Taking A Stand

On November 4, 2018, a group of people gathered at the Liberty roundabout in Kollupitiya.

For some, it was their fifth day of standing in protest. Following news that President Maithripala Sirisena and the United People's Freedom Alliance had stepped down from the coalition Government, a group of citizens decided to meet at the roundabout every day, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm, until Parliament was convened. On the first day, the protest coincided with a larger rally organised by the UNP held nearby. Many of those who attended the rally that day were quick to say that they were not attending to support the UNP.

On October 30, a tweet by Lisa Fuller featuring one of the posters held by a protester went viral. It read, "I'm not here for Ranil - I'm here for democracy". The poster appeared to encapsulate the sentiments of many of those gathered at the Liberty roundabout on October 30 and every day after.

Over the past few days, Groundviews documented those who attended the citizen protest.

This is what they had to say.

"As a mother, as a grandmother, I want to see democracy restored. I’m not against any person or any party but as a citizen of Sri Lanka. Nothing like this has ever happened before” Diordre Moraes

'We aren't satisfied with the progress post-2015 on issues faced by the Tamil community. But now, we are fearful for Tamil activists, especially the families of the disappeared. We need a democratic government that looks after minority rights.' Rajini, from Jaffna.

“I feel young people should take political issues more seriously. When youth engage with politics they only look at statements from the President or Prime Minister. We don’t look at deeper issues. I’m hoping to influence young people to come.” Neluni Tillekeratne

Our Malaiyaha Tamil community, those who work in tea estates, voted for President Sirisena hoping he would reform society. However, what he did sets us back 100 years.' Nadesan Suresh, from Badulla.

“I’m a dairy farmer from Kandy. I think it’s important to take a stand. Some things should be sacred. At least, our constitution should be respected.” Ayesha Perera

“Though I’m 92 years old, I feel I must make a stand for democracy. Over the years I’ve seen the steady deterioration of political life. Every party has used corrupt practices for short term gains.This has to change.” Sarojini Kadirgamar

'Women make up 52% of the population and indeed, more women come out to vote. Our votes only brought this government to power. Now, without us, they are going ahead and making decisions.' Komala, from Batticaloa.

“I’m here for democracy. If an MP choose to jump to another party they should lose their seat in Parliament. I’m not here for any party.” Leisha Lawrence (far right)

“We vote in a particular way for who we want. That doesn’t give the President the right to do what he wants, because he doesn’t get on with a particular person.” Mihiri de Silva (second from right)

"My vote is not for sale. This is not right!" Sepali de Silva (second from left)

“We have no choice. It is through voting that we can exercise our rights. That’s been taken from us.” Ephraim Shadrach

“The person we elected President has betrayed us in an ugly manner. I wanted to express my opposition to what he did, to this entire corrupt system, and this notion that politicians can do anything and get away with it.” Ishan Jallil

'We call this a democratic country but what happened suppressed democratic means. We made history as having the first female prime minister, now we have made history again for having two prime ministers!' Kalaivani, from Batticaloa.

"This is a perfect example of why we need to abolish the Executive Presidency. One man should never have this much power over a country." Iromi Perera

"The decisions being made now don’t include the public opinion. They are just taking their own decisions. There is a way to do things.” Adrian Roshan Fernando.

"In the last week, we've seen many cases of intimidation by the security forces, and we fear this is only going to get worse' - a Jaffna-based activist who requested anonymity

“If we don’t resist, then [politicians] will feel like they can do things when no one is watching, and they’ll continue to step over more lines.” Stefhan Sebastian

“This is not good for the country. We’re doing this for the next generation, for the future of this country.” Piyathilaka Ranaweera

'I usually never attend demonstrations or protests like this but this time, my future in this country is at stake. I'm tired of just sitting back and being okay with how things are and how things have been.' Praviinna Raviraj

"I'm 82. And I'm fighting for my grandchildren!" Swinitha Fernando

"I believe in rule of law, constitutionalism, and human rights. These are under threat in Sri Lanka right now, and I'm here to show my opposition to that" Ruki Fernando

“People’s votes matter. We can’t let politicians corrupt that and exploit voters.” Irfadha Muzammil

“This action has robbed us of our voice. Parliament has to reconvene for people to have a voice again, and for our elected representatives to be where they need to be.” Rohan Mendis

“Politician’s flesh is very expensive now. By law we should say you can’t change your party for money. If you don’t like your party, leave and allow new people to come in.” Chandraguptha Thenuwara

"We are witnessing an attack on our democracy, and it is important for all citizens, whatever their party affiliations or political leanings, to speak out for our democratic rights." Arun Welandawe-Prematilleka

“I'm here because I love this country and I believe in the importance of the constitution. Any member of Govt must be lawfully appointed through Parliament. This happened outside that process. That’s why we're here.” Nalini Kanagarajah

Rather than saying “I am Prime Minister" come to Parliament now and show that you have the majority. Govern the country. Don’t waste our time!” Abdul Kalam Azad.

'I am weeping for my country and for our future generations. We will be gone soon, but it is unfortunate that they will have to face this music. We don't need rhetoric, theorems and empty promises, we need action!' - Christine

As evening fell, the electricty at the Liberty roundabout remained switched off. Later on, Mayor of Colombo Rosy Senanayake tweeted that this was "an act of sabotage". Undeterred, the protesters used the light of their mobile phones and continued chanting.

Eventually, at 7 pm, the protest came to an end - to be resumed the next day, and the day after that, until Parliament reconvenes.

Produced for Groundviews

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