16 May, 2022

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Spring Of Hope Or Winter Of Despair?

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

Sunday the 3rd of March 2022 was a momentous day in the seventy-four years post-independence history of Sri Lanka. It was a day when Sri Lankans, irrespective of ethnic, language and religious differences, bravely defied President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s curfew order and confronted security forces to send him a message, loud and clear, that enough was enough and that the regime should pack up and leave. They were joined by thousands of diaspora Sri Lankans who also endorsed that message. Although around 600 were said to have been arrested in Western Province and water cannons were used by police to disperse rioting undergraduates at Peradeniya, it was, on the whole, a peaceful outpour of anger and frustration at a regime, which had recked the economy of the country, bankrupted its coffers and ruined the livelihood of millions. Instead of the prosperity and splendour which the President promised he only brought misery and darkness. The withdrawal of emergency declaration and curfew order is clear victory to the masses.

A Sri Lankan Spring?

Whether one would like to dub Sunday demonstrations and the one on previous Friday at Pangiriwatte Mawatha in Mirihana, as replica of Tahrir Square demonstrations in Cairo in 2011 or not, there were certain inescapable parallels between the two. Firstly, the crowds that defied the curfew and gathered in various parts of the country were, like those that filled Tahrir Square, did so spontaneously and peacefully, and they were a-religious and a-ethnic. Secondly, there were no political parties or political leaders who took charge of organizing and leading those demonstrations. Both in Egypt and in Sri Lanka, they were organized largely through social media contacts initiated by unknown individuals and groups. Thirdly, as Egyptians demanded “bread and dignity” before calling Mubarak to quit, Sri Lankans also started demanding “food and fuel” before shouting “Gota Go Home”. And finally, like Mubarak releasing criminals and thugs from state prisons to attack the demonstrators, GR regime was also reported to have allowed agent provocateurs to infiltrate and create mayhem, as witnessed in Mirihana.

A Worrying Parallel

In addition, there is one more worrying parallel that may become clear as situation becomes desperate for GR’s regime. As said above, Tahrir demonstrations were a-ethnic and a-religious, and there were no political parties or prominent political leaders to take charge of them, because Mubarak did not leave any opposition to survive except the religiously conservative Muslim Brotherhood. It was this party that finally hijacked and filled the leadership vacuum and turned the anti-regime demonstrations into an anti-Coptic and anti-Christian vendetta. Likewise, President GR’s office has been caught attempting to add a religious hue and that too an Islamic one to Mirihana demonstrations, when it issued a statement referring to extremists who shouted, “let’s create an Arab Spring in this country”. It was clearly a mischievous insertion to insinuate the Muslim community. This is a worrying parallel, which cannot be dismissed easily, given the desperation to which the regime has been pushed into. GR is known for his hot headedness and had already warned his critics that he carries a dark side to his character. There are teams of ultra-nationalist supporters who would be willing to oblige him were he to look for an ethno-religious diversion. But the demonstrators are not unaware of this possibility. The fact that they disallowed one Buddhist monk from joining their demonstration at Battaramulla is a healthy sign that shows that this new generation wants to keep its struggle a-religious and a-ethnic.

Interim Government

There is no indication yet that people are going to slow down their demonstrations until they see the resignation of the government in power along with the President himself. Constitutionality of such an outcome does not seem to bother the agitators because they see themselves as the constitution. In short, what one witnesses in Sri Lanka today is nothing less than bloodless revolution, for want of a better description. GR is resisting the call to resign and delaying the inevitable, and as a last ditch to save his pride trying form an interim government without success so far. The demonstrators are not prepared to concede to this tamasha and the opposition would be foolish to accept his invitation. If that fails, what next?

An Egyptian Warning

Egyptian Spring of hope ultimately ended in Winter of Despair, when the West realized that the government of Morsi’s Freedom and Justice Party was becoming a springboard for another wave of Islamization that threatened to destabilize the Middle East Order. Historically, whenever Egypt sneezed Muslim Middle East caught cold. Therefore, a religiously conservative Morsi regime was seen a danger and he had to go. The unrest that followed, the brutal over throw of his in 2013 and restoration of ancient regime under a military commander, were all acts stage managed by domestic vested interests and foreign powers.

Sri Lanka is not on par with Egypt in that sense, but the island’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean is of interest to at least three powers at the moment, US, India and China. Of the three, India is the one that stands to gain or lose most by political developments in Sri Lanka. In the past, whenever Sri Lankan governments faced internal threats to their survival India had come to its assistance. During the last couple of months Rajapaksa government had a flurry of contacts with New Delhi to seek economic help from the Modi Government and it had succeeded to some extent. But at what cost to Sri Lanka is a mystery. Will India or any outside power enter to save a tottering regime?

At the same time, President GR, perhaps as a precautionary measure, had planted his military men strategically along the corridors of power and substantial amounts from the annual budget had been allocated to keep the military pampered. He is now resisting to go and trying all possible means to stay in power. But the people are not willing to give him a chance. Surprisingly, the Sangha too had not said anything so far about GR’s refusal. Do the prelates and the military want GR to continue against peoples’ wish? If so, how? This is where the Egyptian experience sends a warning to Sri Lanka.

In the end, one thing is certain, and that is, the longer the uncertainty of regime change continues the more painful would become the path to economic recovery.

*Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Business& Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia

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Latest comments

  • 2
    0

    Dr. Ali.
    The book “Hela Havula and Early History of Heladiva” argues that a large portion of the agony we are enduring as a nation today has its seeds in two sequences of events that happened in the past of this land. One recent, starting from around 1850. And the other back a long way in the past.

    • 4
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      Dear J from M.
      …And the other back a long way in the past…..
      That is what Ranil said facetiously to Cabraal at Prez Meeting last week – go back all the way to Vijaya.

      • 0
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        Ranil has a point.
        The book also says that Ashoka sent his delegation to dictate terms of vassaldom to King Tissa, in retaliation to Heladiva supporting the southern Indians to fend off the invasion of the Maurya imperial army. Ashoka could not win against the southern Indians but managed to defeat the Kalingas who also received the help of the Hela state. Ashoka sent his delegation to Heladiva immediately after that victory. The book suggests that Mahavamsa authors had their own reasons to distort the truth.

        • 0
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          J from M
          There are books and books.
          Do not believe everything you read, not even on these pages.
          *
          Are there records of Asoka battling any Southern ruler?
          His strategy apparently had changed since Kalinga.
          Also why would he hop over Kalinga to fight South Indians?
          What records are there foe Heladiva forces joining South Indians to fend off the Mayurans?
          Seems that the Hela state was heavily populated with mercenaries.

          • 0
            0

            SJ: I am answering your points in the same sequence.
            1. Yes there are a lot of books in the world. What makes the difference is the howsoever few you read.
            2. Yes it has been mentioned in many instances in Sangam literature and the Maurya empire`s motto was Akhand Bharat doctrine, articulated by Chanakya (or Kautilya)- which means we are going to make whole India one state.
            3. Kalinga and Southernmost today`s India were the two lands not under the Maurya empire when Ashoka became the emperor. Kalinga capitulated. The South never did.
            4. Records clearly show Hela state helped Kalinga. At the time Adams Bridge was a continuous causeway, and for all cultural, economic, and social reasons, South India and Hela state were a continuum. Extremely unlikely Hela people were not helping the Southerners.
            5. Hela people had much better things to do. Anyway, the profession “mercenary” had not evolved by then.

            • 0
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              Erratum: “Anyway, the profession “mercenary” had not evolved by then – in this region.”

  • 5
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    ” Instead of the prosperity and splendour which the President promised he only brought misery and darkness.”
    This is the mistake of Sinhalese people who always trusted the gimmick drama played by Rajapaksa family as a genuine patriots. When they claimed it as a victory over the war by them only with LTTE they ignored the real contribution made by many factors India, USA, Western Countries, Soldiers and even the military commander. People also ignored the cruelty and brutality against Tamil Civilians and even Tamil fighters who surrendered to the military. Their promises are fake and to cheat everybody including Sinhalese. Gota was an American citizen when he was nominated by his elder brother Mahinda Rajapaksa. Even at the end of the war he did not give up his US citizenship. Gota did not want to give up his American citizenship until he offered the President post. Even his wife and family are Am

    • 0
      0

      Why leave the land of opportunity? They are very patriotic to the extent one does not know to whom they swear allegiance?

  • 1
    8

    “In the end, one thing is certain, and that is, the longer the uncertainty of regime change continues the more painful would become the path to economic recovery.”

    What is the guarantee that regime change will pave the way to economic recovery? Probably situation might get worse as it happened in 2015.

    • 3
      0

      Dear EE
      … situation might get worse as it happened in 2015…
      Possibly you mean after end 2019 when the blunders heralded the downfall of SL. No govt has become this unpopular in such a short time.
      Anyway we have hit the nadir and it cannot get worse except absolute starvation.

    • 0
      0

      EE,
      “What is the guarantee that regime change will pave the way to economic recovery?”
      It is simple Mr Watson!
      That is sensible and will pave the way to recover!
      The change of regime in November 2019 by 6.9 million, caused the slide to where we are now, to have no basic medicine, food and fuel/gas!! That was not the case from 2015 to 2019 November!
      Is that too hard to understand?????????

    • 0
      0

      Blind to rock firm truth, facts

  • 2
    0

    GR won’t be given second chance to give first impression. Thus, only choice is going home.

  • 1
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    Sunday the 3rd of Aprill 2022. ( Shouldn’t it be.)

    • 1
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      which had wrecked the economy

  • 1
    0

    the island’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean is of interest to at least three powers at the moment, US, India and China, is not accurate.
    The powers are US and China.
    China has an interest. India has an interest. US is satisfied that India has an interest.

    • 3
      0

      Do the prelates and the military want GR to continue against peoples’ wish?
      .
      The military would want GR in power. They have the ‘war crime’ staring at the force. GR is their best bet when the war crime includes GR as well.
      The Sangha not so much. Any racist Head is enough for them.

  • 2
    0

    Very perceptive contributions from Dr. Ali, always enlighten the readership of CT. So with his discernment in capturing the significance of April 3rd. Defying a curfew in an emergency deserves the plaudits of Sri Lankans within and without their mother country. We contrast the brave defiance with Dr. NM and others choosing to fight another day after seeing Kanthasamy shot dead on June 5th 1947.
    This commenter saw April 2nd as very important when he saw a young protester stopping a soldier atop his motor bike and after a friendly talk kissing him.
    Leon Trotsky discerned great significance in an act of fraternization between the Russian Cossacks and the revolutionaries in 1917. He wrote “The October Revolution started underneath the belly of the horse”. This was an allusion to the killer cossacks the backbone of the Russian state becoming friendly with their adversaries.

    Continued
    Sixty years later, Shah of Persia saw the writing on the wall and left for USA for medical attention.
    In 1989 the dictator of Romania, unable to see the storm was engulfed by it on Christmas eve. He paid with his life for misreading people’s hatred as love.
    What the country is going through was never witnessed harsher to the regime than the previous one.for centuries either in depth or magnitude or intensity.

  • 1
    0

    “Spring Of Hope Or Winter Of Despair?”
    This country like many close to the equator has no noticeable spring or winter.
    Let us not make inappropriate comparisons.
    Anyway, the Arab Spring was hijacked by you know who to ensure business as usual.

    • 1
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      Also part of the Arab Spring was manipulated from the very outset.

  • 0
    0

    EE,
    “What is the guarantee that regime change will pave the way to economic recovery?”
    It is simple Mr Watson!
    That is sensible and will pave the way to recover!
    The change of regime in November 2019 by 6.9 million, caused the slide to where we are now, to have no basic medicine, food and fuel/gas!! That was not the case from 2015 to 2019 November!
    Is that too hard to understand?????????

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