Fifth September in Retrospect
Posted on September 8th, 2018

By Tissa Vitarana Courtesy Ceylon Today

The ‘Jana Balaya Colambata’ (People Power to Colombo) procession, organized by the Joint Opposition on the 5 September, certainly shook the UNP-led Government, and was a success despite the need to alter the programme at the last moment, due to their disruptive actions.

Given the cost of travel and all the obstacles placed by the Government to impede the event, the turn out (estimated by some at close to 100,000) and the enthusiasm and militancy were significant features. It has helped to sustain, if not increase, the momentum generated by the victory at the Local Government Elections of 10 February, this year.

I travelled in my vehicle and observed most of the processions, which included both political, trade union and other non-political groups.  Noteworthy features were the virtual absence of any incidents, the orderliness without disturbing pedestrians or vehicles, and the voicing of relevant political slogans in addition to kawdha raja, Mahinda Raja”.

Politically, the presence in the procession of a large number of Muslims from the East and Tamils from  North and Hill country, as well as youth and professionals – specially lawyers, some doctors and engineers, was a significant feature.

The performance of a peaceful quiet (as no loudspeakers were permitted) sathyakriya” in front of Lake House, where people sat for hours  patiently, though packed together like sardines in a tin, was also a good sign for the future and an indication of their commitment to the success of the event. These crowds extended close to the Hilton on the West and to the Cinnamon Lake Hotel on the South and for about 300 metres to the East on Wijewardena Mawatha, and the road to Pettah on the North.

A novel feature was the night vigil by candlelight which went on till about 11.30 p.m. when the crowd dispersed. The organizers provided food parcels, but they were not really adequate.

A stage was set up on the road to the Hilton Hotel and various cultural programmes with political messages were performed for about an hour. The Police acted humanely and there were no confrontations. We have a long way to go to reach the level of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protest in New York where people camped for several days and had meetings and discussions on important themes:

socio-economic destructive role of Neo-liberalism and how to counter it” and so forth. Now that Neo-liberalism, devised by the USAs oligarchy with the IMF and World Bank, is being fully implemented in Sri Lanka by their puppet UNP-led Government headed by the PM, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and is the root cause of the problems facing Sri Lanka, the next Sathyakriya should help people to understand the de-humanizing effect of the Neo-liberal mindset.

It is based on individual greed, that is really paving the way for the giant Multi-national Corporations (MNCs), based in rich countries, to take control of our national economy and to flourish by exploiting our people and assets, replacing the government elected by the people for the people. MNCs prosper, the people suffer.

Impeding complete success

But the tactic, or was it really pressing of the panic button, by the UNP to withdraw at the last moment, without any valid reason, the permission granted to use five public parks/playgrounds impeded the complete success of the whole exercise. The finale with the candle lit parades, and the attack on the UNP and its policies using the richness of our culture at five locations had to be modified.

Many who were used to fiery speeches, at meetings after the traditional May Day procession, felt a little let down.

Some other reactions of the UNP need some comment. While those of several ministers, like the ludicrous statement by the Secretary of the UNP, Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, that the whole purpose of the procession was to divert attention from the Court cases against members of the previous Government and exert pressure, are not worthy of comment.

But there is a very serious allegation without any factual basis that needs to be corrected as it may lead to the repetition of an unpleasant past chapter in Sri Lanka’s history. This appeared on Wednesday, 5 September in the Daily Mirror, the Island and the Ceylon Today. I give extracts from the latter paper. This was the result of the Cinnamon Gardens Police informing the Colombo Chief Magistrate that they have received information to the effect that during the protest Namal Rajapaksa and 10 others, were planning to enter the President’s official residence and stage an anti-Government riot.”

Magistrate Dissanayake, accordingly ordered the Cinnamon Gardens Police to arrest the 11 members of the JO named below, if the information received by the Police about their plan was true, as they had been named as respondents in the request by the Police.

The 11 persons include MPs Namal Rajapaksa, Rohitha Abeygunawardene, Dilum Amunugama, Wimal Weerawansa, Udaya Gammanpila, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Prasanna Ranatunga and Dinesh Gunawardene, and also Tissa Vitarana, D.E.W.Gunasekera and Asanka Navaratne. The Magistrate then told the Police if the protesters were planning to topple the Government unlawfully then, as they would be committing an offence under Sections 114 and 115 of the Penal Code the Police have the authority to apprehend and produce them in Court.”

The Chief Magistrate told the Police that evidence had to be produced in Court that the investigations by the Police have revealed that the protesters were planning to topple the Government. If there was evidence the … suspects could be arrested by the Police… without passing the buck to the Court. He then rejected the request for an interim injunction against the JO protest to be held today.”

Dangerous naming

This type of false charge was made against several Opposition leaders like Vijaya Kumaratunga and Vasudeva Nanayakkara, and they were labelled as Naxalites plotting to overthrow the UNP Government led by President J. R. Jayewardene. They were charged and jailed in 1983.

I hope that this UNP-led Government is not contemplating a similar course of action to weaken the Opposition and remain in power. Every effort is being made to delay the Provincial Council Elections. The Government has any chance of winning in the Presidential Election, which it likes to hold first. But even then, by making false charges, it is trying to weaken the Opposition as much as possible.

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