By Mass L. Usuf –
Demonstrations, protests, sit-ins, vigils and camping out are now trending in the capital city of Colombo and in many other cities of Sri Lanka. The youth of this country has apparently taken charge to effect a change to a system rife with corruption, rampant nepotism, waste of public funds, mismanaged fiscal policies, food, fuel, medicine and other shortages. And, most of all Racism. “Enough is enough” reads several placards held by young protesters among the thousands.
There were various attempts by the authorities to stifle the demonstrators but nothing seemed to have borne fruition. As protests intensified and were continuing unabated, new turns in the modus operandi were seen to emerge. The people gathered outside the homes of several Members of Parliament of the government. Even the President, Prime Minister and other Ministers’ houses were not spared but surrounded by the high-octane crowd. The Presidential Secretariat in Galle Face is virtually under siege and has become the battle front with the establishment of the ‘GOTAGOGAMA’.
The major and minor political parties wanted to distance themselves of these ubiquitous uprisings all over the country. There reticence was based on the point that the organisers of such events are not known. In the height of their foolishness these leaders of the various political parties failed to plainly see that this is a spontaneous eruption of the hitherto suppressed frustration, disgust and aversion of the general public. Something very significant is that the protestors are in no mood to forget the misdeeds of the opposition politicians too. They, too, were at the receiving end of criticisms, condemnations for irresponsible politics. The myopia of the opposition politicians also lost sight of the several hundreds of Sri Lankans living in U.K., USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and elsewhere around the globe, coming out to sympathise with the protestors in Sri Lanka.
Little wonder these political parties, dwelling in their fantastic realms of idiocy, were quick to disassociate themselves from the general call to the entire citizenry of Sri Lanka to come out on April 03rd, 2022 to express their discontentment. Despite this, the continuing build-up of anti-establishment sentiments began to tremble those in authority who earlier dismissed these protests as sporadic and destined to a natural death.
Day Of ‘Cataclysm’
The 03rd of April may be identified the day of cataclysm. Fearing this public rally, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared an island wide state of public emergency with effect from 01st April 2022, via an Extraordinary Gazette No. 2273/86 – 2022 dated 01 April 2022, using the powers vested in him by Section 2 of the Public Security Ordinance (Chapter 40), as amended by Act, No. 8 of 1959, Law No. 6 of 1978 and Act, No.28 of 1988. The state of emergency gave wide powers to the President. He can authorize detentions, seizure of property and search of premises. Even to change or suspend any law except the constitution.
An island wide curfew was imposed by the government on 2nd April 2022 effective until 04 April 2022. Access to social media platforms like WhatsApp Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube were blocked after curfew was declared. This ban was lifted the next day amidst widespread criticism for smothering and/or denying the freedom of expression which is a fundamental right.
The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and Western diplomats voiced their concern on the proclamation of emergency rule. They feared that the freedom of expression and the right for peaceful assembly of the people will be hindered by this, as draconian laws like the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act can be brought to bear on the protestors. The Emergency regulations were revoked with effect from 5th April by the President on the face of growing criticism.
Among the inhabitants of ‘Gotagohome Gama’ there are Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, Malays and other communities. It must be remembered that all of these people who belong to the various communities, religions, ethnicities are citizens of this country. As citizens, they have all the right to join and support any camp that they wish. This is a citizen’s fundamental right. It is a clear fact that the Muslims are in full support of the ongoing protest.
I picked up from a witty Youtuber this name, ‘Rajapaksa Nikaya’. The Pali word ‘Nikaya’ has several meanings. One of which refers to the monastic divisions of Theravada Buddhism.
The Rajapaksa Nikaya monks targeting the Muslims are spreading their trademark hate, suspicion and division by instilling fear in the people that the Muslim participation is with ulterior motive. The usual harangue which is now outdated. Nevertheless, this labelling of the Muslims is a clear act of gross discrimination, denial of a citizen’s right, an absolute violation of the fundamental right of a Muslim. This is a protest of the nation, of the people who are suffering, of the people who have been unfairly and unreasonably oppressed for so many years. And, the Muslims are part of this country.
It is the duty of every citizen to stand up against this type of oppression and suffering that has been cast upon the fellow citizens irrespective of whether they are Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim or whoever.
The Rajapaksa Nikaya monks must understand that the Muslims do not want to invade this country. It is the Mahanayake brothers of the Rajapaksa Nikaya who are selling this country. The Muslims are also not interested to make this a Muslim country. They have better things to do. Anyway, Muslims have been living in this country for thousands of years, is it only now that the Muslims have suddenly realised that this should be made a Muslim country. Is not there a limit to the stupidity, absurdity and idiocy of the Rajapaksa Nikaya monks?
It is interesting to analyse, to know who are these anti-government, anti-system and pro-reform protestors. Are all of them or the majority of them, Muslims?
1. Civil society organisations and Civil activists across the citizenry.
2. Labour and trade unions – CEB, Teachers, Principals etc.
3. Doctors and nurses, Farmers and agriculturists.
4. University students.
5. Artists – actors, actresses, dramatists, musicians, singers.
6. Veterans like Professor Sunil Ariyaratne, Nanda Malini, Victor Ratnayake.
7. Sportsmen like Roshan Mahanama, Sanath Jayasuriya and others.
8. Finally, the general public.
These monks who have been allegedly, as the public accuses, been in the Rajapaksa’s payroll by way of cash, kind or other forms of gratification would do anything for their survival. Not only that, these cohorts have also enjoyed impunity under the Rajapaksa regime. For example, there are umpteen number of complaints made to the Police against Venerable Gnanasara Thero a notorious monk with a criminal record but are collecting dust. They are above the law. By the way, my Sinhala friends blame me for calling him venerable.
The Sinhalese people have now realised, though very late, that these monks of the Rajapaksa Nikaya have taken the entire Sinhala people on a right royal ride. It is a positive and encouraging development that the Sinhalese are now rejecting such monks and have in no uncertain terms condemned the abuse and misuse of the saffron robe. In the long list of evildoers who have plunged this country to the present dark abyss, these Rajapaksa Nikaya monks also have to be named and shamed. They misled the innocent rural Sinhala folks by sowing hatred against the Muslims. Moreover, fuelling racism and false ethnocentric nationalism. These bogus monks are a threat to Buddhism and bring shame upon the truly dignified venerables.
Every civic minded citizen should pray for the success of this historic struggle so that a united, just, fair and equitable society can emerge free from corruption, nepotism, racism, and hatred. A country where a person will be able to get a square meal and live in peace and happiness.
Name and shame the bogus monks.
Long live the citizens’ struggle!
Rise up Sri Lanka!
*The writer is an Attorney at Law and a former Legal and Corporate Advisor. He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org