Sri Lanka’s ARAGALAYA – one year on
Sri Lanka went through 2 insurgencies, 3 decades of terror, mass suicide, Covid-19 but nothing came near to the collapse of governance & state of anarchy that took place in 2022. How far the outcome was a result of bad planning & management, obnoxious decisions or well-funded & choreographed from external sources will emerge with time.
Several aspects need to be taken stock of:
Sri Lanka’s “educated” “economists” “academics” overlooked the country’s debt situation – the impact of ad hoc politicized decisions sans national planning or policy since 1978 introducing neo-liberal ideology, creating an ultra-consumeristic society that was not bothered about expenses being higher than revenue, or importing more than exports eating the foreign reserves. They did not mind taking loans to bridge the deficit and politicians who got used to ultra-luxurious lifestyle were equally happy to pile the debt with more loans & pass the headache to the next government & the people to pay. Thus, politicians, public sector, private sector & citizens were equally guilty while 99% were made to foot the bill with price hikes, taxes & cuts to social welfare which came with each loan condition plus diluting of Sri Lanka’s internal structures that steadily weakened the system or made the system vulnerable as a result of all sorts of un-nationalistic elements being rolled out as “foreign-initiatives” which came with the loans/aid. Understanding this background environment is important.
Equally important was the lack of true nationalistic will to address problems & issues & nip them in the bud causing unnecessary deaths, victims & adding to the inflating debt. LTTE & JVP issue is to be included to this list.
With every government from JR, Premadasa, ChandrikaB, even to the short term of DB Wijetunga, Ranil, Mahinda, Sirisena & finally to Gotabaya – petty politics prevailed & politicized people & politically beneficial corporates have not helped the situation. The originally functioning onlookers, the 1.4m Public Sector became more corrupt than the 225 member Parliament.
If anything is to change for the better – the above root causes need to be addressed simultaneously.
The youth in the aragalaya lacked knowledge of the above while the corporates, politicians, opportunists involved in the aragalaya chose to ignore the above because they served to gain whatever government came to power – the aim was to always take control & hold power over the people not caring what happened to the country by using slogans to incite people.
Thus, every government & every political party stands guilty of manipulating people turning them into extremists in whatever form & this served the agenda needed to take over power.
Media played a key role in communicating the sentiments that were to arouse a party to power or arouse the people to chase a party out of power as well as character assassinate the good & prop up the bad. There was nothing media could not do whether funded from internal sources or external. Likewise, political parties also became contracted to do anything with the power of funds.
Sri Lanka’s geopolitical location meant Sri Lanka could never be allowed to peacefully develop. This means Sri Lanka would not have peace & Sri Lanka would not be given the space to develop on its terms. This also meant that every party in power would be changed & replaced as per that larger geopolitical agenda & this was the cycle that is continued with each party given all the freedoms to be corrupt so long as Sri Lanka remains unstable & no national plan or policy is rolled out. Political parties have realized this & are happy to rule for one term & join the opposition the next term. This is the understanding they have with each other.
Now we come to a decisive stage in 2019. If we look back, regime change assisted by powerful nations brought the yahapalana good governance government to power that resulted in formidable changes
- MCC agreement that on the surface looked innocent but was part of US diplomatic, development & defense strategy of which ACSA was signed & only MCC & SOFA required to be signed – the numerous Indo-US military engagements lured military & police personnel to align with their agendas.
- Co-sponsorship of UNHRC resolution placed Sri Lanka’s military as ‘war criminals’ sans any evidence placing the heroes on a back foot.
- Heavily influenced AG’s dept &I BASL drafted legislative changes, Bills / penal codes – subtle & unnoticed changes to weaken the nation
- Appointments of pro-US personnel / pro-US NGO heads & activists to key role even to change the constitution.
- Neo-liberal promoters appointed to showcase state entities as loss making & justify sale
- Unwarranted ISBs to tune of $12.5b knowing it would pass on to next govt to settle together with an already spiraling debt.
- Changing Foreign Exchange Act enabled corporates to take profits overseas.
- Weakening of intel apparatus-giving prominence to extremist elements ignoring intel warnings & arresting intel eventually led to mass suicide taking place on Easter Sunday.
By this time even voters of yahapalana had got fed up & wanted a change.
That change was passed on with a legacy of ills to which covid-19 was added. Covid-19 was also not factored by those that joined the campaign to change government.
Those who voted for that change in Nov 2019 expected much, while those who didn’t vote also expected & looked forward to a difference. The only flicker of doubt was the US citizenship aspect & the eventual desire to return to US, likely to cause a conflict of interest or becoming a pressure point.
If the President’s appointees ill-advised or if he didn’t listen to advice – the final responsibility remains with the President who must shoulder accountability for bad decisions / no decisions / delayed decisions. Therefore as elected leader, he cannot expect to pass the buck or find shortcomings in those he chose for different roles.
Mishandling of turmeric, fertilizer, food, gas, fuel, medicines and the lack of empathy for the masses who were suffering lay the grounds for public anger, the perfect ingredient for fast-pacing the exit of an elected leader.
The situation should have been read and addressed even welcoming the offers by Sri Lanka’s traditional friends as help was offered but was not accepted.
Playing a major role, was what happens when leaders become arrogant, obnoxious, refuse to read the pulse of the nation & unable to accept advice given to mitigate the situation.
This was how very fair & genuine grievances of the common masses got elevated and hijacked by nefarious elements that included:
- Political parties & leaders – some tying up with extremist groups to take power by revolution
- Political parties whose supporters have played role as contractors for public agitations
- Aspiring new youth leaders – some even imported after training (notice the youth who were used for 2015 were not used in 2022)
- The youth element played a key role via politicized university youth wing & trade unions.
- Fanfare & oomph was added by the choreographers who brought in the stars – cricketers, film stars, artists, corporate leaders all having their own personal agendas.
- Religious clergy also came to fish in troubled waters & brought the nuns to serve as human shields
- Confounding matters was the LTTE Diaspora turning Galle Face into a Mullaiwaikkal
- Just when we thought all the stage was full – how could we miss the anti-Sinhala Buddhist bandwagon who never misses any moment to make potshots.
- How far the pocket protests had foreign funding, how many were funded to steer the aragala protests will get exposed with time. Ironical was the hi-fi members of society taking pains to show solidarity with the masses though their real intent was to use the momentum to oust their hated President. Their presence served to artificially bridge the barrier of poor-rich giving a false impression that the elite was in solidarity with the poor. How many of these elite are helping the poor presently is good to research.
Every coloured revolution that led to regime change globally did not surface spontaneously (Sri Lankans are in denial with this reality or too embarrassed to accept they were hoodwinked – that hoodwinking came from hijacking the genuine grievances & turning it into a “movement” to oust the leader) – the spontaneity was choreographed mapping the issues that could be tapped & built into a national momentum to galvanize the people against the leaders that the funding parties wish to have ousted.
Even the “educated” among these protestors saw no viable alternative other than getting rid of the elected leader & didn’t care that in so doing an unelected was to become President. The lack of patience to wait for the clearance of fuel & food a week later, made a hero of the new President who did not hesitate to disburse the protestors & bring normalcy to the nation, something the former President could have easily done but chose not to do inspite of appeals to do so.
It is also strange that the “educated” in the aragalaya are mum about the corporates stashing $53b overseas & why they don’t call for the abolishing of 13a & PC system which is a waste of funds, or even action against corrupt businesses/corporates too. As in all matters, everything is with an agenda & for personal gains – not too many people genuinely love the nation but are very lavish in words to claim they love the nation.
The one’s who love the nation, no matter what & look at issues from the point of view of what benefits the nation not what benefits individuals or groups.
Shenali D Waduge