9 July Movement

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Coming Saturday’s (9 July) mass protest maybe the harbinger leading to the overthrow of the present regime co-led by SLPP Party member and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and UNP Leader and Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe. That is the expectations of at least a cross-section of the suffering masses.

Sri Lanka is presently suffering from a US dollar shortage, the worst after Independence, obtained 74 years ago in 1948, reflected by shortages of almost all essentials under the sun, made worse by record inflation of nearly 100 per cent, with no solution in sight by the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe led-Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL).

Consequently, record miles long queues at fuel stations, coupled with long queues for cooking gas have been the daily norm for months. Subsequently, 14 ‘queue’ deaths have been accounted to date with no one, not least the GoSL of Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe being made accountable for such unavoidable deaths.

That, however, is unsurprising, because the cause of this morass is due to rampant corruption that took place in the near 10-year Presidential tenure of Rajapaksa’s elder brother Mahinda (MP). But neither Mahinda nor his Cabinet, where a number of them are serving in Gotabaya’s present Cabinet too, has either been questioned or arrested in this connection.

The latest of such sufferings is the GoSL closing down schools because there is no fuel to run public transport, another record by the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe duo.

Contrary to what ‘backdoor’ Premier Wickremesinghe implied in Parliament on Tuesday that there is no magic wand to solve these problems, this magic wand however is with the international community. It will be only waved if GoSL takes action to prosecute those responsible for this economic crisis.

EU+ Ambassadors who met Gotabaya last month said aid would be forthcoming only if Sri Lanka embarks on a journey of structural reforms impacting every gamut of society. Sri Lanka saw this magic wand being waved 44 years ago when the then UNP Leader President J.R. Jayewardene was in power and in which Government Wickremesinghe served as an MP.

To refresh Wickremesinghe’s memory, then US President Jimmy Carter, in a letter dated 26 April 1978, told Jayewardene that the USA, in the four years to 1979 would provide more aid to Sri Lanka than what it gave the island in the preceding quarter century (1950-1975)!

Three months earlier, when UK Premier James Callaghan visited India in January 1978, he announced British aid to build the Victoria Hydro Electric Power Project (VHEPP), an adjunct of the accelerated Mahaweli Development Project basically funded by the West. VHEPP according to Indian author Rahul Mugdal in his book titled ‘Poverty Alleviation and Rural Development’ was the “largest British foreign aid project ever, where donors were in competition and so in a hurry to be committed.”

This magic wand will once more be waved over Sri Lanka only after Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe go! That is what the 9 July Movement is all about, reminiscent of the ‘Arab Spring,’ which chased away dictators like President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, and Colonel Muammar Al Gaddafi of Libya.  A similar ‘People’s Power’ movement exercised by the Filipinos led to the overthrow of Philippines Dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

Sri Lanka has a tradition of democracy, the second oldest country after Japan in Asia to have enjoyed the franchise, bequeathed to it by the British Raj in 1931 and much older than either Tunisia, the Philippines, the only two present democracies, of the above four countries mentioned. Egypt and Libya are not democracies. Therefore, Sri Lanka descending into the abyss of anarchy in the event the Government is sent home by ‘People’s Power,’ is an unlikelihood.

From a terrestrial perspective, the only hope for a premature Government change, given the fact that the next Presidential Poll is due in only another two years time in 2024 and the Parliamentary Poll three years later in 2025, is through ‘People’s Power,’ to be demonstrated by the ‘9 July Movement.’ GoSL being overthrown by ‘9 July’ immediately may not happen, but 9 July will be more than a start, a start which will achieve its end, quickly.