The Sunday Leader

If The Opposition Wants To Pull It Off Next Time…

No two ‘Club Aces’ in a deck of cards, to share. It’s ‘Spade’ that’s alternate and call it ‘trumps.’
— Scribbled as motto for Opposition politics

Despite all the rhetoric, all arguments, in this LG election too, the people were left with a defeated Opposition. Excuses blurted by the Opposition this time too, are no different to those in the past.  It is time to drop all excuses and begin a new discourse, that would not end up as in the past with the same stupid mistakes. This umpteenth defeat should at least play catalyst for a discourse to focus on how the future should be. This therefore is an opening draft for such dialogue.

Brief preface to our politics

‘There is a serious need to re-establish social faith in the rule of law’

With the war that was escalated and fought under the Rajapaksa regime, Sinhala politics came to be considered “national” and is now decisive. There was no Opposition claim in recognising minority aspirations within national politics, with all agreeing, not to disagree on the dominance of Sinhala politics.
Most in the Opposition, including the UNP, feared they would lose Sinhala sympathy, if they supported a position critical of the war. The JVP was a loyal ally of the Rajapaksa regime, as part of the “war project.” They took it as their right to label all who talked of democracy and rule of law,  as “traitors.” This left a gaping and gnawing vacuum in alternate, dissenting politics. The Rajapaksa regime by virtue of its Sinhala politics and all others with it from the old “Left” to the extreme “Right,” accepted this Sinhala dominance in suppressing dissent and an alternate voice in Sinhala society.
We thus live with a regime that has been established by Sinhala racist politics in consensus with the traditional “Left” and the Opposition parties. A regime that rides high and mighty on Sinhala extremism. All elections are thus held and decided in the South, with no alternate politics to challenge the Sinhala social bias in this country.
In such a compromised scenario, they are unable now to play alternate to this Rajapaksa regime. The Opposition therefore wants to project themselves as different, with rhetoric on corruption, fraud and waste. This Sinhala politics provides no honest robes even for the best disciple monks of Gauthama Buddha, if they are part of this regime. To be different, is an impossibility with such politics.
This regime does not play innocent. It plays with the overt and covert repression the Sinhala society allowed as necessary to wage a “patriotic” war. There is no doubt a difference in using its repressive machinery when smoothed over Tamil society, than when used over Sinhala South. Yet it does not necessarily mean, this repression will not be sharpened on the Sinhala South. Those with such power, will not play “Mahjong,” except as Ampatuans in Philippines. Promising to play it fair, is not accepted by society either as every election has proved.
That simply is the dilemma of the Opposition. That is also a dilemma for this society, left with no choice to pick on, for an alternate leadership.

Brief on our choice of priorities

This alternate discourse begins on the need to roll out a dialogue on how a programme for social justice and democracy could be established as fundamental norms in capitalist development. Such discourse requires an honest assessment of this regime. It needs  prioritising social needs for a future that would give space for democratic life and economic growth with justice and fair play. This also needs an understanding of the ruthless politicisation of the State in this neo liberal economy that also paves the way for all corruption, plunder and waste.
This 1978 Constitution allows uncompromising power to be accrued with immunity, in the hands of an individual as an Executive. That unrestricted individual power, backed by Sinhala politics is what this stubborn, inhuman regime is all about, though seen as constitutionally run.
The 17th Amendment to the Constitution attempted to curb such power to allow important State institutes function with independence. Yet lapses in the 17th Amendment along with immunity enjoyed by Executive power, provided the key for the Rajapaksa regime to violate the Constitution in style. All important State institutes were influenced to accede to unwritten requests of a super power regime. Apart from the Constitution that was openly violated and amended for the 18th time to give life to a Constitutionally defined and politically designed Sinhala autocracy, the regime enjoys its own creation of a passive Sinhala psyche that intimidates rational social thinking at the expense of a muted Opposition.
A Sinhala psyche that is willing to back all decisions of the regime, crediting its “Sinhala” war victory over separatist Tamil Tigers, that the regime now says is still active enough to emerge as a threat. A “threat” used once again to keep its militarised strength and emergency rule, together.
This leaves Tamil and Muslim political aspirations at bay. Much chewed minority aspirations, the regime is not in any mood to address within a democratic political process. Three years of APRC efforts and its final report was thus sent to cold storage and forgotten. There is no Tamil or Muslim political leadership either, independent and strong enough to demand they be addressed, with most minority politicians prepared to play “Thondaman” with the Rajapaksas.
Thus it is necessary now to decide on a political programme for the future that would make a paradigm shift in present day Opposition politics. That necessity requires very special attention on democratising and depoliticising all aspects of this society, guiding and regulating a market economy that would focus on national development with emphasis on rural economic growth and on safety nets for the economically and socially marginalised, re-constituting Colombo accrued political power that denied a due share in socio economic development in rural life and created a total disparity in distribution of national wealth.

Discourse on new priorities

We thus come to this discourse on an alternate political programme that’s long overdue. It’s been almost two years after a bloody devastating war.
The LG elections that completed more than half the number with a complete sweep for the regime, should in effect provoke a serious discussion on what future programme could challenge this regime’s repressive existence. This therefore is a draft that may facilitate such dialogue, if the Opposition is looking for a start.

01. Re-democratising of society

There is a serious need to re-establish social faith in the judiciary and in rule of law. For a serious intervention in turning around this society once again into a humanly decent place to live in, for all, without exceptions. That would require as a start, repeal of all emergency laws immediately, removal of all armed security provided to all elected representatives, disarm and disband all armed para military groups and assure that only the security forces are allowed arms, and clear out all high security zones in all parts of the country.
It is necessary to depoliticise the State and have law and order established for the safety and security of all citizens, for which the 18th Amendment should be repealed, enabling the reintroduction of a revised 17th Amendment without lapses, all civil administrative positions including Provincial Governors should only be filled by civilians, immunity for the Executive President should be removed, making the post responsible to the judiciary. There is also the necessity to amend laws and acts that apply negatively on labour in BOI projects and in all FTZs which curb their rights under Article 14 of the Constitution and Statutes 87 and 98 of the ILO, so that, all workers in FTZs and BOI projects enjoy the right to join a trade union of their choice with the right to collective bargaining.

02. Democratising of the economy

There is no necessity now to discuss the pros and cons of the totally open economy that we have. While the socialist type centralised economies collapsed two decades ago, the much flaunted neo liberal economies had a global meltdown, that compelled State intervention. Economies that grew during the past decades were those that discarded IMF and World Bank prescriptions for growth. They used State interventions for market growth.
Therefore, the market economy has to be guided with emphasis on planning the national economy with special emphasis on rural economic life, and developing agriculture as a market oriented profitable sector, without State subsidies positioning Sri Lanka as a beneficial partner in the emerging Asian economy. All this has to be decided within a long term national plan approved in parliament, with due space given for social participation in discussing it.
Thereafter, parliament needs to accept the provision for regular assessment of its annual budget, on an interim report presented in parliament.

03. Democratising of the State

There is no gain saying that all through 63 years in post-independent Sri Lanka, every Constitution has allowed accruing of power in Colombo. With that all national wealth and market benefits have also resided in Colombo centred life. This is the reason why, all elected MPs from all rural constituencies prefer to relocate themselves with family, in Colombo. It’s political power with money that defines Colombo life. For social equity therefore, it is proposed, the 13th Amendment should be implemented in full, provision should be made to appoint all Provincial Governors with consensus in parliament, the Finance Committee presently under the President should be brought under parliament with due PC representation, all North-East rehabilitation and reconciliation to be approved in parliament as a complete programme with financial budgeting, to be implemented through PCs.
Democratising of the State and the economy has a two-way advantage in that it brings in a people’s perspective and participation, while answering all accusations by international agencies and the diaspora, in keeping the independence and sovereignty of the people on a high moral ground.

2 Comments for “If The Opposition Wants To Pull It Off Next Time…”

  1. Ruwan Ferdinandez

    Another week!Another bucket of sewage from Kusal!. What is wrong with this newspaper? Also we can’t keep educating these outdated non-experts like Kusal. Anyway, once again, Kusal, there was no war project. Idiots may not understand but there was a terrorist outfit killing innocent people day and night for 30 years in the country. All successive presidents tried but they killed Premadasa and blinded CBK, but MR annihilated them.JVP supported partially the government but it was not democracy but those who supported terrorists in the name of democracy were and will always be traitors. More imnportantly, fake journos like you may not undertand but the UNP keeps losing because they have noi plan. They have no alternative plan to develop villages, develop the country. They can’t say who will and for how the Samurdhi recepients will get their benefits. That’s why the uNP is losing. MR has no clear plan but he does something and until the UNP bringsforth an aalternative plan, the story will continue.

  2. P.L.J.B.palipana

    The Economic Policy of the GOSL is just a ship without a RUDDER>. For an example one of the Provincial Councils System or Local Government System(remember most recent elections) must go as soon as possible. The roles & responsibilities of the Jana Sabhas must be clearly defined and express to the population. The Provincial Councils were established by India by force and the GOSL couldn’t define the productivity, efficiency and effectiveness against certain criterias although over 24 years has passed away. That is the truth for me.

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