BY Dinitha Rathnayake
Protestors of the “aragalaya” (struggle) attached to the “RanilGoGama”, formerly “GotaGoGama”, at the Galle Face – whose protest site at the Galle Face Green was vandalised on multiple occasions, and whose activism led to the resignation of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa – have vacated the site which was in operation since early April.
Speaking at a recent press conference, a key and active member of the “aragayala”, Ven. Koswatte Mahanama Thera, said that even though the Occupy Galle Face movement came to an end yesterday (10), the “aragalaya” would however continue in different forms.
“During these four months of the ‘aragalaya’ against the State leadership and politics in the country, we brought every ethnicity together, and had a lot of victories. I think that it’s a considerable achievement. The ‘aragalaya’ that started on 9 April has made many achievements, but now we have to fight against President Ranil Wickremesinghe, his Emergency Law, and the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act as amended (PTA), which have to be taken away, and also fight towards abolishing the Executive Presidency, which is of the utmost need at the moment in order for democracy to prevail in Sri Lanka. The political unrest and economic crisis will worsen in this undemocratic system of Wickremesinghe and therefore, we will continue our fight against it “
Further, speaking to The Morning, activist Lahiru Fernando said that more than 43 tents were established at the site, and charged, however, that the majority of the tents had since been stolen by third parties.
“We received tents from donors and we have to give them back, but at the moment, we have only 10 tents left, as the others were stolen.”
The library at the “GotaGoGama/RanilGoGama” has been relocated to a temple in Panadura under the same name.
“We were able to donate around 4,000 books to school libraries previously, and the other books will be stored in a temple in Panadura,” Fernando stated.
The protests focused on the resignation of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and his Government, and the organisers felt it apt to name their site “GotaGoGama” for which they then coined an equally fitting tagline for their entire campaign – “Gota Go Home”. Within a week or two, in April, hundreds of thousands of anti-Government protestors gathered at the Galle Face Green. Maintaining a veneer of unity in a protest zone that continued to host people of almost all ages, from wizened elders to newborn babies, their ability to come together has been their biggest strength. That has reinforced support for their cause from across the country, and the world, making it possible for the organisers to maintain supplies of water, food, and electricity. The “GotaGoGama” site also had a cinema hall, kitchen, press room, facilities for emergency medical treatments, etc.
Meanwhile, four writ applications filed before the Court of Appeal pertaining to an order by the Police regarding anti-Government protestors have been withdrawn. The petitions had been filed calling on the court to suspend the order by the Police for the protestors to vacate the Galle Face protest site. The applicants have withdrawn the four writ applications filed before the court, and have also informed the authorities that they will vacate the Galle Face protest site. Leading protestors similarly announced that they would be leaving the protest site yesterday (10).
Earlier, Colombo Fort Chief Magistrate Thilina Gamage on Tuesday (9) granted bail to eight protestors charged with unlawful assembly, and the obstruction of duties of Police officers at the entry road to the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court on 25 May. The suspects appeared before the court in compliance with a notice issued to them previously. Among the suspects were actress Damitha Abeyratne, YouTuber and social activist Rathidu Senarathna popularly known as “Ratta”, actor Jagath Manuwarna, and Ceylon Teachers’ Union (CTU) General Secretary Joseph Stalin.