Galle Face’s faces | Sunday Observer

Galle Face’s faces

21 May, 2023

The rather farcical events surrounding the arrest of Piyath Nikeshala the hardly heard of You Tuber and his assailant last week dredged up memories about May 9, and the utterly confusing almost stupefying days of the Galle Face Aragalaya.

The Piyath incident proves to any doubters that it would take a long time for the truth about the Aragalaya to come out. Who was behind the events of not just May 9, 2022, but all of those rather disturbing incidents that however marked a heady period of people’s revolt?

Nobody but the very ghoulish and very partisan perhaps would underestimate the purposes the Aragalaya served as a centre-point of dissent.

This was necessary dissent because things were getting to be intolerable in the country. But one year on, who are the people that emerge from the shadows of this struggle? They are persons such as Piyath, who seem so stunningly not the type that could be identified with any type of respectable revolt.

What happened to Piyath last week? He created a YouTube video for his followers in which he made a show of calling a SLPP supporter who was badly assaulted and humiliated on May 9, 2022. Of course the gentleman who had been assaulted was no saint.

He had joined the folk who descended on the peaceful Aragalaya, and attempted to man-handle and harass the protesters on that infamous day.

The somewhat aged and infirm so called SLPP supporter was however accosted by hordes that descended on the scene and stripped him to his underwear. Videos of his pathetic pleas to be admitted to hospital went viral.

At that time many didn’t have any sympathy for this person who was for all intents and purposes a victim too, even though most would justifiably say he asked for it.

But for Piyath the You Tuber to call up this person one year later and tell him to turn up in ‘last year’s suit’ meaning his underwear, was not merely a sign of callow showmanship, it was also indicative of some of the types that were associated with the Aragalaya.


There were many of these ahinda or nondescript types that emerged from the woodwork after the Aragalaya was done and dusted. These days there are several post-mortem narratives of sorts being conducted about some of the folk that were supposed to be active participants of the Aragalaya.

They say that a quite a bit of the Aragalaya. Some of them committed suicide. Some of them came by very hard times and lamented that they are facing destitution and are suicidal even though they didn’t want to get to a point of in fact committing the act and in actual fact ending their lives.

Well, a lot of these people are those that are supposed to have inspired a nation at the time everyone was feeling quite revolutionary, but all estimations were that they would have been made of sterner stuff. But all those ‘gods’ of the revolution it seemed had clay feet. Well, if not all of them a significant number at least barring of course solid pillars of the revolutionary establishment, such as Peter de Almeida and others of that ilk.

So who were these people who were supposed to have ‘led’ the Aragalaya? There was nobody who took ownership even though at that time there were some eager beavers such as Pathum Kerner for instance. But all of these wannabe leaders were completely neutralised from within. Kerner himself who claimed to have created the calling-card of the ‘Gota Go Home’ slogan, was pushed aside by others who said they had been active participants for a very long time and had sacrificed so much for the cause that they would not let an eager upstart such as Kerner come and usurp their turf.

So it went. It was a rudderless movement but was proclaimed an immense success and of course the victories of the Aragalaya cannot be underestimated. But if a movement that exceeded expectations didn’t have any owners, then there may have been something amiss, to put things mildly.

Now there are attempts by various politicians of note to blame various actors for the Aragalaya or at least what are seen to be it’s weaker aspects such as the violence that occasionally erupted and so on. But, this is easier said than done because there is no evidence whatsoever that the Aragalaya can be traced to foreign elements.

It’s seems the Aragalaya was not a movement at all. It was a whole lot of folk that were allowed to come together and unite loosely under a common cause. Inevitably when anybody is allowed and it’s open season, there are predatory elements who act to further their own agendas, and some who participate to be famous instantly because nobody knew who they were.

Of course among these were a serious crowd as well, but they didn’t want to be in the limelight and when the purpose was achieved they faded into the background never to be heard from again.

Investigative work

All this is precisely why the Aragalaya should be written about and somebody should undertake to do the definitive investigative work.

Even if that person may never be able to get to the bottom of it and find who were the real instigators of the Aragalaya, and for what reason, he or she would at least be able to come up with some personality pieces. Why was X there, and why did Y who was an unknown let his life go into shambles after the Aragalaya wound up, having achieved for the most part what it set out to do?

These snapshots if they ever come to be created would give people a clear idea of how comically little it takes sometimes to become a ‘revolutionary’ in this country if the circumstances are right.

The Sri Lankan Aragalaya may probably be the revolution with the motliest crew ever. But that would not have been by accident or happen stance. It has to do with the way people were ‘invited’ to be part of the Aragalaya. In reality that Aragalaya had nothing going for it other than the fact that it was tolerated, ostensibly because it was a product of its time.

It was figured that nobody wanted to interrupt the Aragalaya because people and agitators were being spontaneous. But if it was spontaneous why was it so motley?

It was due to the fact that most people didn’t in fact quite know what they were doing or exactly who was manipulating them in the first place.

They just felt as if they were masters of their own destiny, but it was anything but.

The truth may never be told but at least there must be a historical record of why and how some utterly immature and adventurist persons such as Piyath Nikeshala came to be identified with what was supposed to be a serious movement.

It just doesn’t add up. Something is wrong somewhere, but nobody is there to do the historical assessment and find out why.

In the absence of this kind of closure, it has become interesting to see little bits and pieces of information about the Aragalaya actors come out on social media in a rather disorganised manner.

Some of the stories are rather pathetic. Those who thought they saved the country couldn’t save themselves and came to grief over relatively minor battles such as saving the mortgage on the house. You need necessarily to sympathise with these people. If there is nobody to write their story, let it write itself in fits and starts on social media.

Somebody many years from now maybe able to collate the information for the historical record, and come to something of a halfway respectable conclusion.