COLOMBO (News 1st); The Federation of University Teachers (FUTA) has unreservedly condemned the repression of aragalaya activists by the current regime led by President Ranil Wickremasinghe.
The aragalaya represented a truly democratic movement in the political history of Sri Lanka where people of diverse political, ideological, cultural and social beliefs and orientations came together for a common purpose. The aragalaya slogan ‘Gota go home’, which resonated throughout the county (and beyond), was not just about politician Goatabaya Rajapaksa, but about the rotten political order he represented.
It was a rallying call to reclaim the promise of democratic politics and to demand a new political culture where the political class is accountable to the people who elect them. On July 9, when hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Colombo, it was not because of the promise of a packet of rice, a bottle of arrack and a little money, the usual handouts distributed by the political class to lure people to their rallies.
But because of the people’s collective frustration with the extreme economic deprivation they faced and the need to restore a minimum democratic order where the country’s political system was accountable to them.
However, in a tragic turn of events, the captive parliament of the pohottuwa majority twisted the democratic promise of the aragalaya by electing Ranil Wickremasinghe as president.
It is a tragedy because Ranil Wickremasinghe and this pohottuwa-dominated parliament lost its legitimacy a long time ago. Wickremasinghe’s first action as Executive Chairman was the planning and execution of a cowardly, illegitimate and violent attack on Gota Go Gama, the symbolic heart of the aragalaya. . It was not accidental. It was a calculated move to strike fear into society as a whole.
Immediately after this attack, the Wickremasinghe-pohottuwa government launched a systematic campaign to delegitimize the aragalaya, hunt down the aragalaya leaders, and recreate the culture of impunity and repression that was the hallmark of the Rajapaksa style of governance. The government has even begun to target established political parties by raiding their offices.
However, if this regime believes that isolating and repressing a few aragalaya leaders and targeting political parties and activists will kill the spirit of aragalaya, it is gravely mistaken.
On March 31, May 9, and even in the day before July 9, the regime repeatedly underestimated the depth and breadth of the will of the people. It will live again and be reborn.
The government crackdown has also been strongly condemned internationally. Various foreign representatives in the country were quick to denounce the violent attack on Gota Go Gama. Many international human rights organizations, civil society organizations and other international actors also immediately condemned this action.
Even politically neutral financial ratings firms like Fitch Ratings recognize that there is widespread dissatisfaction with this government.
Therefore, the narrative of the Wickremasinghe-pohottuwa government that it can bring economic stability is patently false. Without political legitimacy, this government cannot and will not be able to stabilize the Sri Lankan economy and, due to its repressive actions, it further erodes its stock of international goodwill and therefore undermines economic aid and other support the country can potentially receive – including the much-vaunted IMF bailout.
Tyrannical governments and illegitimate rulers throughout history have driven their societies to destruction. The Wickremasinghe-pohottuwa government is now heading down a dangerous and tyrannical path that will end in bloodshed. We call on the government to immediately stop the repression of the Aragalaya activists, they represent the people and the will of the people.
FUTA supports the democratic spirit of aragalaya and will take active steps to resist and protest against the illegitimate action of this government. We remind the Wickremasinghe-phohottuwa government that it has no legitimacy and that it must stop hiding behind the constitution. Rather than drive out the Aragalaya militants, we demand that this illegitimate government immediately give way to a new political mandate and restore the legitimacy of this political order in this country.