16 May, 2022


The Galle Face Struggle & Its Importance 

By Godwin Constantine –

Dr. Godwin Constantine

Sri Lankan politics has now reached a decisive stage. How we use this space and how we advance our political objectives will form the foundation for good governance and economic prosperity of future Sri Lanka.

The SLPP initiated atrocities at the Galle Face and the ensuing violence have tarnished the peaceful struggle for system change. This has become an important topic not only in Sri Lanka but also in international media.

The violence that took place after the Galle Face incidence has been widely reported in the international media as violent response of the to the Galle Face incidence by persons against the government. But now it’s clear that although the violence apparently started as a violent response to Galle Face incident  it later it metamorphosed into a riot driven by personal agendas of politicians and other evil elements in the society.

All we need today is to stay calm and reflect on what is going on. We must refrain from inciting violence in any way or engaging in any activity that supports violence. For the past 70 years we have developed a cruel attitude of performing violent acts or  justifying the violence perpetrated against a group of people belonging to a race or religion, identified  as an enemy. We have not still learnt  that politicians have been using violence as a means of covering up or preventing people realizing  other political, economic, and social issues. We need to change this situation; we need to refrain from uploading or sharing messages and images related to violence in the Facebook and other social media.  The electronic media should avoid repeating violence related news items again and again.  Each of us must deal responsibly and patiently with the things that are going on in our community.

At this point we need to be very clear about one thing. The Galle Face struggle is a peaceful  struggle  against the present government and the president. It is conducted with the participation of  people of all races and religions of this country. The need for political and constitutional changes has been felt and emphasized in this struggle from the beginning. There is now a need reiterate the goals and the means of achieving these targets. There is also a growing need to objectively  identify the leader or the  leadership structure in the Galle Face struggle. If this struggle is not a united struggle, the significance of the whole struggle is in danger of being eroded by groups with other ulterior motives.  

The most important objective  in this struggle as I understand are the resignation of the president and the resignation of prime minister and his cabinet. Other important objectives being reducing the powers of the president and creating an accountability mechanism to ensure corruption free country.  The cabinet reshuffle that took place during this struggle and the resignation of the Prime Minister must be regarded as  victories of this struggle. These were achieved mainly by the resilience shown by the youth. It should be realized that the role of the youth in continuing this struggle with clear focus is vital. The struggle has been going on for over a month now. To date, however, it has not evolved into a united struggle under a leadership structure. Due to this there is now a great danger that various groups with different motives will infiltrate into this struggle and affect the sanctity of this struggle. It is now beginning to appear in various forms.

Therefore, it is important in continuing this struggle, some fundamental political imperatives need to be addressed. Creating  a visible leadership structure that includes all races and religions is a must at this moment for various reasons. This is a struggle aimed at creating  a new chapter in Sri Lankan politics. We should not forget that this struggle took this form mainly due economic crisis. But we must use this opportunity to form the political foundation for a stable and strong Sri Lanka.

The formation of a properly constituted  civil society advisory/leadership committee for this struggle will help to determine and stabilize the direction and course of this struggle further. This advisory committee should comprise of experts, intellectuals, and other community leaders. At the same time, equal representation of all ethnic and religious groups should be maintained and this group should include representatives from all groups physically involved in the Galle Face struggle. This organization should be a non-partisan organization that prioritizes the well-being of the public. This group must ensure  transformation of the demands of this struggle into a definite political reality.

This may become the body that provides advice to the state and the state leadership in the future. It is possible to introduce such a system at present. Once there is a superficial constitutional change (reducing the powers of the president)  most things will fizzle out and in the long run, it will not be possible for a new system to be created  given political condition. When a new caretaker government is formed, people will learn to live with it till the next election. It is the need of the hour to form a civil society body and make it a watch dog of the future governments. Every struggle presents an opportunity to change the system if we fail to seize that opportunity only dreams will be left behind. 

Such a civil society committee  which overlooks the governance of the state is not an idea acceptable to any political party. The reason is that any political party will want to establish their superiority among other parties and stay in power. Therefore, no political party will agree to form a civil society group above itself. Therefore, it is time to create such a civil society leadership structure now. If we miss this opportunity,  we will never get it again. The grandiose ideas of creating a new republic will never materialize. We have a window of opportunity which may vanish at any time. 

If any expectation is to become a permanent change it can only happen through constitutional change. Mere slogans and struggles alone are not going to bring about permanent change. And any change must be made through the existing constitution. Based on this, it is essential to form a caretaker government in the first place. This government must go beyond the old party-political leadership and find a neutral person as the leader. This is because many senior politicians who are regarded as ‘leaders’ are involved in corruption. Therefore, this new leader must be non- corrupt neutral leader, even such a person can be brought from outside through  National List.

The apparent lack of leadership in this struggle is causing loss of hope and disappointment among the public. The recent violence has affected the lives and moods of the people in various ways. And has created a sense of hopelessness regarding this struggle. This is important to note. The main reason for this is that this struggle is seen as a spontaneous struggle. If this situation continues, there will be a perception among the people that a government without Rajapakse’s is all that is needed. We need to appreciate this gap that is evolving between the general masses and the Galle Face struggle.

The modern  technological possibilities have paved way for various people to present their ideas using Facebook and other social media. This is to be welcomed because the technology has provided a way to express ideas. . Yet it is also capable of infiltrating people with various false ideas. Many ‘leaders’ have mushroomed in Galle Face through social media. Yet there is nothing wrong with expressing their position in this way. It is the duty of the public and especially those who are leading the struggle to choose the right path.

It is important to stay focused and take this struggle forwards in a unified manner until we are sure that the fundamental aspirations of the people and the future well-being of the citizen are ensured through  constitutional changes. The main objectives of this struggle are to reduce the powers of the president, to create a parliamentary political system, to hold politicians and state institutions accountable, to change the electoral system, to prevent corrupt politicians  entering parliament, and to establish a civil society council to ensure the smooth running of the country. 

This struggle must continue until these aspirations become definite laws through the Constitution. Unless the constitution is changed, there is a possibility that the corrupt politicians  will come back again. Once the interim government is formed and the president’s powers are reduced remittance from expatriate will start flowing in, investor confidence will improve, tourist arrival will pick up. The economic hardships will be less, people will be able to lead a normal life, it is inevitable that this struggle and these demands will be forgotten, and all this will become meaningless. Act now, press for a system change – nothing less, even a fortnight may be too late.  

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Latest comments

  • 10

    Thank you Dr. Godwin Constantin. I just typed my response to Sunil . A elsewhere (under KD’s article). Here you have clearly explained the objectives, achievements and way forward to Aragalaya. Here after it should be turned from protest to active civil movement.

  • 8

    A sensible approach by Dr.Godwin Constantine. The struggle should continue until the country achieves its object. It should be free from current political institutions until these institutions are changing their objectives and policies to meet the requirements needed for a united peaceful constitution. At this moment any change in the government or Prime Minister with the existing political parties and President will not bring any solutions to the problems.

  • 5

    “This is a struggle aimed at creating a new chapter in Sri Lankan politics“
    The like minded CIVILZED Sri Lankans opinions should be embedded into the New Constitution.
    We don’t want corrupt uncivilised people with minimum education to enter the Parliament. All contestants in any elections for the public posts should declare their assets in full.
    Instigating ethnic or religious disturbances by anyone should not be tolerated even if they wear religious attire. The manipulation of the Security Forces of the Nation by GoSL to create harm to civilians by crooked narcissistic psychopathic leaders should not be possible in FUTURE.
    Tamil speaking Citizens of SL know this very well. The Need for Disciplined police/army/navy /Airforce/military Intelligence is of utmost importance for the good future of motherland.
    Judiciary need to be above political control and the appointment to high posts should not be the politicians job.
    What Ranjan Ramanayake said is the truth. He should be released ASAP.
    Others can ADD more ideas and opinions

  • 1

    Yes, system change cannot occur if ‘reforms’ are initiated by and under the existing institutional framework. If it is a revolution, something new – something from the outside of the existing system – should come into play. The repressive political system based on an unjust constitution should be totally replaced, and it can only be achieved by extraconstitutional action by the people based on their inalienable sovereignty. At the moment such a breath of fresh air is coming only from the Galle Face Green. Because only there something new is happening. Only there, some new players are on the scene – the arrival of the Millennial generation. Having grown up in the era of cultural globalization brought about by the information revolution, foreign travel and social media, they’re more concerned about equity, diversity, human rights, social justice and the environment than any previous generation. Theirs is the most genuine and unyielding conviction for a total system change now – for otherwise they know they have no future in this country. They have already achieved considerable success in building a new political culture eschewing racism, religious bigotry, sexual and gender discriminations – making the political class jittery. For over seven decades now, this decadent class, deriving its power through social privilege, patronage, corruption, hatred, thuggery, and state terror – has been the curse of this country.

    • 1

      [Contd. from above]

      Now it’s making a last-ditch attempt at survival by hoodwinking the people with political deals and cosmetic reforms. Ranil is the latest in the long line of repair scammers to keep the rotten system of Mafia politics going.

  • 2

    Dear Dr Constantine,
    I saw this article yesterday, skimmed through it, and displaying logic befitting the chaotic happenings in out land today, I made a comment about YOU below this article:

    Let me say something on your sincere article tomorrow.
    For now, I looked for some other news that will make sense, but found only Ranil Wickremasinghe’s untrustworthy observations on “democracy“.
    That’s defeated me for today. Let me see if getting some sleep will help.
    Panini Edirisinhe

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