Galle Face – The writing on the green
Posted on May 4th, 2017

By C. A. Chandraprema Courtesy The Island

Back in 2016 when I arrived at the May Day rally of the Joint Opposition in Kirullapone at around 5.00 p.m. and told friends over the phone that the crowd there was much bigger than the UNP and JVP rallies both put together, none of them believed me. I had arrived at the JO rally after having observed the other two rallies from about 4.00 in the afternoon when the rallies are usually at their peak. To say that an opposition grouping had drawn a bigger crowd than the UNP and JVP put together was at that time considered to be an extravagant statement. This was especially so because the drone footage of that meeting did not show what I had seen. At Kirullapone, the majority of the participants went away without having got even a glimpse of the stage.

The crowd that got stuck on Baseline Road never got to look even in the direction in which the stage was situated and the crowd was so dense that it was an exhausting effort to push one’s way through it. I arrived at that rally from the side of the Kirullapone police station but was never able to push through the crowd to observe how far it extended towards the Nugegoda end. Nor was I able to see how far the crowd extended towards Narahenpita along Baseline Road. Despite the incredulity that I was confronted with in 2016 when I said that the Kirullapone rally was bigger than the UNP and JVP rallies combined, I did write about it to this newspaper at that time. The Galle Face rally however is in a class of its own. Though I usually observe all the major rallies being held in Colombo, this year, there was no need to do that. Whatever happened at Galle Face would be the defining event.

In fact on Sunday, the day before May Day, I took a drive along Galle Face to see whether the Joint Opposition would be able to fill it with crowds and my own assessment was that they may not be able to do it. This mind you, was on the assumption that Galle Face green meant only the ‘green’ part of it without the broad tarred walkway towards the sea side or the Galle Road. But what we saw on May Day was a phenomenon that no one has ever seen in this country. The Galle Face green, the broad walkway on the seaside and the main road were just one sea of heads from the Galle Face Hotel to the Bandaranaike statue on the other side of the esplanade and beyond. There were people lining the road up to the roundabout near the Kingsbury and Galadari hotels. When I was walking down Lotus Road on my way to observe the rally at around 5.00 pm, thousands of people were leaving the meeting. Usually people start leaving such meetings at around 6.00 pm. This time they would have started leaving earlier because everything began earlier.

Usually the peak of a rally would be around 5.00 pm to 6.00 pm. This time the peak of the Galle Face rally would have been around 4.00 pm to 4.30 pm. By the time Wimal Weerawansa and MR made their speeches, large numbers of exhausted people had left. The intolerable heat would have been an additional reason for people to start leaving early. The fact that two elderly participants died in the crush was quite unusual. If anybody was to get crushed or suffocated, that should have been at the Kirullapone rally last year, where the crowd was so dense that one could not even push through it. Galle Face on the other hand is the very definition of a wide open space. In fact in this country, any wide open space is often likened to Galle Face green in ordinary conversation. The fact that anyone can get crushed in such a place is a clear indication of how dense the crowd was at its peak. At around 3.30, this writer got a call from a friend who was near the Galle Face Hotel saying that two ambulances had arrived. The congestion on the green would have been at its height at around that time because of the continuous arrival of more people from both ends of Galle Face.

Crowds at meetings have always been a way of judging which way the political winds are blowing. Those above their mid-fifties and above remember the 1977 May Day held in Maradana which at that time had been considered the mother of all political meetings. But at that time, the roads in Maradana were not even as wide as they are today. Then in the run up to the 2015 Presidential election, Vajira Abeywardene speaking to this writer, predicted that Sirisena would win because the crowds attending their rallies had increased. If such is the case, what is the unmistakable message that is conveyed by the biggest political gathering ever held at Galle Face green and indeed in the country in general? The Joint Opposition was able to make this unprecedented political statement because the government underestimated the JO and gave them Galle Face thinking they would never be able to fill it.

The government in particular should not delude themselves by thinking or saying that this was a crowd that had been transported there to put on a show. Every one of those people there were die hard supporters of Mahinda Rajapaksa. They were motivated and enthusiastic. Buses may have been deployed, but no bus service can transport a crowd of that size. I got late to get to the meeting because I had to get to the Kotahena office of this newspaper before going to the meeting by trishaw, and thinking that there would be no crowd in Fort because the entrance to the Galle Face meeting was supposed to be from the Kollupitiya side, I went to Fort and got stuck in the middle of a river of people near the Fort YMBA, all marching purposefully to enter Galle Face through Lotus Road. The number of people that passed my vehicle near the YMBA would by itself have sufficed for a separate May Day rally. It is quite clear that tens of thousands of people at that meeting had come there entirely on their own.

The government went to the extent of dictating where the stage should be constructed so as to increase the embarrassment of the JO when they were not able to muster sufficient crowds but all this completely backfired on them. This rally, is for Sri Lanka as radical a political milestone as the Brexit vote was for Britain. In Britain, the Brexit platform won even though all the established political parties in Britain – the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and even the Scottish National Party all supported the remain campaign. Likewise in Sri Lanka, the Joint Opposition managed to outdo everyone else in a situation where the UNP, SLFP and JVP were all actively openly opposing the Galle Face rally. The Sri Lanka Podujana Party which they formed to contest future elections is just a year old, yet they have already broken all records as a crowd puller not once but on multiple occasions in different locations, Galle Face being the most impressive show of strength yet. The entire political future of this country is being determined by a political force that has taken shape outside the main political parties in the country.

7 Responses to “Galle Face – The writing on the green”

  1. Ananda-USA Says:

    Deshapreminta JAYAWEWA!

  2. Christie Says:

    දෙයියනේ හින්දුත්වා අදිරදයා නරෙන්ද්‍ර මෝඩි සින්හල යටත් විජිතයට එන්නේ යටත් වැසියන්ගේ යහපතටද? මෝඩි බලයට ආවට පසුව ඉන්දියාවේ බොදුවන් ආපසු හින්දු කිරීම වේගවත්ව කරගෙනයයි. මෝඩි සින්හලයාගේ අවසානය සහතික කරයි. 2017 නරෙන්ද්‍රන් මෝඩි එන්නෙ මලේ නාඩුවල ඉන්දියානු පරපෝසිතයන්ට මේ බව කියන්න. 1927 දී මොහන්දාස් කරම්චාන්ඩ් ගාන්දි යාල්පානම් වලට ඇවිල්ල සින්හලයාගේ වලකැපීම පටන්ගත්ත ඉන්දියානු පරපෝසිතයන් එක්ක. සින්හලයනි වටහා ගන්න, එක්වන්න ඉන්දියානු අදිරදයට එරෙහිව නැගී සිටින්න.

    Modi the Emperor is visiting the Indian Colony. He is going to celebrate the end of Sinhalese with Indian Colonists, Mohnadas Karamchand Gandhi visited Jaffna in 1927 and started wiping out of the Sinhalese with Indian colonists.

    There will be lots of colonists to listen to Modi the Emperor in Malay Nadu.

  3. Ananda-USA Says:

    I urge ALL PATRIOTS to fly a BLACK FLAG on their HOUSES and CARS, and WEAR a BLACK ARM BAND as long as MODI is visiting in Sri Lanka!

    He is visiting Sri Lanka not out of an URGE to CELEBRATE Wesak , but to SIGN the AGREEMENTS that the PARA-GATHI AGA-MATHI secretly negotiated WITHOUT DEBATE IN, and APPROVAL BY, PARLIAMENT that will make Sri Lanka a COLONY of India!

  4. ranjit Says:

    Incredible and phenomenon. Nothing like that seen in my life in gallface or anywhere in Sri Lanka. All were there because of one person and that was none other than His excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa. He is the only leader we can trust and have faith to lead us for a better future.

  5. Dilrook Says:

    My estimation of JO’s voting power at a parliamentary election if held now is 51%.

    However, it cannot win a presidential election at the moment. No incumbent has ever lost a second term at a presidential election. Very unlikely Sirisena will lose a presidential election as things are at the moment. He will use everything in his power to disrupt, even imprison or remove civic abilities his potent opponents. However, if the JO’s ride to popularity continues at this speed, within a year it will be in a position to outright win a presidential election.

    Compare this to parliamentary elections. Out of 15 parliamentary elections held so far, ruling party managed to retain power only at 4 of them. On 11 occasions, the ruling party lost.

  6. Kumari Says:

    Dilrook, I don’t agree with you. The minute Sirisena made Ranil the pickpocket prime minister, Sirisena lost it. That is why the foreign advisors are not allowing to hold any elections.

    If elections are held now even the UNP supporters will vote for the JO candidate as the true UNP ers love their country.

    I wish Karu Jayasuriya make JO the official opposition in parliament. It is the JO and not the TULF or the JVP that will rule the country next.

  7. ranjit Says:

    Do not judge on past experience. Today the situation is different. Sira will never ever win again in any election because the most weakest President we ever got was him. He is a spineless, skinless, brainless liar of them all. Just think his promises before jan8th? Did her kept his damn promises? What is simple in him? Does he eat in the banana leaf? Is he governing from his poor home in pollonnaruwa as he promised? Is he travelling in a bullock cart or travelling in a latest Benz? What is this so called simple man doing hoodwink the masses only. He don’t have a policy or a vision for my country except following the UNP principles and following his saviour Ranil the manipulator. If he wants SLFP to survive he should move away from UNP and their leader who have lost elections more than twenty times. SLFPer’s shouldn’t believe this guy at all. He preaches something and does something else. Sinhalese and Buddhists will never benefit from this Traitors. Soon we can see Tamils and Muslims will be the kings in this country because of these two traitors. Sira and Run nil are the two worst enemies of the Sinhalaya and the SINHALA land. Boycott Mods Modi and the Indian parasites. Display black flags to show our dislike to a Hindu who comes to open our buddhist sacred day Vesak.

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