Dear Sri Lankans,

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Dilshani Palugaswewa spells out why the public has had enough

What we are experiencing is nothing less than traumatic and exhausting.

To have your own State come at you, batons in hand with the intention of hurting you rather than instilling fear is indeed something we cannot and should not tolerate or forgive.

What we need to remember hereon out is that we should not put politicians on a pedestal or bow down to them as though they are royalty or revere them as gods (or in some Jackson-verse, a descendant of the Buddha). We shouldn’t expect people who; rule with the iron fist of a dictator, benefit from peddling racism,  encourage discrimination, legitimise corruption, promote nepotism, disregard human rights and most of all, have no care in the world for accountability, to do right by the people when they take up their incumbent positions.

Historically we have learnt how the power-hungry have no problem completely demolishing true democratic systems just to have their way. Despite having such examples, we’ve embraced this corrupt political culture for far too long. We have gone on to elect and re-elect big talkers for their hollow promises, and pick the ‘lesser evil’ or the ‘known devil’ when we should have eradicated all the ‘evils’ instead.

The systematic enabling of this incredibly faulty system has only increased the number of incompetent people in high places with their vested interests, disintegrating any semblance of democratic values and institutions we have – all of which has brought us here. People who make way for impaired systems to thrive cannot be trusted no matter how many times they shout it from their rooftops – there is zero public interest in what they stand for, only a keen eye for an opportunity to fill their ever-growing pockets.

At this crucial juncture, when we are in dire need of a competent interim government comprising individuals whom people can trust to carry us ashore through the storm that we are now weathering, we still have a president who is adamant that he should be the one to captain the ship despite the multiple crises that have caused a literal life-or-death scenario. But what good is allowing the same ‘captain’ who intentionally dragged you through troubled waters despite having read the weather alerts and seen a giant red alarm beeping incessantly, cautioning for a change in direction due to the storm ahead, to be tasked with the job of saving the very lives he put in danger?

Doesn’t make sense, right?

So let’s backtrack a bit. This whole movement began because we wanted the President to leave. Along with him, we wanted his multiple family members who were in Parliament – who have continuously abused their power, allegedly misappropriated funds and been accused of war crimes –  to also leave. Thus, the resignations of the former Prime Minister, his brothers, and his son from their ministerial portfolios cannot be a move that is taken as an ‘at least we got most of them out’ mentality. The people’s demand still stands – #GoHomeGota.  As long as he stands, any decision he makes will not be trusted.

This is because the majority of people who had so much faith in him and also voted him to this position have lost every shred of respect they had for him. Their confidence in him faded fast as they watched their last strand of hope in his governance disappear into the abyss owing to failed policies and administrative blunders that miserably failed in serving the people. Meaning, nothing other than his resignation will satisfy the public who have for a very long time, not just tolerated but also paid a hefty price for the State’s failure. 

If there was any day to highlight and emphasise why we need the change we ask for, it was last Monday. We watched as State-sponsored violence was unleashed on a peaceful assembly with no regard for the lives of those present, just because a political family who thought they were invincible, was being pressured into giving their power up for the greater good. We heard no word from the President condemning his family for their actions done with callous and malicious intent but we do remember how quick he was to outright label the public as ‘terrorists’ for merely protesting because their basic needs aren’t being met.

We witnessed law enforcement turn a blind eye and allow organised mobs to ambush and attack peaceful protesters who were only armed with their voices and signboards because of orders that allegedly came from the IGP himself. The tear gas which on other occasions was fired to disperse crowds voicing their dissent constitutionally, was suddenly nowhere to be found and armed forces were unable to accurately target pro-government goons for literally beating up innocent people on the street. Instead, we heard stories of anti-government protesters getting hurt from being tear-gassed ‘inadvertently’. 

Moreover, a State of Emergency was declared way ahead of Monday’s mayhem with no clear reasoning given by the President, though informing the public of the rationale behind his decision would have been the lawful thing to do. And if this wasn’t unconstitutional enough, our Members of Parliament, proved themselves to be just as dysfunctional when they couldn’t work around their problems to have a Zoom call to convene Parliament within 10 days of the emergency regulations as stated in the Public Security Ordinance. Yet, these people are still thought to be capable of policy-making and having our best interests at heart.

Political actors who have in the past, quite literally turned the House upside down, even those who’ve flung the constitution around, have the audacity to lecture us on what is constitutional and what’s not while they shamelessly incite violence in an attempt to quell peaceful protests to serve their agenda.

But we are victorious this time because we have reversed the wave of fear. We can see them reeling as they are engulfed in the very flames that they ignited.

We are not going to sit and watch hereafter while they disguise self-preservation and political sustenance as matters of national security and decisions that are, “For the people.”

On that note, I’m going to leave you with this quote by the first Prime Minister of post-independence Ceylon. “The best security a country could have is contented citizens” – D. S. Senanayake

Sincerely,
#pushedtothelimit