By Vishwamithra –
“The first step in saving our liberty is to realize how much we have already lost, how we lost it, and how we will continue to lose it unless fundamental political changes occur.” ~James Bovard
In the fierce struggle of the people for economic freedom, Parliament is not going to end up as just collateral damage. It’s going to be deliberate ouster. It was proven in the last two days when they met. The so-called ‘voices of the people’ spoke could be heard loud and clear; none of them could focus on the real damage that has been committed to the country’s economy; none uttered a single word about a solution or even a potential resolution for the burning issues at hand. When failure is not an option, it looked as if it was the only choice available for their puerile and sullied minds and that is the punishing irony!
While the election of a Deputy Speaker was in process, the youth, led by the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF), ferociously displayed a sense of solidarity at the Polduwa junction. At the entrance to the Parliament building, when it was shown that a group of peaceful protesters were brutally attacked by teargas and water cannons, the Speaker, by disregarding the robust request of MPs, proceeded ahead with this farcical exercise. Its nuanced intrigues as to which side of the aisle was going to declare itself the winner and which side the loser is not of grate significance to the people. It’s not what is dominating their lives today.
Their children are crying of hunger; their own stomachs are making unlistenable growling for lack of nourishment; their dwellings are in darkness; their spouses, if employed, have been forced to travel by bus instead of taking three-wheelers to work. Election of a Deputy Speaker for Parliament does not seem to be relevant to the current crisis; the nation’s young do not want to waste time, energy and money on political bargaining. They are not interested in transactional politics.
As usual, these parliamentarians talked. And then they did the most expected thing: they betrayed the people. Not paying faintest heed to the unbearable hardships imposed by the potential economic catastrophe, those who were elected by the people once again let their voters down, in a total and complete way, means and fashion. The process was faulty; the substance was even more appalling. The hallowed halls of the people’s voice echoed the silly and completely meaningless rhetoric. The Parliamentary tactical war was decisive and the perpetrators of today’s calamity won the day. The total absence of strategic and tactical knowhow on the part of Sajit Premadasa and his Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) was bared open; their amateurish approach to political warfare lacked poised leadership; their woeful lack of empathetic feel for the suffering masses was ostensible and their willingness to stay within the status quo sent an ominous signal to an expectant people that their leadership is no longer in existence inside the once-hallowed manors of the Temple of the People’s Voice.
Whichever way one looks at it, whichever way one surmises the day’s proceedings, one cannot be optimistic; there does not seem to be any hope, nor any purpose to trudge on the same old path. Their dreams reaching the land of nowhere, there hopes dashed to the ground, the youth of today have bitten the dust thus far, but how long they remain unprovoked is too precarious to ponder. Their measure of success and failure is not too hard to intellectualize. It’s way too simple but not simplistic as the rulers contemplate. Rejection of the total status quo may not be the choice for the ruling family, but it certainly is an attractive option for the hundreds of thousands of our youth.
The youth-power seems to know no margins. Having confined their frustration thus far and yearning for the slightest of release so expectantly, they made their decision in the last Presidential and parliamentary elections and now they have made their assessment of that judgment and their assessment is not wrong; today’s youth made a deliberate evaluation; can the country move forward in the twenty first century? Can it compete with the rest of our neighbors in the Indian Subcontinent and survive? Could Ceylon be relevant anymore? Is Parliament, the legislative body that makes laws and still is the chief accounting officer for the country’s finances, performing its duty? These are all questions asked by our youth and they don’t get any answers. Having experienced their complete lack of confidence in Parliament and its main occupants and their contributions or lack thereof to the advancement of Lanka’s painstaking journey towards a more satisfactory equilibrium, they couldn’t have been more forthright and palpable.
When the nation is stifled by unendurable economic conditions, when her mothers, fathers and children have been subjected to humiliatingly dismal living standards solely due to the wrong policies implemented by the ruling family, the parliamentarians- the so-called representatives of the people, cannot reach a consensus as to how to pull themselves out of the rut.
But with the dawn of Friday, May 6, the countrymen led by their youth, declared a ‘Hartal’, a total stoppage of work and closure of all businesses. The Hartal may well have given our parliamentarians and our rulers a narrow window of escape, because it, the Hartal, was an unambiguous success. The assault on the IUSF students near the Parliamentary building not only attacked the students, it hurled an unequivocal blow to the conscience of some parliamentarians who happen to belong to the Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB). They invaded the Speaker’s chambers and forced him to assume his legitimate chair as the presiding officer of Parliament. The Speaker told the House that he had called a Party Leaders’ Meeting on Monday, May 9, with the possibility of calling back Parliament sessions that week itself. Wheels are moving, thanks to the youth of the country and some bold MPs of the SJB.
Soon after such announcement by the Speaker, Gotabaya called an emergency Cabinet meeting and stories leaked out that he had asked his elder brother Mahinda to resign from the post of Prime Minister. However, later that story was denied as per an official media communication issued by Prime minister’s office.
It is becoming increasingly clear and harsh that the breaking point is way too nearer than far. Three weeks of talking and debating, three fluid (certainly not solid) sessions of sittings have displayed the sheer inability of our politicians that they are indeed finding it impossible even to climb a molehill leave alone a mountain. Once again, the youth of the country have delivered. But it is no time for celebrations, yet.
When the nation’s young are engaged in a much-clichéd do-or-die battle for their very survival, when the halls of the People’s House were shaken by the thunder of a yearning generation, when the ruling family is spinning in a whirlwind of a power struggle, can the country relax again? The answer is an emphatic no.
There is no easy solution on the horizon. Political stability, the catchword for the International organizations which have been alerted to providing emergency assistance, is nowhere near helping us in a real tangible fashion. Whoever takes over power after the Rajapaksas leave (when they leave is very much in the air) will have to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to the people. There are no ifs and buts. If truth is told by a trustworthy gentleman or lady, the people will accept it, not as a matter of fact, but as a statement of a statesman, as a sincere leader who seems committed to the cause of the country. Recovery may take two or three or even five years, but if that sincerity is not misplaced and if the leader and his men and women are ready to undergo the same hardship along with those who are being led and above all, if he is above petty politics and corrupt and corruptible practices, there might be a fighting chance for the country to emerge as victorious, however much she has been beaten, bloodied and soiled.
*The Writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org