“Aragalaya” is now a term where the people’s power has proven that it is powerful than the people in power. The people’s struggle of 97 days had to pay a greater price to chase a deeply unpopular government. However, during the quest to oust the political leadership, the millions of protested who converged to Colombo took over several State buildings such as the President’s House, Temple Trees, Presidential Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office, and started occupying them.
However, what was witnessed following this takeover was the damage caused to these State buildings, which are maintained by public funds. The images of broken furniture splashed across social media, drawing much censure from all.
Though the main purpose of capturing these buildings was to occupy them, the protesters have also taken a taste of the luxury that the State’s highest political leaders and their families had been enjoying for years. But, what happened afterwards is nothing short of a tragicomedy.
Hundreds of civilians who did not have fuel or time to give their support to the 97 days of protest made time to get a glimpse of the luxury their leaders enjoyed, by visiting these locations with their families. Some made it a great opportunity to steal whatever that they could find around the places, including utensils, whereas a viral video on social media showed a civilian who visited the President’s House taking away a few iron bars from a fence.
When spoken to a few protesters in this regard they said the purpose of occupying these locations was never such vandalism.
The videos of protesters, who have been sacrificing day and night for 97 days and making sure it’s as peaceful as possible by finding creative ideas to spread the message of the Aragalaya, were now being blamed for vandalising public property. We can forget about a bit of the pool fun everyone had, but the pool party where mattresses found in the house were seen thrown into the pool and use them as fun floats, cannot be termed as innocent fun.
Director General of Archaeology, Prof Anura Munathunga noted that such scenarios are expected in a protest and measures should be taken to protect these places without getting caught to such mobs.
“The President’s House has been gazetted as a protected monument. To get a damage assessment done in these properties it will take at least three months. Although the President’s House has been handed over, we are yet to conduct a damage assessment to the building as our main concern has been to protect the artefacts within. Actually, it cannot be done in a hurry,” he added.
By Nabiya Vaffoor