Peoples power in Sri Lanka

The mass movement ended the Rajapaksa rule in Sri Lanka 

The mass movement in Sri Lanka has forced the president and Prime Minister to resign on July 09. Hundreds of thousands of people across Sri Lanka gathered in capital Colombo. Their main demand was the resignation of president Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The masses in Sri Lanka finally arrived on the political horizon. They have shown their power and revolutionary will in this struggle to bring down the government and to end this economic misery and crisis. 

The people have shown their anger and discontent against the rulers and neoliberal free market economic policies. They are sick tired of poverty, falling living standards and miseries. They want an end to austerity, privatisation and further liberalisation  of the economy. they want food, energy and other utilities of life at affordable prices. 

The failure of the government led by Rajapaksa dynasty to solve the economic crisis and to bring down the prices of food, energy and other essential products made the rulers unpopular in the masses. They underestimated the anger that existed in the wider layers of population. The strong reaction shown by the Sri Lankan working masses in May , June and now in July. The ruing class was hoping that the anger in the masses will recedes and they will be able to hold on to the power. But the mass movement not only sustained but also grows in strength. 

The President Gotabaya  Rajapaksa has fled the country in an air force jet. According to media reports, he is in Maldives and preparing to leaves Maldives for an other country. He will send his resignation to the speaker of Sri Lankan parliament. The speaker has given the interim charge of the presidency to the prime minister Ranil who is trying to form a national unity government.  The other members of powerful Rajapaksa family have already left the country.  

The government tried everything to stop the protests from descending on capital Colombo. The police declared curfew in capital. Despite the harassment and intimidation, hundreds of thousands of farmers, small traders, workers, political and social activists and young people reached Colombo on July 09.

The police and the army tried to stop the protestors from entering the presidential palace and other government buildings. The use of force and repressive measures failed to stop the masses storming the presidential palace. Thousands of people entered into the presidential palace and continue to occupy it.

The protestors have refused to go back and to end the occupation of presidential palace and prime minister house until it becomes clear that president Gotabaya has given up power and officially resigned. The people believe that Rajapaksa family is trying to buy time to regained the control.

Some media reports are suggesting that many members of Rajapaksa family have already left the country. It seems that mass movement has finally ended the Rajapaksa rule in Sri Lanka. The mass protests forced the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to resign in May 2022.

The Rajapaksa family did every thing to cling on to the power. The president did what ever possible for him to extend the family rule despite the country was facing the most serious economic and political crisis of its history.

But the Rajapaksa family continues to pretend that it has done nothing wrong, and refuses to give up the crucial executive presidency position. Basil Rajapaksa has declared that he will return soon. All parliamentarians have completely underestimated the enormous anger and hatred that has developed across the country. Despite many obstacles, there was a unanimous feeling that 9 July should be the end of Gotabaya and the Rajapaksa family as a whole.

A transport workers strike was also called off to run enough services to allow the protesters to travel to Colombo. For those who cannot afford to travel, others paid. Small businesses also sponsored tickets in some places. Eventually, train and bus loads of people descended on the capital. There is only one thing in the minds of all – get rid of Gota.

Tens of thousands marched towards the president’s house and Temple Tree with this in mind and faced several barricades that were set up by the police, special task forces, and the army. Not just one but many layers. The masses pushed through them. The army fired live bullets at the protesters. A couple of protesters were shot outside the president’s house and later pronounced dead. Protesters faced violent and vicious attacks by the special task forces and police. But even this was not enough to stop them.

Sri Lanka's 22 million people have seen months of power blackouts and severe shortages of food, fuel and other essentials in the country's worst downturn since independence in 1948. The economic crisis made their lives worse and miserable. The poor masses are suffering the most. 

Men and women poured onto Colombo and laid siege to the colonial-era Presidential Secretariat, chanting "Go home Gota" and waving the national lion flag. Others carried handwritten placards that read "It's time for you to leave" and "enough is enough."

 "These are innocent people here. we are all struggling to live. The government must go and allow a capable person to lead the country," one protestor summed up the mood of mass movement.

Protesters have now defied the bogus resignation of Gotabaya and continued their occupation of the Temple Tree. They have declared that the occupation will continue until the president resigns and is gone for good. Temple Tree has now become a museum.

Tens of thousands of people are constantly visiting this palace, touring through the high life these officials had while they were asked to starve. These places – supposed to be public offices- are kept secret behind big gates and heavily protected to keep ordinary people away. This is the first time the impoverished people are able to have a look. Some even released house tour videos on social media.  

The Rajapaksa family not only lost the confidence of masses but also the business community. Sri Lanka’s business community, which largely funded Rajapaksa's election campaign, also appeared to ditch the president.

"The current political and economic impasse simply cannot continue any further, we need a cabinet and interim government within a week at most," said Rohan Masakorala, head of Sri Lanka Association of Manufacturers and Exporters of Rubber products.

His association joined 22 other business and industry organisations, seeking a change of government, saying daily losses had reached around $50 million due to the fuel shortage alone.

In a joint statement, they said that they were responsible for generating nearly a quarter of the country's $80.17 billion gross domestic product and warned millions of jobs would be in jeopardy.

                                                                       Khalid Bhatti             


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