Sri Lanka’s economic distress and its ruling Rajapaksa family have achieved what many thought was impossible: bringing Sinhalese, Tamil, and Muslim together and, at least for now, uniting them in one cry: “Go Gota go”.

On the streets, protestors chant: “We are not divided by class, We are not divided by race.” A new generation of Sri Lankans has taken the lead in the outpouring of anger against the Rajapaksa family, and they do not appear to carry the baggage of Sri Lanka’s ethnic divide – described in Sri Lanka as racial divide – which the Rajapaksas, both Gotabaya and his brother Mahinda, did nothing to end, continuing to feed it even after the civil war ended in 2009.

The present offers an opportunity to turn the page on the past, said Tamil parliamentarian MA Sumanthiran. That is why he politely deflected Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin’s offer to send food and other essential supplies for the Tamils ​​of Sri Lanka.

“We have been thankful for the assistance extended by the Indian government, and we welcome the offer of assistance from the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. But that assistance should be for all Sri Lankans at this time, not just Tamils. That will have a positive impact, ”Sumanthiran told The Indian Express Saturday.

Sri Lanka’s Tamil community has learnt the hard way – when Tamil Nadu politicians take up their cause, the reactions from the majority Sinhala-Buddhist community are negative.

Sumanthiran pointed to placards held up by protestors apologizing for the killings of Tamils ​​during the war and said this was evidence of a new thinking among the young. Stalin’s offer to help the Tamils ​​might be well-intentioned, Sumanthiran said, but was likely to be misused by elements waiting for an opportunity to defame the protests.

In Colombo, Saturday saw tens of thousands converge at Galle Face, the capital’s main ocean front.

We are here to show that people are together and that this corruption cannot go on and that the President definitely cannot go on, ”said Charini, a lawyer holding a placard that said People’s Power. “He has to go, and this is to ask him to go, and then the reforms can come. It is up to the parliament what comes next, ”she said. “First he has to go, then all the Rajapaksas must go, and then the country can breathe easy.”
The numbers swelled through the day, and into the night. Initially, the police made way for vehicles to pass through. Many honked in support of the protestors, some distributed water. Later, as the road was taken over by the protestors, it was closed to traffic.

Among the political class, the refrain is “after Rajapaksa who?” even though there is no sign that either of Gotabaya or Rajapaksa is contemplating an exit.

Nevertheless, Opposition politicians are racing to finalize an agreement between themselves on what should replace Rajapaksa rule before Parliament meets again on April 19, hoping to end the political impasse.

“We have the numbers to move a no-confidence motion but those who want to support it first want to be sure what comes the day after the no-confidence vote is carried,” said a leading politician involved in the deliberations.

The government of President Rajapaksa, and his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, has lost its majority. The Opposition has spurned the President’s offer to join a national government. Opposition politicians want the Rajapaksas to step down and make way for a new dispensation.

Hoping to placate the protestors, the President got his entire Cabinet to resign. But he has not been able to appoint a new one. One ruling party politician who was appointed the new Finance minister resigned within 24 hours.

The main opposition party is the Samagi Jana Balawegaya, led by Sajith Premadasa, with the sure support of 48 parliamentarians. Another 42 have separated from the government and call themselves “independent”. The Tamil National Alliance has 10 parliamentarians.

A group of 20 parliamentarians is said to be willing to support a no-confidence motion but will not commit itself without the assurance that it will be part of the next dispensation. Their support would be crucial.

The SJB leader, the son of former President Ranasinghe Premadasa, believes this is a chance to abolish the executive presidency through a vote in parliament, so that even if Rajapaksa does not quit office, he will be stripped of his absolute powers.

The proposal would have to be put to a referendum even in the event of two-thirds parliamentary approval, but going by the mood on the streets, some Opposition leaders are confident that it would receive a resounding yes from voters. There is also the view that this should be followed by an impeachment of Gotabaya.

The TNA’s Sumanthiran said Tamil parliamentarians would support moves to end the executive presidency. “Ending the President’s executive powers would also entail taking away the executive powers from the Governors of the provinces also. If not, he can still exercise executive powers on all devolved subjects through his agents. Once the offices of the Governor also become ceremonial in nature, and coupled with action to implement the 13th Amendment, devolution will become a little more meaningful than at present, ”he said.

However, there is concern in the political class that if push comes to shove, President Rajapaksa, who does not seem to have many options, but commands much respect and loyalty from the military for empowering them to defeat the LTTE – especially his own Gajaba regiment (he used to be an Army officer) – might resort to the unthinkable: the “Myannmar model”, as it is referred to here in the Sri Lankan capital.

Army commander General Shavendra Fernando has said the armed forces will stand by the Constitution. “That is a welcome reassurance, but given the way the armed forces have been pumped, one hopes that there won’t be a temptation to fill a political vacuum,” said Sunday Times editor Sinha Ratnatunga.

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