Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 24 July 2016





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Pada Yatras were once ‘marches for freedom’ led by Mahatma Gandhi, but today…:

Power walking

Towards the early 1990s, the existing UNP Government was beset with internal conflicts of its own and the LTTE terrorism. During this period, new SLFP leaders, prominently Mahinda Rajapaksa launched a successful Pada Yatra, Jana Gosha (Noise Protest) and White Flag Campaigns against the then UNP Government

Pada Yatra by UNP in 1957

‘Pada Yatras’, as practised by Mahatma Gandhi against the British authorities in India was a political weapon of non-violence, though at times, brawls and skirmishes took place among its supporters and opponents. Sri Lanka had its first experience when UNP stalwart J.R.Jayawardena led a ‘Pilgrims March’ in 1957 to Kandy, to protest against the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact despite it being called off half way at Imbulgoda from where hailed ‘Imbulgoda Weeraya’, the one time Mao disciple S.D. Bandaranaike. Youthful politician Mahinda Rajapaksa led his historic Pada Yatra to Kataragama to protest against the 1988-89 killings and the political unrest in the country. The UNP’s Jana Bala Meheuma of 2001 was launched against the rising cost of living and demanding free and fair elections in the future. The so called Joint Opposition (JO)-organized Jana Satana Pada Yatra to be held on July 28 hopes to mobilise the masses against the sky rocketing cost of living and demand early Local Government Elections. Pada Yatras which take different forms at different times could at their best exert some influence on the Government but no tangible results could be seen in their immediate aftermath.

The first Pada Yatra, euphemistically called ‘Pilgrims March’ in the political chronicles of the country to protest against the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakm Pact was launched by the UNP on October 3, 1957 led by J.R. Jayewardena and other UNP stalwarts from Colombo to Kandy. Former Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake was in the forefront. Brawls occurred at the beginning of the Pada Yatra until it reached Kadawatha town, 10 miles from Colombo. Kadawatha was a typical battleground where many were reported to have sustained injuries. “Saboteurs attacked us and the Police didn’t intervene apparently due to the Prime Minister’s instructions. We have reached Kadawatha and our destination is Kandy. We want the Government to withdraw the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact,” said J.R.Jayewardena as reported in the Dinamina on October 4, 1957.

MR’s Jana Gosha

Jana Gosha spearheaded by Mahinda Rajapaksa in 1992

Towards the early 1990s, the existing UNP Government was beset with internal conflicts of its own and the LTTE terrorism. During this period, new SLFP leaders, prominently Mahinda Rajapaksa launched a successful Pada Yatra, Jana Gosha (Noise Protest) and White Flag Campaigns against the then UNP Government.

Sri Lanka’s largest and historic march (Pada Yatra) spearheaded by Mahinda Rajapaksa similar to those launched by freedom fighters such as, Mao tse Tung and Mahatma Gandhi commenced from Viharamahadevi Park, Colombo on March 16, 1992 and reached its destination, the sacred city of Kataragama on April 2, 1992. The 18-day Pada Yatra was launched to protest against: the UNP Government’s privatization policy, a commission of inquiry and compensation for the disappearances in the South, rising cost of living and a negotiated settlement to the North- East conflict. Mahinda Rajapaksa became a prominent figure in the political arena following the Pada Yatra from Colombo to Kataragama. However , a majority of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party members did not back the Pada Yatra.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Mahinda Abeykoon had walked the full 180 mile distance from Colombo to Kataragama. No matter how oppressive the Premadasa regime was at the time, yet, it didn’t deploy the Police to stop the 18-day Pada Yatra, fire tear gas nor deploy any Government sponsored thugs to break up the protest. Unlike today, there was no attempt to obtain a court order. Neither Police nor Army road blocks were used.

Meanwhile,the SLFP also organized a Jana Gosha (Noise Protest) on July 1, 1992 and Mahinda Rajapaksa led the protest in several key cities, towns and villages which at the end culminated in a regime change. A Pada Yatra from Matale to Kandalama organised by a group of SLFP MPs on July 11, 1992 defying the ban on processions was a flop due to a lack of public response.

Mrs B’s Human Chain

In addition, the first links of the Human Chain were forged at Siri Perakumba Pirivena, Etul Kotte on November 13, 1992 led by Party Leader Sirimavo Bandaranaike forming the first links. The Human Chain, a three day protest demonstration against Government policies was extended along the 62-mile route to Ratnapura. It hoped to garner the participation of over a lakh of people who joined to make a vow to God Saman, seeking relief from the burdens and difficulties confronting them. The SLFP also organized a Pada Yatra from Horagolla to Colombo on January 16 and 17, 1993 in response to a request made by six constituent parties. Nearly 15,000 party supporters took part in the two-day march to mark the 37 th anniversary of the cultural revolution launched by the SLFP founder S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike.

Jana Bala Meheuma by UNP in 2001

The UNP launched a week-long Pada Yatra campaign Jana Bala Meheuma from Kandy to Colombo on February 4, 2001 in a bid to force the immediate resignation of the Government if it cannot bring down the cost of living, resort to good governance and conduct future elections in a free and fair manner. The protest starting from Getambe in Kandy stopped at Mawanella, Galigamuwa, Weweldeniya, Yakkala and Peliyagoda before it finally reached Colombo on February 9, 2001. It attracted tens of thousands of people from all walks of life and reached its destination, Colombo Town Hall on February 9, 2001.

UNP’s Jana Bala Meheuma

The Jana Bala Meheuma was described by the party stalwarts as a very successful peaceful agitation similar to the people’s power in the Philippines. However, Pada Yatra activists came under attack by goons in Kegalle on February 5 despite the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s appeal to party men not to unleash violence on the protesters. Two youths sacrificed their lives, being victims of a brutal crackdown by the Government, but they signified it as martyrdom, as they laid down their lives for the party and for the country. Several top level leaders of the then Government also defected to the UNP and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe made the dreams of the party come true by winning the 2001 General Elections.

In mid December 2004, the UNP organized yet another protest march from Kandy to Colombo calling upon the Government to release jailed UNP National Organizer S.B Dissanayake. The protest march that originally commenced from Dissanayake’s home town, Hanguranketha reached Hyde Park in Colombo along with several other processions on December 21, 2004.

The marchers and Dissanayake’s colleagues offered poojas at temples and kovils along the way calling upon the Gods to save him. The rally held at Hyde Park concluded with women from Hanguranketha offering poojas and cursing the Government. A bench of five judges sentenced Dissanayake to two years imprisonment on charges of making a contemptuous statement at Habaraduwa on November 3, 2003 where he poured scorn on the court by referring to its decision as a ‘Balu Theenduwa’.

JO’s Jana Satana Pada

After a lapse of over a decade, the UPFA dissidents who claim themselves as the Joint Opposition are planning to launch a massive Pada Yatra from Kandy to Colombo on July 28 marking yet another milestone in the annals of Pada Yatras in the country. The Jana Satana Pada Yathra will take the form of a national movement and kick off opposite the Sri Dalada Maligawa, Kandy on July 28 at 9.30 a.m. under the patronage of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The so called Joint Opposition expects millions of people to join the march aimed at expelling the incumbent Government which they claim has no understanding of the present plight of the people. The four-day Pada Yatra hopes to reach Colombo on August 1. It expects to end the first day in Mawanella, second day in Nelumdeniya and third day in Nittambuwa.

The participants will reach Kiribathgoda on the fourth day and will conclude on the fifth day with a public rally in Colombo. All political parties in the so called Joint Opposition will participate in it which focuses public attention on several key issues, such as, the breakdown in good governance, indefinitely postponing Local Government Elections and the unbearable escalation of the cost of living.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa with other civic organizations, the public who have been affected by VAT, government servants whose jobs were at stake, doctors, engineers, and professionals who oppose the Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India.

A special committee has been appointed to organize the Pada Yatra and rallies will be held in Nelumdeniya, Mawanella, Nittambuwa and Kiribathgoda However, the SLFP MPs in the ruling coalition have already said that the SLFP would not support the Pada Yatra against the Government and no SLFP parliamentarian has intimated that he would join the protest march scheduled to start from Kandy on July 28.


eMobile Adz

| News | Editorial | Business | Features | Political | Security | Sports | Spectrum | World | Obituaries | Junior |


Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2016 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Comments and suggestions to : Web Editor