By DR. DAYAN JAYATILLEKA
If not for the Aragalaya, the world would have seen only Sri Lanka, which had been reduced to charity by a generous beggar from Tamil Nadu, who had obviously managed his personal finances better than the Sri Lankan state had managed ours. Sri Lanka had become a pathetic place.
Our dignity was restored not by the unelected Ranil Wickremesinghe, but by the Aragalaya. The world has witnessed a rebirth of Sri Lankan society from public space, thanks to the civic resistance movement, drawn from all age groups, and finally, from April 3, 2022 on Galle Face green by the Aragalaya. On July 9, the world saw the people of Sri Lanka, led by young people, liberate the President’s house, then rush like a tsunami up the steps and through the doors of the Presidential Secretariat. Sri Lankan history has turned into a spectacular triumph of social affirmation for the islanders.
Will – will – be the Aragalaya history, the story of the most massive and successful popular uprising in our history, the most successful assertion of Democratic-Republican popular sovereignty since independence, ends in the constitutional coup, the equivalent Constitution of the Central Bank Bond Scam and the installation in the seat of power by the reviled Rajapaksa ruling clan of Ranil Wickremesinghe, the most unpopular and unsuccessful political leader of our lifetime?
It will cause terrible psychological damage to our collective psyche, if we allow the story to end in this way. It would be as if we had lost the war against the Tigers. We did not do it. We are writing this history and it must be completed satisfactorily, with the people as rebellious and victorious heroes.
ARAGALAYA AND TERRORISM
Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s reign became untenable the day he decided to ban chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weedkillers overnight. It is not just the economic consequences that have caused the slide. This was the moral crime in question. He had won on a manifesto that pledged to make things better and, as part of that, to undertake a decade-long transition to organic farming. Instead, he devastated the peasantry who had voted for him in 2019 and his family for seven decades. It was a moral upheaval. When Gotabaya lost moral height, it was inevitable that he would lose his grip on power.
Wickremesinghe made a similar mistake, committed a moral crime, in less affordable circumstances. He kindled and suppressed the very Aragalaya it unwittingly, but most certainly, brought him to power by removing Gotabaya Rajapaksa in a massive mass uprising.
Of course, this is just a full-scale version of how he dubbed Sirisena Cooray, former General Secretary of the UNP, who gave him the post of Prime Minister that was offered to him in 1993. I know. I was there when it happened in 1997. He also overtook Karu Jayasuriya when he won the mayoralty of Colombo. I was there too and warned Karu J that it would happen. Treachery is the political trademark of the “step-style” – as Gail Sheehy puts it, in “Passages” – of Mr. Wickremesinghe.
This time, the political and historical price will be much higher. Mr. Wickremesinghe betrayed a mass democratic revolution, the Aragalaya, seen by the world’s media. And it has only just begun.
Already, ministers in his cabinet are talking about “terrorism” and “terrorists” hiding or hiding behind the Aragalaya. It’s not just gimmicks and nonsense; it’s a very dangerous thing. “Terrorism” is the organized and intentional use of lethal violence for political purposes against unarmed, non-combatant civilians. activity in the Aragalaya or in support of it.
Homicide or manslaughter by a mob, as in the afternoon/night of May 9, although a heinous crime, which should be punished with the full force of normal law, is not terrorism. or behind the Aragalaya.
RANIL AND THE RANCID RIGHT
President Wickremesinghe inherited the burden of the economic crisis created by Rajapaksa and cannot be sympathized with his predicament as he was chosen by soon-to-be-deposed autocrat Gotabaya Rajapaksa as Prime Minister and, more visibly, was elected by the Rajapaksa- dominated the ruling SLPP parliamentarians, as president.
The economic recovery is blocked not only by the obvious problems of the egg and the chicken, the IMF and the conundrum of the creditors. It is even more blocked now, by the choices and actions of President Ranil. He should have resigned and given way to a political leader with a mass base, who could have made a fresh start and better managed the crisis. Since Sajith Premadasa bravely ran against Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in November 2019, and lost just 10%, missing the magic 50% mark by just 8%, he would have been the logical first option.
Instead, Mr. Wickremesinghe has discredited himself by being the Rajapaksa man in the race, thus reinforcing the impression of continuity rather than discontinuity with the old regime, the Old Guard. It therefore causes the loss of the global wave of support that we could have obtained and still can obtain as a country where young people rose up and drove out an autocrat.
Ranil does more damage than that, suppressing Aragalaya activists and being seen as the unpopular repressive leader that he is. Why should world opinion bail out a country with this kind of story; this kind of story? Where is the catharsis? Where is the rebound? Where’s the happy ending?
For this story to end in true catharsis, the unfinished Aragalaya must be brought to a logical conclusion, with a generational change of the 70s establishment. Aragalaya was not intended and cannot be allowed to end with the installation of an unelected leader who becomes, or reveals himself, as an autocrat overnight.
Ranil tries to kill the Aragalaya by repression, suffocation. It should not be allowed. This is not how this great story should end; must enter the continuous chronicle of the history of this island.
That’s why “RANIL RESIGN!” must resound and resound in the final phase of the great national liberation struggle for freedom and democracy in our lifetime: the Aragalaya!