People’s power proves more powerful than people in power

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Politicians, who no sooner elected to Parliament tend to forget they are obligated to serve the people but end up serving themselves, were on Saturday July 9, 2022, pointedly reminded that non-violent people’s power — provoked by the worst-ever political and economic crises since Sri Lanka gained independence from the British — when mobilised for legitimate reasons is way more powerful than those in power, who attempt to clothe themselves in flimsy garments of imagined invincibility.

What happened on Saturday reminds us of the truism penned by James Shirley that, “Sceptre and Crown must tumble down, and in the dust be equal made with the poor crooked scythe and spade”.

Despite the metal barricades set up on the roads leading to the President’s House and shot at by what the Army claims was into its side walls and into the air, a barrage of tear gas canisters and water cannon and baton-charged by the STF, the police and the security forces personnel; tens of thousands of protesters from all walks of life and from all parts of the country — in a symbolic gesture of dismantling the grip on power by the Rajapaksas — stormed the President’s House, which by then had been deserted by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, his office at the Presidential Secretariat, which he had not visited for more than three months and Temple Trees, the Prime Minister’s official residence. The protesters are continuing to occupy these premises while insisting that the President, the Prime Minister and the government should step down without further delay and thus provide the space to set up an all-party transitional government for a limited period of time. 

Meanwhile, Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena announced on Saturday night that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had accepted the party leaders’ decision arrived at the emergency meeting chaired by the Speaker and had decided to step down from the presidency on Wednesday, July 13. 

“The President is agreeable to the decision taken by the party leaders but however, to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, the President asked me to convey to the country that he will step down from his post on Wednesday, July 13,” the Speaker said in a public announcement at the end of the meeting summoned by him soon after the security at the President’s House was breached by angry protesters. 

He said that given the President’s decision, there was no need for further unrest and appealed to the people to remain calm and pave the way for a peaceful transition of power for the sake of the country and its future.

The Speaker’s announcement, which was received with skepticism by the protesters, came even though President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s whereabouts were not known. 

Saturday saw the culmination of months of street protests amid a galloping cost of living with the authorities struggling to import food, fuel, medicine and domestic gas while the country is facing a crippling foreign currency shortage and has appealed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for an emergency loan, which according to several economists had come too late in the day. 

This epoch-making moment in Sri Lanka’s history when a people’s uprising, which came to be popularly known as the ‘Aragalaya’, toppled and dismantled the Rajapaksa regime, in which at one time or another, six members of the Rajapaksa family had held ministerial and state ministerial posts, while considering themselves to be all-powerful and invincible. 

They would have never ever imagined that within 30 months into the tenure of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa — who headed a government which had a two-thirds majority in Parliament and had arrogated to himself absolute power via the 20th Amendment to the Constitution – would be compelled to flee his private residence at Mirihana and even his official residence in Colombo Fort where he lived under tight security and behind metal barricades.

Let us not allow this moment in destiny to slip into oblivion but together strive hard to achieve the aspirations of all Sri Lankans for a new Sri Lanka with a new political system and a new political culture where differences based on ethnicity and religion will be only written in the past tense and where nepotism, fraud, corruption and personal agendas will never be tolerated anymore and let us as children of Mother Lanka make certain that ‘tomorrow will not turn out to be another name for today’. 

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Disclaimer: People’s power proves more powerful than people in power - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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