Colombo, Elections, Politics and Governance, Post-War

The Dynamics of the “War Heroes’ Battle”

Undoubtedly, Comrade Wickramabahu will attract a politically mature vote-base around him – particularly those who are disgusted with the Mahinda-regime’s fascistic rule the way it’s been treating the Tamil civilians. This minority consists of convinced opponents of the government, and they’ll be happy to vote for Wickramabahu whose politics appear to be closest to their own mindset.

Obviously, Mahinda Rajapaksa also will be happy to see Wickramabahu’s presence as a blessing – as the most effective way to divert the already established anti-government vote-base away from Sarath Fonseka (SF).

Wickramabahu’s propagandist approach, however, seems to have failed to see the objective logic (the dialectic) of the unprecedented social process taking place as a unique consequence of the Sarath-Mahinda split. A substantial section within the Sinhala majority who backed the war unconditionally before seems to be rallying round Sarath Fonseka in rejecting Mahinda-regime on democratic and humanist issues. It is this fast-changing social force which Sri Lanka’s Left movement should be orientated towards in the coming period. The Left should base itself on this social force and fully equip them with the democratic values that’ll be crucial for the next stage, i.e. the socialist economic transformation. The likely defeat of Rajapaksa’s dictatorial regime by Sarath Fonseka on a program of democratic change would, I believe, mark the beginning of the end of JR’s executive presidential system. And, how far SF will be ready to carryout this democratic change remains to be seen.

A united left front should have effectively linked up with Sinhala majority’s changing consciousness with its banner of democracy held high. A united front of the Tamil-speaking communities too should have joined this evolving social force with their own democratic demands. Unfortunately, however, only the JVP has been subtle enough to take this prudent line in supporting Sarath Fonseka.

Still it is not too late for Wickramabahu to correct his mistake. He can pull out at an appropriate time prescribing his supporters to contribute the final impetus for SF’s victory.

Let me reiterate what I’ve already stated elsewhere, that the escalating political duel is a blessing for Sri Lanka’s future – irrespective of the immediate causes that triggered the protagonists’ conflict. Those analysts who get bogged down in the past will fail to see the real significance of the erupting historical forces. The next few weeks will see a major shift in Sinhala/Tamil consciousness in understanding what the country needs. And, Sri Lanka’s political scene will begin to change dramatically paving the way for substantial social and economic metamorphosis, whoever wins. On my part, I sincerely hope General Fonseka emerges victoriously for very good reasons. Let me explain:

Sarath Fonseka’s dreadful personal circumstances along with his strong personality are bound to make him the ideal agent of change. Presently he’s facing the full wrath of the state more than anybody else. His strong will, his sensitivity to personal honour and his potential to absorb fresh political views are all noteworthy attributes. But remember, how effectively Sri Lanka’s leftist movement can rise to the challenge of influencing him to carry out the democratic transformation remains to be seen.

Eradication of Sri Lanka’s widespread poverty requires socialist-orientated socio-economic program. Without scientific planning of island-wide infrastructure and massive investment of state-funds to raise peoples’ living standards the rich-poor gap in the country will continue to widen. Will the state do it just like it spent billions of dollars for the war? I don’t think so unless a committed socialist government is formed.

The two main political parties – the UNP and the SLFP – are guided by avowed capitalist economists whose vision is conditioned by the discredited ‘trickle-down’ economics according to which the poor majority will have to wait until the private investors’ profits grow with the backing of the state so that the benefits would eventually trickle down to lower-classes too.

It’s the duty of the leftist-movement to expose this disgraceful myth and educate the masses on socialist values and the noble vision of common welfare. Sarath Fonseka should be made aware of the truth that Sri Lanka’s democratic change can never be completed without socialist economics. The reason is this: “Trickle down” economics will only widen the rich-poor gap and social chaos and unrest will be the inevitable result; and, Sri Lanka’s capitalist state will be compelled to resort to dictatorial methods to crush people’s struggles. That’ll mark the end of Sarath Fonseka’s democracy. Thus, one should realize that the democratization of Sri Lanka is inseparably intertwined with the economic transformation.

This is why it’s important that the Left should do everything possible to guide General Fonseka in the right direction. I’m sure many Tamils and leftists will raise their eyebrows at this suggestion. “How could we trust a man who led the war to ruthlessly crush the LTTE?” they ask. Some even compare him to Hitler who crushed the Jews. I think this comparison is totally misplaced. Let me explain:

Most of Sri Lanka’s Sinhala Buddhists supported the war not because they are anti-Tamil racists; it was Tiger-leadership’s ideological commitment to separatism and the methods it used to achieve its goal that led to most Sinhala-Buddhists’ uncompromising opposition to the Tamil struggle.

Tiger leaders failed to realize that their main aspiration went directly against the Sinhala Buddhists’ deep-rooted national aspiration – i.e. their belief that the Buddhists in Lanka have a historic commitment to Lord Buddha himself to defend the island’s integrity. Sinhala Buddhists believe that Buddha himself foresaw Sri Lanka as the only place on the planet to protect authentic Buddhist philosophy.

It was this belief that made them extremely nervous to even federalist solutions; they thought this could eventually lead to splitting the country. In fact, it was this deep-rooted national aspiration and the related fears that Sinhala politicians hijacked for grabbing political power in elections.

Now that the war is over the Sinhala majority’s undue fears are subsiding and the political and economic aspirations are rapidly coming to the forefront. They want peace and fully-fledged democracy; they want to put an end to corruption, and eradicate poverty. It is in this respect that the Mahinda-regime has failed them miserably. Mahinda Rajapaksa failed to win the hearts & minds of the Tamils. His administration resorted to nepotism and corruption. He began to use dictatorial methods to crush dissent. Underworld criminal activities, lawlessness and disappearances became rampant. His associates’ dogmatic commitment to capitalist “trickle-down” economics has failed to solve the problem of widespread poverty.

A substantial section of the Buddhist majority sees Sarath Fonseka as someone they could trust to carry out the necessary political changes while defending their afore-mentioned national/religious aspiration.

The fact that Sarath Fonseka has been cornered, isolated and bullied by Sri Lanka’s corrupt political establishment seems to be working extremely well in the General’s favour. His detachment from political parties of the establishment is also likely to be seen as a positive quality by the masses.

SF seems to be a man with a strong will-power; his politically fresh mind is still in a process of evolution. And, that’s not a bad thing at all in the context of fast changing circumstances, both globally and locally. Particularly, in the field of economic policy Sri Lanka’s Left has a crucial responsibility in influencing Sarath Fonseka’s thoughts in this respect. This is why I say that the JVP’s decision to back him is a prudent one; and, this is why I oppose Comrade Bahu’s decision to contest in the election.

Instead, his Left Front should have formed an alliance with the JVP to make Sarath Fonseka’s victory a reality. Socialists must not underestimate the general’s potential to emerge as Sri Lanka’s Hugo Chavez in the coming period, but only if the SL Left did the right thing. Remember, the globally collapsing capitalism and the locally degenerating socio-economic conditions are extremely conducive to unprecedented changes. Sri Lanka’s leftists should thoroughly grasp what the great German poet Goethe wrote, and Lenin approvingly quoted in his April Theses: “…Theory is grey my friend…Reality is green”. For, preconceived ideas would be the biggest obstacle in seeing the potential that is evolving right in front of their eyes.

If SF wins he may, in all probability, dissolve the present administration and call for fresh parliamentary elections in a free and fair environment. The task of the Left should be to form a broad alliance (including the JVP and the parties of Tamil-speaking communities of course) under the banner of democratic & socialist change to challenge both parties of the status-quo.