First off, let me extend some well-deserved words of praise for continuing the people’s protest at Galle Face or to be more particular, at Gotagogama – the latest addition to Colombo’s landscape after Port City – for over two weeks. Your collective efforts – to which I myself too am a proud contributor – have managed to shake the family tree governance so much that some of the rotten apples have started to fall off one by one. The arrogance of the first person of our country who used to claim that he had done better than anyone else and that the current crisis is not his making is now reduced to own up to his past mistakes and to apologise. His brother in arms is frantically trying to bring up his past glories in an attempt to win some sympathy points but is failing miserably while doing so. The disastrous money printing is now halted, what used to be 13-hour-long power cuts have now been reduced to three hours, and the Cabinet is being shuffled like a deck of cards until the perfect combination in the view of the general public is drawn.
All these are small victories we all can be proud of but in light of these victories it is imperative that we shouldn’t forget what our main objective is. We took to the streets in peaceful protest having reached that boiling point of ‘enough is enough’. Only so much could we believe that the troubled waters we are in in terms of the country’s economy is a result of an unavoidable global economic crisis, only so much could we believe the words of our former Governor of the Central Bank which held no water, only so much could we stand the arrogance of a one political family that continued their merry ways of corruption to line their pockets while gas, oil, and milk powder deprived people were literally dropping dead in queues. Our objective is to abolish this plague of family governance and while doing so, change the system so that the next one to the hot seat won’t follow suit.
Our main battle ground is Galle Face in front of the Presidential Secretariat and our preferred mode of weapon is peaceful protest, and protest is what we have been doing like never seen before. The vigour, persistence and creativity of the current generation is broadening new horizons of the art of protest. From ingenious boards and street dramas to the use of art and technology in protest, the ways the peaceful protestors express their discontent is much diverse.
There is no determined correct way of protesting. That too evolve with the generations and we are witnessing this evolution in Gotagogama everyday. However, just like there is no one correct way to protest, there could be many ways of protest which could look ‘wrong’ in others’ eyes. What you need to understand is that this also is part of the diversity among the protestors. Using traditional shanthikarma as a means of protest might be okay in one’s eye but to another it might look as exploiting the country’s intangible heritage. Being creative in your slogans for sign boards is fine but some might think the use of profanity is a bit of an overkill.
Don’t be too quick to write off anyone who doesn’t agree with your way of protesting as pro-government henchmen or ‘bayyas’. You may have your differences but ultimately both of you are at Galle Face in the heat of the day for the same thing. In a way, this diversity is the beauty of this protest that progresses well sans political leadership. Come to the protest in numbers, shout till you taste blood in your throat and then have some snacks by the sea, take a selfie, sing a song or do whatever you usually do to blow off steam but never forget why you came to the protest in the first place. You might not like the way the one next to you protest but realise you both have the same goal. Stay united and be peaceful. If there’s one thing the Rambukkana incident taught us is that the Government will allegedly go as far as to create unrest among the masses to use violence as a countermeasure. Don’t allow that to happen. Embrace your differences and focus only on the common objective. As long as the protest is peaceful the Government will have to listen. We may have won some battles but the war is yet to be won. It is crucial that the peaceful protest is continued until the war is won.
Viva la revolution
By Sanuj Hathurusinghe