Sri Lanka Protests: Spontaneous or a Conspiracy?
Sri Lankan capital Colombo has been marred by demonstrations by a mob ranging initially from 30,000, to later about few lakhs demanding the resignation of their democratically elected president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. No doubt the island nation has been facing financial crisis owing to their dried up Foreign Exchange reserves that made import of oil & gas and essential provisions and grains difficult. No doubt that there were mismanagement and possibly corruptions in the governance. No doubt that people were facing hardship of dried income after Covid19 following which tourism came to stand-still. While friendly nations were extending helping hand esp India from where >3 bn dollar credit line was extended in the forms of fuel and food, to ward-off the immediate challenges till arrangements could be made with international lenders to bail out from the crunch situation. The talks were going on reasonably well with International Monitory Fund and World Bank till Sri Lanka was struck with a bolt from the blue on 09 Jul 22 in which the entire Govt machineries were overwhelmed by protesters…chanting the President to resign. Who could have coordinated the move and mobilisation of about 40,000 protesters together? We in India have witnessed Muslims being incited by their mosques after Friday Khutbas. We have also witnessed Muslim mob mobilisation through social media like in Bangalore and Delhi. However, mobilisation through Churches have been taking place in many countries but seldom so in Asia.
The protesters in an orchestrated move marched ahead. They entered the Presidential palace and stayed put under someone’s direction while PM’s house was torched. President fled mentioning that he ‘could’ resign if that resolved situation…but the handlers of the protesters were not satisfied. They wanted to continue turmoil. PM too agreed to resign but protesters were instructed to remain in control. They were all apparently under the control of an unseen handler to the extent that all acted in synchronous groups, unlike different splinter groups or angry individuals suffering from hunger as were being acclaimed. Gotabaya fled to Maldives and PM was made acting President. This angered the handlers even more as if they wanted to capture him with a moto not very clearly.
Power struggles/political in the Indian vicinity have earlier taken place in various forms. We witnessed terrorist Taliban take-over in Afghanistan masterminded by Pakistan, regular military coups in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar orchestrated by Army and judicial coup in Islamabad maneuvered by Military. However, this one in Sri Lanka didn’t resemble any of those. Neither of Islamic barbarism nor Buddhist retaliation (that were seen in Rakhine, Myanmar). It was evidently not spontaneous to any momentous extraordinary event taking place that day. As the fact emerged subsequently, the Catholic Church, Cardinal of Colombo Malcolm Ranjith led a protest in the town of Negombo, some 30-odd km away from Colombo when he sent a social media post to his clientele to mobilise to Colombo. Surely lot many others too joined subsequently that included almost all sections including Religious groups (esp Muslims), Trade Unions, Labour organisations, Student groups and even some Sinhalese, Buddhists.
In Sri Lanka, 2012 census reported 70.2% Buddhist, 12.6% Hindu, 9.7% Muslim and 7.4% Christian. Srilankan Constitution (under amendment) grants special status for Buddhism in its article 9 that the President & Prime Minister posts to only Sinhalese Buddhist who form ~74% of population… and they are at discomfort for this. The four Buddhist chapters of Sri Lanka namely Malwathu, Asgiri, Amarapura and Ramanya do have influence on Sri Lanka's politics and Sh Madagoda Dhammananda, Chief Registrar of one of the chapters had recommended the President on 04 Apr 22 to form an interim govt to tide over the economic problems. However, like India, the Buddhist and Hindu of Sri Lanka remain dis-united and thus Muslims and Christians have significant influence and claut on society.
Methodist and American missionary priests attended the Negombo protest of April too, organized by the Christian Solidarity Movement. They claimed "the rulers attacked Tamils (Christians) and Muslims” clearly a false pretext (https://www.ucanews.com/news/priests-nuns-join-public-protests-against-sri-lankan-govt/96758). It is important to note that unethical means of conversions by the missionaries and preaching of radical Islam have been the irritants in inter-religious relations. It may be recalled that radical Muslim groups of Sri Lanka carried out one of the worst Christian massacre of the world in which they killed >250 in the infamous Colombo Church attack. Thereafter, the govt has proclaimed the Prevention of Terrorism Act that the Muslims and their supporter want to repeal, the Burqa was banned and even burial of dead have been discouraged to resort to cremation; and for all these, Srilankan President and PM have been their target. Clearly, there seems a Christian angle in the mobilization. This is further strengthened by calls for instating a Tamil President.
There is a third interested group in Sri Lanka too, dancing to the Chinese tunes, the Communists. The economic pitfalls in Sri Lanka is also linked to their huge debt-trap under the Chinese BRI loans that the host failed to repay. The Chinese are apparently dismayed by Srilankan govt shift towards the Indian companies to avoid falling in the Chinese trap. There are some who believe that the Chinese may be giving winds to the fire through the Trade Unions and Communist Cadres. It is so unfortunate for any non-Christian, non-Muslim nations leaving few exceptions, these three groups cannot be trusted upon for their allegiance to the national causes. Christians will look to Rome, Muslims to their Arabian radical ideologies and funding sources for spreading Islam and radicalism. On the other hand, the Communists are often considered traitors and untrustworthy more often than not. Chinese will walk any lengths to protect own economic interests. In the present situation of the turmoil, it will be interesting to know the sources of the funds of various agencies feeding the lakhs of mouths of the protesters for so many days. How divisive these three forces could become unitedly, the world witnessed amply during the anti-CAA and the so-called Farmers’ protests in India. A similar looking Colombo protest almost paralysed Sri Lanka. Here too, the protestors have stay-put temporary tents, naming it ‘Gota Go Gama’ protest camp that even has an IT centre with anti-Govt slogans. Just like Farmers’ protest site, Srilankan protesters have converted the prestigious Presidential palace and its surroundings in to a slum of tents.
The direction of the current waves orchestrated protests and their demands are baffling all economic analysts. How will the change of govt bail them out from near bankruptcy or shortages of fuel & food etc as acclaimed? Are these the pretexts of religio-ethnic conundrums? The handlers of the protesters should know that no international lenders will grant any loan to a nation in turmoil. There are surely more than meets the common eyes. It seems to be a very logical question about the Sri Lanka Protests whether it is Spontaneous or a Conspiracy?