By Lucien Rajakarunanayake
I was 14 plus when the first hartal took place in what was then Ceylon. We had only print and radio for news, yet the LSSP-led mass protest did have echoes of workers and people’s action, police shooting, 10 persons killed, and the overall failure of the government leadership.Sixty-nine years later, the present Hartal is certainly a country and nationwide rising of the people, moving from the fuel, milk and gas queues, to a decisive political movement, calling for a complete change from the corrupt governance in Sri Lanka.
There is hartal action in all parts of the country today, with almost all public and private sector services halted, and a call for a nationwide change in the process of governance and the politically manipulated economics of the country.The Parliament is certainly the place of most interest of the people, in what is an electoral democracy; and where the key interest of Members of Parliament would be in resolving a situation of national crisis. But the Parliament of today is certainly furthest from such need and reality.
The key issue in Parliament yesterday was the election of a Deputy Speaker – an office of no attachment to politics or government. Instead, it was a complete farce in the parliamentary process. The Deputy Speaker who resigned – for no reason of politics, governance or parliamentary process, whose resignation papers even went to the President — re-contested for the same office! Ranjith Siyambalapitiya was re-elected with a large majority, defeating one of the best MPs in the House, who is also the son of another Speaker, and a member of a minority community.
The focus on Gotabaya and Mahinda Rajapaksa as the targets of the mass movement to change the prevailing system of corrupt politics and governance, has certainly moved to the wider message of “Horu Go Home ” – send all thieves back to their homes.It is a sharp and necessary rise in the call of the people, for a major and meaningful change of government. It also focuses on the need to change the parliamentary system in the country – to give real meaning to the votes of the people, and not elect people to positions of corruption.What is needed today is to preserve parliamentary democracy – in its full meaning and content.
The mass struggle of today – the hartal – is the call for true democracy, which was not the best from 74 years of freedom in 1948, and much worsened and hugely corrupt after 1977. The unity of the protesters at Galle Face, near Temple Trees, the approach to the Parliament, as well as in all parts of the country – with no divisions on race, ethnicity, caste and religion – should be the call for true unity in democracy.
The actions of some crooked politicians, in the past months, and after the mass uprising of the people began, call for the exposure of corrupt politics and crooked politicians who are trying to grab the flag of success in today’s struggle of the people. Can we forget the Wimal – Udaya – Vasu politicians who were the lead players in the “Ugly American” politics, with Basil Rajapaksa as the target?
In the crooked politics of today, the ugliness of Basil R is no more. He is a key player in the anti-people politics of today. Those who happily voted for the 20th Amendment, which brought Basil into Parliament, and the Finance Ministry, are now pleased to have a non-ugly American Basil in the maneuvers of crooked parliamentary politics.
The recent non-worthy actions of the Parliament with a huge SLPP, pro-Gotabaya majority, even with the questionable breakaways with the non-ugly American Basil, throws a huge weight on the people to save our democracy from the powers of crooked and dirty politics. What we see amidst this Hartal is the continuing power of the thieves – in politics, finance and all the power of The Horu.
The headline of yesterday’s (06) editorial in The Island is “Idiocy at its worst”. It is a layout of the idiocy that prevails in all aspects of governance. It quotes SJB MP Mujibur Rahman’s warning that “the people are so incensed that they might even set Parliament on fire, unless it finds solutions to their problems.”
There is the prevailing necessity to move away from the idiocy of politics and governance, and bring to the real goal of today’s Hartal. It is the call to bring an end to thieves, crooks, culprits, and criminals in our politics and governance, with a resounding call for all… “Horu Go Home”.
The Hartal of 1953 did bring several important changes – the availability of rice to the people, and the resignation of the then Prime Minister, too. The Hartal of today calls for much more – from resignations of key people, to the removal of many others, and the cleaning up of our politics and governance. “Horu Go Home” is the call of today. It can very well come to sending all Horu to Jail – Horu Hireta – which is the rising call of the people.