Sri Lanka’s stalled revolt


Ahilan Kadirgamar

The rebellion in Sri Lanka reached such a scale in July that Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the country’s president and head of the infamous Rajapaksa clan, rapidly packed his bags and went on the run. Pictures of protesters swimming in the pool of his palatial mansion and setting fire to the houses of MPs from the ruling party were beamed around the world. Seemingly fearless young people fought the police and defied curfews to lead hundreds of thousands on the streets.

While Western media concentrated their attention on well-spoken protesters camped out in the capital, they generally missed the real action. Over a period of months, poor people—deprived of even the basics of life by shortages, lost wages and rising prices—had decided they would no longer sit back and watch the anti-Rajapaksa movement. Instead, they joined it in huge numbers. Their entrance into the movement proved decisive in deposing the old regime.

However, in the wake of this success came an establishment fightback that sowed confusion and division among even those who had long been implacable opponents of the Rajapaksas. The movement now faces difficult times ahead. The state has recaptured the initiative and is free to lash out with severe repression. The movement also faces vital class questions about what kind of society it wants.

As a national vice president of the Federation of University Teachers Association, Ahilan Kadirgamar has been an active participant in the revolt. He spoke to Yuri Prasad at the end of August, just as the recently installed president, Ranil Wickremesinghe, announced a new austerity budget and the vultures of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) circled ready to swoop on the country.

Read, the interview here.

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