D-Day and a new dawn?

Saturday, 9 July 2022 00:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

MARCH on!  


It has been a very long time indeed in coming. Only yesterday, it seemed as if many if not most Sri Lankans were slaves to their political masters, in one way or another. But today, the worm has well and truly turned. And our elected representatives are about to find out what it means when they claimed to be the ‘servants of the people’ yet callously and criminally sold out on their sovereignty.

I am happy to join with you all today, in what will go down in our island’s history as the greatest demonstration for justice, equality, freedom, and the hopeful start of a return to future prosperity.

Some 74 years ago, a Sri Lankan signed our nation-state’s independence decree, which came as a great beacon-light of hope to millions of Sri Lankan slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice under a triad of colonial oppressors. 

It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of our captivity.

But almost three-quarters of a century later, Sri Lankans are still not free. 

Seven decades later, the life of our islanders is still sadly crippled by the manacles of racism and religious division, as well as the chains of chauvinistic discrimination on ethnic and other grounds, held in bondage by manipulative master machinators of scared men, sinister movements and subversively sacred monuments. 

Three-score and 14 years later, the average Sri Lankan now lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity enjoyed by a privileged few. 

For ever so long, the common citizen has been languishing on the margins of Sri Lankan society. And increasingly, the general populace under governors who no longer represent them exist as exiles in their own land. 

So they are on the march today – to challenge, condemn, check, change, correct and consolidate their condition.

On the march

In a sense, they have marched on the nation’s capital to cash a cheque. 

When the architects of our then young nation wrote the meaningful words of the Constitution, they were signing a promissory note to which every Sri Lankan was heir. 

This note was a promise that all citizens – rich and poor; ‘guest’ or ‘host’; hale and hearty or in ill-health; men, women and children – would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of peace with justice.

It is obvious today that successive Sri Lankan governments in general and the incumbent one in particular have defaulted on this promissory note… insofar as all citizens who are not politically connected or privileged are concerned. 

Instead of honouring this sacred obligation, one administration after another has given the Sri Lankan people a bad cheque: a dud piece of paper which has, of late, come back marked ‘insufficient funds’, ‘bankrupt’, ‘defaulted on debts’. 

Come let us build

But still, those who take to the streets today refuse to believe that the treasury of justice is bankrupt. 

We – you and I and they – refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation, or strength and vitality in its independent institutions. 

That the executive can be redeemed, the legislature washed clean of its present and former impurities, and the judiciary encouraged to take a brave stand again. 

So in a sense we have come to cash this cheque – a new promissory note that will give us, upon demand, the security of that justice we were promised; and the riches of a newfound freedom for which we fight today and forever, going forward. 

We have also come to this iconic spot in which a cynical governor’s offices are the only blemish to remind Sri Lanka of the fierce urgency of NOW. 

This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off because that ship with fuel is said to sail tomorrow or to take the tranquilizing drug of economic stability for the nation at the cost of political legitimacy for its government. 

NOW is the time to make real the promises of democracy, and usurp the pretenders. 

NOW is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of political opportunism that has been the bane of generations. 

NOW is the time to take the radical path of social justice to the bright sunlit uplands of peace with the promise of prosperity for all. 

NOW is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of social, racial, political, economical, cultural, constitutional, legal, moral, ethical, and a host of other injustices to the solid rock of national unity, liberty, truth, peace and justice. 

NOW is the time to make peace with justice and the promises of future prosperity a reality for all of this island’s children, not simply the scions of a political dynasty or pretenders to the throne of political power.

Fatal distraction

It would be fatal for those among the nation planning to remain ensconced in the relative, temporary safety of their comfortable homes today to overlook the urgency of the moment that is NOW. 

This sweltering summer of the island’s masses’ legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom, equality, and the right to enjoy state-sanctioned security for all. 

July 9th is not a means to an end, but the beginning of the end for those to whom the end justifies the means. 

Those who hope that all these angry islanders need to blow off steam and will choose to be content at the same old order of things will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual – or the business of politics as usual – after today. 

There will be neither peace nor justice in Sri Lanka until every child, woman, and man is granted their full due as citizens entitled to a raft of government-guaranteed securities. 

That rainbow spans the spectrum from food, energy and employment security to the freedom of speech, and the right to dissent, and critically engage corrupt governments and their cronies. 

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our fallen nation until the bright day of justice emerges and we can stand – if at first, a trifle shakily after all the turbulence; then increasingly firmly, as we regain our composure and seek to fulfil our potential – on our feet again.

First do no wrong

But there is something that the sensible among us must say to our people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. 

In the process of gaining our citizens’ rights amidst this panoply of wrongs, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds ourselves. 

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom or our hunger for justice by eating the stale bread of violent rebellion or drinking from the hateful cup of bitter bloody brutal anarchy.

Unlike other days of citizen outrage fuelled by our despair, we must today and forever thereon conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline – virtues that our so-called ‘leaders’ sorely lack. 

We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. 

Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with islander peace and tranquillity, calmed and consolidated by our indomitable island spirit and that resilient sense of serenity which has stood us in good stead in leaner, meaner times.

The marvellous new militancy which has engulfed our protesting community islandwide must not lead us to a distrust of all governors in general. 

For many of our once elected representatives, as evidenced by their vocal protests and practical activity on our behalf here today and there yesterday, have come to realize that their own fate is tied up with our destiny. 

They have come to realise that their freedom to flourish as our future servants is inextricably bound to our freedom to lead the charge today. 

Do not walk alone

We cannot walk alone. As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. 

We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of the ‘Struggle’: “When will you be satisfied?” 

We can never be satisfied as long as any Sri Lankan is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality or military might exercised against the very citizens they were meant to protect. 

We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of waiting long hours in never-ending queues for fuel that does not come, cannot gain a hearing in the courts of justice or the corridors of power, or have to suffer the ignominy of a lonely death on the grim streets of waiting in vain. 

We cannot be satisfied as long as our Sri Lankans’ upward mobility is from a half-life under one corrupt administration grown fat on the plunder of our property to even less than that under a crooked other regime. 

We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by such haphazard educational experiences as that which they had to undergo and endure recently. 

We cannot be satisfied as long as a Sri Lankan punched in the stomach in the North is forgotten while one kicked at a fuel queue in the South is fumed over, and the perpetrator of such iniquitous violence is forgiven in both cases. 

We are not satisfied, and we will never be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. 

Spare a thought for our true saviours

No one must be unmindful that some of today’s protestors have gone to GotaGoGama and NoDealGama whilst coming out of great trials and tribulations at home and away. 

Some of them have walked leagues. Others have left angry spouses and hungry children to try and salvage some dignity for their families on the way forward. Some of them have come from lives where their struggle for gas, fuel, power, energy have left them staggered by the storms of daily life and battered by the strong winds of police tear-gas and bruised by water-cannon. 

There are some such as that intrepid cross-bearer and the other artiste who walked weary miles to Galle Face to meet a fellow-sufferer who have been the veterans of creative suffering. 

Many continue to walk or march and stand in solidarity with their fellow citizens in the faith that unearned suffering and undeserved persecution at the hands of a militarised state entrenched behind safe barricades is redemptive.

So after today is over, go back to Mirigama, go back to Aluthgama, go back to Rathuspaswela, go back to Rambukkana, go back to Wattala and Wattegama and Wahakotte, go back to the slums and trishaw-waththas of our inner city, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. 

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair any longer – They must go… one day, some day – Today.

End game

I write this for you today: even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, we still have a dream. 

It is a dream deeply rooted in the island home we have loved and lived in for millennia more than evil administrations can care to remember, shorn of their pernicious narratives that are designed to marginalise some and minoritise many others in more ways than there is space and time to tell…

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘To constitute Sri Lanka into a Democratic Socialist Republic, whilst ratifying the immutable republican principles of representative democracy, and assuring to all peoples freedom, equality, justice, fundamental human rights and … the intangible heritage that guarantees the dignity and well-being of succeeding generations of the people of Sri Lanka.” 

I have a dream that one day on the red-stained roads of Rathupaswela, the children of oppressors and the oppressed will be able to sit down together and share a cup of cold water against the heat of the day.

I have a dream that one day even the electorates of Kurunegala and Kilinochchi – districts once sweltering with the heat of injustice and simmering with the passions of jingoism – will be transformed into oases of peace with justice and plenty.

I have a dream that one day soon again we will all be able to readily travel from Jaffna’s northern bastions through historic central Kandy to deepest Dondra and a happier Hambantota on the maritime shores of a global milieu without let or hindrance; in a happy agnosticism to race, creed, or culture; and in only joyful celebration of an older civilisation than the commerce of rank politics and ridiculous theocracies. 

I have a dream that our children perhaps and theirs for certain will one day live in a blessed secular land where they will not be judged by the ‘race’ they once belonged to or the ‘religion’ their parents professed to follow – but by the content of their character and their inalienable rights to full and fair citizenship.

I have a dream today: on D-Day, for a new dawn… Into that tomorrow, may my land awake!

I have a dream that one day, right in the heart of the business district, with its cynical generals and their bunker mentality, and those captains of commerce and industry complicit with them in transmogrifying a promenade for everyone into a citadel that stood fortress to protect the guilty from facing crimes against a nation, those who invested their time, money, energy, efforts and lives in the righteous cause of the Aragalaya against authoritarianism and incompetence and arrogance and corruption, will feel the winds of peace with plenty blow in our faces across the western seas…

I have a dream today. Once again, I say: Into that tomorrow, may my land awake!

I have a dream that one day every valley of suffering shall be exalted to salvation, every hill of bloated power and mountain of laundered money shall be made low. The rough places of robber baronetcy will be made plain. And the crooked places of rulers in collusion with rogues will be made straight. And the glory of our land shall be revealed. And all islanders who are humble enough to admit their erstwhile part in the wrack and ruin of our nation once – by thinking wrong and voting worse, and holding their peace while the wagons circled the innocent, and only spoke up and marched out when the terror and scarcity came knocking on their doors – shall see it together.

This is our hope. 

This is the faith that I go back home with today. 

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. 

With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of true community. 

With this faith, we will be able to work together, play together, struggle again together if other oppressors arise, go to cricket matches together, stand up for freedom together, press on towards a still dimly perceived future of peace with prosperity together – knowing that we will be free and at peace with justice for all one day.

Today, it is already that tomorrow. Bless our land! Peace with justice for all has for too long avoided being our boon... So into that tomorrow, may my land awake!   

| Editor-at-large of LMD | ‘May my land awake’ ‘Come let us build’ ‘March on!’ |

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