16 May, 2022

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#SriLankaAwakened

By Ruvan Weerasinghe

Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe

Until justice is blind to colour, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with one’s religion, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact. – Lyndon B. Johnson (rephrased in italics)

Sri Lanka is experiencing something we’ve never quite experienced before. Lots have been written about the #SriLankaCrisis over the past 2 weeks or so. To be sure, the small citizen’s protests started at least from 1st March when 7 youth from a media company found their work completely disrupted owing to the newly introduced power cuts and walked out with candles in their frustration. For the next month, the largely middle-class urban citizens silently protested and grew in number and locations around Colombo. Groups starting in Kandy and Galle were early signs of hope for national level engagement. Trying to engage the public to show support by hoking for instance proved extremely difficult as it is yet another first for Sri Lanka (though it happened in a very localized way during the 2018 ‘Constitutional Coup’) with several drivers ignorant, afraid or actively against it (often gesturing with their middle finger). Little did these small groups of protesters ever think that they were this close to what Malcolm Gladwell calls the tipping point.

#PeoplesProtest

As April came, the little trickles of mostly silent defiance turned to more vocal form and engaged the entire population through what’s also a first for Sri Lanka – a honking approval protest by passers-by in vehicles. By today, no coercion is needed for mass participation with many driving to protest sites precisely to show their support through honking. They’ve even invented their own form of common chants with their honking!

The beauty and the frustration of a people’s protest of course is that achieving consensus on what the protest is primarily about and what form it should take, is hard. However, those who came together initially, and those who’ve joined later, often taking leadership in new areas, are all agreed on one thing: this is a PEACEFUL protest. And that’s a BIG ask, especially from university students who’ve come to the fore more recently. The police, after an initial hiccup, has come to realize that this is indeed a significant moment in the history of the country, and are often restrained and even show unspoken support by their action. A significant and unexpected level of support has been forthcoming from the legal fraternity, with many working unprecedented long hours pro bono to ensure justice to the protesting citizens.

#OccupyGalleFace

The atmosphere at the large protest sites has been almost festive, and so, often received criticism from within the protesting community itself. To be clear, this is a youth protest which people like me are only standing behind and supporting, and so are NOT directing. As the former Governor of the Central Bank said, our generation has largely failed this country and do not have the floor to lead this protest which is now increasingly tagged as an #Uprising. Clearly there’s no ethnic, religious or race identification in the present uprising – rarely do people flaunt these openly at these gatherings. It is however evident from our Muslim friends, who attend in their numbers despite fasting during the day, as they don’t even go to the comfort of their homes to break fast! Other little acts of individuals and groups also promote the need for celebrating diversity instead of criminalizing it as the present regime has been doing in its first incarnation as it has in its second.

So, we’ve moved from #SilentProtest to #PeacefulProtest to #Uprising within just over a month! While the government appears to be in denial of the significance of the citizen’s protest owing to its lack of experience with anything like it in the history of our nation, the movement has grown to now expand in scope to an #OccupyGalleFace phase aimed at staying out the regime. As we move forward however, one by one, several of our own blind spots are being uncovered and would hopefully lead to #SriLankaAwakened.

#NoMorePatronage

To keep this short, I will only highlight two of these – both of which result from the compartmentalized worlds within which we operate in our daily life. The first has been well called out by a newfound young fellow protester Angelo De Silva recently. What will it mean for the business community to unlearn the way they’ve got accustomed to on the very core of how they do business in Sri Lanka? What kind of soul searching would it require for the captains of business to realize the multiplicity of ways in which they’ve actually been part of the problem, instead of the solution? That pandering to corrupt politicians and government officials has in fact led to the population at large suffering at the expense of profits they made for their companies through patronage to powers that be. Do they have the character to admit to themselves first and then to the citizens at large, so that they vouch to do so no more? Imagine the next important business event having no politician or official as Chief Guest but ONLY those who’ve actually done something with no ulterior motives for the country? It’d be so liberating for companies to actually do this! If all the big companies start doing this, imagine the effect on the smaller businesses and the rest of society who would be able to carry out their businesses purely by healthy competition than being on good terms with any incumbent power? Almost unbelievable, but that is the nature of the new Sri Lanka in a #SriLankaAwakened.

#NoMoreRagging

The second is closer home to me as an academic. It has been heartening to see the students getting galvanized to come to sustain a protest that is leaderless, with their well-organized processions and chants. They have what it takes to stay out the ambitious #OccupyGalleFace campaign if anyone does. However, they need to know that this is NOT a university protest, but that they are only one partner of the many smaller mushroom groups and some of the more organized movements such as the Centenary Movement and the National Green Front. For the IUSF and the Peratugami (Frontline Socialist) Party what are the ramifications of joining this people’s movement for emancipation? While there are many issues such as democracy within the student community, the primary ramification concerns their active involvement and promotion of ragging within the universities. In a #SriLankaAwakening there’s no race, class or religious identity involved, just as much as there’s no senior, junior or indeed faculty distinguished. The IUSF and the FSP need to, like the business community, admit their own complicity in propagating suppression, just as successive governments have exercised over their constituencies, first among themselves and then to the people, primarily the university student community. There can be no continuing with the inhumane practice of ragging while standing for the bringing down of a repressive corrupt regime! This is a time of reckoning for the party – are you true stakeholders of this #revolution or just opportunistic benefactors of it for party political reasons? This is as much a call to the university academic community to help the student body to process the implications of the momentous happenings in the country now and to transform themselves to a truly powerful force in a liberated Sri Lanka.

#SriLankaAwakened

Being part of a university education system that has failed to address the menace of ragging over so many decades, I also appeal to my fellow academics who take up positions at the Ministry, UGC or in universities as Vice Chancellors, Deans, Directors and Heads of Departments, to also put a stop to grovelling at the feet of those in authority as you have perfected the art of over the decades, and to stand with a straight backbone and respect only good work and competency, whether it comes from within our sector or elsewhere. Let us lead from the front to show others in the country what a true meritocracy looks like. To start this, you only need to stop requiring your students and staff standing up in servility every time you pass, and yourself stop bending down to superiors in fear of not receiving their favour!

We are all part of a broken and rotten system that has been set in place over decades of subjugation by proxies of our colonial masters and so, have to learn about our own blind spots in this regard. The present moment, however, calls for nothing less than a thorough self-examination and critique. I only hope that we Sri Lankans won’t miss this bus too after missing those of the Tsunami in 2004 and the end of war in 2009 to name two glaring missed opportunities for #SriLankaAwakening.

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Latest comments

  • 14
    1

    FRIENDS BE ON THE ALERT
    The Rajapaksas are back on their old game.
    They are going to create clashes between the peaceful protesters and a group of pro govt protesters.
    Then use the violence to bring in the military.

    • 3
      5

      caqof
      I agree. Pro-Gota protests that invite clashes should be stopped.
      Anti-Gota protests can continue as long as the protesters enjoy Galle Face B&B.
      I bet protesters who demand the President’s resignation have no idea of the consequences.
      If the President resigned, what would happen? This is the answer given by Prof. G.L. Peiris, M/FA.
      “The Minister also outlined the Constitutional provisions that were currently available which included the “Prime Minister taking over for 60 days” in the event an incumbent President resigns, after which the “MPs would have to elect a suitable leader among them” to lead the country for the remaining period until an election could be held (or not held at all – the emphasis is mine).” This is a daylight robbery of people’s voting rights to elect their leaders through free and fair elections. Then, there is a high possibility of abolishing the Executive Presidency and extending the term of Parliament for a number of years without holding any elections.
      When was the above clause incorporated in the 20A? Most probably, secretly, at the time of the Committee Stage.
      Then, there is India’s “Kaputa-Mission” which will have political, economical & social impact on Sri Lanka.

      • 4
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        Ms Champa,

        When would you see it right ?
        .
        Your behaviour reminds me a popular phrase in Germany (German phrase of the day: Tomaten auf den Augen haben- to have tomatoes in your eyes)

        Meaning:To have tomatoes in your eyes in German means that you aren’t aware or haven’t noticed what’s happening around you, whether it be the woman in front of you, or your cheating partner.

        May blessings of the tripple protect our youth at Galle Face Green. ******Jaya Niyathayi***********Jaya Niyathayi***********Jaya Niyathayi***********Jaya Niyathayi***********Jaya Niyathayi***********Jaya Niyathayi***********Jaya Niyathayi***********Jaya Niyathayi***********Jaya Niyathayi***********Jaya Niyathayi***********Jaya Niyathayi***********Jaya Niyathayi***********Jaya Niyathayi*****They have become exemplary- teaching good lessions to Champas, Somas, Eagle Eyes and the like criminal bunch of the nation.

        • 1
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          (Part I)
          Crooked R Bros Inc., must be stripped naked and whipped publicly, at Galle Face Esplanade – in full view of the SHAGRI LA Hotel, until they spill out, where (safe haven) stacked the Billions and TRILLIONS (Exchange rate for 1 US $ = SL Rs. 500 soon) which, “Cabal – Rala” delivered rampant crooks by manipulating, exchange and selling the reserves and the gold in CBSL!!
          1. Does the Messiah, who is now shedding crocodile tears for the youth of this country, reminding of what messy outcome it was when the 1971 and 88 youth revolt occurred, trying to justify, calling out Military to ruthlessly put down the revolt???
          2. Did this messiah, apologise, first and foremost to the hunger, grief and unwanted livelihood experiences, that happened due to the lapse in governance by the people responsible appointed with his concurrence? Why Not?
          3. Did the culpable from top to bottom resign, accepting the fault – Mea Culpa? If not why not?
          4. Cabal – Rala, a Christian, by faith, did he accept guilt, say Mea Culpa for the mess created?
          5. Did the Big Boss accept culpability? If not why not? Is he above the ‘clouds’ with ‘Creators’
          (Continued)

        • 0
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          (Part II)
          6. Above the Law; in this blessed one country, one law of bigger Crook Gnanasara??
          Must also find out how much of GOLD these crooked thugs “bought”, with their filthy Lucre when the reserves of GOLD was being sold at unrealistic ‘LOW’ prices by Cabal – Rala!!
          Good manager and Banker!! My Foot!! IDIOT unmatched!
          Thugs and Thakkadiyas do not normally have limits!!!
          If they are not any kind of that sort, then they must get up and GO!!
          GET LOST; NEVER AGAIN TO BE SEEN!!!!! Once a Crook, will never reform!!
          Noticed that MR has implored that the youngsters revolt is causing loss to the nation and to stop the protests!!
          HE MUST HAVE SURE FORGOTTEN OR DID NOT SPEAK ABOUT HTHE LOSS OF REVENUE AND BOUNTY TO HIM AND HIS ACOLYTES, AS THE ROAD PROJECTS YIELDING MILLIONS HAVE BEEN VIRTUALLY STOPPED (including GALLE FACE GREEN UPGRADE by Arrakku – Rala Johnston turned ROAD MAKER!!)
          We can see and feel the pain, but no sir no reprieve. Hold your aggrandisement a while, at least until, you make up your mind and resign along with all your siblings, off springs and progeny – nephews and nieces!!!
          Utter Shameless Family

  • 10
    1

    Sri Lankan missed several opportunities in the past and it is difficult and unnecessary to go with each and everything but most important factor is that people were highjacked by politicians with racism and religious fundamentalism. This became possible because people failed to understand the need for rule of law. When President released a military person who was in jail for murdering innocent civilians including children, people never wanted to think it was wrong because the dead were Tamils and there was no reasons given. In other words, the people are happy to violate the rule of law. This is what happened in this country for decades and the country can find an honest leadership only if people ask questions irrespective of race, religion etc.

  • 9
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    The Rajapaksa’s pulled the biggest scam on this country…orchestrated a terrible terrorist attack to scare the people, and set Christians against Muslims, (two minority groups that had no issues with each other), made their followers believe that “Western nations” were picking on poor little Sri Lanka, and all out to get them (while selling chunks of the country to China) they arrogantly thumbed their noses at any international human rights agencies calling for accountability for the crimes against the citizens up North, blaming them, Tamil lobbies, and everyone else but themselves for that situation, and set a terrorist Buddhist monk to spread hate, organize mobs, and attacked minorities, so that the hatred will make their core supporters rally around them, and vote for them.

    We can only hope the people who foolishly voted for them, realize their biggest mistake, as we now suffer the consequences of one criminal family and their cronies ruling this land, appointing unqualified felons and thugs to top positions, and rampant corruption in the leadership. For this country to recover and progress, the entire corrupt bunch MUST go. Or else it will be LIKE REARRANGING THE DECK CHAIRS ON THE TITANIC.

    When Sri Lanka votes for ONE Rajapaksa, remember you are voting for ALL. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

    Be strong Sri Lanka.

  • 4
    1

    Dr. Ruvan Weerasinghe
    Thank you for your excellent article with practical suggestions.

  • 4
    0

    While Rome was burning Niero was fiddling. While the fellow citizens are queuing Rajapakshes are levitating.

  • 10
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    Ashan ,if you say that the Rajapaksas are behind the Easter bombing you must show the proof .Ranil the so called master brain can surely establish the case with acceptable evidence !

    Why should anyone who has been elected resign, when ranil who was defeated by the people is back in parliament ?

    Did you guys watch that Ranil interview with CNBC ? So weird .

    Ranil says he is talking to US, India ,World bank ,Himalayas , Indian Ocean to solve our problems ! The guy is raving mad.

    He is like a crooked company chairman who wants to retain his position although the company itself is bankrupt(UNP) .Knowing that others in the company are utter fools ,the guy keeps inventing fairy tales-the company is signing a contract with an American company, it is going in for a joint venture with a Japanese company, it is getting a loan from Singapore etc.

    He does not show a single document. He is a fraud.

    Who did ranil speak to in India or world bank? In what capacity did he talk ? This guy is mad

    • 5
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      Ranil is exactly what is wrong with the system-not just for the last 74 years but for the last 700 years. Sri Lanka was a world leader before that for more that 1800 years. It is recorded 437 BC Pandukabhaya , built the first modern hospital for both animals and people. Taxation was only for the free health service. The same Pandukabhaya made a quarter of the city for the Greeks. Where was the shortage of dollars then? We can do it again. As for evidence of who was behind Easter bombing- there is never any “evidence”
      States do crimes with no “evidence”!

  • 8
    0

    The corporate industrialist community (ie big businessmen) have been part of the problem as the writer outlines. They have not only funded the rankly corrupt politicians’ election campaigns but enabled those parasites to suck the people’s blood, while doing the same with their misleading marketing, using toxic additives in food to preserve them with longer shelf-lives, encouraging debt (all the banks offer incentives for ridiculously impractical purposes while entrapping poor people) and services like health and pharmaceuticals also exploiting people’s gullibility to build their own super mansions while the poor are made to suffer. Now is the time for these corporate parasites to also learn a lesson or be dumped wholesale by refusing their products or nationalisation. Neither of the two major political parties have been sincere; they have supported each other and protected each from litigation. The people must turn against all these parasites and rid them from Sri Lanka for good. This is an opportunity that will not be available again for a long time. Use it..!

  • 0
    0

    Let them fix the issues , even the new comers ( rulers) may not be able to fix it.

  • 0
    1

    Amazing article. Only one thing to add. Any system that replaces this one has to have no permanent leaders. Permanent leaders have, by definition, power. Power has to remain with the people. The swiss system has a method of electing a chair. The chair has no priority vote. Just as a rider. Please name the swiss leader for 2022?

    • 0
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      veddah, EXCELLENT. Have a rotating chair so all the leaders can have a go to do their special leading for a short while without getting power hungry and trying to be a permanent leader.

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