GotaGoGama; 50 days on

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The 50th day of the ongoing protest site in Galle Face was rung in with much fanfare and jubilation on Saturday. It was like New Year’s Eve; GotaGoGama residents counted down to midnight and fireworks lit up the dark skies above the Fort amid chanting for the ouster of corrupt leaders that are plaguing the country.

Various protest marches converged on Galle Face on Saturday (28) to mark the occasion and a musical concert featuring some of Sri Lanka’s most celebrated artistes entertained the crowd with protest songs till the early hours of Sunday (29). All in all, the spirit of the movement, the ‘Aragalaya’, has not died down despite various attempts to stop it in its tracks.

The violence meted by vicious mobs and political thugs on 9 May did not kill the struggle and various attempts to evict the protest site via Court orders were thrown out. The only spirit that is dying is the corruption and malarkey that had lingered in Sri Lankan politics for so long. Even foul bids to fracture the movement using agent provocateurs had been futile thanks to the overwhelming solidarity that protesters have with each other.

The sense of solidarity at the protests is nothing like we have ever seen in Sri Lanka. For example, members of the LGBTQ community sat down together with Muslims for Iftar meals during Ramadan; priests, monks and imams stood with the youth protesters and brought in everyone together and most astonishingly, 18 May marked both victory and solemn memorialisation; away from the Government’s pure triumphalism.

Lives are precious and so far they only mattered to Sri Lanka’s political establishment till everyone goes to the polls. These protests are giving people a sense of self-esteem that had been always been denied to them. Till recently, the notion of life for the average Sri Lankan was that they have to live unquestioning  and render their unequivocal labour and support to the State or end up being marginalised, shunned (or even dead).

In the face of unrest and calls for a ‘system change’, the leadership and their sycophants always have maintained the ultimatum, “let the rulers do their thing and keep your mouth shut, you only make it harder for the rest of us with your protesting.” Why the very idea of getting out on the streets with placards was deemed the forte of “rabble-rousers” and “troublemakers” till the mass protests turned things upside down and made dissent into a national pastime.

It is also important to note that leaders in the country are called ‘rulers’ by default owing to our unbroken history of first slaving to monarchs and then to colonisers. Our lives have always been that which has to be ‘over ruled’ so ‘rulers’ can slake their whims. But now everything is changing.

What is being demanded ultimately is for a system of governance under the rule of law; where freedoms are respected, justice is served on time and with checks and balances in place that will deter sociopaths from seeking power.

GotaGoGama demonstrates the next chapter in this country, one that works by mutual aid instead of exploitation and governed by laws instead of agendas. The success of this experiment will only depend on the citizenry. It’s time to rise up as a country and define our common destiny.

If the statement issued by the new Prime Minister of the country, Ranil Wickremesinghe last evening holds water, then a new era in politics is actually on the way. He elaborated in his speech that a new system as envisioned by the youth of the ‘Aragalaya’ will be made possible with the participation of youth leaders in the new political system they are proposing under the 21st Amendment. 

And that both the Cabinet of Ministers and President will be made accountable to Parliament. Hopefully these changes will be soon implemented if the country were to be rescued from the great economic abyss that we have currently fallen into.