It is incredible to have the First Citizen and the “Second Citizen” of the nation as the top two in the “Wanted” list for being unwanted! And yet, that is the tragedy of our teardrop isle. The de jure President is a de facto reject. The de facto PM is a de jure reject. They obdurately hold on to their position amidst public outcry at home and abroad against their leadership. Neither has any moral right to be in their respective offices. They must step down. True leaders of other countries have done so for causing much less damage than the present mayhem in Sri Lanka. Resigning aside, not even a public apology was forthcoming when a two-month old infant was made a victim of forced cremation, not even from the so-called educated hydrologists and tuition masters and religious dignitaries who endorsed the practice on false grounds. Now a two-day old infant dies as the father was unable to find fuel to reach hospital in time and a two-year old dies of snakebite as antivenin was not available at the hospital! It is no secret that a dozen lives have been lost in the fuel queues so far. How many more lives will they claim until it dawns on them that to be in Power is to be responsible and accountable?
Although we have been taught that two minuses make a plus, two wrongs do not make a right. Rather, it is as though the venomous snake you scotched suddenly grew an additional head and comes for you with redoubled fury. Is it that this double-barreled duo want their revenge from the people for having renounced them? Or are they buying time to stack away their allegedly ill-gotten fortunes in some safe haven before they flee? Or do they recoil from resigning because their strongly suspected complicity in the April 21st Terrorist Attack will come to light which is already a public secret openly discussed in the media. A fake government is unlikely to last long anyway and so it would be wiser to leave, if not for the sake of the people, at least to save their own skins. The naivety of the people is seen in the repeated act of hero worship, trusting that some individual will become a Superman and save the country. They look up to the most ineligible persons as leaders though they do not even have the legitimacy to have authority. It is certainly NOT of such men that Theodore Roosevelt, former US President, spoke when he elucidated who the true man of action is in his oft-quoted speech of 1910, a part of which is referred to as “ The Man in the Arena:”
“…it is not the critic who counts; … The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; …who spends himself in a worthy cause…”
In contrast, the peaceful protesters merit and match this description. They sacrifice their time and effort, their work and leisure, the best part of their youth, of their very life, in pressing for the President’s resignation to which they have now added that of the “parachute” Prime Minister. This epithet is awarded by the people for the anti-constitutional and unprincipled manner in which the PM acquired the position. Although some who are still loyal to him hoped he would serve as the panacea for Sri Lanka’s numerous woes, considering his past record would reveal that he is largely incapable. His appearance into the scene was as contrived and distasteful as a deus ex machina in Classical Drama, where, when the plot has become an inextricable tangle, there descends a divine character on a creaky contraption, to bring about a miraculously smooth denouement. The good ending achieved thereby, however, does not materialize in Sri Lanka’s cataclysmic political drama as the main purpose of his role as PM was not meant to solve anything in the first place, except for resuscitating, firstly, the UNP, his party that was decimated in the last parliamentary election, and secondly, the Rajapakse regime which was all but stifled by the “aragalaya.” What a treacherous betrayal of the oppressed innocents! The anger seething amongst the masses found a licit vent in the ahimsa uprising which was gathering momentum when the intervention of the PM cleverly thwarted their aspirational journey.
What an unequal battleground! All the forces and arms, the power and wealth on one side against unarmed civilians who work primarily based on non-violence. And yet, they shamelessly instigated state-sponsored aggression against these protesters! The provocation was such that it led to horrendous consequences. It is unfortunate and unacceptable that most media locally and internationally chose to highlight the aftermath of the assault, rather than the brazen and pre-planned attack on GGG people and property on May 9th with the patronage of no other than Temple Trees. A distorted picture was propagated to cast the victimized protesters as the violent mob taking revenge through arson, looting, etc. The whole country watched aghast as the flames consumed dozens of ministerial mansions. Never can any fair person condone any form of violence for any reason. Curiously, however, the mansions seemed strangely unprotected and uninhabited; the events appeared to be well orchestrated and too easily implemented that seem to be beyond the potential of random mobs. We hear from social media that there is reason to suspect state involvement in this crime, too, as chemicals that speed up burning were traced in the investigation which ordinary people could not have possessed. What is more, it is reported that investigations themselves are being barred by interference from influential quarters. The injustice, however, goes on with renewed vengeance, as the impunity of the perpetrators has been shockingly asserted by turning a blind eye on their culpability. The law has dealt visibly with leniency towards those in power. Meanwhile, the illegal arrests, threats, and harassment of thousands of protesters proceeds relentlessly. Another familiar occurrence is that journalists or activists who are critical about the government are summoned and interrogated by the CID. The loud slogan called “One Country One Law” has withdrawn into a distant cave and is now only an effete echo. It is not surprising that the Police are clearly driven by the powers, as the IGP himself recently revealed that 182 out of 184 OICs were in office due to political appointments! This historic struggle of non-aggression initiated mainly by our selfless youth and eagerly supported by people from all walks of life, transcends the thinking of Franz Fanon that a revolution is essentially violent ( The Wretched of the Earth, 1961.) Although he wrote in the context of a liberation struggle against a colonial master it is still relevant to our nation which presently needs to overthrow a system where economic exploitation, discrimination, and corruption have demeaned the people in every way. However, the government’s attempt to persecute the people aims at provoking them into precipitate aggression which may then be used to penalize them further. The May 9 assault was one such ploy which partially achieved such a purpose and tainted the good name of the protest by equating the activists to the mysterious mobs.
While we denounce all moves that victimize civilians for practising their democratic rights, it must be understood that the protest is not confined to a physical space. You cannot gauge its strength by the number of participants. Rather, it is an impulse in the soul; a throbbing in the heart of the downtrodden masses and refuses to be extinguished by your water cannons or tear gas or even by the latest petty trick of switching off streetlamps where protesters gather. Although a wily attempt was made to dilute and divert the struggle, it proceeds unabated towards its goal. You may deem them weak and vulnerable, but their positive energy and courage derived from the noble cause of truth, justice and equality shall eventually prevail as the state crumbles owing to its tyrannical tendencies. Analysts observe that this is an economic crisis, a political crisis or both. It is worth appreciating that underlying this prodigious failure of our nation is a deep moral crisis. The absence of integrity, sincerity, compassion and empathy in the so-called leaders has enabled them to disregard the value of human life, human dignity and human freedom. Hence, the audacity to experiment with ill-advised policies related to agriculture, finance, health, etc. which have cost people their lives and livelihood. In a country that prides itself of adhering to all four major world religions, this is pathetic. Moral teachings are reduced to mere religious symbols and rituals while the way of life they prescribe to enrich our humanity is lost on many. Even among the learned whom the present State utilized under the name of “Viyathmaga”, and among other erudite persons with several titles one sadly notices the lack of true values that would benefit society. Their collaboration with the media in propagating lies and myths was one reason why people became uncritically convinced by all manner of unreasonable claims before, during and after elections. Did not the prestigious schools and families that the present leaders are said to hail from teach them the value of honesty and justice? Or have they forgotten those vital life lessons? When Abraham Lincoln wrote to his son’s teacher, to “teach him that it is far more honourable to fail than to cheat,” he was making a universally relevant statement that most seem lamentably not to believe in anymore. The quest today, for many, is selfish material acquisition by any means, whether moral or not. This spiritual poverty is the result of the devotion to wealth and power. George Herbert captured this downfall of man in his poem titled, “Avarice,” in which he portrays the deification of money for which man barters even his own invaluable soul and its salvation! This is a despicable, yet pervasive, human vice and the excessive greed of a handful of privileged men and women in our country has ruined the lives of millions of ordinary people who have to face unbearable taxation and price hikes which are tantamount to extortion, while also coping with scarcity of essentials such as food, medicine and fuel. A crippled transport service has left schools and workplaces closed, thus obstructing the educational progress and fulfillment of thousands of children. Amidst this national crisis, it is alleged that some still have no scruples about engaging in fraudulent but immensely profitable deals! Can one stoop lower than this?
The parliament, once extolled as an august assembly, has deteriorated into a “topsy turvy tea” even more unpredictable and chaotic than what Alice encounters in Wonderland. Grinning cats and Mad Hatters abound. In addition, chameleons attempt to camouflage themselves with little success and people of average discernment are no longer taken in. The degree of patriotic feeling is amazing since every single one of them, whether they take up office or change sides, or vote for/against a bill profess to do so for the sake of the country alone! Most of the so-called people’s representatives no longer represent the people but are engaged in fulfilling their own selfish agenda. The people cannot tolerate this insensitive and arrogant conduct for much longer. Therefore, it is imperative that those who have the authority, knowledge, skills, and above all, the integrity, to come forward immediately to find alternative legitimate forms of governance. On behalf of my fellow Sri Lankans, I earnestly ask all responsible individuals and organizations to unite against the common enemy, putting aside all other differences. Help and advice must be sought from global organizations if necessary, so that no time is lost. Please expedite measures to establish a new system where justice and equality will be the priority. While we sincerely appreciate and applaud efforts by lawyers in standing up to safeguard the people’s cause, and all the valuable contribution made so far by the BASL and other bodies and by the few as yet untainted and sincere politicians, a legally and politically viable solution is what we urge them to find in order to bring about the requisite reforms that will, in turn, save Sri Lanka now and its generations to come. To be led by the blind is bad; but to pretend to be blind while you see them grope, is worse. No one with any sense of social justice should keep silent now. Apathy and passive indifference in the face of such grave turmoil, especially on the part of the truly learned, amounts to colluding with the wrongdoers. Let us never take the side of the oppressor. Instead, let us protect the oppressed, support them, if not in deed, at least, with a word of encouragement, an expression of appreciation or a sincere prayer for their relief. Nothing but a concerted and unified effort can release our land from the clutches of the current economic and moral paralysis.
In conclusion, why the present leaders are unwanted becomes even more apparent from the following quotation:
“And when it is said to them: ‘Make not mischief on the earth,’ they say: ‘We are only peacemakers.’ Verily, they are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive not.” (The Holy Qur’an, Chapter 2; Verses 11, 12)