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THE PEOPLE’S PROTEST 2022

16 July 2022 06:00 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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“My take on the Aragalaya: A people's struggle for an equitable and just society!

I will fully support any peaceful Aragalaya of the  under-privileged people of this country. I consider their demand for changes to an economic and social justice system that had not brought about tangible benefits to the great majority of them to be a just and urgently needed one if we are to build a nation that we can all live in peace and safety. This #Aragalaya started at GGG as by and large a peaceful one. 

However, the middle and upper-middle class of Colombo that joined in that #Aragalaya wanted a ‘System Change’ because they didn't have fuel for their cars and had to get used to a three hour power cut which cut off their AC’s, which were minor inconveniences to the comfortable lifestyles they had got accustomed to. This need was further fueled by the catchy #GoHomeGota slogan which almost implied that the expulsion of him from the Presidency would solve those problems. The irony of this particular Colombo-centric middle class #Aragalaya was that the ‘System’ they wanted changed was the very one that gave them their cars and their AC’s and enabled their comfortable lifestyles. 

This multi-class #Aragalaya was by and large a peaceful one until the unfortunate events of 9th May 2022, but however managed to depose the whole government led by Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign en masse a couple of days later. A few days after that Ranil Wickremesinghe was appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and magically the middle and upper-middle class presence almost disappeared from GGG as if all they wanted was just Mahinda gone, inspite of #GotaGoHome. This created the space for the  more hardline elements within the #Aragalaya to  come forward to support sustaining that struggle, as they have nothing to lose but hopefully something to gain at the end of it. Now the middle and upper-middle class are faced with an #Aragalaya that has evolved in to a  ‘not so peaceful’ but a more rigorous and popular Peoples Revolution of the under-privileged, which has suddenly taken a trajectory that may eventually even threaten  their accustomed lifestyles. 

This has led to a situation where some are trying to distance themselves from this evolution by saying this is not the kind of #Aragalaya that they supported or whitewash some of the violence now associated with the #Aragalaya by saying that those acts are not the work of the people of ‘their Aragalaya.’ What many of them did not realize was that අරගලය  (struggle) was never just a hashtag for us to wave a flag at our leisure and convenience and enjoy a shallow satisfaction of being part of a ‘Social Revolution.’ The struggle or the Aragalaya sans the hashtag has been a daily part of living in most households all over Sri Lanka for many decades now, waiting for a catalyst to seek redress. The daily wage earners never had enough money for fuel or gas even when it was freely available, and cheaper here than in most countries in the world. Those are the people who formed the majority of the population who came from all over the country to Colombo, to get a glimpse inside the Presidential Palace and Temple Trees and were amazed at how opulent those places were and maybe for the first time actually saw with their own eyes the disparity of wealth distribution in this country. 

 

I  can understand better than most, because I was one of three children brought up by a single Mother on a teacher's salary, why the poor might feel the need to stage protests to win their right to live a life away from an eternal hand-to-mouth existence without any hope and seek to change that system to that of a more equitable one. Therefore, I support and feel the need for such change. However, that Aragalaya may not have a hashtag and may not be peaceful at times.  The change it may bring might also may not be an orderly one to sit on the sidelines and watch while sipping on a Cappuccino or a Single Malt from behind high walls and  gilded windows. 

And here we are today!”

Dinesh Wijesinghe,
Director



 

The ‘Aragalaya’ has been an exhilarating experience with the coming together of people across all segments of society. I, for one, am happy to be associated with this people’s movement and to support the common goals of calling for an era of good governance and transparent politics, free of corruption and nepotism. The stage has been set to create a new political culture which puts the interest of the people and the country above that of the narrow self interest of many legislators. It is critical that these original goals are not compromised or diluted by external interests which appear, of late, to be infiltrating the movement. The laudable goals of the ‘Aragalaya’ must be protected for the movement to remain relevant. A bright future awaits Sri Lanka.

Abbas Esufally,
Director, HEMAS PLC


 

“We, in the tourism industry, urge elected members of Parliament to find an appropriate political solution to the ongoing political crisis. Any solution must keep in line with the aspirations of the public and bring political stability to the country immediately. Without such a solution, day to day life will not resume and instability will continue.

We also appeal to the current and any new interim Government to immediately address the economic crisis which has triggered shortages of basic essentials.

Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, which contributed nearly 6.3% to the country’s GDP, is now in its fourth year of crisis starting from the 2019 Easter attacks. With the current economic and political crisis our share to GDP has further declined to less than 3%.

We are looking forward to a swift and peaceful resolution of the political and economic crisis so we can begin our journey of recovery. Failure to do so will put three million livelihoods and much needed foreign exchange at risk.”

Sanath Ukwatte
Chairman, Mount Lavinia Hotel Group


 

“Silence of the majority paved the way for politicians to do as they pleased. Finally, the Aragalaya grew organically due to the hardship faced by innocent, helpless women, men and children in our motherland. Having achieved many positive results, it’s sad to see the Aragalaya being used for personal gain by a few. We must not let that happen, and I also hope and pray that Members of Parliament will hear the people and work accordingly rather than continue to jostle for political gain.”
 

Hiran Cooray,
Chairman, Jetwing Symphony PLC


 

“The Aragalaya has been an incredibly inspiring movement for change, not only for Sri Lanka but for the world. It has really been a unifying force for this country.

Although, it came together for a single cause, its purpose has been much bigger. It is a collective of diverse Sri Lankans from all backgrounds. For the first time, people who would never sit around a table to talk, were now camping together demanding accountability.

This has brought a paradigm shift in how we look at ourselves as a nation. What does it mean to be Sri Lankan? What does it mean to be Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim or Burger and to live in Sri Lanka? What does it mean to be LGBTIQ? Should we fear our politicians? Should we remain silent in the face of injustice?

This struggle has transformed our collective consciousness as citizens and it has peacefully achieved, what previous generations in our country haven’t been able to do. It has brought about change. It has placed citizens above politicians. It has placed humanity above all those labels our leaders used to divide us.

Of course, the struggle hasn’t been easy. There was a lot of violence used against protestors. We have seen harrowing videos of mobs being 

unleashed on protestors, protestors being brutally beaten, live bullets used against them and tear gas and water cannons used on a regular basis. These are all forms of violence and for that, I must commend everyone who still took the path of peace.

What we must always remember is that the Sri Lankan state and everyone who is in a position of leadership now, is used to unleashing violence against anyone who dissents or protest. Anyone would rightfully get angry if he is tear gassed every time he demands justice and accountability.

This struggle has achieved a lot for us and for that I’m grateful for everyone who put their lives on the line to change our country for the better.

The next few days, weeks and year, is not going to be easy for us as a nation. It will require a lot of patience, sacrifice and working together to resolve our deep, structural issues. But I am confident that through the example set by the Aragalaya, that we can achieve it.”

Aritha Wickremasinghe,
Lawyer and LGBTIQ Activist

 

“The Aragalaya has been an exhilarating experience for many of us who support the young Sri Lankans who are fighting the system with determination, creativity, and a strong sense of unity among ethnic groups.  As a baby boomer who lived through the JVP revolt, the civil war,         anti-Muslim uprisings, etc., this is the first time my generation has witnessed a largely peaceful ‘revolution’ in Sri Lanka.  I hope it remains so.  I believe that the vast majority of the Aragalaya consists of law-abiding young people who have dedicated themselves to bringing about a better Sri Lanka.  I salute them. Jayawewa!

Samantha de Silva
Former Senior Technical Specialist, World Bank 


 

“SLASSCOM advocates for a stable and just government to fulfil the hopes and aspirations of all Sri Lankans. Sri Lanka has seen an unprecedented call for change in the past days and months, with citizens all over the country peacefully and strongly protesting. 

The country needs a peaceful transition to a government formed with consensus and stability to navigate through the political and economic challenges it faces. A government enshrined with good governance and accountability to ensure a new era for Sri Lanka, fulfilling the hopes and aspirations of all Sri Lankans. A stable government to help navigate the political and economic reforms required for it to emerge from the crisis it faces.

It is important the political changes are brought in through constitutional means to safeguard our democracy. The Aragalaya was and is the voice and struggle of the people. It should not fall prey to political forces furthering their agendas and not that of the country and its people. It should stay true to it’s purpose and spirit, calling for justice and accountability, respecting the democratic process, adhering to the law, and desist from any acts of violence and subversion of democracy. 

SLASSCOM (Sri Lanka Association for Software and Services Companies) represents the        IT-BPM, a key economic sector which employs over 100,000 professionals and brings in foreign exchange and investments. It will continue to be in the vanguard to promote the sectors' growth and bring prosperity to Sri Lanka.”

Sandra de Zoysa
Chairperson, SLASSCOM


 

“My personal thoughts on how the Aragalaya has evolved from its original righteous motive of getting President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign. 

This motive, obviously, is something that almost all Sri Lankans could relate to, and this led the Aragalaya into receiving a much bigger audience than they ever envisaged.  I believe that various local and foreign groups with vested interests in Sri Lanka, and with political aspirations, decided to use this movement and its innocent youth to achieve their own objectives. The unfortunate events that occurred on the 9th of May 2022, where the Aragalaya was attacked through no fault of their own led to the most unexpected consequences whereby Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse resigned and an interim cabinet was appointed.  
 
The Rajapaksa’s have decimated our economy in many ways and their exit would be cause for much celebration which would be short lived in my view due to the enormous economic challenges that our people will face in the coming years.  What I want to get at is that in addition to sound economic policies, what we also need to do is strengthen the rule of law,and people must feel that justice is equal to one and all.  It is also most disheartening that in the face of unprecedented corruption, despite numerous cases filed, not a single politician has as yet been found guilty of such offences.  
 
The Aragalaya at present with its various actions of taking over the President’s House, Temple Trees and the Prime Minister’s Office is, I believe not the group of people that originally embarked upon this mission, but are individuals withvarious vested interests, that is also intertwined with the original protesters. If the Aragalaya is to flourish in its present form, it will be the law of the jungle and not the law of the land, and every citizen will become vulnerable. While understanding the untold hardship that our citizens have had to endure in the last few years, I fully understand and empathize with the feeling to engage in a more radical manner. However, the rule of law must prevail and protests shouldcontinue, but in a more peaceful and lawful manner.  
 
Let us choose and elect leaders that will not only look at long term prosperity of the country but also provide immediate relief to the people (including the basic essentials, Fuel, Electricity and Gas) and basic necessities at affordable prices. Sri Lankans as a rule have been very tolerant and very submissive in the past. Numerous politicians of all parties have taken advantage of this situation. We owe a debt of gratitude to the young men and women for doing something that none of us, while commenting amongst friends, never set out to do.  Let’s pray for a better Sri Lanka.”

Dinal Wijemanne
Entrepreneur 


 

“The Aragalaya was a much needed, long overdue movement in Sri Lanka. I am proud of our youth for taking a stand on behalf of all Sri Lankans. Many of us will criticize but we are too comfortable in our day to day lives to disrupt it for even a minute to take a stand on behalf of a common cause, although the end result will undoubtedly benefit us all. Hence, I am extremely proud of all our young boys and girls, who initiated and started this movement. However, since late this once peaceful movement has been infiltrated by individuals and political groups with vested interest and they continue to attempt to mislead our youth into committing unlawful acts in order to fulfil their own personal agendas. Even in Colombo, individuals with questionable pasts have used this Aragalaya as an opportunity to white-wash their checkered reputations and some have also used this as an opportunity to incite violence against individuals to fulfil their personal vendettas. I urge everyone, be mindful, don’t allow yourself to be used for another’s agenda. Stay true to the original cause and keep on protesting peacefully till the original mission is accomplished. 

 
I would also like to use this opportunity to request all who once supported the Aragalaya, don’t post on social media now and attempt to distance yourself from the Aragalaya you once supported. Don’t wash your hands off it now after giving it your full support not so long ago. Help our youth to get back on track, to get their act together. Give them direction so that they don’t continue to fall prey to political agendas. The professionals who once supported the Aragalaya simply cannot wash their hands off it now. Also, be mindful when sharing content on Social Media, WhatsApp and Viber. Verify before sharing. Don’t contribute to fake news, stories planted by political movements, individuals with personal agendas, and most importantly don’t contribute towards defamation and harassment. Be Accountable. Be Responsible. Come forward and take a stand and help steer our youth in the right direction and most importantly always say no to all forms of violence! This is our country and it’s our duty to protect it at all costs.”
 
Dr. Sulochana Segera
Chairperson, Women in Management


 


“I have always loved and appreciated our beautiful country, and since I was a child been enthralled with all the diversity encapsulated within our shores. We all eagerly applauded the efforts of the people united to bring about systemic change, and their combined efforts across all lines, to see our country get back on its feet. The core objectives were pure, with everyone collectively joined to ensure that we broke the shackles of the past, and were able to rise up to a better future. I have no political affiliations and are simply looking at this from the perspective of concern, as we have noticed some areas of the peaceful protest spiral into different agendas. In this new chapter of Sri Lankan history, my prayer and hope is that each new day brings peace and prosperity for all in this beautiful country where everyone is given the opportunity to work towards a better brighter tomorrow.” 

Dinesh Chandrasena
International Fashion Designer and Educator


Images by: Anoma

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  Comments - 1

  • Percy Wijenayake Thursday, 18 August 2022 10:45 AM

    The Aragalaya, demonstrates that Sri Lankans are showing signs of a developed nation, taking no Bullshit from Politicians. Appreciate the comments made on this Protest

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