9th July Revolution Ousted Rajapaksa Dynasty; So, Let It Imprimatur
By Ashan Nanayakkara –
In 10-years, 50-years or 100-years-time, when a pupil researches Sri Lankan Political History, when he googles in his computer on what happened on the 9th of July, 2022, what in fact transpired must accurately be written sans any lies or deception. A flashback of falling the realm of the most inept president in Sri Lanka, since independence, is excited, nerve-racking and sensational journey. The historians must not embellish nor belittle the bare facts with their hyperboles and amplifications when they articulate the tenure of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
The historians should not fail to write that, on 18-05-2022, ‘the Bloomberg magazine’ published its article, to wit, “How Four Powerful Brothers Broke an Island Nation”; on 31-03-2022, the Government declared 13-hours power cut across the country, in turn, at midnight on the same date, the private residence of Gotabaya Rajapaksa situated at Mirihana was pelted stones; thereby, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was sent to the President’s House at Colombo 01 and it is believed that until Rajapakse absconded in early hours of 09-07-2022, the latter was self-imprisoned in the said premises nearly for 92-days; on 02-04-2022, the Cabinet resigned fearing their houses will be the next target of the angry men; about 600-Lawyers appeared pro bono for the suspects who were arrested at Mirihana incident on the next date and the said suspects were brought through a guard of honour to Gangodawila Magistrate’s Court by the Lawyers; the swindler, the Central Bank Governor, Ajith Nivard Cabraal was sued in courts and his travelling abroad was banned on 06-04-2022; the Galle Face Aragalaya (protest) commenced on 09-04-2022 and the protestors occupied the ‘Gate Zero’ (the entrance of the Presidential Secretariat Office which faces to Galle Face Green); #GotaGoGama# (GGG) was colonized; on 09-05-2022, Rajapaksa goons who were fed and indulged at the Temple Trees (the official residence of Sri Lankan Premier) were set free to thrash the peaceful protest at Galle Face; in response, the people around the country unleashed their wrath by burning houses of Parliamentarians; the busses in which Rajapaksa uncouth hooligans were carried on to Colombo were pulled over to Baira lake; an MP was martyred at Yakkala town; DA Rajapaksa Memorial Museum which was alleged to have built plundering public money was burnt and on the next date DA Rajapaksa statue stood at Beliatta (Hambanthota District) was dismantled and pulled down by the same electorates who, 2-years ago, in 2020, gave a landslide victory of 6-seats out of 7-seats from that area in the Parliament Election to Rajapaksa led political party; on the same day evening, viz, 09-05-2022, the Premier, Mahinda Rajapaksa was compelled to give his resignation due to the mayhem brought about by his assailants at the Galle Face; on 12-05-2022, a travel ban was imposed by the Fort Magistrate restricting set of anticipated suspects including Mahinda Rajapaksa and Namal Rajapaksa (the son of Mahinda Rajapakse) due to the backlash created on 09-05-2022; on 12-05-2022, Ranil Wickremesinghe who had only one seat in the Parliament (out of 225 seats) was undemocratically appointed as the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka by Gotabaya Rakapaksa and the former addressing the nation named that he will be the Grusha of ‘Chalk Circle’ who is going to carry the baby of battered economy; on 03-06-2022, Basil Rajapaksa (who was vilified as ‘Kaputa’ – the crow) was acquitted from notorious Malwana mansion case and ended the last court case pending against him in Sri Lanka; Basil Rajapaksa who was much-admired to have possessed with 7-brains by his supporters vacated his Parliamentary seat on 09-06-2022 allowing his successor Dhammika Prasad (***Dhammika Perera) to enter into the Parliament; meanwhile, Galle Face Aragalaya (protest) was deflated, and at times, the ‘Gate Zero’ was guarded by one or two protestors, and rarely had an audience; albeit, economy was not giving any positive response and on 30-06-2022, Ranil Wickramasinghe, the official foreteller of economic crisis, informed that no domestic LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) and no fuel for coming 2-3-weeks; by fishing in troubled waters, clueless subject Minister, Kanchana Wijesekera, somehow managed to went on an extravagant trip to Middle-East searching for petrol when that country does not export petrol; this Minister blabbered before the media about the dates of next shipment of fuel arrives into Sri Lanka and the general public understood that no fuel ship is due in near future; the situation escalated in each passing hour, and again, the Galle Face invigorated; on 01-07-2022, the Government completely shut down the fuel supply to its people through fuel stations owned by Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CEYPETCO) (which has about 1,200 service stations out of 1,450 in the country); on 02-07-2022, protestors drew the battle lines and declared the dates of fight; since then, until 8th of July, people were educated, expounded and espoused on importance of an uprising; on 08-07-2022, as usual, the whip crackers of this Aragalaya, Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) hit on the roads around the President’s House at Colombo 01 and burned the midnight oil until their countrymen join with them on the next date; when the night falls on 08-07-2022 the Inspector General of Police (IGP) imposed an illegal curfew which was completely contrary to law; the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) swiftly took the action to challenge the authority of the purported curfew and by dawn of 09-07-2022 the IGP pulled out the said illegal curfew (for which he should be brought to books sooner or later); the Government bullied the Railway workers to halt their work on 09-07-2022; Ceylon Transport Board (CTB) was ordered to go on a strike; dispensing fuel was completely stopped in the entire country including for the essential services. All the aforementioned vicious tactics in tandem applied by the Government boomeranged and further mustered the courage of the citizens more and more. At last, on 09-07-2022, a sea of heads of people swarmed into the Presidential Palace, Temple Trees and Presidential Secretariat Office of Sri Lanka marking the zenith of the Galle Face Aragalaya (protest). On this D-day, at the evening, the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe both promised that they shall resign. Nonetheless, Gotabaya Rajapaksa after trying out most heinous of wiles to hold onto his post, finally, dispatched his letter of resignation from Singapore on 14-07-2022 bringing a triumphant to the most peaceful Revolution – #GotaGoHome# in the ingrained history of this country.
Thus, the one who records the bygone times must have a solemn duty to write the truth; nothing but the absolute truth. In that stark truth, Rajapaksas were never ‘resigned’. They were glued to the power. Therefore, either they were compelled to resigned or overthrown from power by the people. On the momentous day of 09-07-2022, ‘thousands of thousands’ of angry men and women stormed into the Presidential Palace which was secured by 12,000 Army, Navy and Airforce personnel. Each soldier is heavily armed. These demonstrators took on the said soldiers endangering their lives seeking for better tomorrow. No one had a dagger on their hand at the least; they were fully armed with peace, valor and patriotism. What happened on this date equals to the conquering the Bastille in French Revolution. Dethroning Tsar after entering into the Winter Palace of Petrograd in Russian Revolution. Yet, without shedding a drop of blood. Hence, this is not French Revolution nor is it Russian Revolution. This is not even the Marxist Revolution. This is a sui generis revolution of all Sri Lankans who cried for a better country, for better political culture. Wherefore, this should be gone to the world history as the Revolution of Peace.
The Lawyers too, on 09-07-2022, assembled at the hillock of Hulftdorp to show their solidarity. The gathering held in front of the Supreme Court Complex was organized by the Lawyers, filled with all the legal luminaries in Sri Lanka. Rejuvenating as well as passionate speeches were delivered at the assembly and it was highlighted why the Lawyers as a professional body must rise for the occasion. There were about 4000 to 5000 Attorneys got together at this occasion and this must have been the biggest gathering of Lawyers in Sri Lanka after they once met to protect the former Chief Justice – Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake when she was arbitrary axed out by the Rajapaksas. These Attorneys have come from far off areas like Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Badulla, Ampara, Nuwaraeliya, Tangalle, Matara, Galle, Puttalam, Baticaloa and even from Jaffna notwithstanding all the difficulties they faced to showcase their esprit de corps. The writer himself was a part of this mob. Thus, when the marching started, the writer too had the surreal feeling of “Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Beyond the barricade Is there a world you long to see? Then join in the fight That will give you the right to be free!” – the words of “do you hear the people sing?” of Les Miserables. Once the march started, it was a picture of an uncountable galore of Lawyers were flooding towards the Presidential Palace. The ordinarily people too were marching and the presence of Lawyers boosted their confidence. Once the Telecom junction at Fort was passed everyone entered into the scariest and ferocious path of the mob, that is to say, the Chatham Street. Chatham Street goes up to the point of ingress of the Presidential House. This road was the most fortified road. When this mob reached towards the Chatham Street, it was a complete war field. From the Central Bank Clock Tower to Technical Junction, roads were only filled with people. The writer has never seen and will ever be seen such a rally of people again. The collective chant of the marchers could burst the ear drums. Their emotions were overflowing. None of them want to retreat!
The tear gas were shot on the trot by the Army from all directions. It was seen that the canisters were coming from Bank of Ceylon Tower. Those who were at the front line were the most valiant. When one group of protestors cannot bear the smog of the tear gas those who were behind filled the gaps. This happened vice versa. One by one the barricades were broken by the marchers and some have climbed on to the water cannons. Some are cheering by waving national flag settling on those acquired properties. In every 30-mintues, a canter truck went up and down on the Chatham Street throwing water bottles to the protestors to wet their eyes to prevent the effect of the tear gas. This reminds a supply division of a war. The writer in his own eyes saw that 3-casualties were carried by some rioters and it was told that they had been shot at the entrance of the Presidential Palace. After about 3-4 hours of confrontation, the protestors entered into the President’s House and hoisted the Sri Lankan flag.
At the moment demonstrators were capturing the official residence of the President of Sri Lanka, the Galle Face had reached to its full capacity. There were myriad of people, not leaving an inch of free space, massing at the entrance of Old Parliament (the Presidential Secretariat Office), Galle Face Green, Port city and even on the beach. All of which stood around technical junction to Presidential Palace, Presidential Palace to Kolpitty junction, One Galle Face to Nawam Mawatha and at Harbour area. When the protestors of the Gate Zero announced the deadline to resign for Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe, within an hour, the people screamed in one voice and affirmed it. The sounds of drums, glaring of trumpets mixed into the cry of thousands of people gathered at the Galle Face on 09-07-2022 will never be forgotten. This would have been the only peaceful revolution in the world, to this date, which had not split blood on earth and oust an absolute autocrat. This was an ultimate moment of a revolutionist. This was the hour of peasants who stood up against a despot and succeeding. This was a fight which is won by all walks of life.
The number of aggrieved demonstrators who came to the 09th of July 2022 Revolution is astonishing. The writer is still bewildered how come such large number of people gathered to Colombo even without having proper transport facility due to shortage of fuel. It may be true that about 2-Million people descend upon the city of Mecca for Hajj (to where Gotabaya Rajapaksa presently heading to), annually. And also history records that when Martin Luther King, Jr. took the podium at the March 1963 in his famous “I have a Dream” speech, in Washington, there was an audience about 250,000 people. We saw that the ‘Candlelight Vigil’ organized against President Park’s government at the Soul City Hall of South Korea in 2017 collected about 1-Million men. Over and above those, the “Galle Face Revolution in Sri Lanka” must have easily recorded more than 1-Million of people on the day of 9th July 2022. The number of masses who were physically assembled to the Galle Face is nearly one twenty second of people (1/22) in this island (which has a total population of 22-Million). Accordingly, one person out of every twenty two had been present at the Galle Face sight on this historical day.
The story of gathering such a mammoth congregation on 09 July is not an overnight development. It was Gotabaya’s impotency brought these people to road.
No sooner came to power, inexperienced Gotabaya had to please his supporters. Thus, he gave a sweeping tax cut from 15% to 8% which made a loss of half of the government revenue. Proving the Biblical proverb, “a man without a vision is a man without a future” correct, Gotabaya’s political future started to collapse henceforth. In 2019, Sri Lanka had about 8.8-Billion of US Dollars in our foreign reserves in addition to the gold reserves. As a result of the said loss of income, rather than earning and purchasing, Sri Lanka happened to import goods including fuel from the forex which we already had saved. Each passing month foreign and gold reserves dwindled and the decision makers turned blind eye upon a looming danger. Period in-between, low-witted Gotabaya Rajapakse was taken a ride by good for nothing Anuruddha Padeniya, ubiquitous Athuraliye Rathana and one time insurance agent now billionaire Mahindananda Aluthgamage introducing the death warrant of the agriculture sector called, ‘chemical fertilizer ban’. This gullible Gotabaya agreed to take the aforesaid suggestion at the backdrop of dearth of foreign reserves and ultimately caused the biggest damage to the agricultural sector in this country after independence. It was that fertilizer ban of Gotabaya Rajapaksa brought poor farmers on to road. ‘Maha’ season in year 2021 yielded only half of the harvest of paddy compared to the last season and the ‘Yala’ season was not even ploughed by the farmers owing to non-availability of fertilizer. Some farmers committed suicide due to unbearable debts. The food security became a myth by the beginning of year 2022 and gradually people realized that they are heading towards an unprecedented famine. Let the writer calls a spade a spade, it was a time of misery unfathomable. Meanwhile, only 500-Mn USD which was frugally preserved at the Treasury was used to pay for the International Sovereign Bonds (ISB) under the patronage of the Central Bank Governor – Ajith Nivard Cabral. The As a result of this disastrous economic misadventure, over-night, Sri Lanka became a country who had no forex left in her hand. This callous decision of paying debts have paved the way to Ajith Nivard Cabraal being criminally charged in courts and according to ‘the economy next’ the former Governor was haste in paying the said ISB(s) as a substantial part of the payment was remitted to some local creditors who were alleged to have connected to the family of the former Governor. Besides, artificially keeping the exchange rates of a US Dollar in the country by then Governor – Ajith Nivard Cabraal ignoring the advices of the other members of the Monetary Board, was the largest financial destruction the latter made to this country. Before Sri Lanka was scraping the bottom of the barrel, she could have easily resorted to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but did not turn to IMF until the economy came to a standstill. According to the words of Ali Sabry, that was a historical mistake (In fact the historical mistake was made by this minister himself when he vouched the general public that Gotabaya will be our Lee Kwan Yew or Mahathir Mohamad). After we spent the last dollar in our hand Sri Lanka went to the IMF with a begging bowl like a pauper. Sri Lanka inaugurated IMF discussions when she had exhausted all her lifelines. As a result of Gotabaya’s tax cut, government income dropped down to 12% to 7.2% from the GDP and the IMF will not dice with their creditors’ money for a country which has such a low percentage of debt sustainability. For these deliberate catastrophic economic mismanagement, W. A. Lakshman, Ajith Nivard Cabral, S. R. Artigalle, Basil Rohana Rajapaksa and imprudent Gotabaya Rajapaksa must directly be liable. Hence, people knew that single handedly, Goatabaya Rajapaksa and his cronies led our economy to its demise. When the things get worst, people were taught and educated on this economic mismanagement created by Gotabaya Rajapaksa and thereby public sentiment was accumulated to end the curse of Rajapakse era. When the public is pregnant with groundbreaking sentiments, so the revolution is inevitable.
In this background, quite accurate connotation is that the Rajapaksas were never resigned; but they were expelled from the power by the masses. The writer highly doubts that the fruits of the revolution may be achieved by its people soon; yet this uprising undoubtedly would change the attitude of a nation for better tomorrow.
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