For a belated “Left” Option

More than 5000 people packed Colombo’s Sugathadasa stadium (photo above) for the inaugural conference of the Peratugami Samajawadi Pakshaya (Frontline Socialist Party, FSP) on April 9, 2012. Photo and description courtesy Troubled Kashmir

Reading through Groundviews especially during the recent past, one would note that most contributions were in fact raising serious concerns over the core issue of governance as it is in Sri Lanka and the regime’s ideology in finding adequate answers for socio economic ills, the system itself carries as endemic.

One could safely assume, though Groundviews exposed and writers to Groundviews condemned the most recent Dambulla incident of insulting and depriving religious rights of the Muslim people, wanting reasonable and justifiable answers from this regime, there will be none. There were no reasonable answers for and culprits dealt with, in any of the previous attacks on churches and on the Muslim shrine in Anuradhapura in September, 2011. Every single such attack on other religious places had been instigated on a call from a Buddhist monk, or they have joined the religious mob parade, in the name of Buddhism. Funnily, Buddhism can only be “owned” by the Sinhala people within this island.

It runs on that awfully dominant social psyche created for waging war, now used to keep the military intruding into civil administration and the daily life of people, not only in North and East, but elsewhere too. It is the politicising of the whole State on this intimidatory Sinhala Buddhist politics with military power, that makes LLRC Recommendations anathema to this Rajapaksa regime. This type of power cabals can not provide any decent and disciplined governance, even to the racist constituency it uses for usurping unrestricted power, extending beyond the Constitution.

Hence the dismantling and muting of all institutions responsible for law and order in the country. This regime needs it to push and straighten its muscles and its goons the way it wishes. A disciplined and a “law and order situation” would not allow Mervyns, Dumindas, Muthuhettigamas and goons to continue with a Secretary to the Defence Ministry whom the foreign media tags as “the most powerful Secretary of Defence”, though Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is the most inefficient Secretary to the defence ministry since 1948.

The media avoids discussing Gotabhaya’s performance as Secretary to Ministry of Defence, which is appalling. Beginning in January 2010 which is post war, the police web site says, 877 out of 894 abductions reported, were accepted for investigations. The first quarter of 2011 has 235 abductions reported to the police, says the police web site. The GV noted in early April that according to media reports, February and March this year (2012) witnessed 29 abductions, while during the past 06 months up to April, there had been 56 abductions reported in the media.

In such context of mass abductions, police stations are mobbed and attacked by local citizens for custodial killings. Murder, rape of women and sexual abuse of children have all gone high during this Rajapaksa regime. Police and army personnel are accused of contract killing. There is also an increasing rate of suicides and homicides in the security forces, while every year since the war was declared victoriously over, the defence budget was consistently increased, at the expense of education and health. That defines the efficiency of this Secretary to the Defence Ministry, having taken the police department too under the ministry.

There is more to this regime, as to why it should be changed. Never has a Governor of a Central Bank (CB) played politics dirty and low as the present Governor Cabral. Never had one whose business into “Pyramid schemes” investigated by the CB, been appointed as its Governor. Never had any regime before, handed over the Treasury to one who was found responsible for big time fraud and was asked to leave public service by the Supreme Court for such fraud. And never had any Supreme Court allowed such proven guilt to be pardoned over a personal appeal to allow that same culprit to assume office as before. Now the two most important positions for the country’s economic survival and growth, are left at the hands of two, whose integrity and efficiency are beyond discovery.

This is no accident and not without political reason. Massive frauds are not possible, if a regime appoints clean and principled men to key positions. It is here worth noting that no ministry would have any mega corruption issue, IF the Secretary to the Ministry, who is the Chief Accounting Officer in the ministry and under whose signature all financial transactions take place, stands on his or her own integrity and open administration. The Sri Lanka Administrative Service (SLAS) is far from moulding righteous men or women.

This country, after 64 years of unrealised independence and people’s robbed sovereignty including over 06 years of Rajapaksa rule, can not be put to right with  change of faces. Politics that decides power with mega corruption has BOUGHT OVER the whole State, justified by and continued as such with Sinhala Buddhist supremacy. The whole system of governance has now come to live as a Sinhalised corrupt system that needs total overhaul. That needs a democratic programme with a democratic leadership, not just a regime change. That’s where a decent, democratic “Left” programme could stand the test of social necessity.

Wickramasinghe, a political schemer though no public leader, seems the only Sinhala leader who understands this political dilemma. This Sri Lankan political dilemma is not in for any “Spring”, Arab or not. Not for now. For now, its the next parliamentary or presidential elections, hopefully in 2015 or 2016 if not earlier, that still holds hope for a regime change. Its for that elections the UNP leadership with Ranil Wickramasinghe (RW), is now gearing for. Its for that elections he is building bridges for a Sinhala – Tamil alliance. Wickramasinghe is hopeful, there would be a substantial Sinhala middle class drift, away from this Rajapaksa regime in the coming year or two.

He is not too far away from such possibility. The economy is turning out to be a major factor that decides allegiance of the Sinhala middle class; the academics, the professionals, public officers in districts outside Colombo and the small time service providers in urban and rural towns. RW is also well aware, the Colombo centred trade unions have turned away from supporting the Rajapaksa regime. In fact the workers go on record as the first organised sector that successfully challenged and defeated the government on the Employees’ Pension Fund Bill and on salary increase demands.

The UNP is being dragged to add the extras on to the growing slice of the disillusioned Sinhala vote, RW believes he could now muster. He believes the North – East Tamil and Muslim vote and that of the plantations, could tilt the balance in his favour. He may not be wrong as Rajapaksas are now facing mounting pressure from many fronts; international, economic and from the Indian side.

Yet what remains unanswered is, can RW and his UNP provide answers for all ills ? UNP can only talk of “corruption free” economic management. How true would such promises mean with the type of men RW could have in his cabinet ? Even if he runs with a small cabinet of ministers with “good people”, what is his development programme ? His neo liberalism, yet to be told is not what he advocated through “Regaining Sri Lanka”, is now a discarded model, worldwide. Well, yes ! The next man (or woman) bidding to head the SL government should now say where he or she stands on economic policy and social development, before asking for power.

Mitt Romney the next Republican prospect for US Presidency, accused Obama for leaning towards “Euro Socialism” in his efforts to turn around the ailing US economy. “Socialism” has already entered presidential campaign jargon. Two working papers (12/64 and 65) released by the IMF on 01 March, 2012 though not representing official IMF positions indicate, it was those few countries with strong protective labour laws that withstood global recession this time. This rubbishes the claim that SL has too rigid labour laws for growth, the cry of the second generation neo liberals.

Launching his latest book in Colombo, January this year, “Marx’s theory of Price and its modern Rivals”, the Hague based business consultant Prof. Howard Nicholas said,

The US and European Central Bank have together printed US$ 20 trillion in three years. Where is inflation? More money has been printed than was in the last 50 to 60 years in GDP terms. But you open any economic text book, what is the fundamental principle; inflation follows too much money. But where is the inflation? Neo classical economist cannot get out of this. Keynes tried to get out, but he never left a theory of price, resulting in an equally redundant theory of money. You have to come back to Marx.

He then said

I became so impressed with Marx’s economics, purely as a scientific analysis of capitalists society, that I wanted to translate it into plain English. I want to butcher neo classical economics, the idealogical nonsense misleading generation after generation. Marxism does provide that alternative [unquote].

There is certainly an opening for a “Left Agenda” now. One that would propose a far reaching democratic agenda than what RW and his alliance with even the TNA could possibly offer. Serious reforms, this country needs for post war reconciliation and development. That agenda certainly would have to revert to a nationalist economy, that would guide the market on terms and conditions required for selective growth in the economy. It would not be a “free for all” economy and it would not be a “State owned and controlled” economy either.

It would be democratic to the extent, the whole development process would be within a “National Development Policy” that would go through a serious social dialogue, before achieving legal status through parliament. That national policy would define and decide the shape, size and colour of education, health, public transport, industry and agriculture for at least a 10 year period.

What is seriously more important should be, the total State Reform the “Left Agenda” has to offer, that RW and the UNP can never offer. This Sinhala State can not be changed with a few “independent commissions” though campaigned for as transitional issues against the Rajapaksa’s 18 Amendment. This centralised State would give no meaning to the 13th  Amendment, even if it is given the colour of full implementation. It is too heavily centralised in many ways, for such implementation. This State therefore needs a complete overhaul with the abolition of the heavily centralised Executive Presidency. There can not be and will not be any worthwhile devolution of powers, even under RW, if centralised power is allowed in any form.

It is therefore important, the “Left Agenda” takes upon itself the responsibility of pushing through the proposal in the “Final Report” of the APRC, handed over to President Rajapaksa in June 2010. This proposal, though in the absence of the UNP and the TNA, brought together the widest consensus possible in the Sinhala South. It got all shades of Sinhala chauvinism to agree for power devolution within a Constitution that gives back a bi – cameral parliament, the powers now enjoyed by the Executive President. It is a new solution, the UNP and the TNA can not politically oppose. It thus could be campaigned for as the post war solution for Constitutional reform, with the strongest possible consensus among the Sinhala South, the Tamils and the Muslims.

Such far reaching changes on State Reform and economic development would not be offered by the UNP and Wickramasinghe, but in the present context, RW and the TNA can not afford to ignore such reform, if campaigned for. That provides a “Left Agenda” more space now in SL, despite the fact that there is no serious and credible “Left” political party or movement to lay claim for such an initiative.

  • Keynes!

    Kusal,

    Nice article with very powerful arguments. It’s time to marry Marx with Keynes, Rosa Luxemburg and Emma Goldman.

  • http://---- A Concerned Citizen

    Kusal has said it right. The only feasible option appears to be, the left option.
    There cannot be any acceptable solution possible to the demand for a devolution of powers so long as the present Constitution is in place and the Executive Presidency continues. As pointed out by many writers and constitutional experts, the 13th Amendment is no solution and does not meet the demand for a true devolution of powers.
    The “Final Report” of the APRC, handed over to President Rajapaksa in June 2010 appears to be the only feasible option available. This proposal brought together the widest consensus possible in the Sinhala South, even though the UNP and the TNA did not participate. Unfortunately Mahinda Rajapakse did not make the report public and start a discussion on the basis of the consensus that was achieved then. It is time he did so now.

    Kusal has also said it right when he referred to the Secretary to the Defence Ministry to be the most inefficient Defence Secretary the country has had since independence. With the kind of absolute power the Defence Ministry has with all the law enforcement bodies under its control, if the Secretary Defence could not control the incidents of crime, police and military brutality, abductions, torture and disappearances that are widespread in the country, the fault clearly lies on the person who heads the Defence Ministry. The financial allocation to this Ministry is the biggest slice of the budget. Besides, the Army Commander, the Inspector General of Police, and even the Attorney General have now become mere nominal heads of the respective institutions. All the powers and functions they should be exercising are now in the hands of the Defence Secretary. This is clearly the bane of our country. Statements like, law and order have now been restored and that the country is well on the road to prosperity, are mere empty words. The LTTE had been defeated only to be replaced by a breakdown in the rule of law. All right thinking people are anxiously waiting for an end to this situation and the restoration of the rule of law.

  • Leela

    You wrote, “There is more to this regime, as to why it should be changed.” Then you sounded as if the opposition leader is not the one to be replaced it by saying, “Wickramasinghe, a political schemer though no public leader….” Then you hope ‘Arab spring’ would materialize with Wickramasinghe as the leader in 2015/16 backed by Sinhala middle class in toto. I bet, you have been put in place of Upul Joseph.

    You try to convince us that RanilW is a clean-man by questioning his ability in a mild manner. Let me remind you that RanilW is the protégé of JRJ, and JRJ is the mother of all dishonesty and corruption that prevails today. It is since JRJ that crooks and robber barons have become a part and parcel of every government.

    Did he not publically accept the role of robber barons in his open economy? Is not thereafter that villains and felons has become the nearest and the dearest to each and every CEO of this country. And the one you staunchly backed by running radio shows, ChandrikaK hs been the worst to date. Alas and alack, she only didn’t have a contest for the best rouge. You read that Ivon’s book, didn’t you.

    True, we witness endemic corruption today. I agree that names like Sajin, Mervin, Muththettugama, Kariyawasam, I mean CJ’s husband and et al are linked with fraud and sleaze and are being tagged as Rajapakse cronies or yes-men. But had not rumour mill churned out during the last elections that Gota bought Apollo and Basil collects 10% of all deals, and every other estate is bought by a relation of Rajapakse. Whether voter at large accepts these new accusations of your type lay on Rajapakses we shall see with results from upcoming elections. Also it will show public approval of Samabandan-Ranil alliance and waving of the flag.

    Had RanilW come to power in 2005 as your type of stooges of the so called F, UK the US and their lap dog like Norway wanted; Sri Lanka would have burdened with “Regaining Sri Lanka” that you now say here as a discarded model worldwide. Not just that my dear, Ranil-Praba agreement would have created Eelam a long ago. And by now, Sri Lanka and Eelam would have entrenched in a fight for scarce resources just like Sudan today. And you guys would be busy as arbiters with your patron Norway. Fortunately rural voter in Sri Lanka have become very sharp.
    Leela

    • Neville Perera

      ”Sri Lanka and Eelam would have entrenched in a fight for scarce resources just like Sudan today. And you guys would be busy as arbiters with your patron Norway. Fortunately rural voter in Sri Lanka have become very sharp”

      Tamils are not only under the boots of the army but their sand and trees are taken away to the South.

      • Leela

        Neville Perera,
        I never knew there are sand and trees that were segregated as Tamil.

      • Burning_Issue

        You forgot to mention the window and door frames; roof timber and bricks! The irony is that the South loot the North as if it has occupied another territory/country and their stay is temporary!

      • Keynes!

        Leela,

        Imagine a situation where the portuguese, dutch and british come back to loot our sand and trees. What would be your reaction then? Wouldn’t you say that these sand and trees are Sri Lankan and attempt to protect them?

    • Kusal Perera

      To Leela,
      Do I have to respond to one who does not WANT to understand what was written as plain as I could, but instead wants me to live with the Rajapaksa regime, never mind all the plundering and looting, all violations of law, all abductions, murder, rape and extortions, all underworld deals and drugs,for the only reason that LTTE was defeated and Prabhakaran was killed ?
      This is like asking a person to ditch Marilyn Monroe to live with Queen Anula !

      Kusal Perera

      • http://etofinda yapa

        Dear Kusal;

        “This is like asking a person to ditch Marilyn Monroe to live with Queen Anula !”

        But dear Kusal you are in front of queen Leela(wathie), not Marilyn Monroe. Ha! Ha!!

        Thanks!

      • Keynes!

        Yapa,

        Something important came into my mind here. Kusal’s reference to Keynes’ redundant theory of money and your call for mathematising ( love that word!) economics leads me to key these few words.

        Keynesians are not all the same. Keynesianism has split into Post-Keynesianism, Neo-Keynesianism and New-Keynesianism.

        Post-Keynesians themselves are not all the same. There are a number of different strands and they have taken an even more progressive view than Keynes with greater emphases on worker friendly policies and re-distribution.

        Let me now turn to an influential mathematical model in neo-Keynesian economics. The ubiquitous IS-LM model, invented by John Hicks to give mathematical expression to Keynes (Keynes the original!), led to the hallucination that anything expressed in mathematical form has scientific rigour. And it gives some ammunition to the argument against mathematising economics.

        I will write more once I read Howard Nicholas’ book.

  • Wallflower

    We can write,read,discuss,argue,suggest or criticize till the cows come home but will get us nowhere till the constitution of this country is changed. This could be done by the intellectuals of this country forming a political party with it’s main agenda set on presenting a far reaching draft constitution with it’s sights set on getting the representatives of the people elected from the GS divisions, which would circumvent the practice of stooges of other stooges being recognized and elected as the representatives of the people to begin with and ending up with a president selected by members of parliament who could be changed by parliament itself. I see this as a very necessary alternative which needs to be executed as a urgent need for this country since the trend at the moment seems to be heading where an extremely dictatorial minded person is being groomed as the next head of this country.