By Ashan Nanayakkara –
A revolution, either must be accomplished. Or else must be ducked by all means. That is why an American Leftist, Prof. C. Wright Mills went onto say that. “Every revolution has its counterrevolution — that is a sign the revolution is for real. And every revolution must defend itself against this counterrevolution, or the revolution will fail”. In revolutions, there is no chance for in-between situations. Either you win it or lose it. If it is a win, the tyrant will be on the mercy of the revolutionists and certainly there would be a paradigm shift; if it is a loss, the rioters’ lives will hang on the balance of autocrat and undoubtedly no change of status quo. The 09th July Revolution happened in Sri Lanka ended neither wining nor loosing. Bringing no system change. Yes, of course, GotaGoHome2022 operation ended in triumphant note chasing useless Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Having archived the main purpose, as a matter of fact, the whole revolution became a half-baked cake once Ranil Wickramasinghe jumped onto the bandwagon by force. There were times, it felt like a complete jubilant when Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe both agreed to step down by sun setting of 09th July in terms of the press release issued by the members of the all-party meeting. No one knew that the aforesaid façade promise was given by Ranil Wickremesinghe to hoodwink the entire nation. Everyone thought, fugitive Gotabaya Rajapaksa will breach his promise of resignation so as he dishonoured farmers by giving a false promise of free fertilizer; and, Ranil would gracefully bid adieu. Conversely, what in fact transpired was, sneaky Ranil Wickremesinghe maneuvered the facts and circumstances to pave the way to his evergreen aspiration of becoming the President of Sri Lanka by 21-07-2022. The dejected Rajapaksa supporters, proving that Politics is below the level of the oldest profession in the world, crowned Ranil Wickremesinghe as their next Tsar. Since then, the counter-revolution began and those who were instrumental in organizing and mounting the revolution were started to hunt down by using the state apparatus.
The smacking down of the revolutionists was rationalized under the banner of ‘protecting the rule of law’. This is an archaic slogan of the ruling class to subjugate the peasants. The purported notion called ‘rule of law’ presented by Ranil Wickramasinghe and his new incestuous alliance were poured scorn among the society. Yet the oppression has been merrily continuing to this date. Proving how the absolute power absolutely corrupts the sovereign, the moment when Ranil Wickremesinghe was alleged to have appointed as the acting President, the first and foremost thing that the latter did was to send some Combat helicopters aiming machine guns towards the people gathered at the Galle Face area in head height distance. This was an act of intimidation. This coldhearted response shown by the head of the state towards the destitute citizen of the country raised eyebrows among lot of local and international human rights organizations. Afterwards, arresting the dissent leaders such as Danish Ali inside of an airplane, Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) leader – Veranga Pushpika whilst he was on his way home, Human Rights activist and Attorney-at-Law, Nuwan Bopage at the Galle Face premises, Dr. Pathum Kerner on false charges were some of the instances among others where it was exposed the dictatorial approach unleashed by the government towards the protesters in post-revolution period. Counter-revolution is not new. That is the other side of the coin of defiance. This is historically predicted scenario followed by a half-blooded revolution. Sadly, in such a tumbledown revolution, those who dared to risk their lives must ultimately have to bite the bullet. The writer himself is pity about the revolutionary leaders who marched forward for the public good risking their families, children and everything they had.
Before the 09th of July, and even afterwards, there were hundred and one reasons for the people to hit on the roads against the government. People do not have fuel. They do not have electricity. They do not have cooking gas. They do not have food for reasonable prices. Food inflation is record high. They do not bring chicken, egg, butter, fish or meat home. They do not have milk. They do not have raw-materials for their businesses. They do not have busses and trains to go for their jobs. They may have not gone on a trip or picnic for last 06-08 months. They are forgetting what the amusement and recreation are. Their children do not have schools. Parents do not have chance to buy a vehicle. Newlywed couple cannot go for a bank loan to buy their dream house. They do not have medicines in the hospitals nor are they at pharmacies. People are down and out. And what more. In this dire strait, it is not hard to fathom that, Sri Lankans are now living in 18th or 17th century. Sun-rotten, frustrated man on the road who is queuing up for a drop of fuel on his motor cycle whilst his beautiful wife is burning her face at the direct sunset at a Gas queue when three children of both have not gone to schools for last one or two months, would not have a second thought to topple the incumbent government. That same depressed man would not reluctant to strike with his fist on the person who is next to him if the former jumps out of the queue. The scarcity would bring the devil out of human. The famine of food and lack of essential items have led this beautiful country to an abysmal status. By 2021, everything was as normal as before. After lapse of one years-time, today, Sri Lankans are suffering as never before, brining tears to the inward eyes of the writer. What sin they have committed to suffocate in this nature. All owing to corrupted Politicians. Are not these instant reasons grounds to break out a revolution? If not, that is abnormal.
People precisely know who is accountable for their current plight. Thus masses released their anger through this 09th Revolution storming into the House of the head of the state. As the Lawyers who sensed the pulse of the people, Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) thus stood with the people. The Bar knew this country has no future with this kind of catastrophic economic mismanagement. The Bar felt that the society was pregnant with revolutionary ideas. A requirement of new grund norm was immensely felt. The entrenched provision of Constitution of the Republic, Article 03 states that, “the sovereignty lies with the people and it is inalienable”. As a group of people who is bound to uphold the spirit of the Constitution, the entire Bar (except few who obtained some government posts for pecuniary remunerations) as one arose for the occasion when other professional unions were turning blind eye to safeguard the rights of the people. As Rennard Strickland & Frank T. Read says “Lawyers are the foot soldiers of our Constitution”. Thus, should not they live up to that.
Since the day of pelting stones to Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s private residence at Mirihana, it was the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) and its gallant Lawyers came front to protect their fellow citizens. The anxiety was so much of the society when inept Gotabaya Rajapaksa government declared 13-hours power cut including morning 3.00 am to 6.00 am somewhere in the end of March 2022. The tension was so ample. The Lawyers could not part from the society and thus they rendered their services to the aggrieved men by providing legal assistance pro bono for those who were arrested under the charges of stoning to the private house of the President of Sri Lanka. Hence, the 31st of March, 2022 was a land mark day of the Revolution due to various reasons. Most importantly, unless the suspects who were produced before the learned Magistrate, on that date, were enlarged on bail due to insufficient of legal representation, there could not have been any Aragalaya (Protest) proceeded henceforth. Knowing this over 500-Attorneys including more than 10-President’s Counsels appeared on behalf of the suspects at Gangodawila Magistrate’s Court on this historical day. Over and above that, when Rambukkana shooting incident took place in April, if not the Attorneys appeared on behalf of the aggrieved parties, in numbers, most of the Sri Lankans would not have realized the power of the Lawyers. Had not the Lawyers and the Judges acted wisely in the said cases, the gullible people would have given up the ideas of revolution long ago. Those 2-incidents made a U-turn of the ideologies of the general public on the Lawyers as well as on the Judges. Whereas the Police kept intact their bad reputation! In a quick flashback to the time frame of events happened in Sri Lanka would reminisce the reader that 09th of May, 2022 was one of the dark days of Sri Lanka. On this day, the assailants who were indulged at the Temple Trees by then Premier – Mahinda Rajapaksa, set a brutal attack over the peaceful protestors who were occupying the entrance of the Presidential Secretariat Office. In this incident too, the BASL and hundreds of Lawyers appeared on behalf of the aggrieved parties in courts for free of charge. An average person who had a timid mentality of not showing any resistance to the government in power fearing of being harassed by the iron fist of the régime got completely transformed his perception each passing day. Everyone started to believe in that the rights of the people are paramount and the BASL would be the watch dog of safeguarding their rights. When the confidence on the Lawyers and the Judiciary were swelling, that growing confidence turned into a mass scale resistance. Even when the Inspector General of Police (IGP) imposed the false curfew at the midnight of 08-07-2022, it was the Bar Association who was first to challenge the legality of the said wrongful curfew which made the IGP to pull it back by the dawn of 9th July. Furthermore, the solidarity of 3000-5000 Attorneys who came from all corners of the country to hulftsdorp, and who were marching along with the protestors to the Presidential House too was unprecedented.
At the end of the day, the Lawyers became the driving force of the revolution and thus the BASL and Saliya Pieirs, the President of Bar Association became the most lethal enemies of the sovereign. Driven by this fury, couple of days ago, Wimal Weerawansa howled in the Parliament and bombarded against Saliya Pieris. Had Mr. Pieris too acted as a ‘groom of the stool’ so as Weerawansa does for his entire political career, the latter would have never blasted Saliya. The MPs are verily informed that, at present, the people hate politicians never before. They know they could not have all the tamasha which they used to do freely in the past. Hence, they point the finger to Sirasa TV, Siyatha TV and Social Media as the perpetrators who exposed their (Politicians) wiles. In the same way, the Parliamentarians are mad against the Lawyers thinking that the Lawyers prevented them crushing the people at the nip of the revolution in the bud. This rage would intrinsically tend to attack the Attorneys who said to have stood in their way. The writer recollects that not just in present date, even in Elizabethan era the human behavior countered the same. That is why the henchman blackguard, ‘the Dick’ in William Shakespeare’s Henry VI utters that, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”. Even the Shakespeare knew that a rebel could only be crushed if the Lawyers were eliminated. Writer believes that, Saliya Pieris being an old boy of St. Joseph’s College must have first-hand experience of this play and the politics in it. Therefore, the ire cum vengeance shown by the lame politicos like Wimal Weerawansa and other charlatans who were living on the occupations granted by the ruling party are required very little attention.
Those who reprimand the Lawyers, must know that these Lawyers, have no government salaries and pensions, no periodical permit to import luxury vehicles and have not given any quota for their children to be sent to the best public schools in the country. They do not picket and bother the general public closing roads seeking for government jobs. Neither do they ever go on a strike whenever someone else’s salary is increased but not theirs’. They depend on none. Still, whenever the rights of the people are at a stake, these Attorneys come forward and fight for liberté, égalité, fraternité risking their own lives.
Although the BASL stood with the peaceful protestors throughout, the BASL was not shun away to make an appeal to the protestors to hand over the public places that the protesters acquired. This request was highly criticized by most of the protestors and some went on to the extent of asserting that the Bar Association betrayed them. The BASL and its Lawyers always honoured to the constitutional values and any action of anarchy was always tried to be prevented by them. In this backdrop only, the picketers returned back the possession of the Presidential Palace, Presidential Secretariat, Temple Trees and the Prime Minister’s Office to the law imposing authorities. All these deeds made the men with black coats the beacon of the revolution. History must accurately written that because of the Lawyers, this revolution became a reality and it turned out be peaceful. The writer personally believes in that if not the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, the 09th July Revolution would have ended in a blood bath. The much needed sanity and the sense of judgment were infused to the revolution by the Bar Association.
Now the question is could the government unleash such a vast counter-revolutionary attack? As long as the revolution which we experienced was not an act of conspiring against the state, in turn, the state has no moral right to release the coercive power over the protestors. 09th July Revolution was not the class struggle which has two sides of the fight. It was not Marxist movement. It was not an ISIS attack. The 09th Revolution is the revolution of each and every Sri Lankan who came out from their comfort zone and fought for better future. The symbolic revolution happened on the 9th July is an ideological change which have been enunciated by the people of all walks of life. The sentiment which was conceived in the womb of the society by the revolutionists on 09th July 2022 is everlasting. Hence, any act of repression towards the protestors is an act against the entire society at large. Let the writer finish his writing quoting the wise words of Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President of the United States of America. That is: “What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” The writer wishes that the rulers shall have the sanity to apprehend that the fights for the rights by the people is overwhelmingly natural scenario when people are oppressed continually. What the leaders must do is to set the rights, pardon the innocent, and move forward without pacify the subjects. If the violence is the modus of operandi to quash those who are oppressed, undoubtedly, another 09th of July is around the corner.