Sri Lanka On The Cusp Of Implosion! White Vans Have Become ‘Black Marias’

By Vishwamithra 

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” ~ Plato

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s birthday is being celebrated by the ordinary men and women in the country as a ‘Black Monday’

Ever-lengthening queues for petrol and diesel tell a frighteningly realistic story; cooking gas is fast becoming a yesteryear’s luxury; hospitals are closing for want of drugs and surgical equipment gone inoperable due to lack of electricity and other amenities; schools have become ghost-buildings for no children can travel to them for studying; examinations are being postponed and ones that are over are lagging behind on correction of answer papers because the teachers are without facilities to bring themselves to the marking centers.

Petrol and diesel sheds are about to turn into the first battlegrounds where sparks could potentially end up in violent clashes between the police and the consumers. Patience has obviously reached its most delicate threshold. It’s not only in Colombo or other big city centers that these ominous acts are being played out; the drama is continuing to expose the malignancy of a sociopolitical system whose symptoms seem to be more gruesome than the latent disease. From Dondra Point to Point Pedro and from Colombo to Batticaloa, a seemingly vigorous chaos of crises is building its momentum to reach a fierce end or perhaps a sure beginning of the end!

Soon, morbid scenes of falling skeletons and piling up of dead bodies over one another would not be a rare sight. The numbers that went away from the Aragalapitiya (Galleface Green) are gathering themselves in all parts of the Island. The new battlefields are emerging in almost every petrol and diesel station. If and when the situation in each of these battlefields becomes more intense than could be controlled by the police personnel, deployment of the military would be inevitable. Only one shot going astray and hitting a man or woman waiting in line for petrol or diesel would be enough to develop a once manageable situation running beyond all control. Stupidity and incompetence of all governing men and women, including the political heads who call themselves Ministers and Prime Ministers and Presidents, is being exposed.

This sad and melancholic drama is being played out in full display; its boundaries are no more theatrical or artificial, they are certainly heading towards a point beyond human endurance. Violent clashes and falling men would soon be the order of the day. Anarchy is being defined and redefined with all its nuanced details; governing a population whose limits of patience and stoicism is visibly reaching a point of gruesome thunder. The political crisis that is occurring as a direct result of the economic disaster is ripening and an ostensibly leaderless people might come to the inescapable conclusion that they could really topple a democratically elected government by merely protesting against economic hardships and political corruption.

In a dramatic turn of governing principles, men, women and Buddhist Monks are being shoved into waiting police vans; mercy is not in the armor of these police forces. A Buddhist Monk was seen placing himself in between the turning wheels of the police van. Yet no mercy was shown by the police. The Monk is dragged out pushed into the van like cattle being thrown into a shed meant for slaughter.

They said that in order to make the omelet, one has to break the egg. This time the egg is being broken by the government forces. Should this mayhem continue, what would be the response of a peaceful protester? The answer might be more outrageous than the one seen on television screen all over the country: A Buddhist Monk being pushed into the Black Maria (what the British call a police van for transporting prisoners). White van has been substituted by the Black Maria.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s birthday is being celebrated by the ordinary men and women in the country as a ‘Black Monday’. June 20th has gained new meaning and its inscrutable message in being understood by all citizenry. It may not resonate well with Gotabaya’s family members but they cannot escape the hard and honest truth and brutal reality. Escape from reality and hiding themselves in a cloaked environment is no more valid for the Rajapaksa siblings. The cruel disappointment with Ranil Wickremesinghe’s performance up to date or lack thereof has not yet sunk in. The honeymoon between two unwilling partners would come to a premature end with no climax whatsoever. Or to put it more mercifully, the marriage should not have ever occurred.

Economic hardships are increasing exponentially and their telling weight on the average citizen is overbearing. Rumors that the country might lead to another lockdown without the presence of an epidemic of traditional nature might be a distant possibility. If there is no fuel to move the stationary vehicles, if there is no gas to cook meals and if there is no medicine to purchase and no hospitals to attend to the sick, what else is left for the countrymen to venture into? A once-forgotten medieval catastrophe in Europe is about to make its revisit in more sinister form in the Indian Subcontinent. It is no exaggeration to foretell all these shocking and ghastly phenomena; it’s only merciful to bare open the truth, its deadly nuances and their aftermath.

Nevertheless, it is still not too late to break the egg, this time by the people. At the core of the crisis is a crisis of confidence. The people have lost all confidence in their leaders. Not only the governing nincompoops, but also in the opposition starting from Sajith Premadasa, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, Patali Champika and the rest. The only ones who could be spared are the Members of Parliament of the Tamil National Alliance led by (although not the official leader) M A Sumanthiran. Sumanthiran’s oratory and palpable pursuit of truth coupled with his mastery of facts and figures has outdone all other parliamentarians. But for all our misfortune, his words are falling on the deaf and indifferent.

Being a born Sinhalese Buddhist, it’s with an enormous amount of shame and humility the writer has to pen these bitter truths about our Sinhalese Buddhist leaders who pontificate from protected quarters that the answer to the current crises could be found without any further upheaval. The racial harmony and religious détente exhibited on the Aragalapitiya (Galleface Green) and elsewhere in remote villages, is shining like a beacon on our ailing body politic. Yet the so-called leaders have deliberately chosen to discount the home-truths and their snub on such sublime qualities of ordinary men and women and clergy of all religions would pay one day with very heavy repercussions.

Weighed down by the burden of truth of this current status, the ruling clan seems further paralyzed and rendered utterly impotent. Instead of opening their minds and altering the course of the national journey, the ruling clan has opted to get further entrenched in the rotting system that, in the first place, delivered these deplorable results.

The system needs not only to be changed; it’s begging to be rejected outright. However much one argues for adjustments, however much one makes a plausible case for slow and steady lumbering along the same old path, it seems that today’s youth are not happy nor satisfied with the outcome. Seventy five years is a long time; its history is full of contradictions that have contributed to the present predicament we all find ourselves in. From D S Senanayake downwards, except in the case of R Premadasa for three short years, we have been ruled by a ‘Familyocracy’. From the cushy lap of the Attygalle Inheritance (D S, Dudley, J R and Ranil) to the incendiary S W R D, incompetent of Sirimavo and Chandrika to irrevocably corrupt Rajapaksas, Sri Lankan family has been the subjects of three families- Senanayakes, Bandaranaikes and Rajapaksas. Being subjected to unspeakable shame and unbearable economic and political adversities, in the third decade of the twenty first century, we have been compelled to look up to our youth to lead the way.

A generation which was looked down upon by our elders, a generation whose sense and sensibility has been sharpened and wakened by the information technology (IT) revolution, the youth of today is showing most encouraging signs of maturity and accelerated development. Yesteryear’s traditions of caste, creed and religion-divisions are being rejected on a full and wholesale basis; this generation is showing that, as the cliché goes, it can walk and chew gum at the same time. Traditions, if they hinder our development as grown men and women, should be discarded without mercy. Dead cultures have no Act or place in the modern human drama. As Rabindranath Tagore once said, such traditions are death- dealing.

To embrace a modern and more legitimate social character, one must be candidly open and sublimely honest. New plants do not grow on old fields. Freshened up by the morning dew and nurtured by the basking sun and matured by its tiring assault on the outer skin, one certainly can resolve to give life a new meaning and a new beginning. It’s the only way to circumspect an implosion. That time has come, to break the egg!

*The writer can be contacted at

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