16 April, 2024

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Second Aragalaya In The Making

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The unraveling of the economy at the beginning of 2022 had its immediate impact on the political sphere. Large numbers of people mobilized in protest until it became an ocean that swept through the capital city and entered the seats of power. A year later the economic crisis gives indications of being under control. A bail out agreement with the IMF appears to be only days away and the weak rupee has strengthened against the dollar. The government under President Ranil Wickremesinghe has shown itself to be tenacious. But there are three areas in which it needs to rethink its approach if its success is to be sustainable.

There are three problem areas where the government needs to recalibrate its approach. The first is to give notice that it will hold the local government elections soon and not in the indeterminate future. Elections are not contingent on people or their rulers wanting them, which is one of the spurious arguments being put forward. They are part and parcel of democracy. Ideally, those elections need to be held on April 25, the date set by the Elections Commission. However, there is continuing doubt whether this will be feasible as the government needs to allocate the necessary financial resources for this. The government’s claim that it has no money to hold the elections is not convincing given that it is less than a single day’s government expenditure.

The second problem area is the challenge that the government is posing to the judiciary. The democratic system is based on the system of checks and balances. The judiciary is one of the three main organs of the state. Its apex body, the Supreme Court, has declared that the government cannot make the excuse of not having money to delay the elections. This judgement of the court and its independence needs to be respected. Disregarding it can send a negative message to potential investors regarding the security of their investments in an environment in which the rule of law is not respected. Unfortunately, the government members of parliament are challenging the authority of the supreme court to give a direction to the government treasury.

The third problem area is with regard to government attempts to stop the ongoing street protests by using force. The government has denied those who protest the right to protest freely on the streets on the grounds that it will disrupt the regular economic life of people as well as be an obstacle to investor confidence. Virtually every day there is news footage of those who protest, mostly from trade unions and state universities, being water cannoned, tear-gassed, baton-charged and arrested. Recent footage has shown those in military uniforms using sticks on the protestors. The use of the military to quell civil disturbances is a violation of the law, especially as those in military uniform have no identification badges which gives them more impunity to be brutal and move away from democratic restraints.

US Position 

The government’s attempts to suppress the public protests by using its armed power is not going to solve the problem. Those who are engaged in public protests are unlikely to give up because they are fighting for their very existence. They belong to the bottom 80 percent (or more) of the population who are being called upon to pay the bulk of the price for the economic recovery of the country. The government’s present efforts to restructure the economy are falling shockingly and disproportionately on the poorer sections of the population. An example would be the recent electricity hike which, in proportionate terms, affects those at the bottom of the economic tiers much more than those at the top. Those consuming the least are being charged an extra 261 percent while the average increase is 66 percent.

Instead of trying to overcome the protests by repressive means, the government needs to go to first principles in finding the way out of the multiple crises in the country. First, it needs to take into account that the basis of governance in the country is democracy. Conducting free and fair elections according to the law gives life to democracy. Disregarding the law on elections erodes the legitimacy of the government both in the country and internationally. The US ambassador to Sri Lanka, Julie Chung, made this clear in her recent address to the National Law Conference organized by the Bar Association of Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Chung emphasized the importance of the local government elections, explaining that it “gave citizens the ability to advocate directly to the government in partnership with civil society organisations and through qualified legal representation in an independent judiciary.” She also spoke of the importance of the judiciary and the right to protest. “Democracies are under strain across the globe and no democracy stands without the rule of law…The United States support for the rights of everyday Sri Lankans to voice their concerns peacefully and participate in their government is unwavering.” She also noted that Sri Lanka’s “proud history of free elections underpins those rights.”

Rethink Policies 

The need to consider the views of the US ambassador with special interest is that the US is well known to be the power behind the IMF on which Sri Lanka is banking so much hope to get its economy growing again. Indeed, there is a need for the government to rethink its economic restructuring policy and IMF conditions, for which US goodwill can help. The main burden of economic restructuring cannot be put on the poorer sections of the population. The current tax structure, for instance, is taxing the middle classes twice, by means of enhanced direct and indirect taxes. They also are hovering at the margins of economic sustainability as individuals and families. Unless the economic restructuring programme is reconsidered it can bring the country back on the streets in a second Aragalaya, though in a different form possibly.

At the beginning of last year, it was initially the farmers in the rural hinterlands who started protesting in small groups. They were followed by fishermen in the coastal areas, carpenters and finally the middle classes in the urban centres. There was a demand for accountability, to catch the thieves, but this did not take place. A similar phenomenon can be seen today. The government is failing to identify the reasons for the economic collapse and the responsible persons and institutions. These seem to be out of the agenda of the government which raises questions in the minds of people regarding its sincerity and seriousness of purpose. As a result, more and more groups are joining the protests, including trade unions and even the professional classes.

An initiative of civil society organisations recently brought together the opposition political parties to one forum to uphold the principle of timely and free and fair elections and to convince the government of the need for elections. Leading representatives of all the main opposition political parties came together to sign a “Public representatives pledge to protect the right to vote” at a meeting convened by the Civil Society Collective for Protecting the Franchise. The political parties represented widely different ideologies and ethnic affiliations. But they stood without any division on the issue of upholding the democratic franchise.

The government also needs to show respect to judicial decisions and to constitutional provisions related to the rule of law that are essential for investor confidence, both national and international, without which the prospects for economic recovery will be a chimera. Investors need to know that the government policies are clear and that the rule of law will prevail. It is even more necessary that the government should heed the voice of its people, the opposition parties and civil society on the key issues of the economic restructuring programme, elections and the freedom of protest, and not be isolated as that would not be conducive to the political stability and economic recovery it seeks. The government’s development strategies require the willing cooperation of the rest of society. If not, it will be an uneasy peace, which will not bring in the foreign investments that the country needs to take off into rapid economic growth.

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Latest comments

  • 22
    4

    “There was a demand for accountability, to catch the thieves, but this did not take place. A similar phenomenon can be seen today. The government is failing to identify the reasons for the economic collapse and the responsible persons” says Dr. JP. But shouldn’t those who enthusiastically voted the thieves into power be punished too? Those social media crooks who promoted Gota? The shameless monks who wanted a Hitler, and now have the gall to want “system change”?
    Half the country would be in jail.
    The government has indeed identified the reasons for economic collapse. That’s why there aren’t any petrol queues, supermarket queues, gas queues…….

    • 26
      4

      o c, The collapse of the economy was due to the robbing. Once the robbing was reduced, the economy started improving, not because of a magical solution by any one, but a restoration.

      • 23
        1

        DTG,
        “The collapse of the economy was due to the robbing.”
        Who kept on electing the robbers? The Chinese?
        Be that as it may , robbing has been going on for a long time, but we didn’t go bankrupt. Bankruptcy was the result of stupid decisions by both politicians AND the people who elected them.

        • 4
          2

          OC,
          “Bankruptcy was the result of stupid decisions by both politicians AND the people who elected them.”.
          .
          What if people including “Bandawela Man” would never see it right that people are to blame????.
          .
          Prof Pathegama Ghanasara articulates it as no others.
          .
          People are stupdier than appeared to be and they dont even know that THEY DON’T KNOW .
          .
          GOD BLESS OUR PEOPLE!.
          🐕🐕🐕🐕🤔🤔🤔🤔🤔🐕🐕🐕

    • 20
      0

      1/The first අරගලය/struggle arose when the Rajapaksa’s and their henchmen ignored law and order in this country for a certain period. They were acquitted of all cases brought against them by the government, including the highly controversial but apparently including the “land theft based on Basil Rajapakse aka Kaputa’s Gampaha land”.

      The Sri Lankan judiciary became a joke because people questioned who owned it if not Basil. Any piece of land must have an owner…… Today Basil shamelessly faces press conferences with his usual rascally smile…. Can you imagine? Isn’t the provocative smile similar to the reaction of a rapist in front of a female victim?

      That should be clear at least to some including yet today’s stupid sinhala supremacists.
      In November 2019, the Rajapaksa brothers grabbed power not to serve the nation but for their own selfish gains.
      .
      Although various leaders tried to ensure the birth of the “struggle”, it was due to the direct involvement of the Colombo rich who declared that Gotabhaya and the cabinet should be thrown out to save the nation. Even university groups did not join the struggle in the initial stages. If someone rewinds the video, someone can be notified with the actual information.

      tbc

      • 19
        0

        2/
        Uneducated Gota (formerly worked as a petrol shed assistant) lived in his own fantasy world where he cannot foresee the problems of Sri Lanka. He was a coward who only proved the “organic farming dream story” to the world. World leaders rejected him even though he spoke proudly at the UN conference.
        Today the whole world is laughing not at the Bandaranaikes but at the Rajapaksas.

        France, Australia, the United States and many other developed countries have not achieved “100% organic agriculture”, but under the leading guidance of the GMOA president, Gotcha dreams ofweaing a big shoes. Scholars are of the opinion that at a time when our economy has sunk beyond measure, such an immature act is done by a mad person. This is similar to rape a sick woman. But Rajapaksa did all this within 3 years as high criminals and turned the country into a bankrupt state.

        https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/padeniyas-vicious-plot-to-conquer-sri-lanka-medical-council/
        .
        All this was clear to a minority of opponents of Rajapaksaism and they predicted what we face today, like a glove. The size of the group was at least 55 lacks of voter eligible in thi scountry.

        tbc

        • 14
          1

          3/
          Sri Lankan media crooks never allow their audience to hear the truth. That is another disaster in my home country. That is dangerous and comparable to a deadly cancer.

          Even today, Ravana Katha and Sinhala aggrandizement based tele-drama series are aired while “Savasa/ whole evening” is completely blocked. Main motive of this was to build at least one per family that would eternally act slave for Rajapakism. .
          :
          No matter what anyone says or does, law and order is functioning to some extent today.
          After reminding you of all this, I would like to tell you that no more struggle is possible.

          Curse and punish all those bearing the surname Medamulana Rajapaksa immediately after IMF bailingout from the International Monetary Fund and obtaining the blessings of other concessionary countries in accordance with the law and order of Sri Lanka.

          Only then can a real demand for a better era begin in our “beautiful mother lanka”. May this hope become a reality for a better future in this country.

    • 11
      16

      OC your kind of suggesting is calculated to prevent any kind of action. Punishing the voter ! Monks ! All monks or some monks ? On what charge ? Being utterly prejudiced just like you ?

    • 3
      0

      No more “hypocrisy shows”; There is no TV coverage, attention or big stories about their real antics. But the ball is rolling in the midst of a thousand of dire problems. Some of them and their dangers are not clear to the public. Their headlines still mislead the audience but the media is not keeping up with the masses.

      Business as usual. There is no big talk in the mainstream media about poaching as it happened under Rajapaksa and Sirisena. Gotabaya’s “i AM THE one who did it right always?” No such “wrestling talk”.
      But how can the big criminals who are labeled by the International Police be caught invisibly but within days?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMmIW_O5Eis

      Looking back at the period 2015-2019, it was not easy for the current president who was the prime minister at that time because he succumbed to Sorisena’s hypocrisy. If so, the doubt is clear why good governance failed to fulfill that task. Sorisena blocked everything.
      Sorisena is now mute.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzWGXfp0XgI

      • 2
        0

        cont.


        Why is the International Police silent on Arjuna Mahendran (former central bank governor, alleged bank robbery mastermind)? Why is the Singapore government silent on Interpol’s investigation of AM?
        If this is true, isn’t it an insult to the Singapore government? Sri Lanka Police to you, dispel doubts!
        Similary, srilanken MEDIA is reponsible for the spread of big lies. SIRASA TV over to you…. Killie is dead, but Watawala and other media prostitutes should come forward to clear doubts

    • 1
      0

      Dear oc,
      .
      You have suggested that, ” But shouldn’t those who enthusiastically voted the thieves into power be punished too?”.
      .
      You’re becoming inconsistent. You know very well that a guy like me never voted for Gota and the Rajapaksas. I’m now being consistent in wanting Ranil to conduct elections, and may be step down after that.
      .
      Well that is also disputable. But having come in with the help of those whom he opposed at previous elections, (and whom you acknowledge to be thieves) shouldn’t he play a very low-profile role himself?
      ,
      I’ve been trying to work out what makes the guy tick. What do others make of this?’
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOgw0k_cbDk
      .
      Ranil Wickremesinghe | Full Address and Q&A | Oxford Union – 50 minutes.
      ,
      I was impressed.

  • 15
    5

    “The shameless monks who wanted a Hitler, and now have the gall to want “system change”?”

    May be there needs to be Hitler like Pol Pot and ex buddhist monk and he may rid the sinhala land of these saffron robed thugs!!! masquerading as monks

    • 6
      1

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4_Vpsnb8lc

      This program is worth watching, Sri Lankan economic experts discuss the issues of the day in post-IMF-BAILout srilanka.

      . I cannot understand why professionals are reluctant to pay higher taxes at least for a few years and some thoughts are becoming clear.

      Any economically developed country, including South Korea, has made many sacrifices. Every citizen gave his small contribution.
      I think it is recommendable, to quickly restructure the Marine Beneficiaries through a better functioning database at a very low cost of human resources. 50 billion is said to be earmarked for prosperity but 40% is wasted to pay for the services of the authorities and most of the beneficiaries are not really destitute candidates but the system is highly corrupt.

      • 4
        1

        LM,
        “I cannot understand why professionals are reluctant to pay higher taxes at least for a few years and some thoughts are becoming clear.”
        People who earn just over 100,000 have to pay about 3000 as tax. The 36% maximum is for those drawing around 600,000.
        The doctors also have private practice. The government should remove that privilege.

        • 2
          1

          Thanks OC,
          .
          I pay more than 45% tax in Europe almost every month.

          There is nothing to disagree with anyone, that is the law here. I don’t understand how even SL professors have the courage to post such comments without shame?
          . It has a lot to do rather with Sri Lanka’s DNA. I know salaries in Sri Lanka are not that high but everywhere is relative. But they have to dedicate some period of time to make a good life for the future generations. If uni dons can’t make up their minds to rational arguments, it is better to leave them to the Sri Lankan society which is rotten with myth. In years to come, it will be filled with all the corpses on the streets like Kolkata or Cairo… Our people should be trained to sacrifice… They wear the banner of Buddhism, but behave like complete idiots.

          If the South Koreans dare to say that every family in that country offered their most valuable bank to see their foreign exchange reserves rise, why can’t they devote some time? Our people are trying to touch the sky without contributing anything. It will be down to all future falls.

          They often overestimate our own failings and inabilities. We are a doomed nation. Their goal was to become another Singapore, which eventually became “Afghanistan”.

    • 7
      4

      What do you think of tie and coat wearing NEW European passport holders who funded a terrorists movement ? Were they funding a Pol Pot , while enjoying the protection of the West ?

      If the monks just let extremists minorities do anything they want, the monks become holy !

  • 11
    6

    The reason the French Revolution came about was due to the Commoners paying most of the tax whilst the Nobles and Clergy were exempt from it (although clergy gave in form of tithe collected from mostly the common people). Same scenario during the Russian Revolution. Amazing that the Lankan government in these enlightened times, sees it fit to belong to those eras.

    • 6
      1

      RTF
      “Amazing that the Lankan government in these enlightened times, sees it fit to belong to those eras”.

      Agree fully but by choice the people can revolt or evolve or think we are best !
      Lankans on a long learning curve ?
      Perhaps slow leaners ?

      • 4
        0

        People are revolting, Fakeculturebug…….only a matter of time…

  • 9
    1

    Second Aragalaya In The Making or readily available

    President Ranil Wickremesinghe has shown itself to be tenacious. But his Suppress for free speech is a double wrong. Than one right, It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. It is easier to build strong children (Aragalaya ) than to repair broken men (RW)

  • 7
    1

    Is there a room and a place for a confession on CT. Not sure. Nevertheless, I am going to do it. I have never once cast a vote in my life, in Sri Lanka.
    Yes. Votes are a waste when there is no democracy.
    .
    Now, getting on to, “those elections need to be held on the date set by the Elections Commission”, feasibility should not be question. Because, if elections are not held the question shifts to the legitimacy of the political / economic decisions of the Head.

    • 6
      2

      Nathan,
      “have never once cast a vote in my life, in Sri Lanka.”
      So, you are one of the few who will escape when all the politicians, and those who voted for them , are hanged.

    • 2
      1

      Dear Nathan,
      .
      Your discussion of many subjects is admirable.
      .
      However, you’ve also got to act in such a way as to take account of the way that average people seem to think and act in the 21st Century.
      .
      There is too much information around. For instance, I see this report about the strike that is on today:
      .
      https://www.themorning.lk/articles/vWTjglYtT8AwCcfS5rlu
      .
      There are multiple reference to a “Cabinet Spokesman” and Minister named Dr Bandula Gunawardene. This is what he turns out to be:
      .
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandula_Gunawardane
      .
      Many possibly believe him to have a PhD. He seems to have done well for himself; there’s a daughter in America – at our expense!
      .
      Contrast with this man:
      .
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWWpWHwCVic
      .
      What he says here, I can understand, but he says that he’s actively producing stuff in Tamil. I can’t access that. You must!
      .
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramalingam_Chandrasekar
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela (NIC 483111444V)

    • 5
      0

      N
      Someone can cast your vote for you.
      Have you considered spoiling the ballot paper when there is no choice?
      That is what I did all along.

  • 18
    6

    Ranil is a Colombo 7 scum bag.
    The Rajapakshas are Weeraketiya scum bags.

    All same, deep shit.

  • 10
    3

    RJ to Ranil and now ranil can retire as another generation of Royalists elite are ready to take over the country.

    They have proved themselves by invading girls schools Visaka and Ladies college.

    Old JR would have really appreciated this kind of “fun”

    Ranil’s fun is the more hidden type.

    Anyway these ugly rough looking muscular stumps called Royalists are keeping their “traditions ” alive ! !

    • 5
      2

      Prof. Deepthi Silva,
      .
      What about Anandiyans and others?
      Many in politics are like villains. People like Gontadipila represented it as no others. I think the royalists have better manners compared to other alumni. I had a very good friend in Pera. He must have been killed at that time. I am afraid that I was not be able to find him since then. I really don’t know where he is today. He is just one among the dozens of mates. We were like brothers as we went through brutal bullying sessions. All these people carry more Sinhala DNA and that may be the real cause of all evils. Most of our Sinhalese are hypocrites. Unfortunately the truth about our people.

      • 5
        1

        You repeatedly bashed RW but never spoke a single word against the nation’s biggest criminal, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

        Also, when JVP people refer the two names, the difference can be seen. JVPrs call Mahinda Mahaththaya yet today. It also gives us a hint about the true nature of the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna. Now only AKD and his men start prefixing the name RAJAAPKSHES when pronounced in public.

  • 4
    0

    None including Aragalaya can save this country and people because nobody including people, politicians, religious leaders do not feel that this is our country and people in this country are our people. All these groups think that it is only for us and all others are our enemies. That’s why we have continued blood bath , continued destruction and continued borrowing and continued robbery. Who will realise it?

    • 1
      0

      Fully agree.
      There is some thing wrong in the Srilankan mindset.

      No wholistic thinking only simple selfish, self centred atidude and actions.

      And also no leadership to change the toxic mindset.

      All politicians messed up the situation more and more

  • 2
    0

    It’s kleptocracy.in Sri Lanka not democracy from the very beginning. The majority of the politicians who have been in power over the years have been dishonest and the gullible people have been taken for a right royal ride with the culture of impunity that is very rampant. There is no real easy answer to the very hopeless situation the country is in until a radical solution is tried out which entails getting rid of the “aged lot ” of the present politicians to be replaced by much younger educated people which fortunately the country has in abundance.
    What is needed is a new constitution with age limits and term limits to elected office and equal representation of both sexes in the parliament. This will enable to get rid of the crooks who are responsible for the chaos and sad situation the country is facing at the moment.
    A radical and practical change is the need of the hour and a must; the status quo and the current leadership is undemocratic and a bad example; a bunch of opportunists protecting their own pockets to the detriment of the country..

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