By Vishwamithra –
“Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.” ~ Bertrand Russell, Why Men Fight
Sunrise on the Galleface Green is not as spectacular as sunset. It is the essential distinction between the West and the East. Man rises to another day in his life with sunrise. When he is deprived of the delight and splendor of the intrinsic enchantment of a ballet, which sunrise usually is in the East, his morning’s enthusiasm and energy has every misfortune to turn into uncertainty and anxiety.
However, sunset on the Green is totally different poetry in celestial movement. The kaleidoscopic display in the distant horizon could mesmerize even the most poised and becalmed mind in a Vedic trance, driving it to the ends of physical pleasure and joy. This natural flow of the universe may well be playing its repetitive choreography day after day, yet man’s pursuit towards a dynamic equilibrium in his chosen life has not been consummated. Nor will it ever be the quintessential achievement of man for he is never contended with what he is and what he has. As Pearl S Buck, the Noble laureate, said: ‘when man demands no more the earth too shall die’.
Today’s Galleface Green, Aragalapitiya, is poised in between these two natural phenomena of the universe. In the wee hours of the morning it is silent, calm and forlorn, but not deserted. Yet the crowds that gathered at the beginning of the Aragalaya movement, almost one and half months ago, to demand change and total transformation from a rotting status quo, look utterly tired and fatigued. The initial passion and gusto of a movement led by the youth of the day seem to be fading away. The numbers are declining although the need and necessity for such change and transformation remain just the same or even more so now.
The usual letdowns, betrayals and retreats have had their nasty fallouts. Encounters with the law and physical conflicts with the law keepers have had their consequential effects. Absence of political leadership, which appeared at the outset as a sign of things to dawn, is now having its reverse effects. No political movement in human history has succeeded without sound and decisive leadership; Napoleon, Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Min and Castro all succeeded in their respective ventures because they lent their selfless leadership to their respective movements. Events that cascaded in the wake of success of each of those revolutions is another matter altogether. Leave that to historians, super-grade storytellers who are experts in hindsight-analysis.
Nonetheless, reviewing the stories and events that followed the encirclement of Gota’s residence on April 3rd is not a very challenging task. But what’s consuming all matters in the end is not fatigue and exhaustion; it is that intrinsic quality of all humanity, ravenousness and avarice which seem to be unquenchable and insatiable. It is indeed tragic that all our mainstream political leaders have succumbed to this dreaded trait.
On the other hand, what commenced as a selfless struggle for law and order, for justice, social integrity, negation of nepotism and political reform cannot be allowed to fade into history without achieving its desired results. If that were to occur, it will be a great misfortune.
Nevertheless, after the Rajapaksas were subjected to crippling inactivity during the first three to four weeks of the struggle, a flurry of activities drew more than cursory attention of all following the infamous attack by the Mahinda Rajapaksa-hooligans who suddenly decided to unleash their own venom and hatred on the Aragalapitiya. What followed had the effects of semi-insurrection dimensions covering almost the entire country. The spontaneous reaction to the Galleface attack had its two-faced consequences. It frightened the government politicians and also triggered a fuse that was kept so concealed in the psyche of the protesters.
The social media and its thrust into the mindset of the average Sri Lankan voter continued its incessant inroads to reveal a tale that is more than a mere display of the wild side of anarchism. Yet the decline of passion and its spellbinding elements amongst those who still were engaged in the ‘Aragalaya’ assumed more than palpable proportions. This is the space the governing men were waiting for- amongst whom was Ranil Wickremesinghe whose appointment as Prime Minister, as successor to Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Godfather of the current socioeconomic and political debacle.
Overnight the subject of conversation shifted from sloganeering at the Aragalapitiya to whispers inside the Cabinet Room. While the conventional media resorted to its characteristic hobnobbing with nuanced aspects of governance and its operational subtleties, the shrewd and cunning politicos indulged willy-nilly in bartering their falsely-assumed respect for a ticket to the halls of power. Passion, enthusiasm, steadfast belief in a fresh approach and a fresh school of thought of politics flew out the window. Instead of ruthlessly pursuing the original ideals of the Aragalaya, even those who were most ardently participating in a looming revolution-like uprising, began their futile discussions on matters of Cabinet appointments and lubricating of the cogs in a stagnant and un-turning government wheels.
All eyes and ears were riveted to the proceedings in Parliament. Television medium spent so much of its time on interviewing those so-called hopefuls for Cabinet posts and the same old patterns assumed their uneven fox-trotting.
In the midst of this wildness and loss of acute attention to details and macro-portrait of the need of the hour, the 21st Amendment to our Constitution lost its glimmer and significance. Gota-go-Gama and Mina-go-Gama were founded on the premise of the 21st Amendment. Abolition of Executive Presidency and removal of Mahinda Rajapaksa from the post of Prime Minister were the most appealing demands of the Aragalapitiya. With the other crook, Basil Rajapaksa having resigned from his post of Finance Minister, the exit of Gotabaya and Mahinda was of paramount importance in the minds of the Youth.
A delay or non-submission of the 21st Amendment would be the unkindest cut of all. Those who argue that the country’s economic salvation should be priority number one are using that argument itself to prevent any meaningful sociopolitical and economic transformation during this time. There cannot be any economic recovery if the powers continue to dwell in the houses of the Rajapaksas or Wickremesinghe. While Gotabaya Rajapaksa failed in the last two and half years, Ranil Wickremesinghe never succeeded in his entire political career that’s spanned five decades and five times being Prime Minister. Ranil’s priorities are totally different. Completely devoid of empathy and overly attentive to his cute friends, he has managed to survive in politically chaotic situations by wheeler-dealing many a bargain with his friends and foes. His history on these activities is disgusting and most unbecoming of the high offices he is trying to step into.
An expectation of greatness, honesty and reconciliation from Ranil Wickremesinghe is not only a wasted exercise, it would be utterly preposterous. Only idiots and ignoramus would pray for such futility. Yet when one ponders the gross betrayal committed by Harin Fernando and Manusha Nanayakkara, the shelf life of the Aragalaya seems far less sustainable. To the average observer, the infidelity to the cause displayed by both Harin and Manusha might be disheartening and depressing; but the naked exhibition of political naiveté a self-centered approach to the current crisis on the part of these two has exposed their true colors.
When the crunch time arrives, it’s only the hardest and strongest that would prevail. Harin and Manusha were not the first to surrender and they won’t be the last. Those who exchange arguments among themselves may get bogged down in the insanity of the egg or chicken situation. The economic crisis has turned into a political one of mighty proportions. To resolve the economic crisis, a diffusion of the political mess is an indispensible prerequisite.
There is no way in which the country can survive this multifaceted crisis with both Gotabaya and Ranil sharing the helm. For the sake of the nation’s good name, for the sake of her men, women and children, both have to depart before they make it even worse than it is today.
Anton Chekhov, in The Cherry Orchard wrote thus: “We just philosophize, complain of boredom, or drink vodka. It’s so clear, you see, that if we’re to begin living in the present, we must first of all redeem our past and then be done with it forever. And the only way we can redeem our past is by suffering and by giving ourselves over to exceptional labor, to steadfast and endless labor.” Surely, we are still left with some labor and foresight, aren’t we?
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org