By N Sathiya Moorthy
Sad but true. When Sri Lanka was burning, literally and otherwise, governments and global institutions like the UN and HRC kept harassing the national government against police even firing tear gas shells or water cannons at peaceful protesters elsewhere . They even condemned the security forces to open fire, killing a not-so-non-violent protester, who was part of a crowd setting fire to a fuel tank/cistern strategically parked on a train track.
Weeks and months later, when all the Rajapaksas left the government, they quickly appealed for peace and restraint. They said they were closely monitoring the developing/emerging situation and called for a calm and smooth transition. Between the lines was an unsaid, unread message. Amen!
The list did not stop with the UN, the US and the EU. Closer to home, the Sri Lanka Bar Association and other professional organizations of doctors, surgeons and engineers, not to mention religious institutions like the Maha Sangha and the Catholic Council, advised restraint when Gotabaya Rajapaksa was president, and suggested cordiality after having the left. There is a story there that could be unraveled in the months and years to come.
For their part, the Indian neighbor and the “Chinese friend” of Sri Lanka have also since opened their mouths and called for social peace and political harmony. Thankfully, they maintained a healthy distance as unsavory episodes unfolded one after another over the past few weeks and months.
Malice, not ignorance
Yet India could not escape occasional and unsubstantiated mentions on Sri Lankan social media of New Delhi sending troops to aid the then-ruling Rajapaksas and facilitating Gota’s humiliating exit to the common neighbor of the Maldives. It was not ignorance, but malice that lay behind such claims and publications.
First, Sri Lanka has an armed force that has both national pride and professional pride. No government in Colombo, especially after the decisive defeat of LTTE terrorism as early as 2009, could afford to upset and antagonize them by inviting foreign forces, either to replace them or to confront them (???), if that was what we meant.
India had its bad experience with the IPKF in 1987-89. Institutional memories rarely fade, not when Sri Lanka faced an almost similar situation, but without both sides firing a shot. “Nonviolent urban insurrection” was/is the name of the game, and New Delhi was wise enough to understand the situation on the ground between those controlling “peaceful protests” better than their critics at home understood, to to be able to enjoy.
Calls for peace and restraint at governmental/institutional level, also after Gota was launched, have since been followed by INGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) who have howled protests against the carte blanche given security forces to control the situation. Again, they did not utter a word against the arson attacks or the occupation, hence the disparagement of multiple ‘symbols of the Sri Lankan state’, namely the secretariat and the official residence of the president. , as well as the office of the Prime Minister.
Dictate the terms
And their current condemnation of the security forces before anything has even been reported comes at a time when the centre-left Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) has raised the possibilities of a ‘civil war’ if Parliament elected Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as President on July 20. Without identifying themselves politically, part of the protesters who were at the “Aragalaya” (struggle) site, who had remained at the President’s secretariat, the official residence and the Prime Minister’s office, have since left everything except the presidential secretariat. . They would stay put until the results of the presidential poll are known.
It is as if the protesters want to dictate their terms to the political class at large – and by extension, to constitutional institutions of all kinds. Already, the leaders of the FSP, who owe the authorship and ownership of a substantial part of the success of the mass movement, have underscored the mass nature of the protests that have brought all Rajapaksas to power, above and outside constitutional norms. and parliamentarians. process.
They now seem to have been emboldened enough to declare that they would not stop at leadership changes, but wanted to impose a “system change”, as on ideological lines, again in the same way. Translated, they see parliamentary processes as existing now only as a tool of a grassroots movement for change.
Does it appear that they envision a communist system of government as still existing in China, where the party is supreme and the government, parliament and armed forces are auxiliary agencies? They didn’t include the armed forces in their list, but when they said so, the security forces weren’t interfering with their protests and arson, big and small.
Layers and Layers
As the Galle Face Green protests end a hundred days and still continue, the question arises as to what the intentions are and who their leaders are, if and when a new president wants to engage them in talks. There seem to be layers upon layers of them, with Ranil as president endorsing a set of demands made by such a group. Do they have an organized structure that the government can negotiate with? Two, do they represent all protesters across the country, even starting with multiple groups in GoGotaGama?
It is also here with whom, as president, or with which government would they be ready to speak, if they were invited? On the contrary, who would he not approve as president even if elected by parliament and approved by the Supreme Court, even indirectly, because the chief justice is the one who swears in a new president? Ranil’s names are at the top of the list, yes, but are the protesters all together, or would there be a palpable division if Parliament elected him? But are there any other names in their expanding list, if any?
One hundred days later, protesters won some, not some. Truth be told, their goal from the start didn’t stop at getting Rajapaksas out alone. They wanted the cleansing of the existing political system of corruption, nepotism and all the other ills that had contributed to the current national stalemate, from which there is no easy or quick way out.
Now that the Rajapaksas, whom they branded as the symbol of all that was wrong with the Sri Lankan state and political systems, what do they intend to do next? Do they have a schematic approach to ridding the system of corruption, nepotism, etc., which is still just the beginning? If so, how are they going to implement it – through the elected parliament, which is always supposed to be legitimate and constitutional, or through the extra-constitutional means, by which they have already tasted victory?
(The author is a political analyst and commentator, based in Chennai, India. Email: [email protected])