An Unimaginable Outcome from the ARAGALA Revolt: Ranil As President

Malinda Seneviratne, in his web column

Ranil Wickremesinghe is no longer president in an acting capacity. He is the president, period. Did someone say ‘I don’t know whether to laugh or cry?’ I am pretty sure someone did. Did someone say, ’who wudda thunk?’ Well, if two or three years ago, if anyone suggested that in July 2023 Ranil Wickremesinghe would be the president of this country, there would have been laughter and tears, if at all, would have been of mirth.

But get this: he is legit. Yes, he barely got into Parliament. Yes, his party returned just a single member and this only through the National List. And yet, as per constitutional provisions, he was legitimately elected President. Interestingly, his ascension is similar to that of his uncle, J R Jayewardene in 1978. There was no Presidential Election in 1978. The newly elected United National Party, with JR as Prime Minister enacted a new constitution with a provision for Parliament to elect a president with executive powers. It was only in 1982 that JR actually faced a presidential election; one which was fraught with allegations of widespread malpractice over and above the fact that his government stripped Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the individual with the best chance of defeating him, of her civil rights.

2022 is a different kind of year/situation. Wickremesinghe was appointed Prime Minister by the  politically beleaguered President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Wickremesinghe’s legitimacy came into question. That was in May. Today, he is the president as per the majority will of Parliament. Today, however, there are still people questioning his legitimacy on account of his party’s and the number of votes garnered at the last General Election. However, until such time an election is held, parliamentary or presidential, there’s no other mechanism to test the legitimacy of the illegitimacy-claims.

How did we get to this, some vociferous ‘Aragalists’ are asking themselves and anyone willing to listen. Interestingly, that question betrays a curious and all things considered irresponsible understanding of political processes, including provisions for change enshrined in the constitution. Let’s elaborate.

If ‘single-minded’ was what the Aragalaya was about then it was apparent in one thing alone: the slogan “#gotagohome.” Aragalists, for the most part, pooh-poohed those who asked ‘and afterwards, what/who?’ First things first, they said. In other words, they deliberately back-shelved the question pertaining to post-Gotabaya Sri Lanka.

As it might have been expected, the protest lost must vim and vigour the moment the demanded outcome materialised. Some even posed, first cautiously and later quite vigorously, that the aragalaya (in other words, the aragalists) should go home. It looks like some were happy to take home a consolation prize while for others it was THE prize, i.e. evicting the Rajapaksas from the political stage. In all this, one thing is startlingly conspicuous by its very absence: zero effort to address the systemic flaws that pushed Sri Lanka over the brink, flaws that were deliberately created, sustained and made worse over almost half a century. So it was just a power game, nothing more, nothing less.

At the end of the day, Ranil Wickremesinghe has become the de facto leader of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna or, as someone might say, he has skillfully taken over that party. How he deals with the SLPP and how he performs as president is of course left to be seen, but that’s for later. Right now, his detractors within and without parliament (and these probably include many who supported Gotabaya Rajapaksa) are left to rue what may have been. How they regroup, re-imagine Sri Lanka and re-think strategy, is also left to be seen.

These turn of events have produced many questions. First and foremost, while there’s no denying the widespread displeasure and anger at the previous government (opposition which congealed naturally into an anti-Gotabaya riot of sorts or rather a ‘bread-riot’ wrapped in the #gotagohome streamer), it also provided fertile ground for all manner of political racketeers. They were essentially peddling their wares at Galle Face. Some had axes to grind. Some were far more devious, far better organised and focused. It has come to light that the US Embassy was thick in its involvement, funding directly and indirectly media outfits, ‘research’ institutes, think-tanks, NGOs, activists and social media operatives, many with pretty sick histories. Twitter feeds, instagram and Facebook posts leave trails. Makes for interesting reading. More will be known soon.

However, it is left to be seen whether such movers and shakers thought beyond #gotagohome. Is Ranil Wickremesinghe the desired ‘outcome’? It’s hard to tell. The aragalists, after all, began targeting Wickremesinghe the moment he was appointed as Prime Minister. The US Ambassador, perhaps covering all bases, exposed the JVP leader to endless vilification from left circles with endorsement that stopped just short of cuddles and kisses. She however tweeted that Wickremesinghe’s appointment as premier was a necessary first step. The JVP, after pooh-poohing the aragalaya in early April, attempting to hijack it later on by saying it needed a head (essentially ridiculing aragalists for being airheads, at best), later claiming outright ownership and on Wednesday putting forward Anura Kumara Dissanayake as presidential candidate and losing, now stands in opposition to the new government. Friends inside and friends outside. Happy times, certainly.

Reality check all around, though. The aragalaya is now positioned to shed the instigators with shady agenda who were living in the pockets of foreign governments, religious organizations and such. The nationalists have got rid of the Rajapaksa dead weight that had in effect crippled them. The Kolombians have distanced themselves from wannabe Kolombians. Wannabe Kolombians have been rudely awakened to the fact that in the face of Kolombians they are just another set of rowdies whose only redeeming feature was that at a particular moment in history they stood against their longtime nemesis, the Rajapaksas.

So, is this some kind of postscript for the aragalaya? Not necessarily. It didn’t start with any talk of bringing Ranil Wickremesinghe to power and it need not end with him becoming president. Time is long. Battles are lost but this doesn’t mean wars will also be lost. Betrayals are part of the story. Disappointments are to be expected. Falling short is not a crime. Some people, mostly youth, with exemplary idealism, courage, determination and innovative rush, decided to fight. It is unfair to ridicule them for not having emerged victorious. The aragalaya, some say gleefully, is dead. Some aragala, i.e. in the plural, did die, some would wounded, some retired hurt and some just quit. There’s another aragalaya that still breathes. Sobered, perhaps. That’s a good thing.





Filed under accountability, centre-periphery relations, communal relations, cultural transmission, democratic measures, disparagement, economic processes, governance, historical interpretation, JVP, landscape wondrous, legal issues, life stories, performance, politIcal discourse, power politics, riots and pogroms, security, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, truth as casualty of war, unusual people, wild life, working class conditions, world events & processes, zealotry

13 responses to “An Unimaginable Outcome from the ARAGALA Revolt: Ranil As President

  1. “Seated in ADELAIDE my grasp of the changing and perilous SITUATIONS in Lanka is limited. But it seems that RANIL’s isolation and weakness becamea strength/ .. Above all, he is a pro-American man ….and there is some indication that the US embassy encouraged the Aragalayists.
    Some bright spark needs to study the CPA’s line on the recent events and inicate whether the CPA’leopard’ is changing its growl.” Michael Roberts the Thuppahi

    • Aragalists (Strugalists as they translate) reminds me of Orwell’s Animal Farm if I remember correct. They are well fed pigs by India and Indian Parasites local and overseas. Then Toilets from Pestonjees. I know one Parasite from Sweden was paying for 500 rice parcels. You know Swedish still got money left from Bolfor.

  2. shan

    ‘Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the individual with the best chance of defeating him’.. LOL

    That would have never Happened, as the shortages and Long queues were never forgotten by the people. You know similar to what’s happening now.

    • N. Goonewardena

      Did you miss the apples and oranges then? I presume now you are domiciled elsewhere enjoying as many apples and oranges as you please. How childish you are.

  3. EMAIL Comment from LALIN FERNAADO, 21 July 2022:

    Ranil to Aragalaya =
    “Thank you- I am President …..Couldn’t have done without you”

  4. EMAIL COMMENT from Skandhakumar, 21 July 2022:
    “An unique and totally unexpected opportunity Indeed….to become and leave as the Statesman we never had and not be remembered with contempt and disgust as his Mentor JR ! “

    • N. Goonewardena

      One race seems to be in unison in its anger and displeasure with recent developments in Sri Lanka. I think all of them are cozily domiciled in western countries.


    “He learnt of books and learnt of men and he learnt to play the game
    Now even without his books and without his men,he still won the game”

    • From what I have heard from his school mates he learnt a lot from his Nanny who always accompanied him to Royal while other kids in the neighborhood walked by themselves,

  6. Well Well! …. Empire India and Indian Parasites have lost again. In 2005 they backed Mahinda over Ranil. The reason = Hinduthwa thought it is hard to negotiate with Ranil. But then Mahinda showed that he was not a Balu Banda and stood up to India and its backers — the West. Indian Parasite Rishi Sunak may beat Liz Truss as impotent British cannot get it up. USA is another impotent Anglo country run by a three quarter Indian woman. So USA, UK, Canada etc. are under the spell of Empire India and Indian Parasites.

  7. About four or five years ago Meenakshika Ganguly of Human Rights Watch declared a Fatwa on Rajapaksas by declaring Gota was the worst Human Rights Violator in defeating the Indian terrorist arm, namely, the LTTE.

  8. N. Goonewardena

    It is high time we put these western imperialist diplomats in place. What right have they got to meddle in our internal affairs. They are there to promote mutually beneficial social and economic ties. Instead, some of them are getting completely involved in our political and social life and trying to assert their dogmatic positions on our leaders. They are responsible for inciting people and trying to slander the government(s) at every turn.
    The worst offender in this respect is the moron American ambassador. I don’t think she is doing any work in her office that she is expected to do. Rather, every day, she is tweeting and issuing statements to the media on our own issues. She shows a total lack of any intelligence, and behaves in a way that would be expected of a teenager. I think her position has gone too much in to her head and she does not know how to handle it. The sooner we can get rid of her the better it will be for the country.

    Another shocking intervenor in our affairs is the UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative. She does not seem to know that the UN should be an apolitical institution. We remind her of what happened to one of her predecessors when he tried to flex his muscle and say that he would provide abode for Tamil refugees in the UN compound in Colombo. He was sent packing home within 48 hours by a fearless Foreign Minister.

    Then there was that nosey British High Commissioner who thought that he had the mandate to see that elections in Sri Lanka were free and devoid of rigging. So, without absolutely any sanction, he started visiting polling stations on election day. He was also sent packing home within 48 hours of his “heroic” act.

    Not only the current US ambassador and the UN Res Co/UNDP rep, but the European Union mission in Sri Lanka, the Canadian High Commissioner, the Australian High Commissioner and a few others also are actively interfering in our internal affairs at present. But, note that neither the Indian, nor the Chinese or the Russian embassies are interfering in our internal matters in this way.

    The western imperialist diplomats newest ploy is to use the Bar Association in their campaigns of incite and divisive politics. They say the Bar Association has also condemned the recent intervention of security forces on protest sites. First, this is not the consensus of all lawyers. It is only some who advocate this position. Second, who are some of these Law College passed looneys? They join the protests wearing their ties ALWAYS. This is on the streets in hot and humid conditions. How uncomfortable wearing a tie must be at such marches? No. Their necessity is to show that they are different from other protesters. That they are lawyers. That they are a cut above the others. So, they must wear tie while protesting in order to tag these labels on to themselves. Can you expect these fellows with such inferiority complexes to appear for justice and fair play in courts?

    Finally, this current set of western imperialist heads of mission who have become a big nuisance by always interfering in our internal affairs should be boldly kicked out from our country. We should not be afraid of a backlash from the governments of those countries. All we need to demonstrate to these governments is that this set of inciters is dangerous, and threatening our political and social stability.

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