| by Vickramabahu Karunaratne
( December 16, 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) There is no doubt, since many parties including the main opposition party, UNP, and civil society organizations have already campaigning for Maithripala, he has now emerged as the main contender to the incumbent president. What is significant is that the parties of old left led by VASU, DEW AND TISSA lost almost all their rank and file who decided to support NSSP position: critical support to Maithree. Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, Sinhala petty bourgeoisie party that supported and led the war campaign against the Tamil uprising has turned around and announced that it will campaign against Mahinda thus indirectly supporting Maithree. It is in this context marked by the anti MNCs corrupt destruction of life and environment in the island, the breakaway group of the JVP, Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) decided to field a candidate to cut across the united oppositional campaign. This cowardly attempt of this racist party is seen as a sabotage attempt by all left groups including the civil society organizations. Their racist stand was amply exposed in a media debates held last week.
FSP made a bogus attempt to unite all left parties, groups and individuals to field a common candidate of the social left with a minimum socialist program. After fooling those who participated in the discussion, they have put foreword a candidate who publicly announced that Mahinda’s war is a victory to the people of this country! Well FSP does not claim that the left front it had initiated is Syriza in Sri Lanka; obviously they cannot; but it appears to every right thinking leftist they are sabotaging the anti global capitalist mass struggle launched by Maithree campaign. Fortunately because of the stand taken by the NSSP their folly will have little effect to the common struggle. Masses can see a mark difference between the two major campaigns. on one hand fascist styled dictatorial leader Mahinda who is funded and supported by MNCs , both western and eastern; on the other hand anti MNC and pro environment, pro worker peasant and fishers movement where the candidate appeal to the people to prepare for an all island mass struggle if the dictator violates the democratic election process. Latter campaign can be classified as a Syriza in the making. FSP with its racist manifesto, in order to keep its loosing identity has to fight with two other socialist candidates, both Trotskyites, who have raised so many important questions. Two contenders have refused so far to stop their attack on FSP on the national issue. Most importantly, when FSP maintains that both bourgeoisie fronts are ideologically dominated Sinhala-Buddhists, (UPFA by Bodu Bala Sena and Maithree front by Jathaka Hela Urumaya) elements, FSP appears to be the biggest farce and no way appear as a secular political formation in this election. Hence, it is idiotic to submit that the FSP is the real opposition to the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime both in its program and in its practice.
NSSP always said that Sri Lanka needs a strong social movement to counter the fascist styled trend in its recent history, namely, towards authoritarianism, towards economic policy framework that is based on IMF WB and WTO with the hegemony of MNC system that secures the interests of the upper classes and ruling layers of the society, and towards majoritarianism. Although these three trends emerged prior to MR coming to power, they have consolidated and strengthened under his regime due to the genocidal war conducted by the regime. It is relevant today to look at the question of what social movements were actively engaged against the MR regime and its policies and actions. It is easy to recognize two forces that question policies and actions of the MR regime. The first group, primarily rooted among radical urban bourgeoisie, posed the issue of democracy, rule of law and good governance in their orthodox meanings. The most important group in this category was the Sri Lanka Lawyers’ Association under the pro UNP leadership that came forward strongly against the removal of the Chief justice, Dr Shirani Bandaranayke. It organized many fora to discuss the matters that fell within its purview. Later, Citizen Forum also raised similar issues with strong political orientation. These views had been finally crystallized in the movement for Just Society led by Rev Maduluwave Sobitha raising two main demands, (1) abolition of the executive presidential system and (2) reactivation of the 17th Amendment by repealing 18th Amendment to the Constitution. Bahu was one of the founder members of this movement, but he resigned when Rev Sobitha abandoned the third demand of implementation of the 13th amendment. The protests by these groupings received so much attention by the media partly because of their elitist character.
The second opposition against the MR regime came from subaltern movements. There are four groups, (1) student movement; (2) trade unions and workers’ movements; (3) protests by peasants, fishers and rural masses; and (4) movements by numerically small nations and ethnic groups. Second movements were scattered and sporadic mainly because of opportunistic leaders who supported the government. The same cannot be applied to the third and fourth movement, because after militarily defeating the LTTE in 2009, several human rights groups and mass organizations intervened continuously in arousing the mass consciousness. The PROTEST OF THE OPPOSITION and UNITY WITH POWER SHARING are two powerful organizations that had series mass protests through out the country including May Day in the NORTH, and mass actions in the east and UPCOUNTRY estate areas. Hence the consistent opposition to the government, especially against its policies on development, national problem and education, has been guided by the Protest of the Opposition. It is true that Inter-University Student Federation (IUSF) helped by the Protest of the Opposition launched many a struggle in the recent past against cuts of student subsidies, educational reforms, commoditization of education and so on. It is interesting and encouraging to note that IUSF was able to defeat government plans to reform education by encouraging private investments to enter into the field of education with the motive of profit. In the last year or so, it won almost all its struggles. In all these struggles Protest of the Opposition helped to organize massive solidarity marches. The IUSF while struggling for free education also widened the democratic space that the elitist groupings failed to achieve. When the march in Colombo city by the IUSF was banned by a court order at the request of the Police, Najith Indika, IUSF President decided to defy the order and continue the march. It proved to be a great victory. The following week, a district judge warned the police not to come forward with such requests. This was a most significant victory for the democratic movement in Sri Lanka and all credit should go to IUSF and the Protest of the Opposition.
The other subaltern movements that were capable of forcing the MR government to retreat include the anti-pension scheme by private sector employees in Free Trade Zone, peoples’ movement against water problem at Rathupaswela, protests by slum people against forcible eviction from their houses, peasants’ opposition to seed and water bills and micro opposition by villagers on their problems. In all these struggles it is the Protest of the Opposition was the power that mobilized the masses.
Maithripala Sirisena announcing his candidacy as a common opposition candidate informed the Protest of the Opposition that his program is limited to the abolition of the executive presidency and the reactivation of the 17th Amendment. In this sense his electoral program is based on the demands put forward by the elitist movement. There is no doubts that these are demands are important; but the programs built on these demands are necessary but not sufficient, when compared with the programme of the Protest of the Opposition. Hence at first there was a conflict of interest and after series of discussion where TNA played a major role, then he was established as the common candidate. Most important development is the inclusion of a campaign against MNC system that dominates the present development scheme. Also, included in the campaign a call to rebellion in case Mahinda manipulates and rig the election to face or counter three major trends in Sri Lankans polity mentioned above.
In contrast, FSP’s program is a sectarian and racist programme that talks of mythical struggles. Most significantly, the program includes swayan paalana by numerically small nations and protection of whatever the rights they have won, like 13th Amendment only under a proletarian power! Even that, they have informed that they are not happy about. Led by students, the attempt of FSP to put forward a student leader as a candidate clearly indicates the lack of understanding of the workers movement or any other section such as peasants and fishers who gave their life in the struggle against the regime. On the other hand the campaign of the opposition has become an active struggle against MNC system. Maithree has put forward the slogan against ‘power of capital and power of weapons build the power of people’. There are social organizations building peoples council through out the country and there are running battles between such organizations and fascist styled thugs of the government. Obviously we have taken this continued formation of peoples committees as a serious development for the future.