‘9 August Aragalaya’

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Opposition and SJB MP Field Marshal (retired) Sarath Fonseka, addressing Parliament on Wednesday, said they will support the ‘Aragalaya’ on 9 August.

The ‘Aragalaya’, beginning with 9 May, was responsible for booting out SLPP leader, former President and then Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Cabinet. And, two months later, starting on 9 July and, consequently a few days later, Rajapaksa’s younger brother and immediately preceding President Gotabaya, two years before the completion of his Presidential tenure.

The cause of the ‘Aragalayas’ led by the youth was due to a multiplicity of record socioeconomic ills, like days and miles long fuel queues due to a lack of US dollars to import the same, leading to at least one fuel queue death per month since last year,  shortage of cooking gas for the same reasons and similar days long queues,  hours-long daily power cuts due to a lack of dollars to purchase the expensive diesel to provide  uninterrupted electricity supply to the masses as the cheaper ‘coal electricity’ plant built by the Chinese at a cost of $ 1.35 billion sans tenders during Rajapaksa’s Presidency, is, more often, only partially operable.

Fishers being unable to go out to sea because of the lack of fuel, schools and Government offices being operable only for a few days of the week due to this same problem, shortages of food, including milk powder and medicines, high cost of living and inflation, bribery, corruption, nepotism and cronyism, besetting the country since last year.

Further, the country is under ‘emergency’, giving not only Police powers to the Security Forces, but also the right to arrest a person and appropriate his property without a Magistrate’s warrant.

The reason behind the lack of dollars in the country is due to a mix of robbery during Rajapaksa’s near 10-year Presidency from 17 November 2005 to 8 January 2015, coupled with bad policies during Gotabaya’s short Presidency, from 16 November 2019 to 14 July 2022, before mass protests forced him to flee the country on13 July.

 UNP Leader and current President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Gota’s successor, is serving the remaining two years of Gota’s Presidency, constitutionally elected by the 225-member House of whom 145 comprise SLPP MPs, but not by the island’s 15 million + constituency, thereby causing a slur on Wickremesinghe’s election to the highest post in the country which goes against the spirit of the law.

Similar socioeconomic ills, though lesser in intensity, beset the country 45-52 years ago from 1970 to 1977 under a Marxist-Socialist regime and not necessarily due to corruption.  Wickremesinghe, a clone of that era, has extended the life of the incumbent Presidency by two years, similar to the life of the then Parliament being extended by a further two years, from 1975 to 1977, constitutionally, though, against the spirit of the law, by that Government in power.

The objective of the 9 August non violent ‘Aragalaya’, similar to the peaceful and non-violent ‘Aragalayas’ of 9 May and 9 July, is, this time, to send Wickremesinghe home. Nonetheless, Wickremesinghe, who changed the UNP Constitution to be the Party leader for life, plans to cling on to the Presidency till his borrowed time expires in 2024.

 SJB, the main Opposition in Parliament, knows this. But, like the UNP, when in Opposition from 1970-1977 and under a new and enlightened leader three years later in April 1973, began to fire the first political shots that led to the collapse of the SLFP-led UF Government of 1970-77, by starting, peaceful ‘Satyagraha’ protests beginning in July 1973 after the nationalisation of the Associated News Papers of Ceylon Ltd (Lake House Group of Newspapers) and culminating by joining the youth, after that repressive regime which ruled the country under ‘emergency’ for six years from 1971 to 1977, shot and killed a Peradeniya University undergraduate and wounded 50 others in November 1976 for protesting  against a stooge of the then Government, who managed the affairs of Peradeniya University, leading to the subsequent collapse of that Government at the Parliamentary Poll held eight months later, on 21 July 1977.  SJB, by extending support to ‘9 August Aragalaya’, plans to replicate the UNP’s success of 45 years ago.