Colombo, Identity, Jaffna, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance, Post-War

Blinkered vision of Tamil nationalists and socialists is self-defeating

[Editors note: This article responds to key points raised by several noted commentators on the author’s previous article here.]

There’s one important lesson to be learnt from the presidential campaign so far: It’s becoming increasingly clear that the Mahinda-Regime is determined to hang on to power by hook or by crook. Ominous signs of thuggery against all opposition are widespread; the state-media’s shamelessly transparent propaganda is making a mockery of all journalistic principles. Over one and a half million Tamils have been deprived of their right to vote.

The obvious truth is: forces of the establishment, including the military leadership, have ganged-up to defend the regime. Newly appointed military leaders have a vested interest in doing this. They probably think that a Fonseka-victory might lead to ruthless exposures of corruption and other sensitive issues related to the war.

Thus, the Rajapaksa-brothers and the newly appointed military leaders have a ‘life-and-death’ interest to make sure Sarath Fonseka is defeated. The implication is: there won’t be ‘free & fare’ elections. Rajapaksa’s victory, in this sense, is a foregone conclusion.

If Sarath Fonseka, by any chance, miraculously defeats Mahinda Rajapaksa despite possible acts of  ‘ballot-box stuffing’ and other electoral frauds, then the chances of the military leaders coming forward to defend the regime is very real indeed. [Those who’ve been arguing that Sarath Fonseka’s intention is to form a military rule should get their brains examined.]

It is important to realize that this election is unprecedented in every sense. Irrespective of the result it’ll leave an equally divided society between progressive and reactionary forces. I’ll not be surprised if the post-election ‘Mahinda-rule’ ends up as a virtual ‘military-junta’.

This has clear implications: already escalating anti-democratic methods to suppress all opposition may reach unprecedented heights. Free-media will suffer most within this setup.

In such a context, the Tamil majority will perceive the so-called ’13-Amendment’ solution as a non-starter. And the separatist Tamil leaders’ arguments for reviving Tiger-politics are likely to become more appealing to the Tamil people. It’ll be the duty of all socialists to prevent this happening, because the future of Tamils lies in a common struggle for socialism, not in a separate state-let.

[Also, since Mahinda-regime is capitalist to the hilt guided by ‘trickle-down economics,’ it won’t be able to defend the poor masses against rising living costs. Considering the global economic climate, and the rising pressure in the west for economic sanctions against Mahinda-regime’s human rights record, the economic repercussions could become much worse than many anticipate at present. Nobody expects the cosmetic measures to control rising prices during the election-period to continue for long.]

The trillion dollar questions are: Can we expect the Tamil nationalists, the Left parties and the mainstream opposition to be conscious of these eventualities? Do they have any idea how to respond to militaristic political developments? I think, the truth is Sarath Fonseka, the JVP, the Tamil nationalists, Wickramabahu, Wije Dias, Mangala Samaraweera or Ranil Wickramasinghe will be helpless in such a situation.

There’s only one force which can effectively challenge a ruthless state-machine of this kind: the labour movement, the trade unions, or more generally: the working class. A General Strike backed by the student movement will have to come forward and defend Sri Lanka’s democracy and peoples’ living standards. That’s the most effective non-violent way to challenge the capitalist regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa that violates the democratic rights of the masses.

A relentless campaign within the unions and the student movement to prepare for this eventuality should be the main focus of all progressive political parties in the coming period. They should not remain blinkered by electoral activities alone. Tamil nationalists’ sectarian politics and Left parties’ factionalism and propagandist politics should end. They should mobilize their vote-bases to back Sarath Fonseka in his electoral campaign against Mahinda Rajapaksa. However, a united front to defend democracy and living standards should become the central aim of all progressive forces. Earnest campaigns to politically prepare the labour movement for an inevitable general strike must be the primary focus of all socialists.