Connect with us

Politics

A new Sri Lanka, or more of the old?

Published

on

by Uditha Devapriya

What happens to a mass scale uprising when it loses its radical potential? It loses direction, focus, and the will to continue. The protests unfolding in the country have cut across ethnic and social divisions, unifying disparate classes and groups that once warred with each other. One middle-class protester, a private university student, celebrates the IUSF’s entry into the protests and claims that class is a fictional construct that does not matter, that the common enemy is the State, and that the Rajapaksas are their nemeses. Yet when a prominent State university lecturer notes the irony of public university bashing upper middle-class protesters joining hands with the IUSF, she is put down for promoting class divisions.

In a thoughtful post on social media, Dr Chamindra Weerawardhana acknowledges the urge among (predominantly young) protesters to belittle ethnic and class distinctions, but notes that it does the protests no credit to erase those distinctions away. Celebrating a Sri Lankan identity based on a common opposition to political elites, Dr Weerawardhana notes, does not weaken such demarcations but in fact reinforces them. Historically marginalised groups, to give the most obvious example, have been facing the brunt of State power over the last five decades, making any comparisons between them and other more privileged groups and communities rather meaningless, if not downright farcical.

At the ethnic level, there has been much debate over whether the protests ought to incorporate demands for de-militarisation in the north-east, the acknowledgement of war crimes, and opposition to continued harassment of minorities across the country. The Galle Face protests soured a little when a choir brought in to sing the national anthem, ostensibly as a show of unity against the Rajapaksas, did not include the Tamil version. Several tweets and social media posts later, amidst much debate and discussion, the event was re-enacted, this time with the Tamil version intact. Yet that did not keep the debates away.

Two lines of opinion seem to have been drawn over this and similar controversies. On the one hand, protesters fault activists for sowing division in the protests, and for highlighting a very fine distinction that the Rajapaksas and their acolytes can use to pinpoint a lack of unity among the demonstrators. On the other hand, activists argue that there has never been, and never will be, a better time to acknowledge how the country’s laws fail to apply equally to every community, and that opposition to the Rajapaksas ought to take note of systemic flaws that predate the arrival of the First Family. While an overwhelmingly Sinhala speaking crowd embrace the first opinion, I am decidedly in favour of the latter.

Leaderless, though not rudderless, the Galle Face Green protests have highlighted a firm commitment to the overthrow of the status quo. Yet caught up in a movement targeting personalities, even the most ostensibly radical of demonstrations can turn a blind eye to crucial systemic faults. I firmly believe it would be a betrayal of the Galle Face mandate, as it stands, to ignore legitimate concerns, like minority rights, on the pretext that they tend to dilute what the protesters are targeting, namely the removal of the Rajapaksas. The biggest tragedy would be to view these two goals as contradictory, when they are not, and to ignore that these protests have co-opted multiple elements and shades of opinion.

Indeed, the fact that Galle Face Green has been visited by those who opposed the burial of COVID-19 victims, a policy which needlessly distressed the Muslim community, should alert us to the dangers of letting everyone and anyone be a part of these protests. As Rathindra Kuruwita points out in a recent piece to The Diplomat (“Sri Lanka’s Leaderless Protests”), the absence of a political leadership over the Occupy Galle Face movement, while in tune with an anarchist attitude to politics, can in the long term open that movement to the risk of not just infiltration, but also hijacking, by insidious, regressive elements.

It’s the same story at the level of social class. All of a sudden, neoliberal commentators who preached revolution against the Rajapaksas are praising the status quo, on the basis that the government is implementing what they consider to be necessary economic reforms and that these must not be opposed. To be sure, their true colours were apparent from the word go: when the Rajapaksa regime let go of price controls late last year, a prominent spokesperson for this crowd tweeted that though unpopular, it was the correct decision. Yet owing to the mass scale uprisings against price hikes and currency devaluation, not to mention prospects of a recession in the near future, the contradiction between popular demands for relief and neoliberal prescriptions of austerity has become more pronounced than ever.

Past experience should tell us that IMF recommended economic reforms do not, and will not, bring relief to the masses. The Abdel Fattah el-Sisi government in Egypt has negotiated a massive USD 12 billion package from Washington, in return for austerity measures. Far from reducing poverty, such measures have, inter alia, contributed to a hike in the extreme poverty rate from 5.3 percent of the population in 2015 to 6.2 percent in 2017/2018. The results of a biannual report on household finances, published in 2019, clearly give the lie to the claim of IMF reforms benefiting the poorer classes on two counts: that cash transfers will compensate for welfare cuts, and that subsidies benefit a middle-class.

Far from providing relief for the poor and removing “wasteful” subsidies from the middle-class, these measures have further crushed the former and pushed the latter to the very brink of poverty. As Heba al-Laithy, an advisor for the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), which wrote and published the report, clearly notes,

“It is often said that energy subsidies are a waste or that the rich benefit the most from it. This is untrue. The poor do not have cars but they bear the burden of soaring mass transit costs and other indirect impacts of the rise in energy prices…. What happened is that the savings from subsidy cuts were not used in spending on health and education for example… [T]he fiscal savings from subsidy cuts was used to lower the budget deficit while at least 50% should have been allocated to compensate the people.”

More worryingly, all these reforms have been and are being overseen by a patently authoritarian government. Now, the hypocrisy of neoliberal commentators is that they would place the authoritarian tag on regimes that attempt to control and regulate the economy, but not on those that actually use State power to liberalise and deregulate it. This is the paradox that explains why right-wing economic commentators in Sri Lanka demonise the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government’s attempts at controlling prices or restricting imports, while looking back rather nostalgically at the J. R. Jayewardene years.

It’s not that there aren’t alternatives. There are. Howard Nicholas has been touting one alternative for years: a strategy of export-led industrialisation. Yet shot down by neoliberal commentators and fellow travellers, such strategies have never really seen the light of day. Commentators identifying themselves with the right, with IMF reforms, note that they are not just impractical, but require authoritarian political structures, of the sort that South-East Asian countries had during the Cold War. According to this view of things, South-East Asia’s industrialisation experience does not fit Sri Lanka because, unlike the Tiger economies, we are a fully-fledged democracy that cannot afford to go down that path.

While largely accurate, the neoliberal justification of no industrialisation is not a little hypocritical. On the one hand, whether industrialisation requires authoritarianism from the centre or not, IMF austerity certainly does: an inconvenient truth commentators tend to skirt around. On the other hand, such commentators now caution against comparing this country to the South-East Asian experience, arguing that what happened there suited those economies and will not suit ours: a fine enough assertion, except for years, if not decades, Sri Lanka’s neoliberal economists and commentators have been advocating South-East Asian style free market policies and reforms without considering whether, to paraphrase their own shibboleths, what happened there will suit our situation.

Ironic as this may be, it merely pinpoints the neoliberal tendency to cherry-pick. While decrying political authoritarianism of the sort associated with central economic planning, they see no issue with political authoritarianism that goes with economic liberalisation vis-à-vis the IMF. This is why the same political elites who condemn the Rambukkana incident can idealise the Jayewardene years, failing to note the link between neoliberal reforms and working class and peasant resistance which was the hallmark of those supposedly good old days. I believe this needs to be called out for what it is: rank hypocrisy.

The burden, then, is essentially on us: do we protest the Rajapaksas while foregoing on these concerns, or do we view the two along the same lines? It is ridiculous to expect a radical movement against the status quo if we belittle other concerns. Yet that is exactly what a complacent majoritarian and an equally complacent neoliberal tendency among the protesters are leading us to. We need to course-correct, immediately.

The writer can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com



Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Politics

Ranil Wickremesinghe becomes Prime Minister

Published

on

by Uditha Devapriya

“Churchill had only four members backing him in 1939. How did he become Prime Minister? Because of the crisis. I have done the same.”

— Ranil Wickremesinghe to a British journalist, after his appointment

The Constitution of Sri Lanka empowers the President to appoint as Prime Minister any MP who he feels musters the confidence of the parliament. Thus Maithripala Sirisena, instead of retaining an MP from the UPFA or SLFP, chose Ranil Wickremesinghe as his Prime Minister in 2015, even though the UNP had less than 90 seats in the House. When the UNP won a majority in the general elections that year, the confidence Wickremesinghe mustered in the country’s legislature was as symbolic as it was tangible.

The 19th Amendment did away with much of the President’s powers. This included the power to appoint the Prime Minister. Thus, when Sirisena dismissed Wickremesinghe and appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa in October 2018, he had very little to back him up. He did the inevitable, which was to delay a vote in parliament. Eventually, when mounting pressures made him realise that such tactics would go nowhere, he appointed Wickremesinghe again, the third time in four years. In other words, his fortunes hinged on whether the Constitution permitted him to appoint a Prime Minister of his preference.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s choice of Prime Minister was obvious from the word go: his brother was always going to be his choice. Meanwhile, the 20th Amendment flattened the 19th Amendment, though without reviving the 18th. This brought all independent commissions under his purview, giving him sweeping powers of appointment and dismissal, including of the Prime Minister.

That is why it didn’t matter that Ranil Wickremesinghe was the sole MP of a party that had clinched barely 250,000 votes from the entire country. The power of the 20th Amendment was such that an unpopular President could appoint a sole sitting MP as Prime Minister, while securing the support and approval of the ruling party.

Appointed Prime Minister five times since 1993, Ranil Wickremesinghe now serves in that capacity for the sixth time under Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The irony there is almost delectable. The same man who the Rajapaksa camp derided as a traitor hostile to the national interest, in 2019, has been made the deputy in that camp.

Not too long ago he courted the love and admiration of Colombo’s upper middle-class liberals. He has since lost the respect he used to get from this class, but his base remains. In any case, in the minds of his detractors, even inside the nationalist camp, he has now turned into Sri Lanka’s last great hope.

The SJB MPs criticising Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s latest appointment have forgotten that they were once part of Wickremesinghe’s coterie, and that they entered politics through him and with his blessings. They were also, not too long ago, his biggest cheerleaders. While many of them supported Sajith Premadasa’s shot at the leadership of the UNP as far back as 2013, not all of them came out to oppose the real leader.

All this changed in 2019, when, after the November elections, the anti-Ranil faction summoned enough courage to inform him that they wanted the party to move in a new direction. Wickremesinghe, naturally, did not agree with their proposal. That is how the SJB came to be.

The SJB has always had a complex relationship with Wickremesinghe. When, after months of speculation, he decided to fill in the one slot the party won at the 2020 general election, an SJB MP tweeted rather positively, wishing him the best and hoping he would work for the country. Then another MP shot back, charging that the man was concerned only with his welfare and not the country’s.

Meanwhile, Harin Fernando’s exit from the SJB came in the wake of speculation that he would return to the UNP, after he made a stirring of statements critical of Premadasa. Exasperated by Premadasa’s dithering over the premiership (“asayi-bayayi”), Fernando struck at the 11th hour, leaving the party.

It’s hard to ascribe all these developments to Ranil Wickremesinghe’s machinations. But it is true that he has acquired a reputation for brokering the most impossible deals. In 2000 no one imagined that he would become Prime Minister a year later. Three years later, the then President had sacked him, setting off a cycle of appointment, dismissal, resignation, and re-appointment that continues to this date.

Wickremesinghe has a knack for the most unlikely comebacks. And this may be his greatest comeback: becoming Prime Minister, not under a UNP or SLFP president, but under a Rajapaksa, and Gotabaya at that.

Not a few people consider Wickremesinghe’s appointment a betrayal of the Galle Face mandate. They are not entirely wrong. The underlying message of the Gotagogama protests was, and will be, Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s departure from the presidency. Wickremesinghe’s appointment does not help achieve this target, even if Rajapaksa did, in his address to the nation on Wednesday night, promise a rollback of the Executive Presidency through the re-introduction of the 19th Amendment.

Nevertheless, Wickremesinghe now serves as Prime Minister of an interim government tasked with the revival of the economy. The perception that he can achieve this is what has emboldened not a few protesters to praise the decision, and to admit that Rajapaksa’s choice is the only man to do it.

In other words, opinion over Ranil Wickremesinghe remains as heavily divided as ever. On the one hand, Wickremesinghe leads a bandwagon of supporters no less servile than the most stubborn and unyielding Rajapaksa loyalist. On the other hand, over the years, he has cultivated an image of himself as a doer and a thinker.

Not a few of his pronouncements during the last two years have come true. This, coupled with the SJB’s indecisiveness over the premiership, has made many anti-Rajapaksa activists endorse the decision, even if they think that Gotabaya should still go. For them, Wickremesinghe becoming Prime Minister is a small victory to be celebrated, though not at the cost of the wider objective.

In that sense, the protesters’ relationship with Wickremesinghe is as complex as the SJB’s relationship with the man. The Galle Face Green protests are as leaderless and rudderless as urban protests go. Though SJB MPs and UNP activists now accuse them of being led, if not manipulated, by the JVP-NPP and FSP, they represent different shades of political opinion and different political formations, from the UNP to the JVP.

Brought together by a common slogan – #GotaGoHome – the protesters are only beginning to wake up to the realities of party politics and ideological differences. Thus, in the same breath with which they could hail the protests as progressive, UNP and SJB allied supporters are now turning against the demonstrations, claiming that they are tilted heavily to the New Left.

Does this mean that Wickremesinghe’s appointment will split the movement? Perhaps. Not a few UNP and SJB activists believe that the protesters favour the JVP-NPP and FSP. When Sajith Premadasa tried to enter Gotagogama last Monday after pro-Rajapaksa goons began vandalising the site, he was physically rebuffed by the protesters.

This sparked off a series of tweets by an SJB MP who complained that while Anura Kumara Dissanayake could enter the ground without any problem, the SJB, despite being the main opposition, was not given the same courtesy or extended the same invitation. While many of these tweets, which even UNP activists make and share, border on conspiracy theories – inter alia, about the New Left destabilising the country – Wickremesinghe’s appointment, and Premadasa’s aspirations to the premiership, have distanced the SJB and UNP from the protests.

All this makes one wonder whether Gotabaya Rajapaksa made a pincer move with Ranil Wickremesinghe. Wickremesinghe enjoys a reputation that SJB MPs do not, even if that reputation is hardly of the kind a politician would want. He is associated with enough and more intrigues and deal-brokering: an asset to any President down on his luck. As deeply unpopular as he is, besides, Gotabaya Rajapaksa is not devoid of options; in refusing Sajith Premadasa’s offer, he has signalled his readiness to work with a man his supporters would never, in their wildest dreams, have associated with him. This shows how desperate he is, but it also shows how hopeful he is about his latest arrangement.

US Ambassador Julie Chung congratulated Ranil Wickremesinghe immediately after his appointment, stating point-blank that his premiership is one of the first steps to restoring stability to the country. I know several protesters – of course barring the sort who admire Wickremesinghe – who’d beg to differ.

Nevertheless, there is no denying that Sri Lanka’s latest Prime Minister enjoys the confidence of the President, even if he doesn’t enjoy the confidence of the House. What deals Wickremesinghe can negotiate in the next few days will determine the country’s course over the next few months. Lenin once said that there are decades where nothing happens, and days where decades pass. We are living through those days. One can only wish everyone the best as we pass through them.

The writer can be reached at udakdev1@gmail.com

Continue Reading

Politics

GOTA RE-SETS; THE ARAGALAYA MUST RE-SET & RE-LOAD

Published

on

Dr. DAYAN JAYATILLEKA

‘Revolutionary Realpolitik’ is the title of the final chapter of the iconic philosopher and culture critic Georg Lukacs’ slim volume ‘Lenin: A Study on the Unity of His Thought’, first published in 1924 when Lukacs was 35, and reissued by Verso in its radical thinkers series in 2009. Revolutionary Realpolitik, that fusion of revolution and Realpolitik, which made Lenin a great revolutionary because he was a great Realist, has been the perennial absence in the Ceylonese/Sri Lankan Left, and remains dangerously so in Aragalaya Left or pro-Aragalaya Left.

‘The concrete analysis of the concrete situation’ is the heart of politics according to Lenin. There is a new situation or in Marxist terminology a new conjuncture. Any party or formation which thinks strategically must grasp that fact and adapt to it in order to transform it.

The Gotabaya presidency has pressed the re-set button. The Aragalaya must do so too, or else it will be fighting with the old tactics against a target that has reconfigured.

The Aragalaya made a big mistake. It had won a major strategic battle by mid-day on May 9 when it beat back the Mahinda mob and prevailed politically with the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa. History may record that this was the highest point of the Aragalaya as it had evolved from the Mirihana uprising of March 31.

The strategic blunder began after that victory of mid-day May 9. That was the lethal character of the mob violence that caused nine fatalities and injured Kumara Welgama, who was also the first anti-Gotabaya politician. It is not that the Aragalaya perpetrated that violence but it did not condemn it though there was real time social media and mass media coverage available to it. At the time of writing (May 12) condemnation is yet to be heard.

The strategic blunder was consummated on the night of May 9 into the early morning of May 10 with the mob violence outside Temple Trees, the successful attempt to break through the gates and enter the premises. Fires were also started by the attackers. The attack started after dusk and went on till pre-dawn the next day. There was plenty of coverage on TV news and social media. Given the bloodthirsty rage of the crowd there was no doubt that the former President and Prime Minister would have been lynched, together with his family. The Aragalaya leaders and the political party leaders associated with the Aragalaya failed to call for restraint. They have still not condemned the incident.

The result of the attempted lynching of Mahinda Rajapaksa was that it gave the military the chance to intervene and a legitimate reason to do so. The Anti-Hijacking and Hostage Rescue Unit of the Commando regiment effectively held the line and performed the rescue. By the morning of May 10, 2022, we were in a different territory. The military had been infused into the situation and the Army Commander’s remarks were determined yet serious. The military was in the game and the power-equation.

This also stiffened the back of the Gotabaya presidency, but it did so without causing either him or the military to sound like there had been a shift to military rule, because that is not what has happened. Addressing the nation, he didn’t sound more autocratic than before nor did he come across as quite as insensitively autocratic as he used to be. The Aragalaya had clearly shaken him but not enough to leave; only enough to make him more flexible when earlier he was totally inflexible.

What has happened is that Gotabaya now has both a stick and a carrot. The stick is the military and the Police backstopped by the military. The real center of gravity for the moment is the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The carrot is a recomposed Government and a set of reforms which include a partial presidential retreat. Gota has promised the repeal of 20A and the return of 19A, also indicating that the door and the road were open for the abolition of the executive presidency.

At the time of dispatching this article, I do not know who the PM will be, but whoever it is, the administration will get some traction, the people will cut it some slight slack, and the Aragalaya will find that it does not enjoy the same near-universality of support it did. Quite a few sympathizers of the Aragalaya may move to the neutral or let’s wait and see column. The reason is that the target profile of the enemy has changed: it’s no longer Gota plus Mahinda. It is no longer an overt Rajapaksa family regime. It is no longer top-heavy with Rajapaksas.

If Gotabaya’s re-set project fails, it doesn’t mean the Aragalaya succeeds. The next move may be an outright military junta with or without Gota, and as several public opinion polls show, though few support military rule, most are pro-military. Outright military rule is not the only option. There could be a civilian-military rule with the military chairing the political negotiations which Gota is now chairing. The behaviour of the political parties maybe quite different then, and in any case as in the Pakistan of old, the military may regulate and restructure the political-governmental space. I doubt that the Aragalaya leaders are aware that things are not black-and white and there are varieties of “intermediate regimes” (Michael Kalecki).

Antonio Gramsci, the founder of a Marxist political science and one of the greatest political scientists ever, rejected Trotsky’s approach (unfairly says Perry Anderson) as “the theorist of frontal assault at a time the balance of forces is such that it could only lead to failure”. Whether or not it was accurate about Trotsky (unlike in Lenin’s case sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn’t, as far as I can tell), Gramsci’s point is valid. When I hear a prominent Aragalaya youth leader talk about “street fighting” I recall Gramsci’s stricture. If students are shot by the Army it won’t mean the outbreak of the Revolution when it is a recomposed Government in office—and in any case the Army knows that riot-guns with birdshot have non-lethal results.

The slogan Gota Go Home remains valid but it cannot be fought for by the old methods of frontal assault. Gota will not go home and he cannot be sent home right now–not with the military backing him and a new PM bringing some degree of legitimacy and hope. Gota Go Home must be re-calibrated, not as an event but as a process of transition. As Gramsci famously said, it must not be a strategy of frontal assault but a war of position, of attrition.

Personally, I advocated that the SJB take the space available and use the 19th amendment to shift the balance of power. As Nicos Poulantzas, the most famous Marxist political scientist since Antonio Gramsci pointed out, the state apparatuses are not a monolith; they are cross-cut with contradictions, are porous and permeable. Democrats fighting against dictatorships should aim at working those contradictions and shifting the lines of force within the state. This is the strategy that was successfully adopted by the Spanish Communists led by Santiago Carrillo.

That is why I urged that the SJB to operate as a pincer with the Aragalaya and penetrate the system, get its hands on the levers of power.

Poulantzas apart, that would also have been the Middle Path and Golden Mean leading to a renovated center, with the support of the SLFP and the 11 parties.

What then is the path to victory for the Aragalaya and the Opposition? Lenin provides an answer in Leftwing Communism: An Infantile Disorder. The masses must learn by their very own experience, of the correctness of the vanguard party’s slogans, which must be calibrated according to each stage of the mass consciousness. Therefore, the Aragalaya and opposition strategy has to be two-fold:

Firstly, though the Aragalaya may be difficult to broaden and may lose some of its breadth, it can be deepened, by resisting unfair economic hardships caused by creditor-and-IMF driven cutbacks and launching new waves of struggle.

Secondly, change the main slogan of the Aragalaya to that which was raised by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa on March 15 during the first demonstration at the Presidential Secretariat, and recently renewed in modified form by the smartest strategic mind of the pro-Aragalaya Left today, KD Lal Kantha of the JVP: demand EARLY ELECTIONS. Of course, with Gota still around, with or without the 20th Amendment, that has to include Presidential elections too.

In 1988-89, with two civil wars raging and foreign troops on our soil, we had several rounds of Provincial Council elections followed by Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Both Presidential and Parliamentary elections can and must be held within this year.

Continue Reading

Politics

PRO-GOTA FAKE OPPOSITION, ANTI-GOTA REAL OPPOSITION

Published

on

Dr. DAYAN JAYATILLEKA

Clearly the old ruling coalition, the SLPP and SLFP, has a majority in Parliament. That is similar to a man who has a huge mountain of money in his house, but all the money belongs to a category devalued by the Central Bank. The majority that the SLPP-SLFP mustered in parliament stands clearly devalued in the eyes of the citizenry and by them.

The 148 votes should give the President and the Rajapaksa clan little cause for comfort. That is because there is a huge gap between the bubble that is parliament and the sociopolitical reality outside it. The Parliament is marooned in the ocean of the people.

The IUSF-led demonstrations on the approach to Parliament provided the best direct response to the 148-65 vote on the issue of the Deputy Speaker.

The so-called Independent Group of 40 held a media briefing after the vote shrieking about betrayal by the Leader of the Opposition and his mother.

By nightfall it became obvious that the Aragalaya, which is by no means supportive of the Leader of the Opposition, was of the view that the re-combination of the SLPP and the SLFP-led 11-party combine, was the real treachery.

Let’s unpack the issue. When it came down to the wire, there were two candidates: Ranjith Siyambalapitiya and Imtiaz Bakeer Markar. It is self-evident that Imtiaz is the superior choice, in every respect: intellect, integrity, decency. He would have been a symbol of the values of the Aragalaya, of a new patriotism, of unity in diversity.

The Group of 40 refused to vote for him and voted for Siyambalapitiya instead. This was not only the inferior choice but also symbolized continuity in a national atmosphere of dramatic change.

It symbolized two types of continuity.

Firstly, continuity between the old and the new: a cartoon brilliantly showed the old, pre-Aragalaya Deputy Speaker and the new, GotaGoGama period Deputy Speaker. Who just happened to be the same guy? That showed the unresponsiveness of the parliamentary majority to the realities on the ground, and their uncaring about the optics.

Secondly, continuity indeed convergence between the ruling SLPP and the supposedly independent SLFP-led Group of 40 which had been until quite recently an ally of the SLPP.

It is almost beyond belief that the SLFP-led G 40 should be unashamed to have accepted the support of the SLPP and voted together with it, thereby giving the general public the impression of renewed alliance or congruence. If it thought that turning its guns on the SJB and its leader would persuade anyone of its own correctness, it should have had a rethink by nightfall.

If the SLFP-led Group of 40 had its feet on the ground, it would have known and should know that its main task is to demarcate itself from the regime; not put forward a candidate who served that regime and to be seen to vote together with the ruling Pohottuwa in support of that candidate.

The priority of the so-called Independent Opposition Group should have been to prove its independence, and prove it vis-à-vis the regime; not to prove its dependence on the regime’s votes, which is what it did.

The cat has jumped out of the bag. The Independent Group clearly revealed that it has much more of a problem with Sajith Premadasa than it does with Gotabaya Rajapaksa. By contrast, the Aragalaya is very clear as to who the real enemy and the main enemy at this stage of a long struggle, is: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Clearly the main objective of the Aragalaya is the removal of the autocratic ruler: Gota Go Home!

To the extent that this is manifestly NOT the stated goal of the so-called independent group of 40; so long as it has suggested various slogans and solutions to the problem OTHER THAN the one that 90%-96% of the public perceive as the main problem; to the extent that the Independent Group is far from independent of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, it can be said to be a fake Opposition.

It was hilarious too see the Independent Group of 40, which is not just a very belated addition to the Opposition benches, but also one which pivoted back to President GR and sat with him and Basil Rajapaksa in a political discussion, hurling accusations at the Leader of the Opposition who had the guts to run against Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the height of the latter’s popularity in November 2019 while the Independent Group was canvassing votes for Gotabaya who had already defended a monk who asked him to be a Hitler.

The independent Group of 40 never opposed Dilum Amunugama, when several months ago, he urged Gotabaya to be a Hitler—a statement that may explain what happened in Rambukkana.

Hilarious too is the fact that the garrulous members of the group of 40, which by far the smaller group in the opposition at the moment, attack the SJB, which is the larger formation of the Opposition.

The touchstone of whether or not any party or formation is an authentic Opposition, is whether or not it stands foursquare for what the people of this country and more concretely The Aragalaya is calling for: GOTA GO HOME!

Going by that touchstone, the authentic Opposition in the country consists of the following streams:

1. The Aragalaya (the non-party autonomous space)

2. The Left: the JVP, FSP, IUSF.

3. The Hartal vanguard: the Trade Union Coordinating Committee, Peasants’ Unions and civic organizations.

4. The SJB, the SJB alliance, JVP, TNA, SLMC, CWC.

Right now, in Parliament, the authentic Opposition are those who voted for Imtiaz Bakeer Markar; not those who still refuse to say—let alone shout out aloud—Gota Go Home!

The fake Oppositionists who wish Gotabaya to remain in office as well as those refuse to take the stand ‘Gota Go Home!’ will, I can safely predict, be wiped out together with the Rajapaksas and all but a few of the SLPP, at any upcoming election, just as the LSSP and CPSL were in 1977 and the UNP was in 2020.

Continue Reading

Trending