Dear Sri Lankans,

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What a week it’s been!

Between people willingly walking more than 10km to join mass protests, occupying State buildings, a runaway President, and an ‘acting’ one prematurely firing instructions without due procedure, we’ve had much to deal with while we still grapple with an economy in shambles and a big question mark looming over our foreseeable future.

As mighty large crowds gathered in Colombo last week, all to the astonishment of authorities who were almost certain that much of the public would find it difficult to mobolise under the curfew that was imposed the previous night while also factoring in the debilitating effects of the fuel crisis at hand, those assumptions only proved to be furthest from what occurred.

Paying no heed to the unlawful ‘Police curfew’ that was in place –which later had to be revoked for its illegitimacy –people set out early morning with a goal. Not just did they demand trains that were on strike to take them to Colombo but they also brought in more transportation into operation – more trains, more buses, lorries, and bicycles – and called for more people to take to the streets, rallying in the capital with one simple message in mind, on posters, stickers, head bands, and customised
t-shirts – GO HOME GOTA!

The stupendous visuals that flashed across the globe of joyous protesters storming the Presidential Palace, was a spirit that could also be observed even amongst people confined to their homes. It was unreal; from giving away free food to people making an arduous journey on foot to serving drinks to those passing by, offering up their water hoses for people in need of a refreshing splash. Solidarity also came in the form of voices cheering from the side-lines. It was clear the momentum was accumulating every step along the way.

What started off as the whole country coming together to give a stronger and clearer message than before, demanding the President to step down right away, intensified hours later as large crowds gathered outside the Prime Minister’s personal residence before it went up in flames. Subsequently, people began to occupy one building after another demanding the resignation of both the President and the Premier.

Suspicion is rife that other groups with different agendas have infiltrated the people’s movement with attempts to instigate violence and point fingers within the aragalaya for acting in bad faith. In some cases, there were clear exhibitions of thuggery when some stormed into a media institution, essentially hijacking their station to broadcast what they wanted. Nothing in this picture screams ‘peaceful protest’. While it remains unclear, many among the public have requested each other to take a step back and reassess the situation before taking any kind of action or we risk losing credibility we’ve had thus far and also risk escalating our already bleak situation.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House who was earlier tipped to be the acting President until a caretaker government came into play, not only got his facts incorrect, he also failed at basic English. After he majorly fumbled when speaking to international media stating that the President had left the country, he proceeded to overshare that false statement noting the then President was off to a nearby country and was to return midweek to hand in his resignation. He later retracted the statement noting it was a ‘mistake’ because the President was in fact still in the country.

While to you and I, a mistake is wearing mismatching socks to work and this is what we would call lying, it is interesting to note that this kind of ‘mistakes’ seem to be a running theme amongst people working under the former President.

Meanwhile, the elephant in the room and the man of the hour whose decades-long dream is finally brought to him by a fleeing President and the fall of his dynasty, is all set up to head the State, even for a day.  

In the time of waiting for the official resignation from the President who yet again failed to uphold the last promise he made to the nation, the Prime Minister took no time in blocking out a Fool’s Mate on his political chessboard.  Naturally, crowds are getting angrier by the minute but questionable groups posing as the voice of the majority are suggesting we should have a say in legislative decision-making and take matters into our own hands. Absolutely not. The recent movement began because we wanted reform. Not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. What we want is a system change not to have the failed but existing system eradicated all together.  As of now, the country is still in and out of curfew, with a barely functioning Government, IMF negotiations in limbo, and whole country hanging by a thread.

‘Was it because of the paper shortage in the country?’, ‘Was he counting on his final destination to provide him with paper?’, But then again ‘wasn’t it only last month the Parliament went paperless?’ Or, ‘does he or the Speaker not know how to use email?’ –we continue to wonder what the cause of the delay was, to give us the news that would have set off the fireworks on home soil much earlier in the week. So many questions but so little answers; and so many ironies too. People can’t help but observe the notably xenophobic President was forced to find refuge in a predominantly Muslim country and then have the national carrier of the holiest Muslim nation in the world, fly him out to find safety in his idol Lee Kuan Yew’s city-state.

What times we live in!

With the outgoing President having us on a wild-goose chase, displaying and further proving how incompetent, self-serving, and diabolical he is, even in the last chance he had to redeem himself in the smallest way possible, he chose to put himself first. Now, not only does he go out as a failed president, he goes out as miserably, pathetic one fleeing his own country which he thought himself to be the saviour of. He goes off like a criminal on the go, lost and insecure. And to top it off, you know it doesn’t get worse than this when he makes Boris Johnson, half a world away, look graceful!

A truly un-presidented moment.

Sincerely,
We did it – Gota on his way home

By Dilshani Palugaswewa