By M. M. Janapriya –
On any other day I would have been driving my daughter to work in my orange MG. Today I seem free of everything and everyone. I can see them all, but they don’t seem to notice my presence, not even my family. Feeling like a feather I am drifting everywhere sometimes at my own volition and at other, without much control. I am enjoying the newfound freedom immensely.
The deluge of humankind that hit streets of all corners of the country has ebbed away this morning but the sense of jubilation is written across everyone’s face. They are sure to return. Even automobile drivers showed a degree of self-containment making driving a lot easier. The uniformed officer who stopped our jeep was courteous and seemed apologetic, he had to do so to let an entourage of MPP get on to the main Parliament road. I am riding on the back seat sort of incognito. All and sundry have woken up to the realisation that some people can be fooled for a time, but all people cannot be fooled all the time. Much needed mutual respect has kicked in. People seem to believe they are an important link in this enormously long and strong chain that is unbreakable by the ruling power.
My aerial visits to many corners of the capital city tells me there is a lull probably because people are at work during most of the daylight hours. Those who organized themselves using social media, mostly younger members of the public seem to know when the iron is hot enough to strike. Dissolution of the cabinet and appointing 4 of the same corrupt lot to 4 key ministries with Sir and big daddy staying put, the formula put forward by the fake dissident Sookarawansa, hasn’t done enough to dupe the masses hold back their punches. People power stalemated Sir and the government with their might. They had no guns, neither machetes not even pen knives. Just their staunch self-belief, grit, determination, and the ocean of heads were enough to send shock waves up the spines of the Sir Baba and the 225 thieves. It will be a matter of time before Sir is checkmated and the game is over. Sri Lankans of all walks of life from all ethnicities joined hands for this onerous cause of ridding the country of intolerable levels of corruption. People who have been hit with long power cuts, severe shortage of diesel, petrol and cooking gas and astronomically high cost of daily consumables have been very tolerant till they took to the streets 3 days ago. They are now watching to see what the government’s next move is.
I didn’t vote for the Sir. I even made videos and wrote articles to discourage people voting for the ex-army man. Having lost my battle I hoped as lots of others did too, this man might deliver by the suffering masses nevertheless. This was the last thing that happened. He showed clearly from the very outset that he was not cut out to be President. To make his position and physical self safe may be, he appointed ex-army men as Secretaries to the many Ministries. He brought in many Rajapaksas from within and without the parliament to install them as key Ministers and State Ministers. It looked from the very beginning he was trying to ride the historical war victory through every administrative difficulty. People seemed to have thought they got Lee Kuan Yew elected without realizing he probably had turned a circle like the wonder woman and metamorphosed into Kim Jong Un. Following is a list not exhaustive though, things that made him very unpopular;
1. Covid management; looked ok at first. Made a mockery of it later
2. Immunization programme: Delayed due to Peni Kolam. Priority list hijacked by sil hil horas
3. Reversal of austerity of MPP and allowing to import luxury cars
4. Rice problem; Lost to rice Mafia leader Maru Sira
5. Sugar problem: Jugglery made prices high and left room for importers to make thumping profits to cover donations to election campaigns
6. Garlic problem; Government goons making huge profits
7. LP gas problem; Companies changed composition of gas for profit. This led to hight pressure inside the cylinder and insidious leaks leading to explosions near the nipple. No one was tried in a court for this criminality.
8. Fertilizer problem; Switching to carbonic fertilizer overnight with gross reduction in harvest. This led to hight prices and a scarcity of the produce. Peasants lost their livelihood
9. Granted Presidential pardon to convicted murderers
10. Brought a convicted murderer to Parliament to be sworn in as an MP
11. Mismanagement of the economy
a) Didn’t foresee the dwindling foreign exchange reserve
b) Or even after seeing it let a colossus of dollars go out in the purchase of luxury cars for MPP
c) Borrow our way out of the economic squeeze was the motto
d) Didn’t go to the IMF in time cos IMF would have put conditions unconducive for the big ministerial commissions
e) Exchanged sovereignty of parts of the country for dollars with China and India
12. Dollars disappeared to all corners and as such
a) Petrol and diesel became scarce and expensive. Huge queues resulted
b) Electricity could not be generated sufficiently, so long power cuts had to be interposed
c) LP gas could not be bought and people were made to suffer in long queues
d) Several elderly people died while waiting in these queues and a young man who resisted an unruly 3-wheeler guy break the queue was stabbed to death.
Sir and the ruling party seemed to have taken the Sri Lankan people for granted. They were eating cake while the commoner was struggling to have just two square meals a day, some at least one. Sinhalaya Modaya, Kewum Kanna Yodhaya (Sinhalese is a clown, famous for munching kewun) seemed to be the faith by which they lived their political lives. Hither little children cried for milk which they seldom got. School children cried for light to study at night which was a cry in the wilderness. Some of the elderly battling their illnesses sans essential medicines were relieved of this misery altogether. Thither, power boys on motor bikes followed by a motorcade of fuel guzzling luxury vehicles some unregistered racing from one city to another in a milieu of zero petrol on many a pump and the flower son of the ex-president engaging in water propelled sport and sky diving in the Maldives. If the latter did it on the sly it may not have mattered all that much but for the morale of people at breakpoint, seeing these pictures on social media was a death blow and they were churned into action.
I feel it is not as much the deprivation that drove the youth and the right-thinking elders to the streets as the scant regard the government paid to the sensitivities of the people who elected them and to the settled law of the country. They showed in no uncertain terms that those who governed, their kith and kin and indeed the minions and lackeys were above the law. “We have had enough. Physical suffering can be endured with stealth and hope if we have any left but the psychological suffering, we have been put through by these rascals having it easy while the country is on fire is unbearable” said one of the educated youth hurrying to join in the protest campaign.
We were at a very decent protest campaign. There were not that many to start with but the crowd started to grow. These were all volunteers holding placards written mainly in English depicting slogans like Gota go home, Government go home, Give our money back and the like. The drivers and riders by tooted their horns in approval and support. Suddenly all hell broke. There was an influx of a large number of people. It appeared these guys were not singing from the same hymn sheet. They seemed to be in a hurry too. As an elder, as an ex-trade union leader and as a senior surgeon ‘end of the bed diagnosis’ was as easy as a spot. My usual position being on the stage and not behind it, I got on to the topmost step of a flight of steps and shouted “Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, please lend me your ears. I have no loudspeaker so please listen quietly as much as you can. We are here today at our own instant to show the way the country is being run at the whim of a handful of people. We have been driven to the economic cliff edge. Our suffering is almost insurmountable. Yet my people, we will not use any violent means to achieve our goal. Ghandian style Avihimsa is paramount to our protests. Let no outsider unleashed by anyone, any organization or even the government itself sabotage our concerted effort to eradicate this country of this cancer of corruption”. Decent protest took an ugly turn courtesy these visitors who from amidst us were creating mischief behind our benign posters and banners. They gave the riot police STF and other forces a justifiable reason to come in and indiscriminately assault people. Some of the journalists who had come to cover the protest were later shown on national and other TV channels to have sustained significant injuries at the hands of these peacekeepers.
Suddenly I felt a painful thud in my upper belly almost on the solar plexus. A young man masked and in camouflage uniform stood in front of me with a rifle in his arms. It was probably the butt end of it my abdomen received. No questions asked. Didn’t seem to care for my age. I fell on my knees and then flat on the face. That was all I remember. From above I was seeing people tending me. Some even compressing my chest. It was a very pleasant feeling to be up there floating, drifting and at times even flying relieved of all suffering.
Hey, you guys were protesting peacefully near the Parliament. The grit and determination written on your faces very likely spun some close to Sir into action. Soon you had visitors. The motorcycles had no number plates. Police seemed to do their job but non were arrested for carrying guns and riding un-numbered motorcycles. Why? Were they sent by the powers that be? Well answer is obvious even to any tuition master. Trying to work it out is a futile academic exercise. What is important is to keep pressure on and keep ratcheting it up as and when required. My people, one thing that cannot be compromised is non-violence. If we lose our cool, we have let the country down. Time and again government goons will appear amidst us trying to test our cool. They might even create violent situations and the powers that be would readily blame it on us. We know truth would prevail one day. Remember this is what the Cardinal said. He said “we have done all we could, including going to the Vatican and even to UNHRC but the government is intransigent. If the government does not punish them, (people who aided and abetted the Easter Sunday bombers by their action or masterly inaction) Lord above would and truth will prevail”. It looks to me Cardinal’s prayers have been answered.
What’s that familiar voice? One of them exclaimed. “It’s me who was butted down near the Jubilee post protests, remember? A few more might get downed like me but for a good cause. Elders like me can make all the sacrifices the country needs to salvage. We are sort of an expendable lot but not just. So you young guys will have to be careful when you pass blanket judgements ‘Nakiya gedera palayang’. I am back with a vengeance I was gonna say. Nah, what vengeance? I don’t have it in my vocabulary. I am back in full swing. Back with you, backing you to the hilt. Being airborne I can cover all your yeoman services to the Nation. Bye for now”. “Bye uncle Jan, Take care, See you soon”.