27 May, 2022


The Magic Of Pāda Yātrā

By Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

Pada Yatra: rough translation, pilgrimage. They’ve been around for awhile, but the most famous is Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent Salt Tax protest. That original Pada Yatra started with 80 people and went down in history as the famous Dandi Salt March: it even inspired Martin Luther King, Jr.

Leave it to the Joint Opposition to organize their own Pada Yatra. Mahinda Rajapaksa and Co basically rallied thousands of people who marched, on foot, from Kandy to Colombo, while their political overloads trundled by gently in jeeps sucking on cheap ice cream.

It didn’t overthrow the British Raj, of course, but it was pretty impressive. It began in Peradeniya and spread to Nelumdeniya. Kiribathgoda was packed. Residents of Kelaniya reportedly hung grass from electric wires ‘for the protestors’. A disorganized crowd of several thousand strong preceded the actual rally. Most of us in Colombo didn’t feel it, but everyone on that route definitely did.

Let me get something off my chest first: that really should be Pādha Yāthra – unless our Media is having well-organized chuckle by making Mahinda’s rally sound like the Fart Pilgrimage. In that case, well played, Lake House, Wijaya. You’ve made us all proud.

Phew. Now, on with the conversation (photos by Shehan Gunasekara).


Protest marches are generally organized around a single specific grievance – British India’s Salt Tax, the deployment of troops to Vietnam, Taylor Swift’s never-ending albums of breakup songs. The Joint Opposition, who likes to multitask, seems to have decided to go for a shotgun approach: let’s protest about everything we don’t like. Most of the slogans are divisible into four broad categories:

  • Economic hardships under the current government
  • ‘Selling the country’ to foreign masters
  • National sovereignty threatened by constitutional reforms
  • Miscellanious (stuff like Maithri being a muppet, Ranil being a fag and so on)Pada Yathra

I find this whole thing stupid, and not just because they actually had a Maithri-muppet on display. Because if you step back and think about the first three slogans:

1. Economic hardship

Granted, the current government’s economic policy is worse than a third-grader’s attempt to grill a cheese sandwich.

That being said, economic hardships are still Mahinda’s baby through and through. Who threw the country into debt for every single construction project ever, built the least used international airport in the world, bloated the civil service to unreasonable figures, bought votes by increasing salaries, ran a failed airline and got the taxpayers to pay for it?

As disorganized as current policy is, we as a country are still dealing with the fallout of the Rajapaksa regime.

2. Selling Sri Lanka to foreigners

Like *cough* China? Have we already forgotten the casino debacle, the Port City, the Hambantota Port development and the highways done by the Chinese?

3. National sovereignty threatened by constitutional reforms

Because obviously things like the Right to Information are evil, but forcibly extending the duration of your own Presidency is perfectly right. Carry on, Lord Commander.

Now I may not know much about the fine art of protest marching (University of Kelaniya – this is your forte), but I understand it’s very, very rare that the people leading the protest marches are the source of 3/4ths problem in the first place (everything except the Miscellanious category). I can almost imagine the campaign meeting.


Namal: Appachchi, what do we do? There’s nothing we can say that actually makes sense!

Mahinda: Okay, boys. Listen close.

<they huddle closer together for warmth and political protection>

Mahinda: Here’s my master plan, boys. First, I pop my head out of the jeep.

Namal: Yes, Appachchi!

Mahinda: Then, we show people the magic satakaya. <He gestures off-screen>.

<All nod> Ah, the satakaya!

Mahinda: Then we show them the mustache!

<All nod> Ah, the mustache!

Wimal: the mustache will never fail, sire.

Mahinda: Right? If my godlike mustache management doesn’t convince the proletariat to overthrow the government and give me back my power, nothing will!

Wimal: <getting excited> : And then we’ll invade Westeros and take King’s Landing!


But seriously, though.

Mahinda went on to make the real threat of the day. Addressing a gathering at the Lipton Circus (full speech here), he vowed that this march was only a warm up – and that next time, they will “take everything away”. He stated that the Yāthra is training for opposition MPs – “on how to achieve a government, how to struggle for that and how to select plans and strategies while in the opposition.” He raged on about how the government’s “only refuge are the CID, FCID and Bribery Commission, and that the public will not be deceived by this”.

Enough of the farce. The Pādha Yāthra is no Gandhian attempt to set things right. It’s a dictator manipulating thousands of people into cheering for him for no logical reason whatsoever.

There’s a term in the software industry for what these people (and all politicians) do: FUD. It stands for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. By sowing FUD against your competitors, you attract clients. And from where I’m standing, it seems to neatly describe every single thing the Joint Opposition is doing right now.Pada Yatra

Why do people still listen to swindlers, crooks and thugs? Is it because we, as Sri Lankans, tend to fixate on single historical events – the 1996 World Cup, the 2009 defeat of the LTTE – instead of assessing performance over time?

What do we actually hope for? Elections are a mechanic by which the public blackmails a government into giving them progress: we shake the ballot box and say do good or you’re out. But we’ve been here with the Rajapaksas: we know exactly what’s going to happen. The economy is going to continue to spiral. Mahinda’s sons are going to grow rich and fat (or richer and fatter). When everything collapses, we’re going to blame it one the Muslims. Or the Tamils. Or the Americans. Or some other nameless entity to fight against.

Is our current government so unreliable that having the Rajapaksas running everything from the skies to the streets is a viable alternative?

The only thing to come out of the Pādha Yāthra was a ban on political parties using 23 public grounds around Colombo. The rest of its legacy is in a disturbed Opposition (some of whom don’t agree with Mahinda’s Kandy-Colombo catwalk) and thousands of man-hours wasted in cleaning up the mess it left behind. Are we that hungry for someone to worship?Pada Yatra

And while these things are hardly on the same level, this – and the current government’s string of farces – are a disturbing mirror of affairs happening elsewhere in the world. Britain’s public voted against all sane rationale and choose to exit the EU, leaving a clown by the name of Boris Johnson in the hot seat. Elsewhere, Donald Trump continues to puppet America towards senility and chaos.

Have we always been this stupid, or is democracy – the rule of the masses- being stretched to the breaking point, as it once was in Greece?

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Latest comments

  • 17

    Oh ho ho!

    Aiyo Sirisena – can’t you decide once and for all “FIRST THINGS FIRST”.

    File criminal charges against the four major political Rajapaksas – Mara, Gora, Bara, and Nara – on account of non-bailable offences. Manufacture evidence if necessary. Hold them in remand until the cases are concluded in the courts, where, everyone knows there is a huge backlog. At the present rate of disposal of cases in the courts these germs will remain there for another fifteen years minimum.

    That’s the respite Sri Lanka is yearning for.

    Palayang Sirisena. Do this first thing.

    • 13

      “”Palayang Sirisena. Do this first thing. “

      multiculture does not work so he did not even mention tamil, muslim during canvassing but Tamils and muslims voted for him en masse.

      Now the wolf will not budge from his executive position. He will not have the dreaded white van to frighten the voter but do everything else his former boss mahinda did.

      The bath gullo voter is the cause of stagnation not the leaders.
      Independence is not the lankan cup of tea.
      sovereignty means lanka doom and bust.

    • 7

      Sirisena Gamarala Re: Funlover Comment.

      “Aiyo Sirisena – can’t you decide once and for all “FIRST THINGS FIRST”.”

      Do you have some guts left?

      When you have to shoot, Shoot Don’t talk.

      See what happens when you do not shoot!

      When You Have To Shoot, Shoot, Don’t Talk!


    • 3

      Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

      RE: The Magic Of Pāda Yātrā

      Listen to what Anura Kumara Dissanayake has to say.

      It is all about protecting MaRa MaRa ChaTu MaRa MaRa MaRa and his cronies corruption and killings.

      රාජපක්ෂ පරපුරේ ඝාතන , වංචා , දුෂණ – Anura Kumara Dissanayake


      Hats off to Anura Kumara Dissanayake and his courage as we cannot see other politicians like him behaving bravely in exposing Mara and cronies.

  • 9

    Was the author even born during the 2006 world cup? What a bunch of pseudo-socratic nonsense.

    • 10

      Are you even a cricket fan? there was no 2006 WC!
      The 1996 mentality metaphor is spot on though…

    • 3

      Your comment is saying you are dumb…dumb.

  • 4

    In our country, some are above the law and the legal system is skewed. That is why, feeble and economically weaker section get gallows and languish in prison, and impunity by power persists with no obstacles.

    • 9

      Public voter: 1948-2016 still going strong voting one thief to stop another their.

      All Along The Watchtower

      There must be some kind of way outta here
      Said the joker to the thief
      There’s too much confusion
      I can’t get no relief

      Business men, they drink my wine
      Plowman dig my earth
      None were level on the mind
      Nobody up at his word
      Hey, hey

      No reason to get excited
      The thief he kindly spoke
      There are many here among us
      Who feel that life is but a joke
      But, uh, but you and I, we’ve been through that
      And this is not our fate
      So let us stop talkin’ falsely now
      The hour’s getting late, hey

      All along the watchtower
      Princes kept the view
      While all the women came and went
      Barefoot servants, too
      Outside in the cold distance
      A wildcat did growl
      Two riders were approaching
      And the wind began to howl
      Jimi Hendrix/Bob Dylan

  • 8

    Another Diaspora funded Yahaplana fan sharing his two cents. He thinks Sri Lankans are fools and they can be brain washed to walk in a Pada Yathra. This writer should contrast this Pada Yathra with the JVP meeting last week in Pannala. The JVP meeting did not even have 50 in attendance when Anura Kumara was addressing them. This is the official Opposition in Parliament. In contrast despite the hard efforts to undermine the crowd it is by far the largest gathering of people in Colombo in the history of this country soon after what was called the real change. If the whole population was owe inspired by the real change like the JVP meeting in Pannala no one would have showed up for the Pada Yathra. The fact people came in large numbers is mainly due to one reason and one reason only. MR could be the biggest thief in the country for the LTTE diaspora but people do not see him like that. And sadly the brain Ranil thinks he can virtually label anything and everything that is not agreeable to him as Rajapaksa stooges and have his armature MP’s call MR names. This has created large sense of disgust in the People that is why they are on the streets at the behest of Rajapaksa. Neither MY3 nor Ranil can muster such number of people as supporters. People really wanted change and yes they got rid of Rajapaksa. But it is not because he was a thief but it is because they thought Ranil could do better. The current economic shambles in the country has all to do with Ranil’s childish theatrics of pissing off China and creating a Suting Mating government with Bodhi Sira. Despite the numbers in the Parliament for the Government IMF itself did not see them as stable. All rating agencies have down graded the credit rating of the country. Ranil banked on the West to give him billions of Dollars in development aid and people thought that too. So the 6.2m that voted for the change voted to see Ranil doing things better. Now it is clear Ranil can’t even match a little thing as a fart of MR, Gota or Basil. People have realized it that is why they are on the road. It now that we see the signs of Arab Spring in this country.

    • 19

      “” It now that we see the signs of Arab Spring in this country.”

      you folk have no balls to protest like the arabs but can do thovil to call in another tsunami so the island can have more tsunami horas.

      You are under IMF spell and if there is anything like rebellion then like at Turkey the army would be bundled and run by civilians and IC along with India would do it.- suffer man suffer it’s part of your destiny Samsara.

    • 3


    • 0

      With “PATRIOTS” like you who needs traitors !

  • 5


  • 2

    Very interesting and witty article. Trump has won more votes than any previous Republican candidate and promises to build a wall, demeans people, demeans women, insults Americans of Hispanic heritage, lies everyday, demeans women, has no clue and talks about dark days and how like Nixon he will be the Law and Order candidate. Has 4 bankruptcies, 3 marriages: 2 to East European bimbos making the case in fairness he is not anti immigrant. Threatens Apple and says he will force them to make iPhones in the USA. Says Mexico will pay for the wall. Will let US troops commit war crimes by killing families of ISIS(well on that point the UNP government got rid of the JVP’s DJV terrorists that way in the Batalanda days). Yet white uneducated blue collar males lap it all up. They are afraid of the increasing number of violence against cops. Their attitude seems to be reflect back the days of segregation and how hard white blue collar rednecks fought to oppose desegregration, civil rights and equal rights in the 1950s and 1960s. They believe anything and everything including all the lies he spews. He is an angry man who is really a son of a ordinary common Scottish woman who played the obedient housewife to the father . That is the role he wants his women to play. He might still win because he is running against an incompetent woman who has lied too and was responsible for chaotic and bad foreign policy decisions like Libya and Syria and also wanted to stop the GOSL from beating the LTTE outright in 2009.

    So there are parallels in the sense some people lap it all up. Some may say Americans have higher IQ. Probably not so if you look at the stupid ignorant stuff the racists spew from all ethnic groups including Sri Lankan expats. So MR and Trump can be two peas in a pod. RW can be the Hillary of SL.

    • 11

      Another deer frightened to go into the park. 11 million illegals fattening the billionaires with cheap labour. The American immigrants/illegals are living in the past of african slaves. The wall is the right thing to stop drugs and human trafficking.There has always been official immigration to not just USA but Europe but its the `liberals` who have spun the west off its orbit for a guaranteed vote from immigrants.

      Listen to the 60 min interview by CBC woman with Trump and Pence. She says quite rightly America is in spin. Trump says that exactly is the spin I plan to undo.
      Shut the gate and understand what is wrong with Mexicans and Muslims.Write ff the internal debt of 15 trillion which the tax payer owes the government
      (the over 600 billionaires lose)

      “Some may say Americans have higher IQ. Probably not so “

      You are like a bored housewife or typical stupid lankan voter.

      Similar to religion, patriotism is an emotion, as opposed to a rational thought process. Studies and surveys have consistently indicated that approximately 90% of persons in any given country have strong patriotic sentiments. This percentage is similar to the percentage of people involved in other faith-based activities, such as religion. This same percentage also reflects the bell-curve of the general intelligence level of a population: 90% of all persons in a Caucasian population group register an IQ below 120.
      Racism is there to stay whether you like it or not. Ask Jeffery Archer.

    • 9

      “”Threatens Apple and says he will force them to make iPhones in the USA. “

      He has threatened my supplier Amazon (Mr Cuban) too.
      So what if Dyson the bladeless, bagless can manufacture anywhere except China and is still the number one what is iPhone problem??

      The Chinese equivalent(for local use only) to iPhone is better than iPhone. Job died and the business of innovation went with him.

      Nothing is permanent and nothing is indispensable to an enterprising person.

      Obama Hussain the crook set up by multinationals played with words and continues to do so. He is not a man from the streets of America but came to Chicago to get married and stole the presidency during the deepening Iraq war and protest.

      Are you a Dick Cheney bud??

    • 4

      Witty article …? That’s the problem my friend. Wit is alien to the Sinhala Buddhist.

  • 3

    what an idiot the writer is

  • 3

    What a pathetic yarn with strange pictures in tow. Get a life dodo !! If the paada yathra was a flop why even bother writing about it ? The mere fact everyone has made it their business to talk and write about it is ample evidence of its success.

    • 2

      Yes, just like the Kirulapone & Nugegoda risings, it is a sure sign that the smart patriots are revolting.

      • 1


  • 3

    “The mere fact everyone has made it their business to talk and write about it is ample evidence of its success. “

    Skewered logic, to be sure!

    Clutching at straws won’t change a thing. The “Fart Pilgrimage” was written about by those who wanted to express their views and not to claim how “successful” it was!

    Get a life beyond the pathetic clinging to that bloody-colored satakaya, Goose.

  • 1

    Whatever the interpretation that one gives to “Pada Yathra”, that “March” did occur with the participation of a large crowd sans the Leaders traveling in vehicles. The famous “Salt March” by Ghandi was remarkable historical event in Indian politics. That leader, Ghandi himself walked all along the way to the beach and participated in salt making. So please do not compare this “Pada Yathra” to that “Salt March”. At the conclusion at Lipton Circle, the Leader of this march said in clear terms that this “March is only a rehearsal” to what may come in the future. That is the message this Government must make a serious note. The entire fault for this state of affairs must fall on the Government and its Judiciary. The Government has defaulted in bringing the state of the economy at the very outset. Instead the Government Ministers at random and irresponsibly made statements on the economic collapse that MR & Co. has inherited this country. Before the first budget, the PM made a statement to the House and the country on the state of the economy; but completely neglected or avoided making us to understand and know what “Debt Burden” the MR & Co brought upon us to bear. In the absence of such clear announcements, the campaign to bring back MR commenced from Nugegoda and that gathered momentum. On the other hand the Judiciary, for better reasons known to them let lose, (by way of granting bail) the few Big Wigs who were brought before Justice. Just imagine an Official charged with mishandling public funds to the tune of Rs. 600 million (Sil Redi) who was debarred from traveling abroad and confiscating his passport, being allowed to travel on a pilgrimage. Just imagine what is going on in the Presidential Commission and how the Ministers and other Big Wigs called in to inquiries come out of it and pose for picture opportunities and making statements to press as “Heroes”. In another case the, the most remarkable feat of the Government was to grant Government Security escorts to a well known rogue like Sajin Vas Gunawardane and accommodating him to organize May Day rally in Galle. Thres is a Minister who has not complied for ten times with the summons to appear before a Law Enforcement Agency. Then there is a Wife and Daughter of a ex Minister who are evading summons and staying in USA. So what do all these covey to the People? It has come to a stage where the people are steadily distancing from the Government they brought in on January 8th 2015. That is a situation created by the Government to give a life line to campaign that started from Nugegoda. Sometimes we cannot help thinking that there is a “secret agenda” withing the Government itself as otherwise all these well known “Rogues” who robbed the country would not be able to go round the country creating havoc. There could be many more “Pada Yathra” of course, in different forms, that would be staged in the near future.

  • 2

    The current regime should show some guts,clean out the guilty once proven(although there is nothing to prove),as the evidence is there,bury the white vans,jail the thugs and thieves,not just remand them. Stop RW, from supporting sacked or resigned central bank fraud crook,inaction of the above can bring support for the undesired people of the past.Stop trying to sweep under the carpet several other deals Coal,Armsbargo and other important factors brought to light.

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