Who Were Not Afraid of Galle Face Protesters?
Posted on August 19th, 2022

By Sena Thoradeniya

Broadly speaking there were two major groups who supported and sympathised with the Galle Face Protesters (GLF); (1) Local players and (2) International players. It was easy to identify the local players, but not the international players who were hidden and used various agents and dubious methods to attain their main objective, regime change and creating chaos and instability in the country. We will do an in-depth scrutiny of the international players in a subsequent article, first paying our attention to the local players.

By May we were able to distinguish several sub-groups among the local players, although very few of these sub-groups showed their presence at the Galle Face Carnival Grounds. It should not be construed that one such sub-group consisted of hundreds or thousands of people representing a sizable proportion of the total population of Colombo and its suburbs. Some sub-groups were constituted with a few dozens of people. Another factor that should be considered is that there were no discernable borders between these sub-groups as one member of one sub-group may have sat with one or two other sub-groups. It is not my intention to give concrete examples for the nature and composition of these sub-groups as anyone can pick examples for them looking at the sub-group we delineate. We have identified these sub-groups not as results of a field survey conducted by us: newspaper reports and articles, private discussions, what appeared in social media platforms and posts exchanged with tech savvy personnel provided us with valuable insights to draw a sketch like this. Any future analyst may use these sub-groups to formulate any hypothesis and identify their features and traits.  Many of these sub-groups by any means did not occupy the Galle Face Green or the so-called village as its inmates. Some announcing their visits in advance, made their theatrical and melodramatic appearance in front of TV cameras, shouted a slogan or two, gave voice cuts to hired and paid Youtubers who were abundant and ended the charade hastily to dine at One Galle Face. It was said that the cinemas at this particular mall was full with these celebrities.

UNP, SJB and many other political parties were indirectly supporting the protesters and it was revealed that some party bigwigs keeping vigil at protest sites. It was very unfortunate that some Pohottuwa dissidents supporting the protesters in an indirect way without understanding what classes, social groups and strata these protesters represented, foreign hands behind the protest and how money galore and victuals and physical infrastructure provided by dubious sources; some even echoing Kaputas”, the jingle of the protesters. 

Majority of the protesters who had occupied the Galle Face Green were fed by their parents, Mahapola bursary holders who had not stayed in any queue to ease the burden of their parents or those who had not suffered due to shortages of fuel, cooking gas, medicine or fertilizer. For them it was an adventure, a carnival, a social gathering without any plan to solve the present crisis: some had blindly copied the BASL proposals. Even this had happened after forty days of merry making in the Galle Face Green. What change that had taken place when MR had left? When Basil had left? Did they think of what will happen when GR also leaves?  To fill the vacuum one activist had proposed four names. God save Sri Lanka with any one of these people at the helm!

Infighting among the protesters became the order of the day; many claimants had appeared as leaders; some disappeared pilfering money sent by various sources, adding a new word to their jargon, Left”!   

Other than the petit-bourgeois elements and activists of JVP student wing and its many front organisations, FSP and IUSF activists, narcotic peddlers and addicts, underworld elements, vagabonds and city lumpen segments, none occupied the Green on a permanent basis. Since free food was provided in a time of scarcities, the Green became a haven for the latter for their nefarious activities; thus, an urban ghetto in front of star class tourist hotels emergd. 

The local players which we had identified were (not in any order):

(i) Anti-Rajapaksa groups; these groups were of different hues and colours, which transcended to many other sub-groups and classes; hence the largest of all with a sizeable segment of Colombians or Colombo elites. The common factor which bonded them together was Rajapaksa Virodhaya” (anti- Rajapaksa rhetoric). For some of these,for reasons known only to them, Rajapaksas were poisonous weeds” that should be eradicated. Some of them with the help of MR, enjoyed the fruits of top diplomatic positions in the upper rung and peons’ jobs in the lower. Thereby MR was a one time fragrant flower” for them to sing hosannas. Chairman Mao had taught to carefully distinguish between what is really a poisonous weed and what is really a fragrant flower”. A flagrant flower at one stage cannot be a poisonous weed at another stage.

(ii) Those who had helped Rajapaksas in different capacities, their yes -men who helped them in all their misdeeds and mismanagement in the past, later they decamped for personal and parochial reasons; ironically some of them worked at the Temple Trees itself during MR’s previous stints. There are many similarities between this sub-group and the second category of the first sub-group.

(iii) Supporters of UNP and SJB: It was revealed that a one-time UNP national list MP was constantly in touch with the protesters. RW’s former Media Director, the Trade Union leader and some civil society” activists who were elevated to high positions after RW became the President were parading with the protesters. SJB supporters failed to provide a safe passage to Leader of the Opposition on May 9.   

(iv) Ex-leftists and retired revolutionaries who could not do anything worthwhile to social development during their prime age. These people rejoice in their old age looking at what is happening now, forgetting theory if any that they had upheld and principles they stood for in the past. Private discussions with them revealed that, they are not certain on what is meant by people”. Chairman Mao said (1957) (T)the concept of the people” varies in content in different countries and in different periods of history in a given country”. Accordingly, we should be able to understand what are the classes, strata and social groups that constitute people in this historical period of neo-colonialism and classes, strata and social groups that formed the nucleus of Galle Face Protesters.

(v) Ex-top bureaucrats, who in their heyday helped their political masters to plunder the country and served themselves as well as their progeny arranging the latter plum foreign scholarships and employment in overseas missions. When more than seventy houses of government politicians were torched by the organised arsonists who belong to two militant parties they even suspected that the victims themselves had torched their own houses, asking the inhuman question, where were the inmates at the time of burning of their houses”? Chinua Achebe making use of an Ibo proverb asked in his masterpiece Arrow of God”,” who ever sent his son up the palm to gather nuts and then took an axe and felled the tree”? They even asked whether those MPs had declared the gold lost and the funds utilised to build such mansions. Again, Achebe said: let us first chase away the cat, afterwards we blame the hen”. Wild cat had metamorphosised into a massive panther, they don’t know. There is no difference between these ex- bureaucrats and a JVP leader who said that it was a part of a government conspiracy, that the victims themselves torched their houses! An FSP stalwart was not ashamed to utter that the houses had caught fire by chance, without any obvious cause or design!  

(vi) Abstract theorists who change their theories continuously to suit the events that are unfolding at a rapid scale. These theories help some others to discredit Marxism-Leninism. Narodniks who considered the peasants as the chief revolutionary force, Cadets (Constitutional -Democratic Party) hiding behind democratic slogans who betrayed the peoples’ interests, Black Hundreds set up by the tsarist police to fight the revolutionary movement, so-called Socialist-Revolutionists, Decembrists are similar examples for these groups from pre-revolutionary Russia. Chairman Mao in his military writings had vehemently denounced adventurism, left and right opportunism, purely military viewpoint, roving rebel” bands and putschism, which shows that these brands of agitators and their struggles do not fall in line with Marxism. Contrary to social development as envisaged by Marxists these struggles bring social retardation, chaos and anarchy, which is evident especially after May ninth. This state of affairs continued until the ouster of GR and enthronement of RW, teaching a bitter lesson to the supporters of GFP.

For some of these theorists it was a revolution”; Sirisena’s ascendancy was also seen by some as a revolution” and those who had opposed him were degraded as supporting counter-revolution”. So, these theorists should be careful when using words. A separate article is needed to explore how these local theorists and foreign domiciled armchair academics including art historians” had theorised this protest.

(vii)  Colombians who have never supported any justifiable struggle of workers, peasants and students, who cursed the picket lines and demonstrators while parading in their limousines, who denounced GMOA members that they have thrown the noble profession to dogs and that there is no dissimilarity between medics and harbour workers when they resorted to trade union action. They were the people who rejoiced when  Galle Face attackers were  rounded up, bodily lifted and thrown into the Beira Lake  saying that the Beira Lake was not deep enough to drown the goons,  completely disregarding that some who were thrown into the waters died as a result and the destruction caused by throwing a number of vehicles into Beira Lake, later torched  by the peaceful” arsonists. Ali Sabry P.C. said in the Parliament that when Puttalam District parliamentarian Ali Sabry Raheem’s house was set on fire some of those in legal circles had been jubilant thinking that it was his residence and shared the video.

Some clamour to bring the so-called professionals to the Parliament through the National List. These are the types of professionals we have in this country! Have we not had our share of professionals in politics from the days of the State Council? Recent experiment is the disastrous entry of Viyath Maga” grandees.  Was the former Professor of Economics and Vice Chancellor appointed as the Governor of the Central Bank able to rescue the economy going down a precipice? As Achebe said all these men and women on the verge of looming crisis acted like the lizard who ruined the funeral of his mother”!

Foreign funded so-called think tanks and researchers” and analysts” attached to institutes founded with foreign funds were unable to provide solutions to get over from the economic meltdown. 

 (viii) Foreign-funded pro-West NGO s of different categories and brands who sing for their supper at the whims and fancies of their foreign conductors. This segment ever increases with the addition of professionals which includes lawyers, specialist doctors, engineers, IT personnel etc. How the lawyers in their hundreds came to rescue” the protesters on May 9, and lawyers encircling court houses when suspects were brought to court houses and the way they rejoiced when suspects were given bail are some examples for this new trend, all done with the blessings of the leaders of their  US-funded professional bodies. It is a right of a suspect to retain a lawyer; a lawyer representing a suspect is not an extraordinary matter. But lawyers in their hundreds gathering near court houses and uploading pics to social media platforms had occurred only after a new type of lawyers emerged with this protest.  

Many red shirted trade unionists also find their chambers in this Ziggurat (ancient Mesopotamian architectural marvel). A person who protested vehemently against Rajapaksas at the protest sites finding employment as Trade Union Director is another case that teaches a bitter lesson to protesters.

(ix) Buddhist monks of Sarvagamika Nikaya”, having questionable records, Catholic priests and nuns who grabbed the opportunity to oppose the slow-moving process in handling the Easter Sunday carnage and who believed in an imagined conspiracy staged to come into power deceiving the masses especially the voters in the Catholic Belt”.

(x) Maulavis and Muslim Brotherhood and many other multi-religious” outfits such as Born-Again pastors.

An interesting episode we observed was that a female undergraduate of a city university nicknamed thirikkkale” (buggy cart) donning a cassock of a Catholic nun. When questioned a male in a white cassock came to her rescue, may be another despicable pretender. Similarly, there were many men in saffron robes. For the first time in our lives we witnessed alms offered to these sarvagamika” sect monks by Catholic nuns. But Maundy (foot washing) was done by some others. A Christian priest located at a nearby luxury hotel was seen giving orders to his social media subscribers on that fateful day, not to allow busses plying to outstation destinations to pass without checking for goons.   

(xi) A fair amount of academics who have done much more damage to higher education in Sri Lanka than the capitalist governments and bourgeois office holders did. What they wrote to English dailies were full of Rajapaksa bashing. They still even after dismantling of their urban ghetto harp on an imagined peaceful” protest like in a chorus of a Greek tragedy, commenting together.  They were the people who promoted neo-liberal ideology. Some of these men and women are NGO activists whilst others are of JVP front organisations.   

(xii) Upper middle-class celebrities who were under the microscope not so long ago for detestable land deals in a tourist corridor” bordering the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka, swept under the carpet by the present regime itself. Allied with them were upper-middle class elements who have close links with entities such as USAID. Many of these elements had an axe to grind with Rajapaksas as they also had to suffer because of import restrictions, shortages of fuel and cooking gas and power outages disturbing their lifestyles. ACs, pressure pumps, driers became inactive at least for shorter periods.    

(xiii) Those innocent”,  good guys and gals, who affectionately addressed the protesters as puthala”, who were not aware of the role played by the JVP and FSP, and their front organisations (there are many) at the protest site, how they had infiltrated into the ranks of protesters donning the  non-partisan”, peaceful” garb, and their role at the protest sites,  crimes committed by them in 1988-88 and the hidden hands behind the arson attacks soon after May 9 , and the utterances of the JVP leaders justifying arson and destruction of property and how they prepared for a Guatemala type power grab in Sri Lanka. .

(xiv) Disgruntled and egoistic professionals of different categories who have no knowledge of intricacies of politics who used the so-called international press conferences at Galle Face for personal glory and advancement. Medics who warned the government of severe consequences if lockdowns were not imposed and had the country locked down unnecessarily for months and months, happily sat with the protesters without any adherence to social distancing or wearing face masks. 

(xv) Kalakarayas of varied types, some were only imitators of South Indian masala, propagators of popular culture and who played the roles of vicious ‘Nendamma” (mother-in-law), nagging wife and village villain in never ending soap operas, neither Aamir Khans nor Deepika Padukones. Some of these vociferous actresses were not seen even in a recent commercial, only relying on their past laurels, never heartthrobs at any time of their careers Some were representatives of JVP front organisations, for instance the man who harassed Sajith Premadasa.

Some others were charlatans who benefitted from MR’s artist-friendly attitudes for decades; the lyricist of Maha Rajaneni” who apologised for writing lyrics of this popular hit is an activist of a JVP front organisation now. Nanda Malini also apologised for singing Me Sinhala Apage Ratai”. Sometime back one of these panegyrists traced Rajapaksa genealogy to Lord Buddha! Some other lyricists and songstresses who fanned the flames of violence during 88-89 fled the country when more than 60,000 youth were massacred. Nanda Malini, released her latest video Dadabima” (hunting grounds) soon after the Rambukkana shooting incident depicting visuals from Galle Face Protest. This song can be analysed in two different ways as she keeps her options open; whose side she takes? Both. Hunted as well as the hunters!  But the so-called Prabuddha kalakarayas” (enlightened ones)  who visited Galle Face should have known what  patronised by the Galle Face protesters were not what they have rendered to the nation; similarly, these protesters should have known that origins of some of these songs produced en masse  during the protest go to the era of brutal suppression during Premadasa regime.

(xvi) LTTE sympathisers: their participation was evident in singing national anthem in Tamil, laser projections with the slogan of a united Sri Lanka and finally commemoration of fall of Nandikadal.

(xvii)  Media: Galle Face Carnival grounds became the center of admiration of media men, especially in electronic media and Sinhala print media. Little by little English press also began to pamper the protesters. There were chosen writers to do that in addition to their editorials. It was electronic media who gave protesters free coverage turning out some unknown nobodies into somebodies instantaneously. They kept on harping on non-partisan” and peaceful” catchwords even it was exposed that some hidden hands were behind the protesters and the representatives they chose for their talk shows were members of JVP, FSP, IUSF and other newly-formed front organisations. Future writers may write on the part played by the electronic media in propagating this protest movement, a luxury any other protest movement in world had not enjoyed. All their news bulletins gave much publicity to Galle Face activities. Number of days of its existence was shown to the viewers by adding the next number every day as turning a calendar.

May 9 events were broadcast live by several TV channels. One TV presenter incited the protesters asking them to take the law into their hands, preventing the legislature from functioning, making Galle Face Green the country’s Parliament where state authority would not apply. It was well-known that some media institutions were behind the protest and they were the main financiers. Same peaceful” card was played when the protesters storming and occupying the Presidential House, Presidential Secretariat and Prime Minister’s Office. One media institution who pampered the protesters by inviting them for a discussion had to pay the supreme penalty when the very same peaceful” protesters forcibly entered their premises.

Personnel working in advertising firms and digital marketeers provided digital strategies to the protesters.     

(xvii) In addition, there were many paid Youtubers of dubious nature who had become flag bearers of this protest. They gave running commentaries of every event simultaneously uploading videos.   One such Youtuber was impudent enough to call the protesters to storm Temple Trees on the night of May 9.

(xviii) Business conglomerates, business captains, representatives of INGOs and MNCs. It is now identified who were these business giants, ranging from pharmaceuticals, beverages, apparels, telecommunications, confectionaries to tourism etc. It was rumoured that during this period MNCs stopped giving advertisements to state media institutions. After Ranil’s ascendancy it was admitted by the protesters that funds from the corporate sector were diminishing; breaking of supply chain of Biriyani and KFC fast food had made way for a communal kussiya” at the protest site providing buth packets.

(xix) Former sportspersons: cricketers (some having political ambitions), athletes, cyclists, swimmers etc. We still remember those cricketers who now cry for the motherland” put self before country because of IPL money bags and how Tillakaratne Dilshan was made a sacrificial lamb in 2011. Dilshan became a Lord at the Lords scoring 193 runs breaking the record of the highest individual score made by a Lankan at this venue. 

(xx) Differently abled people, ex-servicemen, LGBTQ activists

Of the international players, main players were hidden, engaged in covert operations using their local hirelings. It should be mentioned that the U.S. Ambassador while condemning the violence unleashed against the protesters along with her Western fraternity, had nothing to say about burning of houses of more than seventy-five government politicians. It is very significant that soon afterwards the good Ambassador having discussions with the JVP leader; was it about the next stage of the struggle or to compare notes?  It should be remembered that during Yahapalana regime a JVP M.P. led a group of thuggish investigators” to investigate” the construction activities at the Russian Federation Embassy at Buller’s Road with full blessings of the then government.

Who provided the protesters facilities for video projections, remote servers and drones to attack houses as alleged by Dinesh Gunawardhana will remain unanswered. Only visible international players are the members of Sinhala and Tamil Diaspora. There is no surprise that Sinhala Diaspora protests were initiated by JVP’s Ethera Api” {We in overseas) front organization. In Melbourne it was by former German Tech trainees and their progeny. But the Ethera Api” people were very careful not to organise any demonstration in any city in the Middle East where they have several branch organisations!   

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