When it All Began #2

Before it became the ‘Aragalaya’. Before it became a bandwagon for the JVP. Before the antharé and the political speeches and the Gotagogama. Just regular Sri Lankan people, desperate and angry and demanding change. Green Path, Colombo. 4th April 2022.

• 70mm • f/11 • 1/500 • ISO800 •


When it All Began

Before it became the ‘Aragalaya’. Before it became a bandwagon for the JVP. Before the antharé and the street performers and the Gotagogama. Just regular Sri Lankan people, desperate and angry and demanding change. Green Path, Colombo. 4th April 2022.

• 120mm • f/5.6 • 1/400 • ISO400 •


Colombo, Sri Lanka. 9th July 2022.

• 120mm • f/5.6 • 1/1000 • ISO400 •

“Api Awa Colombata, Gota Epa Kiwwata!”

“අපි ආවා කොළඹට, ගෝටා එපා කිව්ව!” (“We came to Colombo, though Gota said no!”) chant hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankans covering the Galle Face Green promenade in downtown Colombo, on 9th July 2022; the culmination of months of demonstrations demanding President Gotabaya Rajapakse step down. Since the protests began in April, Gotabaya’s brothers, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and Finance Minister Basil Rajapakse have been forced to step down, accused of corruption and ineptitude that has caused the worst economic catastrophe in the country’s recorded history. After protestors overran President’s House and several other government offices and official residences on the 9th, and burned down the home of current Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe that night, President Gotabaya Rajapakse fled the country, though he continues to issue decrees while in exile, amidst mounting tension and clashes between protestors and the in Sri Lankan police.

• 50mm • f/4.5 • 1/2500 • ISO400 •

“Jaya Banda Lowe, Dhaja Lelawa Apey, Api Enawa Mage Amme!”

“ජය බන්දා ලොවේ ධජ ලෙළවා අපේ, අපි එනවා මගේ අම්මේ!” And they did, with Lion Flags waving and drums pounding, packed into convoys of lorries carrying water and supplies for the struggle, in tuk tuks, and on lone scooters and, in their hundreds of thousands, on foot, overrunning downtown Colombo, demanding that Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapakse step down. 9th July 2022.

• 200mm • f/5.6 • 1/250 • ISO400 •

Continue reading ““Jaya Banda Lowe, Dhaja Lelawa Apey, Api Enawa Mage Amme!””

The Heights of Victory

Joyous protestors in downtown Colombo, minutes after Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapakse announced his resignation. 9th July 2022. Nationwide demonstrations that began in April had succeeded in ousting Rajapakse’s brothers and nephew from senior cabinet positions, accused of corruption and ineptitude that has caused the worst economic catastrophe in Sri Lankan history.

• 135mm • f/5.6 • 1/1000 • ISO400 •

My Country, May She Ever be Right…

…But right or wrong, my country.* Ethnic minorities have been visibly present in the widespread protests calling for Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapakse and his government to resign; none more so than the country’s Muslim community, typically distinguished by their conspicuous garb. Long an undeserved target of the chauvinistic politics that has plagued the country since independence in 1948, the Muslims have been especially marked for persecution in the decade following the end of the Sri Lankan Civil War in 2009. Announcing his run for the presidency days after the Easter Sunday bombings of 2019, Gotabhaya Rajapakse blamed the Muslims for the act of terrorism, accusing them of killing hundreds, and vowing to stamp out Islamic extremism and restore national security. Borne aloft on a wave of fear and nationalism, he won a landslide victory seven months laterbut today stands charged with having engineered the bombings himself as a ploy to gain power. The country’s majority Sinhalese Buddhists, similarly making up the bulk of the protestors accusing the government of corruption and ineptitude, have welcomed minority participation; presenting, for now at least, a united voice for change. Colombo, April 2022.

• 50mm • f/4.5 • 1/1250 • ISO400 •

*An oft-used misquote of American Commodore Stephen Decatur’s “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong!” after victory over the Barbary pirates in 1816.

Many Emotions, One Demand

Young protestors, in Colombo, call for the resignation of Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapakse and his government, which is blamed for the country’s worst economic crisis in modern history. Accused of corruption, nepotism, and ineptitude, Rajapakse has refused to step down in spite of a month of public demonstrations against him. In contrast to the largely peaceful middle class protests in the capital, civil disobedience in other areas by rural working and farming communities have been marked by increasingly desperate clashes with the police who, yesterday, shot several protestors in Rambukkana, 97km northeast of Colombo, killing at least one. Sri Lanka, April 2022.

Many Causes, One Revolution

While most of the demands by protestors calling for the resignation of Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapakse and his government have focused on charges of corruption, nepotism, and ineptitude, all of which have been flagged as causes for Sri Lanka’s current economic crisis, there remains a less visible but still strident undertone of accusations that predate these. When the Sri Lankan military defeated the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009, it was amidst heavy civilian casualties; many of which were seen by critics of the state as resulting from callous and heavy-handed strategies ordered by Gotabhaya Rajapakse; at the time Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, and de facto head of the Armed Forces. While no evidence of war crimes has ever turned up, this hasn’t prevented a minority of protestors from gleefully taking up that cry again. Colombo, April 2022.

We Are Risen

As the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year holiday week faded into Good Friday and the dawn of Easter Sunday (the latter itself a poignant and bloody reminder of how the current Sri Lankan regime stormed its way into power), the protesters stayed on at Galle Face Green, in Colombo, unrelenting in their demand that President Gotabhaya Rajapakse and his government resign. 17th April 2022. But ‘Gota’ has been equally stubborn in his refusal to quit, keeping his powerful older brother (former President Mahinda Rajapakse) in the PM slot, and merely reshuffling and reappointing his cabinet in what is a clear middle finger to the dissidents. The crippling economic crisis in Sri Lanka, the worst in its modern history, in which the country is suffering widespread shortages in electricity, fuel, cooking gas, medicine, and even food, has been felt most clearly by the middle and working classes, who have turned out at Galle Face in unprecedented numbers, with all ethnicities represented in a show of unity that has loudly voiced its accusations of government ineptitude and corruption. However, with the holidays ending today, and the president deadlocked with the protestors, the battle will return to parliament where, til now, the opposition parties have displayed little more than impotence and a distinct lack of leadership in reflecting the voice of the people in the legislature.
Continue reading “We Are Risen”