Namal Baba’s Bili Poojawa | Daily News


Namal Baba’s Bili Poojawa

Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera was dead on the money when he said that the JO’s protest demonstration held yesterday was aimed at providing a ‘people’s chain’ to protect MP Namal Rajapaksa who has several corruption cases pending against him. Earlier the people were asked to strengthen the hands of Rajapaksa Senior (deth shakthimath karanna) in order to win the war. It was also the ruse adopted to get UNP MPs cross over so that MR could muster the necessary two thirds majority in Parliament to pass the 18th Amendment and be ‘President for life’. Now the people are in effect being asked to strengthen the hands of the son to win a different battle.

Addressing a media briefing, Minister Samaraweera urged for the former first son not to sacrifice the lives of his father’s supporters in order to escape from fraud and corruption charges against him. His likened yesterday’s JO demonstration to a ‘Bili Poojawa’ in the name of Namal Rajapaksa to exorcise the demons of the past read pending cases of corruption against the latter.

Yesterday’s demo was only a larger version of the protests often witnessed outside court houses where Namal et al were brought for hearing of their corruption cases. By showing the numbers, the intention of the Rajapaksas is clearly to intimidate the investigators and even the judges hearing their cases. One recalls Mahinda Rajapaksa, during a rally at the Hyde-Park, in the early days following his defeat, issuing a dire warning to judges hearing the cases of JO stalwarts. Similar threats were also issued against the FCID officers in the immediate afterglow of the ‘pohottuwa’ LG election victory by MR.

With the Government finally getting its act together and the corruption cases against Rajapaksa family members and associates once again emerging into the spotlight, a show of strength may well be the remedy for the former rulers to divert public attention. For, not even the most die-hard supporter of the JO, in his right mind, is going to believe that a public demonstration of the type that was on show yesterday is going to topple the Government or bring down the cost of living.

Also the hive of development activity now getting full play in the mass media, which hitherto was hidden from the public may also have made the Rajapaksa camp jittery. This was seen in the manner in which some of the JO spokesmen are today going to great lengths to downplay the new projects launched by the Government. Besides, coconuts too have reverted to their original price and the prices of a variety of essential drugs have been drastically slashed. The Samurdhi entitlements that were withdrawn, that drew a massive backlash at the LG poll too have been restored while many objectionable changes relating to school uniform distribution and also fertilizer to the farmers have been restored to their original status.

Obviously, the tide is changing and something has to be done, and, done desperately, in order shift the public mind from the positives that are being achieved by the Government. A massive display of strength, chiefly comprising the hoi polloi, the semi-educated and uninitiated sections of the public, fortified with liquor and entertained with the buth (lunch) packet is as good a means as any other form of distraction, no doubt, to the thinking of the Rajapaksas. As Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe noted in Parliament; “The bar and tavern owners have already kept hopes for a day full of business to earn a lump sum”.

At the time of writing, the JO protest march to Colombo was making steady headway. Hopefully, things will end peacefully with no harm caused to any soul or damage caused to public property. No doubt, such agitations cause disruption to public life, with traffic snarls and congestion bound to leave school children and the mass of office workers stranded and unable to reach their homes in time. There is also the economic cost to be considered such as the massive waste of fuel caused by the stranded vehicles caught up in the blockades, not to mention the man-hours lost due to absenteeism and work delays that are natural outcomes of such exercises.

The Government, at one time, was contemplating reserving special zones in the city for such demos to avoid inconvenience to the public though there were few takers for this suggestion, with political parties and trade unions hellbent on displaying their full might where it affects the public the most.

Besides, the law enforcement is today almost totally deployed to deal with protests of all forms. Massive contingents of police personnel were brought down from the provinces for deployment at yesterday’s demo, leaving room for huge lacunae in the law and order enforcement in these provinces.

It is time that the government revisits its original idea to allocate set venues for such demonstrations so that the protests are confined to a limited area in the city where it would cause the least inconvenience to the public.

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