Gota-Go Village, a nerve center of Sri Lankan protests, completes 50 days

By Aanya Wipulasena

Colombo, May 28 (EFE).- Fifty days ago, when Buddhi Prabodha Karunaratne, a 28-year-old Sri Lankan protester, was asked which political outfit he belonged to, he was perplexed to realize that anti-government protests could not be considered apolitical.

Karunaratne told journalists that thousands of people sans political affiliations came to demand President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation over the worst economic crisis – something incomprehensible for the questioners.

“They did not understand,” Karunaratne told EFE.

That was because only political parties would organize demonstrations in the island nation.

But everyone, including politicians, soon realized that it was a people’s struggle for a change, for the ouster of the government that had dragged the nation into its worst economic crisis in decades.

For weeks, people had to queue up for hours to get cooking gas, milk powder, and fuel despite having the money to buy them.

Frustrated with the crisis, the Sri Lankans decided it was time for the government to pack up.

With dwindling foreign currency reserves, the government could not afford imports. Several economic blunders, including tax cuts, a chemical fertilizer ban, and avoiding debt restructuring, caused the bankruptcy.

The tide turned for the Rajapaksas, the family that dominated Sri Lanka’s political sphere, when people hooted at the president when he passed a queue of people waiting to buy milk powder in December last year, near his suburban house in Mirihana of the Western Province.

Karunaratne said it was then that the iron image of Rajapaksa started to crumble.

They set out to show their anger by holding placards near their homes or coming to the nearest road junction with candles and phone torches in the night as hours-long power cuts plunged the country into darkness.

The protests gathered momentum in the coming weeks.

On Apr.9, Karunaratne came to Galle Face in Colombo with some placards. He had invited people on Facebook to join him at the popular promenade in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo.

“I had 110 placards but only 20 people were there in the morning. Within 45 minutes, so many others came,” he recalled.

One of the slogans that went viral on social media was “api enne yanne nemei” (We are coming, not to go back).

And they were true to their words. The promenade became ground zero for the protests.

Saturday marked the 50th day the protesters occupied Galle Face and founded a village – GotaGoGama or Gota-Go Village, asking the president to go.

Since then, most protesters have not gone home.

There are social media influencers, artists, and journalists living in tents.

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