23 February, 2024

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Calm Before The Storm! Aragalaya -’22 Has Rested Enough!!!

By Vishwamithra

“To dream the impossible dream, that is my quest.” ~ Don Quixote 

Political struggles don’t die. They don’t have a history of repeated failures without ultimate success. They are not isolated incidents. They are part and parcel of the main flow of mankind’s advance and evolution towards perfection. Man’s struggle towards perfection has never stopped and as Pearl S Buck penned, ‘when man demands no more the earth too shall die’. If that journey did stop, then you and I would not have been here today communicating with other. 

The Aragalaya-’22 too may have suffered the same fate; not that it has expired; but as at present, it is certainly not visible to the naked eye; it’s conspicuously absent from the national conversation; it’s neither stirring a soul nor is it making any noise. One cannot expect anything worthwhile from those Colombo-Seven kind Aragalakaruwos, but the die-hard middle-class and lower middle-class youth could not have given up, for the death of their struggle is death of their spirit, their purpose and their very future.

Whatever originated from the rural hamlets, from those men and women whose world seemed to have promised nothing but society-imposed slavery, resignation to what is commonly called status quo, their submission to modern-day addictions, their compromising attitudes and looking for crumbs instead of the meat, the struggle cannot end in a limbo of nothingness. I have written about this particular aspect of the Aragalaya before, without proper, stoic and enlightened leadership, no human movement has succeeded before and nor will it in the future. 

A national thrust, a countrywide propulsion with raw youth in front, middle and rear could cause another uprising; but its overall purpose, it’s well-crafted plan with men and women to execute that plan with singular vision, singular purpose and singular goal, could be achieved despite the presence of an angry leader at the helm of the nation at present.

Ranil Wickremesinghe as man at the helm may have brought a semblance of stability to the country’s uncertainty; his handling of the then uncertain economy and the associated relief by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has silenced and scared the corrupt set of Pohottuwa Ministers; what they felt at the forced exit of Gotabaya Rajapaksa from Presidency must have had an everlasting effect. The unforeseen consequences of the inept and corruption-laden management of the nation’s coffers by Basil Rajapaksa, the so-called seven-brain wizard of the Pohottuwa Administration have bared open the sheer inadequacy of an Administration whose curriculum vitae (CV) was pre-sold both abroad and domestically by the pundits of so-called Viyathmaga (learned path). When the voters arrived at the polling booth on morning of 16 November 2019, a majority of them did not know that they were committing a monumental blunder. 

What transpired in April 2022 is not only a mere response to the economic hardships imposed by  dearth of dollars. It did not consist in random riots which are usually reactions to such economic burdens on the masses. Nor was it a centrally coordinated revolution aimed to overthrow the prevailing government and replace it with a revolutionary council of sorts. When the numbers began increasing, the Aragalaya-22 assumed a different character; it looked very authentic on the one hand and self-expressed on the other. When the numbers got impregnated with the Colombo-based fashionistas, the Aragalaya-22 not only acquired a novel dimension, it became an essential duty of everyday youth whose ambitions are yet in the cradle of maturity before being born as full-throated purpose of life.  The novel dimension that the Aragalaya-22 added to Sri Lankan body-politic is the surprising participation of one segment of our population which always thought that those who rebel against the status quo are terrorists of sorts- they equate all those who take part in protest movements as either Marxists or social rejects.

Cohabiting with the usual protesters is a totally alien activity for these Colombo-based newcomers, and while adding a veneer of sophistication to the movement, they also learnt somewhat an indispensable lesson in that economic hardships, suffered by whatever the caliber of men and women could be an indisputable equalizer. 

Nevertheless, the Frontline Socialist Party (Peratugaami), a breakaway group from the old Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)  made a not-so-subtle attempt to assume the unofficial leadership of the  overall Aragalaya-22. Furthermore, expressing all struggle of man against injustice has to assume a violent character, the ‘Fronliners’ were presumed to be responsible for the sporadic incidents that occurred on the night of May 9th when a few of the houses of parliamentarians were set fire to and  the attack on Ranil Wickremasinghe’s private residence on 5th Lane, Kollupitiya. 

The false narrative that Aragalaya-22 was a totally a non-violent movement was a delusional outcome of political pundits who made a valiant effort to identify themselves with aims and efforts of the Aragalaya-22. No mass movement in history has managed to discipline and control its soldiers. Keeping such a movement devoid of violent expressions is an impossibility. Mahatma Gandhi  with all his Ahimsa (non-violence) principles could not conduct the affairs of the Swaraj struggle in India within the confines of non-violence and ‘live and let live’ policy. Yet one could accept the strategic moves and tactical maneuverings of a mass movement so long as the main thrust and resultant skirmishes  of the movement are kept within manageable parameters. 

Most of the local pundits and many a member of the Sinhalese diaspora who followed the daily progression of the Aragalaya-22 fooled themselves into an utterly amateurish thinking that Aragalaya-22 was a brand new part of the average Sri Lankan national political conversation. It’s time one arrived at a different conclusion. In order to learn lessons and carve out a novel path for Sri Lanka’s politics, it is obligatory on the part of the current political leadership to open out a totally new program of educating the masses; if such a program is not possible at least a program in which lessons learnt are imparted to indigenous leadership levels who will in turn educated the next level of soldiers. Holding mass meetings could be costly; the expenditure involved in such an approach might be exorbitant in addition to the fact that it may deliver the wrong message of exhibitionism. 

Do we have in our midst today a leader or a group of leaders who could think on these lines? Leave alone the substance of the program for a little while (albeit the substance matters a whole lot); can we build a process that is worthy of serious discussion and pursuit thereafter? Or are we experiencing the caressing winds of an unkind calm before the proverbial storm? One would not know until the repressive measures of the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime begin to be felt beyond tear gas and water cannons. 

The accelerated pace at which the National People’s Power (NPP) led by Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD) has come to a virtual halt. Today his thunderings are being heard only within the halls of Parliamentary Chambers. Ranil Wickremesinghe has proven to be a cleverer operator than one would give him credit for. He has spent more than forty years in the shadows of shrewd leaders like JRJ, Premadasa Sr., Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali. One does not have to concede to these greats in the sphere of substance of their respective contributions to the national life of Sri Lanka, but one simply cannot disregard their collective stature as focused, singular-minded and bold individuals. The only thing that Ranil has not learnt seems to be the crafty backstabbing which he is quite capable of.

However, when state oppression is on the rise, despite the fact that the country is in  the grips of  an economic stranglehold of debt, both external and domestic, Ranil might be of the view that if the slightest of compassion is shown in recognition of the severity of hardships the masses have been subjected to, the flow of opposition political thought would overwhelm him. That is a serious flaw in the character of such men like Ranil. Empathy is not in their being.

Yet any prudent leader would have to strike an equilibrium between economic well-being and political stability. In the act of that striking, he or she has to justify to himself, if not to anyone else, that what he is sacrificing, one for the other, is worthy of sacrifice in terms of the long term goals set at the beginning of the process. There is no time nor any space for second-guessing because  the masses themselves do not see the full picture the leader is expected to see.  

Aragalaya-22 is not dead. What is prevailing now is not the calm after the storm. For Aragalaya-22 was no storm. It was just a strong wind. But the uneasy peace and calm that is prevailing now could certainly be the calm before a rolling blistering storm. Whom it will take in its wake is not easy to forecast.  Politics has always been the art of the possible. With cruel circumstances confronting a nation in lament, those very circumstances could engender much harder and more gruesome after-effects.

*The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmail.com         

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Latest comments

  • 15
    2

    Vishwamithra ,

    ” When the voters arrived at the polling booth on morning of 16 Nov 2019 ,
    a majority of them did not know that they were committing a monumental
    blunder ” . If we only go back 50 years , you would say the same thing about
    1970 onwards . The majority Sirimavo got and the majority JRJ got . Well ,
    monumental blunders but to say the voters didn’t know what they were
    doing , majority of them , no that is underestimating our voters ‘ knowledge
    on voting . Rajapakshas and their cohorts perfectly identified the right spot
    on the foreheads of Sinhala Buddhist Majority and that was Racist Card .
    Of course there is a section of Sinhala Buddhist that does not care about
    the racists but it is also true that they are Voiceless among their own lot . So ,
    the 6.9 million , majority , the wider majority of them were racists and they
    wanted a racist leader to rob the rights of the minority . For them , Gota will
    do the same to Muslims and they wanted to see it . They were never ever
    worried about the economy . Their politics is racism . Their democracy is
    racism . They have a racist Buddhism in place supported by state and
    government institutions under the excuse of protection of Buddhism . It is a
    naked truth to the whole world .

    • 10
      1

      WhyWhy,
      “They were never ever worried about the economy . Their politics is racism . “
      Sadly, that is exactly the ground situation. Most voters are easily convinced that “enemies” (mostly Tamils or Muslims) are out to deprive them of their rights. Foreigners may be out to get our “abundant ” resources. What these “resources ” are is anyone’s guess.
      The stupid voters are primarily to blame for the situation of the country. That Cardinal and the GMOA who supported Gota must take some blame too.

      • 7
        1

        “One cannot expect anything worthwhile from those Colombo-Seven kind Aragalakaruwos, but the die-hard middle-class and lower middle-class youth could not have given up, for the death of their struggle is death of their spirit, their purpose and their very future.”
        I have always said that the Aragalaya was no revolution but a demand for reliable supplies of food, fuel, LPG, and electricity. A perfectly reasonable demand from an incompetent president surrounded by an ignorant nativist cabal.
        Ranil provided all that, and the real Aragalaya went home to its daily chores. But the fake Aragalaya still makes life miserable, not for the government, but the thousands stuck in traffic jams .
        Dear Vishwa seems to have suffered an enlightenment in the past few weeks. I even see a shy acknowledgement that Ranil just might have done some good. I suppose there is a limit to mindless ranting and calls for unspecified “system change”. I hope some of the more rant-prone commenters follow his lead.

        • 2
          0

          oc
          “Aragalaya was no revolution” (AGREE)
          “but a demand for reliable supplies of food, fuel, LPG, and electricity.”
          It went beyond the demand to call for the head of state to step down and expanded on it. Whether all of that was adequate to be even an uprising is worth thinking about.
          The NGOs who moderated the day-to-day operations did not want any politics as their paymasters will not allow it.
          The whole thing was screwed up before political aims could be hammered out.

      • 0
        0

        old codger ,

        Spot on o c ! ” The stupid voters are primarily to blame for the
        situation of the country ” . Well said o c . Ranil has already
        punished them by putting them in Open Prison with enough
        petrol and diesel to booze up and his life saving buddy Gota
        was placed in a super Guest House for his Crimes ! Ranil knows
        who deserves what . Wait and see , Ranil will soon order Grass
        from India for his Diyawanna buddies !

    • 4
      1

      Dear whywhy,
      .
      Yours is a perceptive comment, and unfortunately you are all too right.
      .
      But so long as there is breath in our bodies, let us fight all forms of racism. They want power and pelf by manipulating the selfish desires of the voters.
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela (NIC 483111444V)

      • 1
        2

        My dear S M ,

        Thanks for your attention . Al Jazeera reported yesterday that
        there was a coup in Gabon on the 30th of this month , yesterday .
        For your attention , it is an interesting development in Africa
        that is matching the topic we are discussing here now today.
        The report says , it is the 8th coup since 2020 in West and Central
        Africa , spreading like epidemic . The army announced the
        cancellation of some institutions including The Gabonese
        Elections Centre . One officer read a joint statement on Tv channel
        Gabon 24 : ” Our beautiful country Gabon , has always been a
        haven for peace Today , the country is going through a serious
        institutional , political , economic and social crisis ” .

        ” We are therefore forced to admit that the organisation of the
        general elections of 26 August 2023 did not meet the conditions
        for transparent , credible and inclusive ballot so much hoped for
        by the people of Gabon ” . Now my dear SM , do you honestly
        believe that AKD does not worry about such a development in
        our country , in case the tradition does not repeat ?

        Sanusha Naidu , a senior research fellow at the South African
        think tank The Institute for Global Dialogue said , Wednesday
        developments were indicative of ” people being dissatisfied of
        corruption , legacy leaders , and mismanagement of their
        finances or mismanagement of resources that don’t lead to
        real development ” .

    • 1
      0

      Well said Whywhy.

      Can any one translate this please?
      According to the title, My3 says Buddhists monks have crated Prabhakaran. https://www.facebook.com/shortnewsTV/videos/1739355176508153

      According to Tisaranee Gunasekara
      “Without the Sinhala Only, the Tiger may have remained unborn. Without the Black July, the Tiger may not have grown exponentially. If the B-C Pact and the D-C Pact did not miscarry (thanks to the midwifery of Sinhala extremism), the LTTE, even if it was born, would have remained a fringe group.”

      Picture on the top (https://i2.wp.com/www.colombotelegraph.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Ranil-Wickremesinghe-and-Asgiriya-Mahanayake-Warakagoda-bhikku.jpg?w=900&ssl=1) Is Ranil worshipping the monk to create another Prabhakaran?

  • 9
    0

    In the US, most of the ‘Capitol Hill;’ rioters were rounded up & their instigator, despite being a past President, is now on trial. In SL, goons set fire to the houses of several politicians, including the house of the current President but has anybody been charged with the arson attacks? I maybe wrong but in my understanding, it was only a few who stormed the Presidential palace when GR skipped the country that were hauled up. RW, despite having the powers of the Presidency, did not seem to have any interest in rounding up the arsonists who burned down his own home but used the armed forces with violence to break up peaceful Araguaya protestors who had already agreed to disbanding the protest. It was the tax payer who ultimately had to bear the cost of repairing the houses of the MPs, not the insurance. Seems fishy to me that no politician pursued this matter but let the already burdened tax payer foot the bill.
    Those responsible for the economic disaster are still enjoying life with their salaries & pensions. By the way, did slimy Sira pay compensation to the victims’ families as ordered by the courts? That goes to Ranathunga too. Punks like Johnston Fdo continue to go about their merry ways. So, if it is the calm before the storm, I hope the expected storm will be hurricane to wash away the corruption & sleaze. I only hope the expected storm will not result in SL ending worse off.

  • 3
    2

    Dear Vishwamithra,
    .
    Thanks for a balanced piece of writing. As you say, “Politics has always been the art of the possible“.
    .
    In the present context, I unambiguously support the NPP.
    .
    You have said, “The accelerated pace at which the National People’s Power (NPP) led by Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD) has come to a virtual halt.”
    .
    Although it may look like that, I feel that AKD realises that you cannot maintain fever-pitch for long.
    .
    Que sera, sera.
    .
    I see the inability of the NPP to communicate effectively with the mass of non-Sinhalese citizens as one of their weaknesses. I had selected one incident related to what happened to the writer of this article:
    .
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/calm-before-the-storm-aragalaya-22-has-rested-enough/
    .
    I have made many comments there but I want to analyses that incident in depth. The comments labelled PART ONE and PART TWO are what I want to follow up on with PARTS labelled THREE, FOUR, and FIVE. My other comments are meant to be taken seriously, but are not central to my current effort to correct weaknesses within the Party.

  • 2
    1

    “The only thing that Ranil has not learnt seems to be the crafty backstabbing which he is quite capable of.”
    Does the author suggest that RW has that ‘crafty backstabbing’ an innate skill?
    He should have learnt something from what Karu, Sajith et al. did to him since 2006.

  • 3
    0

    Vishwamithra: You say in the article: “When the voters arrived at the polling booth on the morning of 16 November the majority of them did not know they were committing a monumental blunder”.

    How to know that when the “VIYATHMAGA” (the self-styled “Nkow All) has impressed upon the people that Sri Lanka needs a “MAN” not from among the “corrupt criminals” but a “Strong Arm” to administer the country? Didn’t you notice that the “Viyathmaga Brigade” (all intellectuals including Saffron Clothed Mahachariyas) infiltrated deep into villages and carried that message of the need for a “Strong Man” who even some “Mahachariya Saffron Clothed” said: “Never mind HE can be a Hitler”.

    Where are those “Viyathmaga Archariyas” today?

    Why blame the “Majority” (6.9 million) only? No doubt they committed a “Crime” that has brought all of us misery and suffering.

    • 6
      0

      Douglas,
      “Didn’t you notice that the “Viyathmaga Brigade” (all intellectuals including Saffron Clothed Mahachariyas) infiltrated deep into villages and carried that message of the need for a “Strong Man”
      That’s why I keep saying that the voters are stupid. Many of these Viyathmaga were both young and educated. But there are still people who say that anyone without a degree and over 65 should not be in power.
      Whoever worships a political aspirant on promises alone is just being stupid.

      • 2
        0

        OC: Thanks. I agree all these “VIYATHTHU” and other “FOXY” made capital out of that quality of “STUPIDITY” of the voters to come to power.

        Now that situation is getting changed, but not at a fast rate as expected. However, that “Stupidity” you point out is fading.

        • 5
          0

          Nalin De Siva
          Sarath Weerasekere
          Jayasumana
          Gonthadipila
          Ranjith Bandara
          And others with academic title have much in common
          Guess what!.
          .
          What is the difference 🤔 between the ones with academic titles and that of Wimal and Miriskudu Jayaweera [without even complete schooleducation]? .
          .
          Why can’t many of our CT commenters see it 😫 yet today?.
          .
          I don’t mind our Alzheimer patient aka Sinhala man abusing our web space on CT again and again but what about others ? 🤔

    • 1
      0

      Douglas

      We can’t blame the 9m voters in SL when 62m Americans voted for a ‘successful’ tough talking businessman outside of politics to get rid of influential political families in the ‘club’ & ‘clean up the swamp’ that is American politics. We also wanted a tough talking go-getter, perceived as a military strategist, to ‘clean up’ our own swamp that is Diyawanna. In reality, neither were ‘successful’, just the perceived persona. However, the 62m Americans represented only about 18% of the population while the 9m SL voters represent 40% of the population & it was the unique ‘Electoral College’ system that flipped the Presidency in favor of Trump. Trump, had cronies around him as did GR. GR had the racist Buddhist monks & Trump had the evangelists, the Sinhala Buddhist voted for GR & the white Christian middleclass voted for Trump. Conclusion, it is religion & ‘nationalism’ that wins elections, even in developed countries.

  • 0
    1

    continued: A typographical correction: that word “Nkow” must be “Know All”.

    That “Viyathmaga Mahachariyas” have once again ganged and are roaming in the political arena conducting “Meetings” with other political parties seeking support to topple the present Government. The latest meeting was with NPP. I hope the NPP would have given them two cents worth of political lessons.

    To understand this “Bunch” of “Viyaththu”, people must be reminded how ALL of them voted “FOR” the “18”; “19”; “20” and “21” Amendments to the Constitution without batting an eyelid.

    I hope the PEOPLE would by now have learned “Bitter Lessons” and this time show their POWER to bring in a CHANGE.

  • 5
    1

    Wishful thinking, Vishvamithra…the people of A22 reacted to dire shortages, starting from turmeric, to fertilizer, cooking gas, milk powder, electricity cuts, and petrol / diesel shortages. Once these basics were restored, the lotus eaters go back to lament their “karumey” and put up with ever rising inflation, cuts to their EPF savings, starvation, malnutrition, unnecessary death from lack of basic medicines or hospital facilities, substandard medicines etc. Why? Because these things affect different people differently. When both cooking gas AND electricity were cut, people could not cook, and food in fridges were rotting. So, they organized themselves and revolted (usually peacefully) at Galle Face Green and other places. Now, they have again got used to hardships. They put up with four-fold increases in the cost of clothing and food, but subsist on less or with substitute foods. They all want their kids to go to school, and are totally immersed in earning their daily bread. They have no time to think of a revolt. Therein lies the catch that bastards like ranil exploit to the hilt. They keep the people just barely alive while allowing rampant corruption and other crime by their powerful cronies. They know that people will not unite unless an existential issue like cooking gas or petrol / diesel or electricity affects them.

  • 3
    0

    Vishwamitra is too hopeful. Most of us wish that his analysis is right but that can only remain a wish. The Aragalaya arose due to a combination of factors. Chief among them was the discomfort caused by a lack of essentials like petrol and gas. Once that problem eased and a brutal hand suppressed dissent, the aragalaya folded up. The passion got dissipated. the 6.9 are there to be aroused with the Mahanayakas sitting in the background orchestrating the Sinhala Buddhist passions. How astutely these passions can be diverted away from real issues was demonstrated recently with clowns on both sides acting and reacting in a predictable fashion. So, the politics of the Unlucky Lanka will meander towards perdition. The astute will flee to better climes, leaving behind the 6.9 Mahavamsa mongrels to rule the island through O level (failed) MPs.

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