Remember, Remember the 9th of July

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The 9th of July 2022 will go down in history. Driven to desperation, millions of Sri Lankan citizens converged in Colombo and other main cities around the country on Saturday, in a final push to send President Gotabaya Rajapaksa home.

Armed with just national flags as well as an unwavering determination and an iron-clad will to see an end to the burgeoning economic crisis, which has plunged the country into deepest depths of bankruptcy, the ordinary people – of all walks of life – stormed the President’s House, Presidential Secretariat and Temple Trees, amidst stiff resistance by the Armed Forces and the Police, who shot and beat down the unarmed civilians.

They were not chanting political slogans; they were not divided along social, political, economic and ethnic lines. They just wanted the political leadership that had failed to steer the country through its worst economic crisis to step down.

The events that unfolded on Saturday showed where a country’s sovereignty actually lie. Being Asia’s oldest democracy, Sri Lankan people have a long history and tradition of respecting the country’s democratic system – a trust in the democratic process of ousting undesirable leadership and appointing a new set of rulers to lead the country’s socio-economic progress at each election.

It would not be incorrect to state that until very recently, the vast majority of the ordinary citizens of this country had a lackadaisical attitude towards the political system. Many hardly voted in the elections, trusting in their individual abilities to earn a decent income for their families to live a comfortable life, while ensuring a secure future for their children.

Meanwhile, the political system thrived on the desperation of the working class and the blessings of the opportunistic business class, all the while engaging in corruption, looting public money, extracting commissions from foreign development projects, and maintaining a mostly wasteful, languid and inefficient public service that wasted a monumental amount of public funds.

 Yet, the vast majority in the middle class and the upper classes turned a blind eye.

Until the crisis hit home.

The queues to obtain fuel started growing longer by the day, withthe State-run Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) putting a complete stop to distributing fuel for private use a few weeks ago; as the small and medium businesses started collapsing, people started losing their jobs as they had to wait days and nights on fuel queues just to find a few litres of fuel to travel to work, schools being closed indefinitely,  inflation crossing the 80 per cent mark making it impossible to have three meals a day, public transport system started collapsing, the country’s celebrated healthcare system reaching a crisis point with lack of essential medicines, extended power cuts and staff unable to reach hospitals and the list goes on…

In truth, Sri Lanka became unlivable for the majority of its people in the last six months. Yet, the country’s elected leadership did not seem to have a viable plan to pull the country back from the brink of collapse, other than passing insults across the political aisles and blaming the crisis on the pandemic-induced lockdowns.

But the fact is, the political leadership had two and a half years to prepare for this catastrophe. Yet, they had been engaging in political games and gross fiscal mismanagement without preparing the country to face this calamity. Yet, all the while, the people in power and their families kept on looting the country.

What we saw on Saturday is the people finally reclaiming their country – back from incompetent and insensitive political leadership that kept on living a luxury life while the people are going through untold hardships.

They broke down barriers that kept the luxury lives of elected leadership hidden from the masses. They exposed the hypocrisy of so-called patriotic leadership that manipulated the voters into believing that they are serving the people, while amassing untold amounts of ill-gotten wealth overseas, all on the blood, sweat and tears of the people.

Thus, all the present and future leaders of this country, you must remember the 9th of July, the day of reckoning. No leader, no political institution and no document, is above the power of the people!