As a professional trade union which has historically stood for social justice in Sri Lanka, FUTA is appalled by the massive repression unleashed on leading Aragalaya activists by the illegitimate Wickremasinghe-Pohottuwa government. FUTA as an organisation identifies itself with the spirit of the Aragalaya. We stand by the brave youth and activists drawn from all quarters of Sri Lankan society who, for more than a 100 days, led a highly successful and internationally admired campaign to demand accountable and democratic governance. The Aragalaya was one of the most significant events in Sri Lanka’s social and political history and achieved many democratic gains – challenging the entrenched patron-client political system in the country and succeeded in sending home a deeply unpopular Cabinet of Ministers dominated by the dynastic Rajapaksa family, the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa himself, and finally President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
FUTA sees all of these as historic gains that represent a rare moment when the Sri Lankan public acted as true democratic citizens rather than servile subjects subservient to party politics. However, with the election of Ranil Wickremasinghe as President, many of these gains are being rapidly reversed. From the time he assumed office, Wickremasinghe has engaged in a political witch hunt, targeting Aragalaya leaders and at the same time attempting to characterise the Aragalaya as a form of anarchy. However, this spurious discourse by the Wickremasinghe-Pohottuwa government has been roundly criticised by international observers, liberal governments across the world, progressive media, and a range of domestic and international rights activists and organisations. FUTA sees this campaign of repression by the government as an attempt to recall the dark days of the ‘bheeshanaya’ (terror) that existed in the 1987-89 period and more recently the suppression of fundamental freedoms of the people during the 2009-15 period. It is truly ironic that this repression has been unleashed by a government led by Ranil Wickremasinghe who fashioned his entire political career on the basis of his so-called ‘liberality’.
Given this context, FUTA has decided to play an active role to both protect the youth and the Aragalaya leadership, and at the same time to safeguard and nurture the democratic spirit of the Aragalaya.
Federation of University Teachers’ Associations
05 August 2022