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On May 11, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa told his countrymen that he is ready to talk about removing the Presidential form of government. He promised to give more powers to Parliament and facilitate a national government this week. Once the new government is in place, steps will be taken and talks initiated on removing the presidential form of government marked by an executive presidency, Gotabaya Rajapaksa promised. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had resigned saying he was doing so because Gotabaya wanted to facilitate the formation of a national government.

This is a small victory for the month-long peaceful protests. If the youth had not started the protests, this wouldn’t have happened. It remains to be seen if Gotabaya Rajapaksa will implement what he has promised. It is possible that the President has made these moves to buy time and cool down the temperature so he can regroup and stay in power.

The violence unleashed on those identified with the Rajapaksa regime has led to talk of Army takeover of Sri Lanka. People of Sri Lanka are seeing how the regime is trying to kindle Sinhala-Tamil-Muslim racial conflicts. Orders to shoot at those who destroy public property have been issued following which troops are patrolling areas all around the country.

When these protesters were attacked by the Rajapaksa supporters, some people retaliated. A few people with personal peeves and wanting to settle scores and those who were seeking political gain waded into the turmoil and unleashed violence.

The world should understand that the protesters in Galle Face have no links with those who let loose violence on Rajapaksa supporters in the last few days. The Galle Face protesters are very clear that only through Constitutional reform can all ethnic and religious groups live together peacefully. Their demands include reform so there are checks and balances. They don’t want power to be concentrated in a few hands which leads to corruption and mismanagement.

When these protesters were attacked by the Rajapaksa supporters, some people retaliated. A few people with personal peeves and wanting to settle scores and those who were seeking political gain waded into the turmoil and unleashed violence. Mischief makers trying to get sympathy for Rajapaksa supporters were also at work.

As the turmoil deepens, the question many are asking is if the army will take power. But that appears highly unlikely.

The army has 24 regiments and all of them have to sync for that to happen. Barring the Gajabahu regiment to which Gotabaya belongs, the other regiments may not agree on the political intent and come together.

The world should understand that the protesters in Galle Face have no links with those who let loose violence on Rajapaksa supporters in the last few days. The Galle Face protesters are very clear that only through Constitutional reform can all ethnic and religious groups live together peacefully. Their demands include reform so there are checks and balances. They don’t want power to be concentrated in a few hands which leads to corruption and mismanagement.

The situation was different during the conflict with the LTTE. The army came together to take on the LTTE at that time. The goal was to end terrorism and destroy the Tigers. Racism had ingrained in the Army then. The army fought fiercely even as the LTTE attacked them fiercely.

But the current situation is different. The demoralizing LTTE attacks that made the army want to hit back is not there anymore. The protesters are non-violent.

Moreover, just like everywhere in the world, the common soldier is from the poorest sections of society. They join the army for the paycheck and assured livelihood. Their own families are among the worst hit by the current situation. Their sympathies will likely not be with the rulers. The tri-force commander, Shavendra Silva, other commanders as well as former commander Sarath Fonseka have taken different political stances, which will not facilitate army rule.

In the last 70 years, politics in Sri Lanka has revolved around racism, communalism and provincialism. These provided campaign fodder to politicians. During elections, racist, communalist and provincialist rhetoric would get ramped up for political gain. Anyone who spoke peace and amity would fall by the wayside and lose elections. Tamil and Muslim parties were not exceptions to this trend.

The current regime is trying to whip up passions as in the past. But there is awareness now among the people. Social media is helping to beat back these efforts.

On May 10, in Negombo at Kattuwapittiya, which was one of the Easter bombing sites, houses belonging to Sinhalese were burned down. It seemed as if Muslims would be blamed leading to cascading violence. But people were aware and ensured that didn’t happen. The special forces of the Army too cooperated to help ensure this didn’t happen. The army and the police are well aware of the politics behind what is happening. And they may not play ball this time.

The army has been given wide powers to control the violence. But the army may not use those powers on the people.

Seeing the army on the streets strikes fear among minorities – Muslims and Tamils. But so far events have showed the army will not attack minorities.

The international situation is not favourable to Sri Lanka. The country’s poor record on human rights is well known to the international community. If the army acts on people, then international institutions like the International Monetary Fund will not come to the support of the nation.

The situation in Sri Lanka is dire. Despite having money, food and other essential items are not easily available for purchase. The people of Sri Lanka need support and aid, not irresponsible opinions.


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