By Siri Gamage –
Rajapaksa family’s political project built on a latent desire to control the country’s economy, polity, media, and the public discourse by using religion, nation and their protection plus the twisting of law to suit family interests (along with those who are loyal) has come under severe pressure by the educated, new generation youths and those who follow them during the last and this month. The epicentre of this protest and pressure is what is called #GoHomeGota near the Presidential secretariat, Galle Face, Colombo. Ironically it is opposite the Port City built by the Chinese government.
On one hand, the youth protest reflects the severe hardships brought on the people as a result of recent economic collapse. There is a lack of fuel, medicine, food, gas etc and a paralysis of government on the other. Country owes $51 billion to external agencies. Currently, the government is looking to get another $4-5 billion loan from the IMF. It has come to a situation that the government does not have foreign exchange to pay for a shipload of fuel or gas. For this it is borrowing money from governments in the region on a short-term basis. While this is the dire situation, the ruling clique led by Rajapaksa extended family and their associates live a highly privileged life (on tax payers account) with access to not only the power but also enormous wealth and privileges (legally sanctioned) reminding us the Suharto era in Indonesia and Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe.
April-May protests by the youths in Gall Face – extended countrywide now)-which I prefer to call Rainbow revolution is seeking ‘a system change’ along with the departure of Rajapaksas and their loyalists from the government. The protesters want a government that represents the people and responsive to their needs and aspirations. They want a police and security force that actually protects people -not only the rulers and their enriched families/party loyalists. They have the ideas as to how to address the present crisis (political, economic, social). But the geriatric parliamentary and executive leadership wants to buy time and remain in power saying that it wants to function according to the constitution and the mandate it got in the last election held a couple of year ago. The ground has changed though. Angry people, most of whom supported Rajapaksa project previously, are on the streets. They are hungry. Children do not have milk powder and medicine, sick do not have medicine in hospitals. University student are on the streets. Trade unions are conducting a continuous strike affecting all sectors. Religious leadership is demanding a change of government from the Rajapaksa rule to an interim one involving all political parties in the parliament. Many professional groups including lawyers, doctors, nurses are seeking a change of government to a more responsive one.
A crisis like this can give birth to a better system of governance if the geriatric leadership hands over the reins to the new generation with a futuristic vision, contemporaneous discourse, courage and relevant ideas. The latter understands the causes of current crisis and possess international experience. Let’s hope the desire and campaign of the new generation will continue until the government changes together with the constitution that gives enormous power to an elected executive Presidential system camouflaged with a Satakaya -the curse of Sri Lanka!