13 June, 2024


Evaluation Of Aragalaya

By Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda

Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda

Aragalaya is a Historical Event

The “Gota Go Home” aragalaya at Galle Face was a powerful and a unique historical event. Such a mass uprising has not ever happened before. This fact may be agreed by all in my opinion without any controversy. It was the young men and women who over hundred days pitched camps at Galle Face green braving sun and rain to raise the voice of the voiceless and also to demonstrate their dissatisfaction towards the way the country is governed and their aspirations for a just and corruption free Sri Lanka. 

One could observe that various political parties, the student movements, professionals in various fields, artists, farmers, fishermen members of the clergy actively participated at this mass protest making their valuable contribution.    

One noteworthy aspect and feature of this protest was their commitment to non-violence. The youthful protestors called it “Adaraye Aragalaya” (love revolution).  It was known to all that none of the participants had a piece of stone in their hands during the aragalaya. 

The racial and religious unity and the spirit of dialogue instead of hatred was another unique feature that prevailed within the aragalaya which has never been seen for a long while, due to the psychological injuries caused by the sectarian politics.

The creative capacities of young people were well displayed in the “Gota Go Home” village at Galle Face and their level of commitment to the struggle was also well demonstrated as they organized media conferences, public meetings, musical events, formulated slogans to educate the general public about the needs and the purposes of the aragalaya. At “Gota Go Home” village facilities such as a conference room, library, first aid unit, stage for drama, chemical toilets and the disposal of waste were also organized. 

While the aragalaya at Galle Face was actively progressing, more “Gota Go Home” villages were established in several other places outside Colombo such as Galle, Kandy, Jaela, Negombo, Kurunegala and elsewhere. In addition, strong anti Gota campaigns in several agricultural districts also emerged due to the erroneous decision taken by Gota to stop fertilizer imports.   

As days passed on, the “Gota Go Home” protest campaign at Galle Face developed as the symbolic representation of a national resistance movement of people.

On the hundredth day or so of the protest, some positive results began to emerge. One was the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksha from the premiership and of Basil Rajapaksha as the Minister of Finance. This was followed that President Gotabaya Rajapaksha fleeing from the country.        

Although the aragalaya was successful in bringing about some very positive results, it has as yet failed to achieve one of people’s primary expectations namely a systemic change. In fact the journey that began has not reached its destination. Of course the failure is due to the repressive measures that the government carried out against the activists at the aragalaya premises. As such it is important that the exponents of the aragalaya now change its course or its strategies and start afresh with determination to move forward.   

One indispensible factor that has to be addressed if the aragalaya is to be carried forward is doing a review or an evaluation about it. Has the aragalaya always followed a correct path or has it occasionally gone astray? A review or an evaluation will definitely be helpful in redesigning a fresh journey. It is best if all those involved in one way or another can participate in such a review but it may not be possible for practical reasons.    

One critical question that has to be asked when doing such a review is what really caused this aragalaya. It is essential in an evaluation that we identify what economic, social and political factors contributed to its origin. Here below are some questions that could be useful in finding out the causes of the aragalaya.  

What are the economic causes?

Did the government’s failure to provide basic needs to people, debt crisis, misappropriation of public funds by the rulers, contribute to the eruption of aragalaya.   

What are Social Causes?

Did social inequalities, the corrupt practices of the political leaders, the top administrators and the complacence of our adults contribute? 

What are the political causes?

Did any of the following conditions contribute to the origin of aragalaya? The concentration of power in the executive presidency, election of unqualified persons into the parliament, creation of an political market where politicians were made available for money, limited literacy level of the citizens, control of media institutions by the government authorities etc    

What are the strengths found in the Aragalaya

* The commitment of the educated youth and their creative capacities.

* Involvement of women and more particularly the young women in large numbers. 

* The capacity of the activists to shun away the divisive spirit and committing themselves to work together towards a common target. 

* The capacity to resolve political conflicts through dialogue and working together to reach common targets.

* The active presence of members of sangha, clergy men and women and other professionals from various fields, artists, lawyers and media personnel. 

* The creative capacity of the young activists to represent the aspirations of citizens of the country.

* The commitment of the young activists and of other participants beyond their limits.  

What are the weaknesses found in the aragalaya

* Limitations in the strategies deployed. 

* The lack of clarity in the statement made by the activists that the Aragalaya is “nirpakshikai”. 

* The lack clarity in the concept that power has to be built up outside Diyawannawa, People’s Councils (Mahajana Sabha).

* The absence of an active political leadership.  

The future challenges for aragalaya

* The need to identify the lessons learnt from the aragalaya.

* The need to determine the political way forward.    

* The need to intensify and develop the existing strengths with a view to fulfilling the future political tasks.   

* Resisting all attempts by the government and the opposition and big businesses to create divisions in the people oriented political alliances. 

* To identify common political targets which can bring various groups together with whom all can work on a common agenda to carry forward the aragalaya. 

* To determine whether the aragalaya can be carried forward without the involvement of political parties. Is there or not a space for the political parties in the aragalaya.

* To determine whether a consensus if arrived at by various political parties and movements on a common agenda can bring more advantageous to the aragalaya. 

* Mapping out a political strategy that can be agreed upon by all concerned to oust the common enemy while safeguarding the uniqueness of one’s own party or organization or movement.  


* When one opts out to work on a participatory political agenda based consensus, one has to be always ready to adopt oneself for a win-win approach. There can be no losers in the struggle.

* Working on a common agenda always demands self sacrifice and suppression of one’s ego.      

* Ideological conflicts that can arise at any time within the organizations.  

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Latest comments

  • 5

    Evaluation Of Aragalaya

    1. Ranil became president due to Aragalaya, and part of the solution before president and part of the problem after president. Knowingly aragalaya can knock out him.

    2. Underestimation MR tried to use force and suppress. Underestimate in life can often serve as guides to Government 224 lack of vision.

    3. Resetting of parliament is still undone due past polluted practice Ranil is knocked out doing so. And diverting his attention on peaceful protesters to cover up his weakness

    • 2

      The youth struggle was a bigger puzzle for the older generation than the younger generation. Some of the Septuagints are said to have never experienced it in Ceylon. People living outside the country thought that the youth set a real example for their elders. If there was no struggle of that radical nature, would it be easy to drive Gotabhaya? If he had not been forced to resign, the great leader of the nation (Mahinda Rajapaksa) would not have left this earth.

      The norm is that as they get older they respect and expect more respect. However, why do the Rajapakses seem to have “patched” their “shame” genes?
      What should be done first to establish law and order in the country?
      Educational reforms (of course long-term)
      Legal reforms and strict law enforcement

      Social revolution with law and order at the top
      Dispelling the discredited illusions in the Sinhala society
      Another plague/tsunami (natural selection?)
      Or by replacing Sinhala Buddhism with Buddhism.

  • 6

    I take my hat off to the youngsters who carried out the ‘ARAGALAYA’ peacefully and achieved partly what they were after, on behalf of the people. They may not have been able to reach their goal fully, but they have proved their capabilities to the world in general and the Srilankan politicians in particular.
A similar ‘Aragalaya’ under the name of Satyagraha was carried out in 1961 by the Tamils in the north and east seeking a permanent remedy for the discriminated Tamils. The Tamil people thronged in their thousands and sat in front of the kacheri demanding justice. This satyagraha was led by the Tamil Arasukadchi ( Federal Party) and almost all the other Tamil parties too joined in the struggle. The satyagraha went on for over a month. Like a bolt from the blue, the army in their trucks surrounded the demonstrators, beat them up, and put the women, including pregnant women and children in their trucks, took them to faraway places, and put them down on the road to find their way home. The leaders were arrested and taken to the Panagoda army camp. The rest is a long story. At that time no sympathies were expressed by the Sinhala people. They would not have expected the same treatment. for them.

  • 7

    Aragalaya had not answered, or rather fudged, one important question, a burning question, that is raised by Jayasingam below and by Kanapathy Varunan. Communal violence is something unimaginably atrocious. The number 158 at Eastern University is a huge number added to the communal violence of the 1950s, 70s, 80s etc. Remarkably the Sinhalese were apparently silent or admiring. The commissions of inquiry were largely eyewashes. We seldom asked how could this be one country? Some of us like Prof. J were in and out of the UGC in the early 1990s. There was little sense of alarm. I know the answer is rather complicated.

    Muslims separated in India leaving behind an equally large number of Muslims. Fortunately India had in Nehru a leader under whom separation was clearly not the answer. But has Modhi ended this?

    Europe found a smart answer in the EU. We who have not tackled it would remain primitive and economically backward.

  • 3

    “Working on a common agenda always demands self sacrifice and suppression of one’s ego.
    * Ideological conflicts that can arise at any time within the organizations. “
    In the final analysis, the Aragalaya was hijacked by the ones with the strongest ideology, the professional protesters. The rest, being genuinely non-violent, hardly resisted, and went home quietly to their recently restored fuel and electricity.

    • 1

      That is what Ranil Wickremasinghe claims. oc.
      I’m fed up; but the Aragalaya is a work in progress.

      Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela

    • 0

      The world has seen in this century a new mode of revolutionary struggle that wins only to lose thereby.
      The Arab Spring is a classic group of examples. Where it does not go according to plan, it becomes a civil war if not war itself as in Libya ans Syria.
      The Aragalaya protesters had genuine political grievances but almost fully lacked theoretical understanding, which major sponsors of the Aragalaya was keen to deny.
      That was why the question “What next?” remained unanswered.
      The militants could not have hijacked Aragalaya even if they tried. They have gained some strength, but it is a long process to make a revolutionary change.
      Whether they will be able to move in that direction through Aragalaya Mark II also depends on their ability to win over a wider section of the population than the Aragalaya did thus far.
      It is not clever to get sentimental in these matters.

  • 5

    Mr. Hoole is 100% correct.

  • 0

    Fr.Iddamalgoda,is your memory that short? The protest march against the 1987 peace accord was much bigger than the aragalaya and it was crushed by killing more than 150 people. Something that has never happened before in independent sri lanka.

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