The limits of the Mahinda Chintanaya: FTZ workers and Buddhist monks rise up against government
Photo courtesy Vikalpa
Protests in Katunayake Free Trade Zone: No police in sight has audio and video footage of the violent protests over the course of the week in the Katunayake Free Trade Zone. A 10 minute video of the protests on Thursday, after the Police killed 21 year old Free Trade Zone (FTZ) worker Roshan Chanaka, can be seen below.
As Rasika Jayakody notes in an article dealing with Rohan’s killing,
“Apart from this tragic death, this brutal police attack against Free Trade Zone workers left more than 200 people injured. On Monday evening, Ragama and Negombo hospitals were flooded with injured protesters. It is, undoubtedly, one of the brutal crackdowns in recent history. There are several video footages which clearly show the barbaric and inhuman manner that some police officers carried out attacks against unarmed protesters.”
The withdrawal of the proposed pensions bill is a major embarrassment for the government. So embarrassing in fact that some reports suggest the President’s media unit coerced mainstream media to not give it the prominence it deserved in media coverage.
The protests over the course of the week weren’t the first mass scale protests against government since 2005, but they’ve certainly been by far the most forceful. In November last year, the government was forced to shelve plans to develop the Negombo lagoon into a sea-plane friendly area. Their livelihoods threatened, hundreds of fisherfolk – those who had in fact voted in this government – took to the lagoon and the streets against it. As we observed,
“Neither the Police nor the Army could not control the crowd. This is evident in the video footage, in which person after person openly taunt the authorities and mention that this is not what they expected from a government they had voted into power.”
On Friday, Colombo saw for the first time hundreds of Buddhist monks protest outside the President’s house. See dramatic photos from the demonstration taken by Vikalpa below.
The area surrounding the President’s house is a high security zone, and even violent protests last year involving university students who tried to give a petition to the President weren’t allowed anywhere near it, and were repelled back by tear gas.
Not so with the Buddhist monks on Friday, who numbering around 600 sported placards openly and explicitly against the government and the President. Tellingly, the monks even refused refreshments sent out to them from Temple Trees.
“There is growing social tension in Sri Lanka. Over 2010 alone, student unrest in Universities increased considerably. A number of trade unions are joining the fray. Any one of these incidents alone can be cast aside or seen as isolated incidents by minority groups. Collectively though, tens of thousands of people have been involved in demonstrations against government (including those who voted it into power), and there is no sign that this trend is abating.”
The violent protests this week by thousands from the core vote base of the incumbents only strengthens the contention that even a government which won the war cannot by extension harbour the belief that it can, carte blanche, do whatever it wants with public coffers through illiberal governance.