Galle Face Green turns to a Carnival Place | Daily News

Galle Face Green turns to a Carnival Place

Youngsters enjoying at the Galle Face protest
Youngsters enjoying at the Galle Face protest

Peaceful protest is a hallmark of our democracy. It has been an impetus for social change throughout our history. - Stan Van Gundy US Coach

Galle Face Green has presently become the popular central protesting ground in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo for the protest in and around the Sri Lankan government. Protests at the 5-hectare strip which now includes an area popularly called the ‘Gota Go’ village are drawing similarities to Egypt’s Tahrir Square during Arab Spring and Chennai’s Marina beach during the protest for Jallikattu — a popular bull-taming sport —in 2017. Amid high inflation, falling foreign reserves, fuel shortages, power cuts, medicine shortages, and rising Cost of Living, the ‘Gota Go’ village has been witnessing a carnival-like atmosphere as citizens from all walks of life join hands to protest against the government.

Scores of young men and women are now staying put day and night, right next to the Presidential Secretariat, in what looks like a tent city of resistance. Protesters who are part of the ‘Occupy Galle Face’ movement have one simple message to the government that is to return home. The citizen’s uprising that has been building up for more than a month intensified over the last week with protesters, especially youth, deciding to ‘Occupy Galle Face’, The sea-facing stretch near the Presidential Secretariat. Dozens of tents have sprung up in the area, where some demonstrators stay overnight, and thousands gather at the venue through the day and well into the night, carrying posters sharply critical of the government. The government had tried to stop these protests on Saturday when the police moved in a fleet of trucks, however, a stand-off was averted as the vehicles were removed after a few hours. “The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) received credible information from its members of several police trucks being moved into the vicinity of Galle Face Green, where there is an ongoing mass protest. The trucks have now been removed after it was highlighted on social media and brought to the notice of the authorities,” the Sri Lanka Bar Association released a statement on Friday.

Voice opinion freely

Portable toilets, phone charging stations, power generators, stoves, gas cylinders, health care from the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society with an ambulance, and a ‘psychology unit’ offer counselling for protesters. Some of the protesters are resolutely staying back at the venue since, sleeping in temporary tents braving heavy thunderstorms, such as the one Colombo experienced last week. The carnival-like atmosphere has been drawing curious onlookers and visitors. Dog owners bring their pets along with similar slogan boards welcoming people to take photographs of their pooches. The microphones available at the protest site provide a platform for people to voice their opinion freely.

A protestor at the site said “By coming to the protest site I’m trying to do my small part for my country. Naysayers will say this is all a waste of time, but those who truly believe in this movement know this can be the epicentre for a major change in the country.” Meanwhile, another protestor alleging that politicians had used the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings to come to power, has been volunteering at the protest site. “I leave around 5 am for a shower and come back at 8.30. I and other protesters came to Galle Face on April 9 and I have not left since then.” Gamage who takes care of a stall which provides snacks, water, and a phone charging station is one among several volunteers helping to keep the protest going. Most volunteers setting up stalls and community resources don’t wish to be identified. Gamage says he is here despite possible risks because there is nothing left to lose. “We have no medicine, no food, we are deep in debt, and we have lost our dignity. The only thing left to lose is our lives – do we wait till we lose that too or do we start acting to make sure at least our future generations have a better life?”

Self-sufficient movement

Another protestor said ‘Rain or shine, we are here to protest’ A college student, who doesn’t wish to be identified, says “There is something almost utopic about the protest. When I’m here I feel a bond with the people of this country which I have never felt before. People here actually throw the trash in garbage cans, I have seen people helping each other with food and water not expecting anything in return. There is an entire system of voluntary organisation to make this a self-sufficient movement. For me, I am here showing my support because it gives me a chance to show my love for the country, and fellow citizens, we can make a difference in this world.” Some of the protesters are resolutely staying back at the venue since, sleeping in temporary tents and under trees, braving heavy thunderstorms, such as the one Colombo experienced last week.

Another protestor, an environmental consultant, said he had visited the protest at Galle Face to distribute food to the people there. “When it rains we could get in our cars and go home. But people are coming here from faraway places carrying infants. There are people here living in tents keeping the movement going rain or shine. I feel they must be supported in some way. The people at Galle Face include the silent protesters, and the singing, and dancing almost like it’s a carnival. But this is simply the people’s way of expressing their anger and frustration.”

In Sri Lanka the right to protest is recognized under Article 14(1)(b) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, which guarantees that every citizen is entitled to the freedom of peaceful assembly. Article 14(1)(a) and (c) also recognize the freedom of speech and expression, and the freedom of association, respectively. The right to protest is recognized under Article 14(1)(b) of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, which guarantees that every citizen is entitled to the freedom of peaceful assembly. Article 14(1)(a) and (c) also recognize the freedom of speech and expression, and the freedom of association, respectively. These protests must be peaceful and non-violent. Even in Iraq and Libya it is common knowledge that after public uprisings those countries are facing difficulties. Kumar Gunaratnam of Front Line Socialist Party speaking to the Editor of Daily News recently in an interview has also agreed with these views. The President has also stated that the Government will not hinder peaceful protests as reported in Daily News on April 21, 2022. An independent inquiry is being conducted into the recent killing of a youth in Rambukkana and if any officer is found guilty of misconduct they would be dealt with under the applicable law and punished by court.

In conclusion, the protests, which have continued for the last fortnight have been mainly staged by general public including teachers, students, doctors, nurses, IT professionals, farmers, lawyers, few police officers, social activists, sportspersons and engineers without any political affiliation and most of the protesters are considered to be apolitical. Undisputedly it is the right of the people of a nation to stage peaceful protests against the government to complain about difficulties faced by them.

The writer is an Attorney-at-Law with LLB, LLM, M.Phil. (Colombo)

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