12 August, 2022

Blog

Why I Don’t Support The Aragalaya

By Leonard Jayawardena –

Leonard Jayawardena

The Aragalaya, the “Struggle,” is the still ongoing popular protest movement in the country that began months ago in reaction to the current economic crisis, which has manifested itself in fuel shortages, food shortages and rampant inflation, and for which the protesters blame the Government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (GR).

Its most visible, symbolic and localised manifestation is the protest site at Galle Face, which was set up on April 9th and named “Gotagogama” in reflection of its main demand that GR, who was elected to office in 2019 for a period of five years, should resign.

Later, the protest spread to in front of the Temple Trees, which was first christened “Mainagogama” in reflection of their demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse (I still haven’t figured out how MR came by the sobriquet “Mynah”), which later changed to “Nodealgama” following the latter’s resignation on the assumption that the newly appointed PM, Ranil Wickremesinghe (RW), had a deal with the Rajapaksas to protect them.

A number of articles has appeared in the Colombo Telegraph about the Aragalaya and they were generally supportive of and sympathetic to them, as were all the comments, as far as I read them, that appeared below them. In this article I am presenting a dissenting view at the risk of stepping on a lot of toes.

My reasons for the dissent are;

a) the incoherent positions and objectives of the Aragalaya protagonists and their largely impractical demands. Further, the slogans and claims of the Aragalaya are largely a misrepresentation and distortion of the causes of the present crisis;

b) the way the Aragalaya has turned out has resulted in a subversion of the rule of law, which in turn damages our democratic system;

c) to my knowledge, aragalayas of this sort anywhere in the world have not resulted in economic prosperity and corruption-free governments and politics for any nation (the Arab Spring being the most notable recent example) and have even turned very ugly (as the Arab Spring did in some cases and as we got a taste ourselves in the May 9th incident and its aftermath); and

d) a course correction in the form of seeking the IMF’s assistance has been done and progress is being made. We should give it space to work out and not hinder the recovery process of the economy by supporting a resistance movement that keeps the nation in a state of social and political instability.

I will begin with a disclaimer: I have never voted for the Rajapaksas unlike those 6.9 million voters, many of whom now wish they had not.

Causes of the present economic crisis

Multiple compounding factors have led to the present economic crisis. The roots of the crisis are

1) The expenditure of Sri Lankan governments since Independence in 1948 has exceeded their revenue, so that, whereas we had a budget surplus at the time of Independence, we now have an unsustainable deficit. Largely contributing to this have been our world record state sector (1 state employee per 12 citizens), which eats up about half of the government revenue, and government spending on health, free education and welfare. The result is heavy government domestic borrowing and money printing, the latter of which causes inflation. The present government has contributed its fair share to the woes in this department.

2) Our economy is import-oriented, rather than export-oriented, so that we are perennially short of foreign currency. This and massive economically unviable infrastructure projects have led to the present unsustainable external foreign debt levels. We have had to take more loans to repay old loans.

The crisis was accelerated by;

1) Tax cuts by the GR administration, which depleted state revenue and had snowballing effects. However, this was in GR’s manifesto and, the 6.9m voters, many of whom are now ever ready to declare that they should be beaten for voting this goverment in, were aware of this or should have been.

2) The Corona pandemic, which crippled the country’s economy for months, wiped out parts of it and resulted in a double whammy to the tourism sector (an important source of foreign exchange), which was just raising its head above water after the Easter Sunday attacks of 2019. Remittances from foreign workers, too, took a hit as a result of loss of jobs.

Against the above backdrop credit ratings agencies downgraded Sri Lanka, which effectively locked it out of international capital markets. In turn, Sri Lanka’s debt management programme, which depended on accessing those markets, derailed and foreign exchange reserves plummeted alarmingly in a short time because reserves were utilized to service debts. We are now officially a debt defaulter nation.

The lack of dollars have resulted in shortages of fuel, gas, electricity cuts, etc. The Government is now short of not only dollars but also rupees! At the time of writing there are plans afoot to print new money to the tune of Rs. 3 trillion just to be able to pay government employees’ salaries.

A sudden shift to organic farming resulted in reduced harvests, food shortages and much pain to conventional farmers. A transition to 100% organic agriculture too, was, in GR’s manifesto, and, though framed as the fulfillment of an election pledge, the move was almost certainly triggered by the scarcity of dollars.

GR’s administration also reduced interest rates to boost business in keeping with another election promise, a move now reversed by the newly appointed Governor of the Central Bank, Nandalal Weerasinghe. The reduction caused economic hardship to large numbers of people who depended on interest income from their deposits for survival.

It is now accepted that the failure to seek the assistance of the International Monetory Fund in a timely manner brought matters to this pass. GR’s administration and the Central Bank resisted calls by experts and opposition leaders for months to seek help from the IMF despite rising risks. But after oil prices soared in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, the Government eventually drew up a plan to approach the IMF in April. On 7 June Gota reportedly admitted that it was a mistake not to have sought the help of the IMF six months or one year ago and, in a recent interview with the BBC, the new Governor of the Central Bank expressed the view that the present crisis could have been averted if the Government had gone to the IMF sooner.

The economic crisis in Sri Lanka should also be viewed within a larger, global perspective. The World Bank has warned that about a dozen developing economies could follow Sri Lanka into default in the coming months, e.g., Pakistan, the Maldives and Senegal. Some see Sri Lanka as the proverbial canary in the coal mine.

The Aragalaya’s demands, its incoherent positions and falsehoods

Since the protest site at Galle Face named Gotagogama is a microcosm of the wider nation in Aragalaya, in what follows I will treat it as representing the protest movement generally.

The evolving political situation in the country has resulted in a modification of the original demands of the protests and about the only things that now unite supporters of the Aragalaya are their demand that GR should resign and the call for the abolition of the executive presidency and a new political system or culture.

At the protest site we don’t have a nuanced discourse of the causes of the present economic turmoil reflecting all the points outlined above. A fair, balanced view is absent. I visited the Aragalaya site at Galle Face on four different occasions (twice before May 9 and twice afterwards) and the slogans that I saw and heard blared from loudspeakers on that site (and the other site in front of the Temple Trees) were simplistic, emotive and amateurish with an admixture falsehoods, which resulted in a distortion of the truth, and misled the naive and the unlearned.

The crude, vituperative language heard often at the protest sites especially in their earlier heydays would have jarred the ear of a refined person. The protesters’ lack of culture was evident in, inter alia, the constant refrain “kaputu kaak, kaak, kaak,” meant to mock the English language proficiency of a certain government politician bearing the same name as a culinary herb of the family Lamiaceae (as if the protesters had a better proficiency in that non-native language than their target of mockery!).

The site was emblazoned with banners decrying the alleged corruption of the Rajapaksas, as if this were the primary cause of the current economic ills, and exhortations to take steps recover their loot. Sadly, many ill-informed have swallowed this myth hook, line and sinker. This is nothing new. I remember the unrealistic claims of those who were to form the Yahapalanaya government about what could be achieved if the wealth looted by the Rajapaksas was recovered.

Corruption has, of course, always been endemic in this country (read An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon by Robert Knox, a British prisoner in the Kandyan Kingdom in the 17th century during the reign of King Rajasinghe II, for confirmation), a perennial feature of our political landscape and a significant cause for our remaining an undeveloped/developing country, but corruption during the current regime was not a major contributory factor that brought the country to this sorry state as analyses both of international and local experts of the current Sri Lankan economic crisis would confirm. Indeed most of the alleged corruption of the Rajapaksas dates back to their periods in power that ended in 2015, the perpetrators of which the Yahapalana advocates pledged to bring to justice should they be elected but, as we know, they did not. Though aware of that history, 6.9m people still voted the Rajapaksas back in. We should also not forget the alleged bond scam.

The new name of the protest site in front of the Temple Trees, Nodealgama, too, is based on a falsehood, for before RW was appointed as PM, Sajith Premadasa (SP), the opposition leader, was offered that post and, according to a recent statement made by Sarath Fonseka (SF) in Parliament, he had been offered that post even before SP. If political survival was uppermost in the minds of the Rajapaksas and Ranil was just a compliant stooge who could be relied on to protect them, why wasn’t he approached first? In any case, RW’s public statements after appointment as PM have not given us that impression.

SF had responded that he would accept the post only if the majority in his party (SJB) endorsed it. SP imposed preconditions for the acceptance of the post fully knowing they would not be fulfilled, so effectively declining the offer. He would not agree to be PM under what he considered a president rejected by the people and stipulated that GR should resign (immediately or within a set time frame) before he accepted the latter’s offer. As astute observers understood then and later media reports of inside sources of SJB revealed, the real reason for the declinature was that he had no confidence that the country could be pulled out of the present dire economic plight and feared the political consequences if took on the job, esp. under the presidency of GR, and failed. The question that thinking voters should now ask is, Why then does SP think he can make a difference to the economy of the country if he is elected PM in a future election?

Those protesters who blare slogans through loudspeakers day in and day out and spearheaded the protest are young radicals, the (“anthare”) type who would in all probability vote for the JVP and FSP at an election despite professing to be non-partisan and rejecting all 225 in the present Parliament, which includes four JVP MPs. They would probably be in favour of increased government spending on welfare, education and health, some of the very things that have caused the nation to sink ever deeper into debt. They would surely be opposed to private higher education, which would help save precious foreign exchange expended abroad by Sri Lankan students who do not qualify for higher education locally, and privatisation generally.

I saw a banner at the Galle Face protest site opposing the Government taking more loans. But it is generally agreed that the present economic crisis could have been avoided if IMF’s assistance had been sought in time and that would have involved taking more loans! Some in the Government were opposed to it going to the IMF, including Vasudeva Nanayakkara, who threatened to leave the Government if it did so. He has not carried out that threat yet!

On a visit to the protest site at Galle Face after May 9th I stopped by a tent occupied by disabled soldiers. Behind the soldiers who sat on the floor was a banner with demands in Sinhalese, which included:

1. In view of the calamity confronting the nation, all 225 should resign from office, including the President and the Prime Minister (literal translation)!

2. Reduce the number of MPs to 100.

3. Abolish provincial councils.

4. Get rid of geriatric MPs and appoint educated young leaders who are accountable to Parliament [as if MPs were not accountable to Parliament!].

5. Stop taking loans and develop the country through its resources.

I engaged a disabled soldier sitting in the tent in conversation. He advocated an interim government prior to an early election but when I asked him how an interim government could be formed when all 225 in Parliament had resigned, he was stumped. He was strongly in favour of a “system change,” though he had no clear idea of what that change should be except that it should bring about a corruption free, law-abiding political culture. I pointed out to him that the real problem lay not in systems but in individuals who would find ways to practise corruption under any system. When I told him that, subject to exceptions, even ordinary people, including those taking part in the Aragalaya, would, if opportunity afforded, would not be above practising corruption, he frankly agreed, but seemed to be of the view that the guilt for such criminal conduct by the poorer classes was mitigated their economic condition! This reminded me of the situation in the U.S., where the high rates of crime by the black population are attributed by some to their slavery and oppression in the past, not to their culture and personal choice!

He had voted for the SLPP and would do so again if “proper candidates” came forward. Another disabled soldier who sat with him said he would vote for Sarath Fonseka, but, when I pointed out to him that SF belonged SJB, which he would reject, he qualified (or adjusted?) his answer and said he would vote for SF if he came forward as an independent candidate. When I told them that in the past I had voted for candidates with good policies and public character though they were independents or belonged to small parties and had no chance of winning, they couldn’t understand it and said, “That’s your opinion.”

I saw banners draped across the front fence of the Presidential Secretariat featuring familiar victims of alleged human rights violations and crimes attributed to the Rajapaksas, such as the ruggerite Wasim Thajudeen and the journalists Keith Noir and Ekneligoda. Again, these allegations all date back to the past periods of Rajapakse rule and, though aware of them, people still voted them back to power.

They have no new solutions to the challenges confronting the nation. On my third visit I heard a youth ranting to his meagre audience about what they would do to bring change to the country if they had the power. Among other things, he was talking about how they would solve the country’s power crisis by using more renewable energy sources, such as solar. But this and the previous governments have attempted to promote and develop renewable energy and have even made some strides, though, admittedly, progress has been slow yet considering it still forms a small percentage of the total power generation capacity. There are other factors involved. According to a private sector power expert cited in an article in the economynext, “Renewable energy plants are unlikely to address the power crisis at the moment as our existing grid system is not ready for that. We need major investment to revive that.” The article also cites a power sector source saying, “Every time a new power plant comes along, trade unions and some people with vested interest cripple the new supplier coming to the country.” This brings us to the point that corruption, inefficiency and mismanagement are not the sole monopoly of politicians; it pervades all strata of government and reformation at all levels is needed.

On the sidelines of the protest I also came across what appeared to be a university academic who rejected neoliberal economics and favoured protectionism.

Can the Aragalaya achieve its ultimate aims?

The ultimate aims of the Aragalaya are a corruption-free government and economic wellbeing for all its citizens. Unlike the Arab Spring, where alleged lack of democracy played a major factor in those uprisings, democracy, so far as I am aware, has not been an issue–at least not a core one–in the Aragalaya. It is instructive to briefly look at the Arab Spring and its outcome.

The Arab Spring started in Tunisia when a street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi, who was not allowed to sell in the street because he did not have a licence for his cart, immolated himself on 17 December 2010 in protest against his treatment by local officials. His death on 4 January inspired people suffering from unemployment to rise up against the allegedly corrupt and authoritarian government of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had been ruling Tunisia for two decades. On January 11 the Government collapsed and Ben Ali fled.

The speed and success of the protest inspired similar uprisings in Algeria, Jordan and Oman. By late January the movement had reached Egypt, Syria, Libya, Bahrain and Yemen. On 11 February 2011 President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt stepped down. Yemen’s government was overthrown. Next to fall was the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, who himself had come to power in a revolution in 1969! Street demonstrations and minor protests took place in other countries, including Morocco, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Not every regime toppled as a result of the protests. The outpouring of popular discontent in some of these countries led to bloody–and often protracted–struggles between opposition groups and ruling regimes, e.g. in Syria.

It is generally accepted that the only “success story,” if it can be called that, of the Arab Spring is Tunisia. In all other countries, what the protesters fought to change has remained the same or become worse. In Tunisia, while greater democratic freedoms have been achieved through a bumpy path, there is stagnation on the economic progress and corruption front. Indeed some Tunisians think that Tunisia is now more corrupt than under the rule of Ben Ali and there are even those who are willing to give some version of authoritarianism another try!

All aragalyas everywhere in every age fail sooner or later because both the rulers who are ousted in revolutions and those who replace them have basically the same flawed, corruptible human nature. We are familiar with the saying “Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.” Here’s a paradox: The Aragalaya would fail even if it succeeded. That, even if the Aragalaya succeeded in its immediate objectives, its ultimate aims would not be realized to the disappointment and disillusionment of those who looked to it for salvation. As a wise sage observed,

That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
(Old Testament book of Ecclesiates 1:9)

Even ordinary people who burn with righteous indignation at the corruption and wrongdoings of politicians do the very same things in their lives when opportunities afford themselves! We have a word for that: hypocrisy. Most of us have come across people like that in our lives.

The Aragalaya has subverted the rule of law

The incumbent President and the Government were duly elected in free and fair elections for specified periods of office. The election results were uncontroversial and there were no accusations of election rigging. However cursed we may be as a nation in other ways, we have been at least blessed in recent history of being able to hold free and fair elections. Our democratic institutions still function decently well. Fundamental rights, including of freedom of speech and assembly, are respected. The authorities have responded to the ongoing protests in Colombo and elsewhere in largely a tolerant manner, resorting to force only when compelled. The bogeyman of white vans raised during the run up to the election of the current president has not materialized. There are no threats to future elections to the Presidency and the Parliament of being postponed or not being held or free and fair.

If a crisis hits the nation due to political mismanagement, then the rulers responsible may have a moral duty to resign, but if they do not, then the Constitution provides ways for their removal from office. The rule of law requires adherence to the laws of the nation, of which the Constitution is chief, not only by the Government but also by its citizens. To seek the ouster of a democratically elected President outside of the Constitution by coercive means is a subversion of the rule of law.

Paradoxically, GR failed not because he did not honour the election pledges but he did! After his economic policies had started backfiring, there was reluctance initially to go to the IMF because that would have meant, inter alia, increasing tax and interest rates, a reversal of election pledges.

While no right thinking can deny anyone’s right carry out a protest for whatever cause, a protest is acceptable only if it does not result in a subversion of the rule of law and the way, I think, the protests have evolved amounts to just that.

The Media do not seem to be able to refer to the protests and protesters at Galle Face and in front of the Temple Trees without the adjective “peaceful” and keep on repeating the phrases “peaceful protests” and “peaceful protesters” like a mantra. Some adoring admirers of the “peaceful protesters” have even waxed eloquent about how disciplined they are and elevated them to hero status. If one defines “peaceful” in the narrow sense of “without resort to arms” then they qualify, but are they really peaceful outside that narrow sense?

The protesters’ lack of respect for others’ rights was evident in their blocking the street in front of the Presidential Secretariat in the early days of the protests (intentionally or in the way they conducted the protest). I personally experienced it when I tried to drive through the protest area on two different days (from a different direction each day), and had to turn round and go another route. Is that how those who preach to us about a “new political culture” set an example? Once a motorist who was trying to pass and hit a protester was detained and let go only after it became known that no injuries were caused. I wonder how that episode might have turned out if the protester had sustained injuries. I noticed that they kept the road clear only after the Rambukkana incident, in which the authorities had to use force to disperse the mobs who were blocking the motor and rail roads and rioting. Early on their lawlessness was displayed in their attempting to erect banners inside Presidential Secretariat premises.

The much touted “achievements” of the Aragalaya, such as the resignation of Mahinda Rajapakse as PM and before that the entire cabinet, were basically due to coercion, not through persuasion, argument or civil discourse.

The catalyst for the resignation of the cabinet was the siege of the President’s private residence in Mirihana by protesters on 31 March and the tense situation that followed. Doubtless, they were intimidated into it. Nivard Cabraal, too, tendered his resignation on the basis that his post, Governor of the Central Bank, was on a par with a cabinet minister. The newly appointed Governor then introduced some policy changes, including revising up the base interest rate.

Trade unions launched a hartal on May 6 demanding that the entire Government, including the President and the Prime Minister, step down to pave the way for fresh elections. They threatened a hartal of indefinite duration in the event their demands were not met. If I remember correct, it is against this backdrop of the country becoming virtually ungovernable that the PM came under pressure to resign.

The pro-Government thugs who gathered at the Temple Trees on May 9 attacked the protesters at both sites because they rightly saw them as the visible symbol, the focal point and the inspiration for the mounting opposition to the Government.

Readers would have seen the violent behaviour of the protestors on the night of May 9 in front of the Temple Trees, when they tried to break down the Temple Trees gate using police barricades as rams. If they had succeeded and got in, it certainly would not have been for the purpose of having a pleasant chit-chat with the PM!

At the reconstructed protest site at Galle Face after May 9, I saw a plethora of banners demanding justice for the “peaceful” protesters attacked by pro-Government thugs on that day. I even saw Yahweh’s words to Cain after he had murdered Abel cited over one tent: “Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10)! But there was no banners mentioning or expressing sympathy for the victims of the acts of violence and vandalism that occurred in the aftermath of the attacks against protesters (including Kumara Welgama, who had opposed GR from the outset), a tacit approval of such acts and indicative of their view that those victims had got their just desserts, which further serves to reveal the protesters’ true nature.

This callous attitude was reflective of that in the wider society concerning the acts of violence and vandalism that followed the May 9 attacks against “peaceful” protesters. Religious leaders were silent and failed to condemn them, thus exposing their hypocrisy. There were even allegations of some clergy aiding and abetting acts of vandalism in their local areas.

While the violence and mayhem that followed the May 9 attacks occurred ostensibly in retaliation for the latter, nevertheless they are one of the bitter fruits produced by the Aragalaya. In the Arab Spring (discussed below), the most recent major parallel to the Aragalaya, the forces of destruction unleashed by the uprisings in some countries wreaked greater havoc than what we experienced on May 9. Let us hope that we do not see a repetition of it or even something worse.

Both the May 9 attacks against the protesters and the violence and vandalism that followed constituted an assault against our democracy. It has also damaged it by deterring honourable, capable, patriotic men of good will from seeking public office out of fear of similar reprisal attacks against themselves, their families and their properties in the event the party they represent falls out of favour and they become the object of public wrath. In an interview with WION, Harin Fernando, Minister for Tourism, said, “I fear the next parliament is going to be the worst parliament in Sri Lankan history.” In other words, you may get a higher percentage of scummy politicians elected to the next parliament than usual, for which we will have ultimately the Aragalaya to thank for.

In a report dated 13 June the Daily Mirror reported that their female journalist Jamila Husain had been threatened and harassed by a group of protesters outside Dhammika Perera’s house on the day before. It further says, “This is not the first time a journalist was harassed by some protesters on the protest site.”

As I was writing this, news broke that the police had arrested a group of “peaceful” protestors who had blocked entrances to the Presidential Secretariat and the Finance Ministry ostensibly in “celebration” of GR’s birthday, though the police accused them of trying to sabotage discussions with the IMF that were to be held at the Temple Trees. The secretary to the Finance Ministry had been delayed from attending the discussion as a result. Some protestors were arrested, including a monk who lay in front of the police bus carrying the arrestees to prevent it from moving forward. As usual, I saw in the video footage the protesters afterwards whining about police repression against “peaceful” protesters. Then there are intellectual perverts with a skewed moral compass who persist in calling such hooliganish conduct “peaceful protest.”

The “peaceful” protesters are “peaceful” by necessity, not by choice. To make much of their “peacefulness” is to make a virtue out of necessity. Some have praised them for the way “peaceful” way they responded to the pro-Government attacks against them on May 9, but that was due to their not having the crowd strength and the physical prowess to match their attackers. According to the Colombo Telegraph article “The Protests Have Fragmented,” “Quite a number of young protesters, especially on social media, shared details of MPs and their addresses, in effect condoning the violence” after the pro-Government attacks against them.

No prizes for guessing what the “peaceful protesters” would do if they had the armed power to match the government forces and had the confidence to overpower them.

Should we hold a parliamentary election ahead of time?

The next presidential and legislative elections in Sri Lanka are due in 2024 and 2025 respectively.

Despite repeated calls for his resignation, the President has stated that he intends to serve out his full term and will not seek re-election. In the absence of resignation, impeachment is the only constitutional avenue available for his removal, but no one has yet come up with constitutionally-recognized grounds for impeachment. Even if he resigned, his replacement might not be to the liking of those agitating for his removal since the majority in Parliament is still held by the Pohottuwa. It is claimed that the proposed 21st Amendment to the Constitution goes some way in further empowering the Parliament and prunes some of the President’s powers, and it is hoped that the “Gota Go Home” advocates will be satisfied with that until 2024 and not insist on their pound of flesh.

Both the SJB and the JVP are clamouring for an early parliamentary election because they think that their share of seats in Parliament will substantially increase with SP hoping to be the next PM. But even if an election were held, say, in six months’ time, the new parliament would be composed of the same MPs for the most part with some new faces. The only major change would be the composition. The JVP, either alone or in alliance with other leftist outfits, would most certainly secure a larger number of seats. This is the party that is still unrepentant of and unapologetic for its murderous past and, alas, there are a lot of naive people with short memories waiting to vote for them. They have also demonstrated that they cannot be trusted more than other politicians, for at the 2015 election, having presented to the public a list of nominees for the National List comprising distinguished persons from various professions, they reneged on their promise and nominated a defeated candidate (former MP Sunil Handuneththi) along with former Auditor General Sarathchandra Mayadunne for their two bonus seats, the latter of which resigned soon afterwards after making his first and last speech there.

No, an election is not the priority for this time. A change of government is not going to make a difference to the current economic crisis: No one in the opposition has a magic solution to it. The party leader who would be the probable next PM if an early election were held has already admitted his inability to turn round the economy if appointed PM. It would be a waste of time and money, and, if any practical benefit resulted from it, it would only be that the supporters of the Aragalaya would be left without an excuse for continuing it. Let us wait patiently till 2025, when the masses who are asses will have their glorious opportunity to elect to power more or less the same scoundrels and idiots to Parliament.

More importantly, let us put a stop to this Aragalaya circus, desist from stoking fires of further social unrest by word or action, and give the steps thus far taken to return the country to economic stability the space to work out, for the longer the Aragalaya continues, the more the economy will suffer by the social and political instability it perpetuates and the more protracted the recovery process will be.

My advice to Aragalaya protagonists is, Instead of wasting time shouting impractical slogans like “Gota Go Home” (now often combined with the name Ranil), “Let Us Chase out All 225,” do something constructive like preparing for the two future elections by forming a new party and identifying and presenting for our consideration a list of candidates of good track record and decent public character who you think would take us to the utopia that you are struggling to create.

I wouldn’t bet on that happening though (both).

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Latest comments

  • 3
    3

    Very long article. I also do not support this nonsense(I am surprised it was even published knowing how this site gratuitously censers). Even though there are so many old clowns who are in awe of these selfish fools destroying the country. Their main idea is that “corruption” is the cause of all this. They think there is a nidhanaya in the Rajapakse backyard of the money that was stolen. What they do not realize is that they themselves are the ones who stole the country’s future by keeping on freeloading and appointing politicians who gave more free stuff.

    Well, the free stuff has come home to roost. and these people are destroying even the little this country has by their unruliness and making sure that there will not even be a viable tourist industry.

    Ranils interview with Wion India was instructive. He said he was recommending that the country goes to the IMF even before GR won the election. Clearly, he lost the election due to what he was proposing.

    This country has no future if this Aragalaya is the kind of brains our populace has. like you said no one knows what they really want. Do they want a benevolent dictator or a JVP led Commie leadership. Clearly, it cant be democracy they want as they want all elected officials 225 to go home.

  • 1
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    I write to correct an omission in my article. I wrote:

    Quote
    At the reconstructed protest site at Galle Face after May 9, I saw a plethora of banners demanding justice for the “peaceful” protesters attacked by pro-Government thugs on that day. I even saw Yahweh’s words to Cain after he had murdered Abel cited over one tent: “Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10)!
    Unquote

    Actually, the words of Genesis 4:10 were cited on a protest banner, I think, to demand justice for the man who died after the police fired live bullets during the Rambukkana riot on April 19, rather than for those who were attacked on May 9.

    The opportunity is taken to also correct the following small error. I wrote under heading “The Aragalaya has subverted the rule of law,” “In the Arab Spring (discussed below), the most recent major parallel to the Aragalaya….” That was actually discussed ABOVE, not below. This error resulted from changing the order of the contents of the article at a later stage of writing.

    • 7
      2

      It is true that many opponents of the regime, including those at the Aragalaya, and the parliamentary opposition, have no clue what to do if Gota actually leaves.
      Many seem to think that changing faces at the top will give us LPG or petrol in a few weeks. Even Sajith seems to insinuate that the LPG shortage is due to “corruption”.
      People must accept that a turnaround will take months if not years, and the more violence there is on the streets, the more tourists will keep away. A vicious circle making a desperate situation into an absolute anarchy. Is that what we want?
      “still haven’t figured out how MR came by the sobriquet “Mynah”
      That’s easy. MR was known as “Naaki Mynah” due to his aged appearance and his mynah- like outfit.
      “Tax cuts by the GR administration….. However, this was in GR’s manifesto and, the 6.9m….., were aware of this or should have been.”
      Who reads election manifestos? Anyway, are voters aware of what is financially possible and what isn’t?

    • 0
      2

      Leonard Jayawardena, issues discussed are relevant. Cain’s brother Abel’s blood is crying out from the ground and God heard it. Gen.4,10 Now the blood of Jesus has gone into the ground saying “Father forgive” and God’s mercy and forgiveness are freely available to all. In this new creation age, Rajas don’t avail of due to greed even with blood of Jesus Heb. 12,24 speaking better things They miss the good eternity without fire as they live on self will, not knowing end times.

  • 3
    0

    Thank you. Leonard; we have exchanged views before.
    .
    What a lot you have written! Of course, it is comprehenisble. You have made some valid observations, but I disagree with much of what you have written. I shall return with a detailed critique.
    .
    I support the “Aragalaya”; I want this lot of unrepresentative fellows to announce a time-table, and quit. I want parliamentary elections soon, although I know that they will cost a tidy sum. By having this stalemate, we will lose even more, since we are producing next to nothing now.
    .
    A fact check on some of what you have written is necessary, but thanks for writing. What you have said indicates that when an election is held, you will vote for somebody. I know that you will not vote for the likes of our local Jeffrey Epstein (Dhammika Perera) whose only qualification is that he too has many “contacts”.
    .
    My next vote is likely to go to the NPP, as it did in November 2019 and in August 2020. I didn’t vote for them in 2015; I was still (foolishly) enamoured of Maithripala Sirisena, and I think I voted UNP.
    .
    Well, thanks for writing; it provides me with an opportunity to disagree.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe

    • 1
      0

      Sinhala_Man: You mentioned the name of Dhammika Perera, now the Minister of “Foreign Investments”. Have you given thoughts on this “Selection” (to Parliament) and “Appointment” (Minister of Foreign Investments)?. This “Selection” and “Appointment” of Dhammika Perera is ONLY to implement the provisions of that “Unique” Act in Parliament titled “The Finance” introduced by Basil Rajapakse. That “Act” provides all those who have “Not” so far declared “Earnings” which are popularly called “Black Money” to be declared on the payment of a minimal tax of “1%” and cleared of any “Legal Action”. This “Dhammika Perera is one of the “Agents” of “Rajapakses” who holds these “Undeclared” earnings and his main duty as the “Minister of Foreign Investments” would be to make those “Black Money” to “WHITE” and enable “Rajapakses” to escape the “Criminal” cases that are being contemplated.

      Do the PEOPLE know and made aware of this “PLOY”? Do you know it?

  • 6
    1

    There are people in Sri Lanka especially the so callled educated who depend directly or indirectly or even supposed patriotism who support Rajapakse gang. In this article there is no mention about wasteful investiments made by Rajapaksas and the rampant corruption that prevailed in MR and GR and RW (RR) regimes. All the blame of the present crisis goes to historic mistakes made since independance especially economic policies.

    Aragalaya is a reflection of the anger the youth have in this country. they feel the betryal by successive governments. True that aragalaya has no clear direction, no clear leadership, no clear formulation. What it has is a clear spirit. If people just want the status quo to continue for some reason it a shame. There need to be a system change we cannot continue with these crooks to contiue to rob us day in and day out. There are crooks who travel in helicopters without paying there bank loans, and some getting into politics when going is becoming tough to evade repayments and tax payments. Aragalaya has at least got rid of some crooks.

  • 5
    2

    Unfortunately or deliberately the author has forgotten to mention that the May 9 incident was a reaction of people to what MRs gangs did to aragalaya. It was not a reaction of the aragalaya. The author was happy to show that May 9th incident has made the aragalaya a violent one, but it is far fromthe truth. But not mentioning about MR gangs attack on aragalaya shows his inclination. What ever the benifit you have got let god bless you

  • 5
    3

    GR was brought back due to Ranil Rajapakses sorry Wickramsinghes failure to put corrupt politicians bahind bars and him self supporting corruption. When GR was brought in it was an expectation since gota was not a politician he will act against corruption and put the country in correct path, but people did not expect him to be such a dumb. there was no alternative. Now its time to get a real beneovelent dictator to power we have only sarath fonseka may be along with ranjan ramanayake

  • 7
    2

    Leanard Jayawardena,
    It is your right to support “Argalaya” or support Rajapaksas or Ranil or any one else. No body will force you to support Aragalaya but the reality is the people are suffering due to this economic crisis and it is believed by many that it is accelrated by the Present administration.
    You have said that the causes of the crisis are more expenditure than returns, import oriented policies and then coming tax cut by Gota government, Corona, down graded credit crunch, sudden shift of Organic farming, interest rate reduction etc.
    All these are good but you purposefully ignored the impact of war or corruption. why?
    Who are you going to blame for the current economic crisis? Is it accelerated by “Aragalaya”?
    Who should take responsibility for the current crisis?
    Who is accountable for the failure of the Tax cuts, suden organic shift, interest rate reduction?
    Why did Mahinda Resigned if he he has not initiated violence?

  • 3
    3

    Shortage of $ as well as Rs is due to the money spent on genocide. Look at the fiscal deficit figures from 1983.
    You hide the important fact that killing Tamils caused the economic disaster.
    Keep on fool yourself and the lassana Lanka

  • 2
    1

    “Causes for the present crisis”- The writer must understand those “CAUSES” he has enumerated are the very “CORE” factors that started the “ARAGALAYA”. In that context, shouldn’t he “VIEW” the “Aragalaya” as a “REPRESENTATION” of the General Public? Hasn’t he, doesn’t he, or why does he fail to see and analyze the the “Aragalaya” in a larger perspective as that belongs and a show of discontentment by the “PEOPLE” demonstrated in the whole country by all sectors – such as in Agriculture, Industry, Commerce, social, political, etc.

    I hope the above few words are enough to “OPEN” his eyes to the “SATHTHYA” – The “REALITY” on the ground.

  • 0
    2

    I come in late. I was waiting to read the reaction to the article.
    The comments tell nothing.
    .
    Why I Don’t Support The Aragalaya, asks the writer. He is as free as any to reject the ‘struggle’.
    .
    Does that help us, in any way, to ease our burden.
    Should the people who voted for the wrong men be quiet until the next election?

  • 6
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    Trying to paint aragalaya as a violent struggle started with MR. Even fellows like Harin Fernando who were wearing gotogohome head band try to show that May9 turned the aragalaya into a violent form. In reality the violence was started by MRs thugs, who came to make the Appachchi stay on so that they can wield power in their towns aganist. The violence that took place was a retaliation by the suppressed parties in there local areas who gave back what they have suffered all these days. Gnanas temple was attacked and the army did not do anything because the army personel were used to build her hotel. Not that aragala youth from GGG went to far away towns to attack them. Even the politicians whos properties were damaged acknowledged that the attacks were carried out by rival parties. This is simple psychology.

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    LJ, All that you say are the ostensible  reasons for Great Depression of the Motherland ; one that the leaders  want to portray….indeed, many of the opposition too..but it goes far deeper.

    Why didn’t they go to the IMF sooner, is the grinding question. Just look at the meaning of Port City – what is its main purpose? That will give you the answer.

    Current leaders and opposition, and certain Lankans are awaiting in baited breath for Port City’s and other such ventures to come to fruition, however slim (Still!..Even at this time with IMF and US envoy discussions right on our very shores). Easy money out of manipulation of global currency! Maniplation out of the ingenuity and hard work of other countries. That’s where the money of our struggling Masses went onto as investment, enticement, and collateral, for it to be gambled upon. You think the rest of the thinking world will let that happen so easily?

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