Shivanthi Ranasinghe/Ceylon Today
Colombo, July 25: Asterisk is a fictional character of a popular comic strip. The plot is that he was the indomitable Gaulish warrior who fights the mighty Roman Army that wants to conquer his small village. With the help of a magic portion Asterisk and his fellow villagers manage to defeat the Roman Army each time. The Roman Army too does not give up and tries different tactics to achieve its goals.
One such strategy was to introduce a women’s legion. As gallant gentlemen Gauls would not be able to thrash the invaders as previously. This would allow the female legion to take over the village in the name of the Roman Empire.
Sri Lanka a Victim of a “Female” Legion?
Sri Lanka security forces too are facing the same conundrum faced by Asterisk. The so-called anti-government protesters are marketed as “peaceful”.
This is an odd adjective for a group of hooligans. Since March 2022, their actions include:
Turning former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s peaceful residential area into a war zone as they came hunting for the President of a sovereign nation.
Disobeying police orders to disperse; pelt the police with rocks causing grievous bodily harm to 20 police personnel; withstand tear gas; damage two fuel bowsers by removing tires and engine; forcing drivers to abandon their bowsers; attempt to set these bowsers on fire despite warnings of the grave repercussions for the entire area.
In a well-coordinated move burn, loot and vandalise private properties of government MPs and those who supported this government’s election campaign. Within one and half days 74 such properties around the Island were destroyed.
Mobilise a large mass to break and enter the State’s highest offices and buildings as the President’s House, Temple Trees, Presidential Secretariat, building that housed the President’s Media and the Prime Minister’s office and vandalise, loot and desecrate these premises.
Destroy artefacts of historic value. Shove the police out of public property, which they claim now to be their premises. Beat military personnel senseless and steal weapons and live ammunition that were in their possession in broad daylight within the vicinity of the Parliament.
Force a Prime Minister with the highest preferential votes to resign and thereby dissolve the government. Force a democratically elected president to resign or be lynched to death.
Yet, as they do not have a hand grenade, T-56 or a claymore mine bomb they are considered to be harmless. Their agitation to force a legitimate government into their bidding and resignation of State leaders is seeing as a democratic act.
Freedom of speech is a democratic right. Yet, it is illegal to baselessly scream “fire” or “bomb” in a crowd. The ensuring panic could cause a stampede, causing people to fall and be trampled to death.
Words have power to make or break a nation. Hitler’s inflammatory speeches converted disciplined German citizens into monsters. Likewise, the hateful slogans and hate speeches by these anarchists is inciting hatred within ordinary citizens against the political establishment.
Without any census they are pronounced as the voice of the nation. This is a déjà vu to the the LTTE days. The LTTE was considered as the Tamil’s sole representative despite Tamils fleeing from LTTE infested areas, the brutality the LTTE unleashed on Tamil civilians and Tamil politicians in fear for their lives shivered in Colombo as they kowtowed the LTTE.
Interestingly, the original protesters who converged at the Galle Face Greens, whose protests were as much a beach party are no longer seen in the vicinity. The singing and merry-making in a family atmosphere has disappeared.
They are replaced by an uncouth crowd. Instead of singing and music, a monologue now drones on into a microphone the whole day. As exposed by subsequent fracas, disagreements and denouncements between the anarchists, this is not one voice but different groups with varying objectives.
Any action taken by law enforcement against these so-called “peaceful” protesters is severely criticised by diplomats from the West, the Human Rights Commission Sri Lanka, the Bar Association Sri Lanka, and the Catholic Church. Political parties such as the SJB and JVP (UNP too protested until Ranil Wickremasinghe was appointed as the premier), NGOs and unions, Media (both social and conventional), and Cricket legends such as Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardena.
In effect, these so-called “peaceful” protesters are the Roman Army’s female legion. The question is, to whose legion do these anarchists belong.
Anarchy is Modern Terrorism
On a number of occasions, the JVP had admitted to be the managers of the protests. They claim that their entire political machinery are in the ground. Certainly, the JVP could be sailing with the wind but it is questionable if the ship is theirs. This is the only way they could improve their three percent vote base – especially when Gotabaya Administration’s unpopularity failed to swing in the Opposition’s favour.
Anura Kumara Dissanayaka’s goal to come forth as a presidential candidate at the recently held election at the parliamentary level might be to prove his sincerity. With his three votes he showed that his party neither bargained nor bought votes.
He was least perturbed by his lack of popularity among his political peers. Neither of the other two contenders, Ranil Wickremesinghe nor Dullas Alahapperuma, were ideal candidates. The legitimacy of Wickremesinghe as a National List MP who lost at the 2020 general elections has been questioned. Alahapperuma despite his long years in politics does not stand out from his fellow politicians. Yet, not even the TNA or the Muslim parties considered Dissanayaka.
Hence, his call for an election that the country cannot afford. Outside Parliament, Dissanayaka is making strides that none of the other parties can. Galvanising frustrated youth into streets, to intimidate opponents and thereby attempt to wrestle power are the JVP’s hallmarks.
Yet, it is highly doubtful that the JVP is the architect of these anarchists. Similar uprisings have taken place around the world. The Arab Springs in the Middle East and civil unrest in Hong Kong are vivid examples when ordinary citizens were incited to challenge authorities and make governance impossible. Time will reveal the face behind this manipulating hand as well.
Purpose of Diplomats’ Juvenile Behaviour
On July 22, 2022 President Wickremesinghe briefed the Colombo-based diplomats the facts pertaining to the clearing of the Presidential Secretariat area from the anarchists. He also raised his concerns over the unsubstantiated statements made by some diplomats. Pointedly, Wickremesinghe queried if western governments would tolerate if their respective highest office that housed valuable documents were illegally occupied.
President also castigated these diplomats for their juvenile actions of picking threads from social media. Such irresponsible statements damages Sri Lanka’s image, which we could ill afford, President pointed out. Therefore, President advised these diplomats to verify facts and clarify doubts from the relevant authorities.
Wickremasinghe, instead of confrontation maintained cordiality. This is a refreshing change from the usual ostrich policy we generally follow. The Wickremasinghe government must take a step further to analyse the exact motive behind these highly trained and skilled diplomats’ unprofessional statements. These statements are certainly not born out of lack of intelligence.
President’s maiden task was to meet with the top brass at the Defense Ministry. Thereby, he signalled the importance he is placing on national security. Defense however needs to be fortified not only from within for almost every one of our internal threats has had a foreign hand supporting it explicitly or implicitly.