Tuesday, 10 May 2022 09:46

Protection of the Protesting Youth

The thousands of people, mostly youth, protesting peacefully at Galle Face in front of the presidential secretariat has captured the national imagination. Now all over the country similar protests are taking place. There have been a few incidents of violence reported, in which the protestors either got violent or the security forces used violence to intimidate the protestors.

Most of the protestors in the vicinity of the Presidential Secretariat who have stayed the duration of the one month long protests have come from around the country. Many of them appear to be university students who represent the educated intelligentsia of the country. Their conduct so far, by and large, has been peaceful, non-violent and in good spirits. By and large what is observed is good behavior and no harassment of any kind, which is a positive feature in a country where women complain that bus travel is a problem for them due to harassment. The races, religions and sexes intermingle in the unity of purpose to see the government leadership go. Whether the ongoing protest campaign ends in the manner that the protestors want is not a given at the present time.  

The Sri Lankan tendency so far has been to see youth as a volatile and disruptive element that can be mobilized to act violently. The two Sinhala youth insurrections of 1971 and 1988-89, and the Tamil separatist movement that held sway from the late 1970s till the end of the war in 2009 have left scarred memories all around about the role and treatment of youth. However, the present protests signal a break with that divisive past. Today’s youth protestors appear to have made non-violence and democratic ideals a part of their ethos. There is also unprecedented sympathy and support for them from the older generations who join them and bring them material support to continue with the struggle.

The presence of the older generations at the protest sites acts as a deterrence to the use of violence on any side on account of the deference given in the Sri Lankan culture to age. Several members of NPC’s volunteer governing council went to Galle Face to show their solidarity with the ongoing campaign to cleanse up national politics and to find an answer to the country’s pressing problems.