By Vishwamithra –
“I am truly free only when all human beings, men and women, are equally free. The freedom of other men, far from negating or limiting my freedom, is, on the contrary, its necessary premise and confirmation.” ~ Mikhail Bakunin
The pressure was building up. Over the last four to five weeks, ever since the country’s economy crossed the point of no return, amidst the apparent loss of the nation’s faith in her legislature, Parliament, the bursting dynamic that was waiting to happen finally reached its destructive climax. That was Monday, May 9, 2022.
All this time, Mahinda Rajapaksa, the country’s Prime Minister has been continuously subjected to enormous stress and anxiety. The man is not young anymore. His health is failing and the physical aid that is extended to him to move one single step forward is rather embarrassing to behold, even for his staunchest foe. During the preceding weekend, Minister Nalaka Godahewa, one of his close supporters, was widely quoted to have said that Mahinda Rajapaksa had agreed to resign from his office of Prime Minister. The wickedness of the surrounding circumstances and the sheer weight of responsibility of office would have impacted any ordinary man. Mahinda Rajapaksa proved that he was just that, an ordinary man trying to carry an extraordinary load and burden. He collapsed under its excruciating weight. Only extraordinary men can endure that amount of weight and that kind of responsibility.
Instead of choosing to leave with some measure of dignity and slightest of decorum, Mahinda decided to hang on; he pondered that he would go with a thunder and fake-bravery. He summoned his diehard supporters to his dwelling, the Temple Trees, the official residence of the Prime Minister of the country. This is the hallowed abode of many a respectable occupant who happened to live in prior to the Rajapaksas. From DS Senanayake to Dudley Senanayake, the magnificent halls and rooms of the Temple Trees have been witness to the nation’s best behavior on the part of its chief occupant. Inside the Temple Trees many a political move, this way or the other, in support of or in opposition to whatever politician or policy, has been hatched and moved with unnoticed smoothness. It has made this place memorable and has sanctified the very ground it was built on.
Mahinda Rajapaksa desecrated that land. Instead of dignity and decorum he offered to the waiting country a totally egregious solution; he unleashed his crudest and most uncivilized supporters on a peaceful mass of demonstrators; those demonstrators had already shown the country and the world as to how to protest against a woefully inadequate set of rulers who were not equipped to manage an economy; nor did the rulers know how to run a smooth governance machinery.
It was at the Temple Trees where DS Senanayake, the first Prime Minister of Ceylon held his famous Wednesday breakfast meetings with the celebrated JL Fernando, a leading journalist at the time. It was within these halls JR Jayewardene conducted his political maneuvering after the demise of DS as to who would succeed him. It was in the picturesque backyard of the Temple Trees where JR J had organized a plush banquet for the visiting Heads of States of Colombo Plan countries amongst whom was Jawaharlal Nehru accompanied by his daughter Indira. One can go on and on capturing the most momentous meetings, banquets, tea parties and confidential conversations which in a most realistic way shaped and defined the day’s events at the time.
But, since the arrival of the Rajapaksas on this sacred ground, the atmosphere and the very mood of that great office of Prime Minister has become grisly and shady; good times on retreat to the land of faint memory.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, when pressured by the country’s dwindling coffers and screaming mass of people for equitable distribution of economic resources and when those masses took occupation of the city’s main beachfront, lost his proverbial marbles. The increasing cry of the people for his political head must have driven him to the edge of craziness and he acted from that demonic craze and stupid arrogance. The so-called war-hero of a Prime Minister has become a condemned traitor. He brought it upon himself by ordering his unhinged troops on the peaceful protesters on the Galle Face Green.
But there was a serious miscalculation committed by the Rajapaksas and their strategic planners. They never understood the psyche of a justice-hungry young population. Our youth are not robots anymore; time and time again, especially during the last four weeks, they exhibited some extraordinary patience and poise. They let their guard down only when they were attacked in the most inhuman and inhumane way on early afternoon of Monday May 9, 2022.
The fury of the youth was let loose. Revolution was answered by counter revolution and that counter revolution was met by counter-counter revolution. All this would ultimately lead to total anarchy – a ready and willing circumstance immediately preceding a military takeover. If that becomes an ironic consequence of the current anarchical situation, the collapse of a national movement led by our youth will occur and all will come to zero. The last consequence that one would expect as the most unfavorable outcome of a mass movement would be more uncomplimentary than the one existing. The remedy has become more dangerous than the ailment. This is not what we wanted and it certainly is not the one we need.
Bakunin, widely considered to be the father of anarchism, said thus: ‘They maintain that only a dictatorship – their dictatorship, of course – can create the will of the people, while our answer to this is: No dictatorship can have any other aim but that of self-perpetuation, and it can beget only slavery in the people tolerating it; freedom can be created only by freedom, that is, by a universal rebellion on the part of the people and free organization of the toiling masses from the bottom up’. We seem to be fast approaching the very state of affairs Sri Lanka would eventually be condemned to. The current chaotic state of affairs in Ceylon indicates a dangerous proximity to a precursor to an actual dictatorship, either the current President backed by the Army or by the Army itself.
The Speaker’s announcement that the Party leaders’ meeting called for May 13 has been canceled and rescheduled, provided circumstances permit, is another danger-signal which contains within itself some warning-like utterances which usually are not made by the custodian of the House of Parliament in a functioning democracy.
Then we come to the most crucial question of the day. Have our Youth gone too far? Have they been acting according to their conscience or have they been driven to the ends by sheer force of spinning wheels of the day’s events? I do not have answers to these questions.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, obviously backed and supported by his younger brother President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, unleashed a force, the counter to which could not be controlled at all. The anger of today’s youth should not be allowed to flow overboard. Submerging every right and an iota of sympathy they so justifiably won as a consequence of their exemplary conduct during the first four weeks could very well end up as trash on an otherwise barren field of political inactivity.
More than fifty homes, belonging to parliamentarians and other politicians, have been set ablaze; Deshabandu Tennekoon, Colombo district Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police was humiliated and assaulted in public, the Speaker of Parliament has put off the Party Leaders Meeting due to the potential of security of its attendees being threatened; Sri Lanka Administrative Service (SLAS) officers are on strike like most government services; the country’s transport service is at a standstill; as per Chairman of the Gas company, cooking gas is not available at all; fuel is in precariously short supply; employees of institutes identified directly or vicariously with government are being harassed or physically injured.
Execution of governing tenets has been relegated to the people at large who have no concept of authority or orderly flow of rules and regulations, reminding one of interim governments run by the JVP activists during short successes of the 1971 insurrection. All these are indications pointing towards failure, failure not only of the current government, but more broadly speaking, failure of the state machinery. Ceylon becoming a failed state couldn’t be clearer and sharper. It is now a proven fact that our political leaders are either uneducated or unwise, or may be both. If such idiocy and lack of wisdom is limited to the current set of family-oriented rulers, it could be remedied one day, but when it is shown in almost every corner of the island that those who are marauding our streets today as new custodians, the youth of Lanka, too are conducting themselves beyond their own depths, it indeed is a tremendous misfortune. Therein resides the real tragedy!
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