Anarchy only a step away? 

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On Sunday (26) the CPC and Lanka IOC announced hikes on petrol and diesel while queues continue to stretch for kilometres outside sheds around the country. Fuel tankers scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka earlier this week and next week would be further delayed, said Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekara as suppliers refuse to make deliveries on time due to banking and logistic reasons. The Government announced that fuel reserves will prioritise public transportation, power and industries till the next shipment arrives.

In the meantime, things are not as rosy in the fuel queues amid promises of a ‘token system’. Police and armed forces assigned to ensure order at filling sheds are hard pressed to pacify hundreds of frustrated motorists who barge into stations after they are told that the petrol and diesel they have been waiting for days for has just run out. This and many more obstructions to public life are just a tinder that might set this country on fire provided the spark.

The political establishment did not learn its lesson from May’s unrest and instead wasted precious time in Parliament whimpering about their burnt down mansions and real or imagined “threats” instead of the roots of violence. The Government did not take notes after the Mirihana uprising nor did it get serious after the 9 May violence. The public is questioning why the authorities are not so keen on investigating the perpetrators of the attack on the Galle Face protest site but instead gleefully arrest and interrogate citizens who question a failing Government.

Amid this impasse, the Government keeps urging the public not queue up and instead work from home. The reactionary forces that was quiet for the good part of April and May have risen their ugly heads in a suspiciously coordinated fashion and are insisting that protesting is now futile and that we should all “get back with our lives” instead of exercising our civil rights. Heading these reactionary forces are celebrities and “society” types who have not fallen on bad times like the rest of the populace. This clique constitutes the kind of “brain-washers” who try to steer the people from their best interests with an arsenal of fake news, bigotry and pseudoscience (i.e. the infamous Dhammika ‘syrup’).

On the international front, war rages on in Ukraine and is sending ripples throughout the world aggravating domestic crises in many countries trying to recover from two years of Covid. Sri Lanka’s short-sighted policies such as an ill-advised overnight shift to organic agriculture and earlier failings to set exchange rates in a proper manner have made us very vulnerable to these developments. Fortunately India came to our aid and kept the country afloat with some aid and much needed fuel, but the question is can we muster enough help till we IMF bails the country out in a couple of months?

The citizens remain cynical as they wait for cooking gas and fuel. They have seen their fellows die in line and have in no means gotten “used” to the tough times like how an indolent and decadent political establishment wanted things to be. The MPs, VIPs and their hangers on keep getting their quotas of fuel on time and their groceries handed to their doorsteps. They are totally divorced from the realities outside their gilded world of party politics and backroom deals. This is not a recent phenomenon, but fortunately it’s addressed now and public consciousness is growing.

Sri Lanka took several progressive steps forward last Saturday (25) when a group of Gota Go Gama’s LGBTQI+ community hosted a pride parade. These protests are challenging the very idea of what it means to be a Sri Lankan and is setting up a precedent of a free inhabitant driven by civic purpose instead of a docile subject who exists to just pay the bills and go to the polls. The Aragalaya is neither a flash in the pan nor a beach party, but is a flashpoint that every decision we have taken as a democracy has led to; regardless of them being taken by patriots or tyrants.