Aragalaya backfired? Where are we heading?
Posted on July 31st, 2022

By Dr Upul wijayawardhana Courtesy Island

Whilst the economy, the basic underlying problem that needs urgent attention remains largely unattended by all concerned, political changes have moved at an alarming pace. So fast, that the totally unexpected has happened. Who would have imagined that Ranil, humiliatingly rejected by the voters in August 2020, would achieve his lifelong ambition in the most bizarre manner? The way, party after party, pledged support to Dulles made most of us believe that he would be our eighth president. When Sajith, who would have been the outright winner in a contest for verbosity, withdrew from the race at the last moment offering his support to Dulles it was pretty obvious that we were heading for a new era: Dulles/Sajith government. That was till the votes were counted! Even more surprising than Ranil’s victory was his massive majority.

A stunned silence pervaded not only in the parliament but also across the country!This, obviously, is not what the ‘Aragalists’ wanted! Interestingly, judging by the behaviour of the ambassadors as well as the lack of customary messages of congratulations, it looks as if this is not what the West wanted either. Ranil, the flagbearer of the West, has received congratulatory messages only from China and Russia! What an interesting and inexplicable paradox? Afterall, however bizarre the circumstances of Ranil’s ascent to the presidency, his election is constitutional and legal. This behaviour of the West surely adds credence to the suggestion that it played a significant role in the Aragalaya.

If so, there is yet another paradox: Is West in cahoots with ultra-leftists! There is no doubt whatsoever that,what started as a protest by those suffering severe economic hardships was seized by the JVP and FSP. The pronouncements by their leaders confirmed this and since their seizure the protests turned violent. The occupations of the president’s house, presidential secretariat, Temple Trees and Prime Minister’s office certainly were marred by violence. Accounts circulating show that Gota, to his credit, behaved in an exemplary manner instructing the security forces not to use force on the encroachers. This was in total contrast to the image of ‘Gota the dictator’ created! Once he escaped the mob, what should have happened? The protestors should have withdrawn instead of continuing to occupy and vandalise places of strategic importance.

The mobs went even further. They invaded television stations and nearly took over the parliament. If they succeeded in taking over the parliament on 13th night, perhaps, we may be having JVP/FSP rule today!What is happening now seems to be full of paradoxes! Celebrating Gota’s departure, a jubilant Omalpe Sobitha declared Sinhala Buddhist domination is over!” Is it not surprising that statement came from someone who is supposed to be the Anunayaka of the Southern Chapter of Ramanna Nikaya? Perhaps, he is Anunayaka when he imparts honours on Sajith but forgets that when he speaks as a political bhikkhu surrounded by Catholic priests! I have held Ramanna Nikaya in high esteem because of caste-neutrality but have lost it to a degree because of this unwarranted statement by a high-up in the Nikaya. Further, I am saddened to note that the Mahanayaka of Ramanna Nikaya did not counter this.

At lease he should have stated that no purpose is served by hurting majority sentiment. Though some accuse MPs of voting Ranil for money, it is quite possible some Sinhala Buddhist MPs may have voted in retaliation to the prevailing antiSinhala Buddhist campaign, as exemplified by the unwarranted utterance of this man in robes!Basil was turned away from the airport apparently by immigration officials who had taken the law to their hands. I have been very critical of Basil’s actions but do not endorse this type of discriminatory behaviour. In fact, Basil being kept in Sri Lanka by immigration officials too may have helped Ranil. There is no doubt that Basil is a capable organiser and used his talents! Much is made of the removal of protestors from the presidential secretariat. Interestingly, no one seems to question why they were there or why they should be there.

It is said that they were to leave the next day. But do they have the right to decide when they should leave? Do they have the right to disregard a court order? Can you take their word? I am no admirer of Ranil but have to admit that he took appropriate action as the president, so that he can function from his secretariat. When ambassadors tweeted, he called them and gave them a perfectly logical and legal explanation. He pointed out how protestors invading the Congress were treated in USA! When the ambassadors tried to fall back on BASL, he pointed out that the statements issued were based on the political agenda of the BASL president. This reminds me of the GMOA statements issued a while ago on the basis of the former GMOA president’s agenda! The US ambassador demonstrated undiplomatic defiance by tweeting a message very similar to her previous one, after meeting Ranil.

Perhaps, she imagines herself to be a viceroy! As headlined by Shamindra Ferdinando it looks like New Prez on a collision course with Western powers” (The Island, 27 July) and the question is what the Western powers want? Have they lost trust in Ranil because he is associated with Rajapaksas? Dulles? Do they want Sajith to be president as they feel he is manipulatable? Worse still, would they have been happy with a JVP/FSP takeover? Unfortunately,working towards economic recovery still seems a dream. So would be an all-party government as leaders seem busy finding excuses. Everyone seems to be obsessed with protests and protestors than the economy. It was interesting reading an appeal to the president by members of my profession, in the news item titled Group of senior docs calls for maximum restraint by govt. in tackling volatile situations” (The Island, 27 July). It is a pity they did not extend their appeal to the protesters and leaders of political parties behind protestors too, reminding them that they also have a part to play. More importantly, they should have appealed to all politicians to form an all-party government to get us out of the economic mess.Many questions remain unanswered and one wonders where we are heading. It looks as if masterminds are at play. Who they are and what their game plan is, no one seems to know !

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