(The writer is the Chairperson of Mother Sri Lanka.)
Have you noticed the attire, the language used and the style of the latest protestors on the streets of Colombo and other cities? Even the slogan ‘Gota-Go-Home’ sounds very Western to me. They are not the typical protestors that we have seen every now and then on our streets.
This time the majority of the people on the streets are from the middle, upper middle and high income classes. They are younger, relatively affluent and seem to be more educated. They also seem to be conducting the protests in a very organised, orderly and responsible manner. For the first time in my life in this country, I am seeing this segment of society coming out for the sake of the country.
Take it from me, since I am one person who has been leading a movement that promotes concepts like ‘Proud to be Sri Lankan’ and ‘Responsible Citizenship” and this is a segment of society that we were never able to convince to do something to show that they are proud about SL leave alone coming onto the streets on behalf of it! In fact, they are the segments of society that normally vehemently complains if some other segment of society like the university students or farmers go protesting on the streets saying that all the road blocks and traffic have wasted their time.
Is it because they have been affected for the first time? It seems that it is, because the power cuts and the shortage of and long queues for basic essentials and the ever-rising cost of living have affected the comfortable lifestyles and the quality of life enjoyed by this segment through their own efforts have been now destroyed. Justifiably they are frustrated and angry, because these are people who never depended on the Government handouts to make their lives successful and now they feel an inefficient and incapable Government has destroyed their hard-earned lifestyles and run the country to the dogs.
However, now I see that the primary objective of the protest has moved to a different agenda of catching the Rajapaksa rogues and collecting the looted public funds and changing the constitution, holding elections and so on. Didn’t we know of the corruption among our politicians and their networks for a long time and we have had many changes of government between the two main parties and has anyone been able to punish the guilty or take back the looted public funds? So, in the middle of this greatest economic crisis that we have ever faced in our lifetime, do you think we can or we need to address this right now? If this is our focus now, who will be solving the economic crisis? Don’t you think that solving the economic crisis is more urgent and should be priority number one?
Don’t get me wrong. I am totally on the side of the people, I am in no way, trying to justify keeping these people in power. However, I must admit that I believed up to the very last minute that the team that was handling the economy under this Government had the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manoeuvre the country out of this crisis. Unfortunately, the fact they could not do so nor at least show us a robust plan to do so up to now, proves to me that this happened either due to vested interests or lack of leadership or both. It baffles me as to how a set of leaders that was able to take bold decisions to end a 30-year war, was unable to handle this?
I am trying to think through this issue, rationally and keeping my emotions aside. I would join the protests anytime if we are all going to be on the streets until the petroleum, gas and electricity, medicine and essential food supply issue is sorted. Because our representatives have failed miserably in their very first duty to the people they represent; which is to give the citizens the basic essentials to carry out their day-to-day life. For this reason alone, none of the 225 members in Parliament have any right to take a salary until they sort this out. So if anybody wants to protest against the 225 MPs, then demand from them to give up their salaries and perks for a while and at least show that they are with the people.
What I want first for my country is a solution to the economic crisis. I wonder whether the urban elite is aware that the poorer man is unable to go to work, feed his family or run his micro enterprise. They are not just inconvenienced like us, they just cannot find a way to survive the day. So, that needs to be solved immediately. Now with all these people resigning, who is there to even approve an oil shipment or sign a check? Are we going to let them run away so easily? If going to the IMF seems to be the only solution that all these brains have been able to come up with (mind you I have not seen any other solution mentioned by anyone on either side), then who is going to do that now? Who is going to negotiate with the IMF? Do you know that when the ministers resign automatically the appointments of chairpersons of institutions are also not valid?
Shouldn’t we first demand an interim committee with a CBSL Governor, Finance Ministry Secretary and a few others appointed to solve the economic crisis first? How can we solve the power and energy crisis without a person in charge? Can any of these professionals come forward to do this on behalf of the country without bargaining for benefits? Why can’t any of the MPs in the Opposition come forward to support with solutions without imposing conditions? That’s because for them, it’s still a game for power, when our lives are totally disrupted. That’s probably why the protests that were started by the people are now being tainted by political parties both in power and in opposition to take out their own vendettas and they will just brush this off as a political game and we will be back to square one!
Can’t we find just 10 good people (may be the best out of a bad lot) who can run the country while being in this same parliament and get the country to function? Because, how can we, or why should we spend about Rs. 10 billion now on an election and get the same lot back in? Because that’s what will happen if we hold an election right now. And after that is done, we should continue our protests until a system change is brought. Otherwise, once the economic crisis is solved, my guess is that most of this “urban elite” who is protesting now will forget about the country and system change and go back to their normal lives. So, we should not let this momentum die, and on the contrary, we should fuel it and keep it going until we get to that system change. But first things first! Isn’t it us that are going to suffer for some more months if no one is in charge of solving the economic crisis?
It is with deep pain that I am observing the current predicament that my beloved motherland has fallen into and the suffering that our people have been made to go through. I have been quietly observing every development. So my dear brothers and sisters, think carefully, think rationally, and be smart. Don’t fall for any bullshitting by any politician at this moment.
The need of the hour: We need political stability to get over the economic crisis first. If there is no political stability, IMF or any other financial assistance will not support us. So, please demand from all members of parliament today, to agree to form an interim government to handle the crisis.
That is the most urgent matter to solve now!
We must prioritise our issues and get out of this together! Don’t give up Sri Lanka!