. In 2018, when the state de coup was organized by Royals with the help of White Flag Murderer Evil Emperor refuse to take any legal actions against Royal because that time the old beauty queen had threatened the Rowdy King that she will commit suicide if any police investigations were allowed on her by her husband. The Evil Emperor, that time canceled a lawsuit the 122 Yahapalanaya MPs brought at the Supreme Court. This time Evil Emperor has no answer to give Old Rowdy King on his family’s security. The more the G20 countries insist China in giving relief to Langkang, the more China decides on having collected its loan from Langkang

  • 0
    0

    China knows that Langkang will not be able to come up with the money to pay back its loan. Then it would expect Langkang to settle the loan in the same way it did with the Hangbangtota Port, i.e giving them real assets, instead of money. That time for $1.1 billion, China asked for five Villages land. So now for a 10 billion dollars loan, China may expect to give it at least 50 villages land. This is one of the things the Western countries don’t want to happen. The West, who are trying to protect the Indian Ocean, doesn’t want to have a “Mao-liningrad” created in Langkang. So, what is the way out for all this Idiyappa Sikkal (Tangled noodle)? We don’t know the answer because the Evil Emperor has not indicated how he looks to solve these. It seems he’s expecting these problems to go away if he keeps repeating economy, economy, economy……… All this time he said he doesn’t want to have the LG election because there’s no money left in the Treasury. But there are news pieces saying that he has put in his Twitter account that he doesn’t want to have the election now because in case the IMF loan is not coming as he is expecting.

  • 1
    0

    So now we have to deduce even for the economy, it is the protesters who are the solution, though in their 9-demans statement they mentioned that their priority is Systemic Change. In that case, Ceylonese have only one way out of these; i.e., first, protesters bring the Systemic change and then they come out with their home-grown solution for the economy.

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