“Galle Face Protest: Systems Change or Anarchy? – Politics, Religion & Culture in a Time of Terror”
Posted on October 1st, 2023

Reviewer –   Prof. N.A.de S. Amaratunga PhD, DSc

There are two major impressions that the discerning reader will not miss while reading Galle Face Protest: Systems Change or Anarchy? Politics, Religion & Culture in a Time of Terror”,writtenby Sena Thoradeniya. One is the vast amount of information it carries regarding the machinations that the US imperialists employ when they decide to change the regime of a country of strategic importance, and the other is the dirty face of the two-faced so called Aragalaya”. It is very unfortunate that this book has not received the attention it deserves from those who love this country and who are aware of the peril it faces. The perilous position is due to two reasons; one is the geopolitical importance of the maritime geography of our Island and the other is its history of struggles against imperialism, both very vital considerations for the US. They will leave no stone unturned to defeat the nationalist spirit of the people to gain a foothold on the Island, which is the southernmost land in the strategically important Indian Ocean. This is the reason why the so-called Aragalayists” were encouraged to ridicule our national and religious symbols. If they can destroy the national fervour that is built on Buddhism half their battle is won.

I feel that the book has not received the attention it deserves because the people have not yet recovered sufficiently from the shock, they went through in the last few months. They have lost their nationalist leader in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis and they don’t seem to know what hit them; they don’t know whom or what to believe. This is very unfortunate for this book which is an eye opener; it tells us what really happened and also what may be in store for us if we are not alert and informed of the danger that awaits us. Thoradeniya’s book is a revelation on all these aspects.

The book has a Preface titled, Taking the Lid off the Golden Bowl” by Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera who succinctly tells us about the value of the book. The Introduction, which consists of 43 pages, deals with the conspiracy to oust the President. The role played by the US Ambassador is revealed with great detail and substantiated with evidence. It also talks in a detached way about the obvious mistakes committed by the President on the advice of dubious experts. How the President played into the hands of his adversary is shown clearly. Straight talking Thoradeniya does not spare even the Cardinal; his role is described in clear terms and one wonders about the intentions of the Catholic Church. The author has seen with his own eyes the Mirihana Outrage” which is portrayed as a harbinger of evil to come. The intentions of the so-called Aragalaya” which was supposed to be the epitome of peace was on display, road tarmac on fire, buses on fire, President’s house on siege, under the eyes of the police.

In a chapter titled Who Were Not Afraid of the Galle Face Protesters” Thoradeniya deals with the supporters of the so-called Aragalaya”. According to him there were two groups, local and foreign. This chapter is very important for it reveals the forces behind the phenomenon, some active in the open, others hidden. Some belonged to political parties, others were anti-nationalist elements; they would announce their arrival, shout a few slogans and then would leave the site to dine at the One Galle Face”. Infighting among these groups were not uncommon every day. Thoradeniya lists twenty sub-groups who were involved in the so-called Aragalaya” revealing that they were an assortment of groups with no common doctrine or ideology.

The foreign support that was available to the so-called Aragalaya” is described in the chapter titled US Footprints at the Galle Face Protest Site”. The author makes reference to MP Wimal Weerawansa’s disclosures and Ms Shenali Waduge’s letters published in LankaWeb. The latter’s revelations about the CIA created organisations, International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute and their activities in Sri Lanka form the basis for the discussion in this chapter. Reader is informed of the ramifications and wide networking capabilities of these organisations. Waduge appears to be quite knowledgeable and well informed supported by research publications of repute. How these organisations provide funds, train various groups and NGOs on subversive methods and activities are given in detail. How groups were mobilized using the hashtag called GoGotaHome” and why these placards could not have been the spontaneous outcry of a people deprived of a living but the work of a well-organized, well-funded outfit like the US orgaization Generation Democracy” form compulsive reading.  What these US organizations have achieved in other countries in Latin America and Africa are described to support the contention that US was behind the so-called Aragalaya”.

Author very importantly deals with the culture that was manifest at the Galle Face Protest site in the chapter titled Group Formation and Culture of Galle Face Protesters”. He says that this culture is not going to be a permanent feature of the Sri Lankan main cultural milieu and he has been proved right. He discusses the possible means and causes of formation of this culture. There was no uniformity in this culture, the unifying force being the intention to chase out Gota. There was no leadership or hierarchical organization. There was group rivalry and conflicts among the different groups. The use of filthy language in their banners and placards was a common occurrence which reflected on an uncultured culture”. When they surrounded Ranil Wickremasinghe’s residence the placards that referred to him were utterly filthy reflecting on the lack of culture. Author says the The Galle Face culture was anti-national, anti-Sinhala, anti-Buddhist, Federalist and Ealamist”. The village farmers who were deprived of their living would not stoop so low. Author gives a comprehensive account of the culture or lack of it of the Galle Face Protesters.

Thoradeniya bludgeons the arm-chair critics who theorised on the Galle Face Protest with articles under whimsical titles like Mirihana Moment and Movement” and United We Stand”. A vivid description of the theorist including his pedigree is given leaving no room for mistaking the identity of the theorist. Another such theorist is taken to task, an ex-High Commissioner, who has accused the security forces of setting fire to the bus at Mirihana. Author identifies ten groups of such theorists who attempted to valorise the Galle Face Protesters and he also identifies the commonalities among these theorists. This chapter of the book has some very important facts about the anti-national, misguided, rootless groups who operate under various legends like Kuppi Collective/Talks”.

In the chapter titled Galle Face Protests and how Operation 2.0 was Foiled” the author briefly traces the history of the JVP insurrections and then he clearly explains the strategy of the JVP in hijacking the so-called Aragalaya” and attempting to capture state power. May 9th was the dress rehearsal for the real revolution” that was to follow. How meticulous preparations were carried out for the arson attacks by the Helmet Brigades” is vividly described. Molotov cocktails were available to be thrown into Prime Minister’s residence; who has the knowhow to make those bombs” the author asks. The reader has memories of the 1971 and 1989 insurrections and he knows. Author explains what 2.0 means, an advancement on 1.0, in other words a bigger event than May 9th version.

Thoradeniya analyses the failure of the JVP to capitalize on the economic crisis and the resultant suffering of the people. He makes reference to the repeated failures of the JVP in the past. The author gives eight reasons for the failure of the JVP and the main reason is that the JVP has not developed their political links with the masses well enough to succeed in any upheaval they launch. This was evident in all their insurrections and in the attempt to capture power in 2022.

In the chapter titled Ex-President in Retrospect….” the book looks at the reasons for GR’s failure to take action against the protesters who were slandering him in filth, stamp his authority endowed by 6.9 million voters, and chase away the rioters. Dealing with the various theories put forward by various writers the author says he was trapped by the US. On the question whether GR was a dictator the author disagrees saying that GR was a practitioner of abdicracy as opposed to autocracy. Well GR’s term was too short to make a judgement; however, it was evident that he was vacillating in the face of grave provocation and challenge to his authority. His inaction, particularly when Hirunika was protesting and besieging, would have sent wrong signals to all those who were plotting his ouster and also the security forces. The author sympathetically analyses the shortcomings of Gota and answers the question whether GR was a politician. Author asks the question why the security forces on their own initiative did not act against the rioters when the very existence of the state was at risk. Well they finally did act when the Parliament was attacked.  

Author thoughtfully has included a chapter on what protesters and politicians should know about systems, systems theory and types of change. The Marxist view on these matters are dealt in detail. Sacrilegious behaviour of the protesters, insulting Buddhism and its sacred symbols under the very eyes of a prominent Buddhist monk who visited the site regularly should be an eye opener if nothing else is and be aware of the peril the country may face due to the action of these revolutionists” who have attempted to grab state power for the third time.

Thoradeniya in his comprehensive analysis of the Galle Face Protest analyses MP Wimal Weerawansa’s book Nine; The Hidden Story”. Weerawansa’s book reveals lesser known important facts. For instance, the reason why the army trucks parked near the Galle Face Protest site were suddenly moved out. The US Ambassador at this stage of proceedings were calling the shots. She called this book pure fiction.

Thoradeniya draws parallels between the Galle Face Protest and other similar phenomena that took place in foreign lands, in a comparative study, such as the Arab Spring”, Iranian women protesters, Brasilia in Brazil and Andean Mountains in Peru supplying much valuable information to the reader.

All in all Sena Thoradeniya’s book titled, Galle Face Protest; Systems Change or Anarchy? with the cover page depicting a rioter climbing on to the statue of former Prime Minister S W R D Bandaranayake to blind fold him with a black cloth, is indeed a must read for all Sri Lankans who love their country and would rise up against any adversary without hesitation.        

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