May Day Manipulation

Today I passed a banner printed in stark black and red on a white background. On the poster were the words in the succession: NGO, UNP, JVP, LTTE.

It didn’t take knowledge of Sinhala to know what the sign said. The sign’s writing equated foreign non governmental organization, the opposition party, the UNP, to two militarist organizations: the JVP, a violent marxist rebellion in the 1980s that the military brutally repressed, and the LTTE (the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).

The banner was a stark reminder that I live in a country with family despotism masquerading as a democracy. By El Presidente’s right, he has achieved what no other South Asian political dynasty has achieved: total control. The government of this “socialist republic” sponsored these rallies as part of a patriotic-nationalist movement centered around the Sinhala majority and xenophobia of others: Muslims, Tamils, Foreigners included.

The signs next to them featured massive heads of MR (El Presidente).

Next to the banner were crowds in blue shirts preparing a May Day march.

NGOs are seen as a foreign institutions encroaching Sri Lankan autonomoy. You can see the hostility. In fact, we have witnessed it first hand with certain ministers, for instance, forbidding research if it might involve an NGO..

You can see it in the crowds wearing blue shirts chanting Sinhala nationalist slogans walking down the street.

You can see it in the ministers that make our friends’ lives difficult.

You can see it in the harassment we encounter daily, even from the most powerful and dangerous in society.

You can hear it in the stories of severed heads floating down rivers and bags of body organs landing on beaches.

But, you don’t need to see the hostility to feel it.