17 December, 2017

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A Third-Alternative Is Indispensable – Government Gasping; Paksas Dead-Meat

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

It’s time to move on. Maybe the 8 January victory has delivered all it can, with one exception and this is of utmost importance, the constitution. Last week I dealt with this and expressed my hopes and my fears. In human affairs, more so than even weather forecasting, uncertainty is built into the fabric of reality. I have reproduced a diagram, released on 1 Sept by the US National Hurricane Centre, of the 20 most likely paths of hurricane Irma (strongest ever Atlantic hurricane; 200 mph wind gusts; Category 5 classification much of its life). The NHC said on 1 Sept that three of its models favoured a northward track but the UKMet model favoured a southerly path which in the event proved more correct.

On 1 Sept the NHC was looking just 9 days ahead and using sophisticated algorithms running on the world’s most powerful computer networks. See how difficult it was to forecast ‘known-unknowns’ such a short time ahead (nearer landfall uncertainty was less). This is the analogy I am setting up. Looking a year or two ahead in politics entails a heady world-wind of known-knowns, known-unknowns and unknown-unknowns. But look again, you will notice the forecasts are bunched; they pass over the northern Caribbean and possibly make landfall in the eastern or south-eastern United States. This is the probable, the extent covered by known-knowns, and corresponds to what in politics we can expect, with a reasonable degree of certainty, from R&S, UNP-SLFP (Sirisena) and followers camp, or from the Joint Opposition and Paksa pack. My penchant for abbreviations drives me to call them RS&C – C for cabinet of Ministers and government parliamentarians – and MaRaJo, respectively.

Next notice the outliers; Irma may swing into Florida and work its way as far as the Great Lakes or veer right and dissipate in the Atlantic, east of the US mainland. I will liken these to the latitude arising out of known-unknowns. That is the extent to which the two political formations denoted above may vary their behaviour; things that are less likely but possible. I will not today touch on unknown-unknowns in politics or hurricane forecasting. To repeat, what I am taking pains to say is that there are expectations that carry a degree of certainty, and there are other less likely possibilities that cannot be ruled out. Though politics, like the weather, involves high risk estimating, one must nevertheless judge because one must act. But one must also retain intelligent flexibility in this changing world; “Theories grow grey my friend, but the tree of life is ever green” – Goethe.

The art of the possible

From whose point of view am I setting out this narrative? It is easier to say whose perspective I do not represent, RS&C and MaRaJo. The third option that I am edging towards may need relationships with the other formations; because of known-unknowns it needs to be flexible. But the point is that this third option is not one of the other two, it is separate, it is another, it has its own identity. Who potentially belongs here; who can participate in an alternative that can emerge with an identity of its own?

First, I have in mind the civil society organisations who participated in the January 8 Movement (J8M for short) to defeat and eject Mahinda Rajapaksa from the presidency but now think that this game has nearly run its course and it is time to move on. A few that spring to mind are the late Sobitha’s Just Society Movement and 48 associates,  Purawai Balawegaya and Rights Now, and are others – too many to name. Second come the political parties, some now connected to the government – ULF (LSSP Majority Group) and the NSSP – and of course the JVP, who played an important role in defeating Rajapaksa. Third, there are the anti-Mahinda leftist sects and fragments, now lost and in search of shelter who could be enticed into a new home.

Apart from J8M participants there are others who will find a place in the third alternative. I refer to those who may have supported Rajapaksa in the presidential election but do not see any useful purpose in his return to power, like the Communist Party which has broken ranks with MaRaJo on the constitution issue. Many, originally not in J8M, now realise that to hanker for a Rajapaksa as the next president is a doomed exercise. There will be “fire and fury” confrontation before a Paksa is allowed to assume the presidency again. Could revulsion overstep bounds of democracy on Colombo’s streets? Will an armed or unarmed Eelam demand surface in the north and east if faced with a Paksa option? I don’t know the answer to these questions, but these are raw choices. The return of a Paksa is akin to the return of Hitler in Germany; millions may say “Over my dead body!” The Paksas are dead-meat, perish the thought of the return of Godzilla or Gota.

The CP is intelligent enough to see that hankering after Gota is a non-starter. Pity that vacillating spineless SLFP MPs don’t understand that there is no future for their scum-bag ambitions on that road. SLFPers who, in the light of scandals close to Ranil or the UNP look to a return of their party to power must start by jettisoning all and every vestige of Paksa flavour and aroma. This is sine qua non to defuse perceptions of peril in the eyes of all Lanka’s non-SLFPers; it is unconditional, or it is political war.

The scene today is (a) growing space and need for a political alternative to RS&C and MaRaJo; (b) visible political trends, but like in hurricane forecasting, degrees of certainty and uncertainty; (c) the imperative need for a new constitution; and (d) the next hurdle, economic concerns. Next I describe an attempt to respond to this scenario, to make realistic judgements about the art of the possible, and to remain principled. Phew, it’s tough to reconcile all three objectives!

Vame Kathikava (Left Discourse)

I have been bawling my head off that a “left, progressive and social democratic” alliance is imperative. The United Left Front (former LSSP Majority Group now a recognised party) has been the first to respond and will host a Left Discourse on Saturday 23 September. Party Secretary Attorney-at-Law Lal Wijenayake in a Media Release expressed “concern about the breakdown of democracy” and added “although it was possible to arrest the trend to an extent by the people’s victory of 8 January, roadblocks have been encountered. Apart from resistance offered by backward and defeated political forces, there has also been resistance from within the government against reform of the State structure”.

And he goes on, “In order to counter such resistance and ensure the reform of the State structure, including the abolition of the executive presidency and the realization of social justice, we recognise the need to build a broad coalition based on short and long-term economic and social programmes. Therefore we wish to broaden the United Left Front by involving comrades with leftist, progressive and social democratic inclinations” who would like to participate in a Vame Kathikava (Left Discourse) for the purpose of evolving such a programme”. Wijenayake has invited those wishing to participate to contact the ULF by phone/fax on 011-2885 394, or e-mail unitedleftfrontsl@gmail.com.

Five discussion documents have been prepared; I have had sight of four. The approach is not to discuss organisational unification, which is tricky, but to seek issue based consensus by optimising agreement on topics represented by these documents. Two are on topics I have flogged to death in this column (economy and constitution) so no more. The two on Health & Education and on the Working Class are new and worth summarising. What I like is that they cut loose from the stereotyped jargon that one has got accustomed to in unimaginative left propaganda. They examine circumstances as they are, and address ‘what should we do’ questions imaginatively. There is a realistic appraisal of the changing nature of the working class due to the changing nature of the economy (services and design, computers, communication tools, disappearance of old jobs) and whether previous objections to collective decision making with management in the private sector still hold.

The document on Health & Education raises several issues that have not been frankly discussed by the left previously. I can only give a flavour of the content here. “Education to instil knowledge in literate citizens to improve their lives and society has been jettisoned to provide skills for business and industry”. Education should be re-aligned to correct this defect while creating resourceful individuals conversant with technology and able to do well in diverse environments. Insufficient resources are committed to rural and estate areas; the district quota system must be replaced by a school-based system with lower cut-off for less privileged schools; private, not-for-profit and international institutions and private tuition are among the issues flagged for discussion.

“The need for pro-active commitment to preventive care cannot be over-emphasized” the document says echoing a now universally recognised concern. Lanka has an efficient vaccination and communicable disease reporting programme but needs to deal with non-communicable diseases like diabetes and cardiac aliments. The document throws open a broad challenge of the need for “vector control programmes involving both medical and environmental initiatives and research on recently emerged diseases to identify and eliminate their causative agents”.

Exploration along new lines relevant to Lanka’s Twenty-first Century challenges is a welcome advance on slogan filled old fashioned left discourses. This is a first step in preparing to deal with known-knowns and known-unknowns and in building resilience to measure up to future unknown-unknowns as they surface. However, I forecast that the organisers will not get through the material in all four (five?) documents in a half-day session if the discussions are robust and ample. I make an easy forecast; fixing the date for continuing the kathikava will be the last item on the agenda.

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Latest comments

  • 4
    1

    I look forward to quoting the ” Paksas Dead Meat” pronouncement on the morning AFTER the results of the elections to the Provincial Councils on Dec 9th 2017, and again in January 2018 AFTER the results of the local authorities’ elections…:)

    As Mark Twain said of his own obituary, that of the Rajapaksa led JO-SLPP may well be premature, if not downright absurd…

    • 1
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      Dayan
      Two possibilities for the 9 December 2017 PC elections.. Assume a possible result and let us have your pronouncement.
      The tension is debilitating

      • 2
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        K.Pillai

        The public racist and self confessed war monger is bored. Please don’t make his life exciting/interesting by responding to his paranoia and wishful thinking.

        • 1
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          Kumar Dude: Quite right a third alternative is desperately needed! The UNP-SLFP circus of corrupt and criminal morons and debt they incurred while impoverishing the working people to live in luxury in the Diyawenna Parliament must end.
          Time to put aside our bourgeois misgivings re. JVP and give the Sahodarayas who exposed the Bond Scam a chance to reach out to the minorities and make their case. JVP today are the most honest and educated CRITICAL THINKERS and should be given support and advise by old left, not dead left..

          • 0
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            Dude dude: To which critical thinkers are you referring? The JVP looked promising right until Anura Kumara Dissanayake appeared on TV just prior to the election and named Rohana W. as his idol. Any possibility of support for the JVP ended at that juncture.

    • 2
      2

      Best wishes for dream of you share of mega bribes and murder of Journalist, rugby players and Tamil students

    • 1
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      This is what Twain is supposed to have said:
      “The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” (His real words are reckoned to have been the less euphonious “The report of my death was an exaggeration”, but we are taking our cue from Reuters and printing the legend.) On the second occasion, in 1907, he was reported in the New York Times to have been lost at sea, but turned up a few days later and wrote a merry article celebrating his survival.” (Source: the Guardian).
      I fear that DJ has missed the beauty of Twain’s understatement.
      *
      As for the political demise of MR, I am inclined to agree with DJ.
      Even if one agrees that MR is politically dead, the present regime will be responsible for his resurrection.

    • 2
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      Let’s be honest, the left parties are history and have no future going forward in SL politics. Guys like DEW, Vasudeva and Tissa Vitarana should retire gracefully without becoming a joke. It is the same with JVP.

      Ours is a two party system atleast in the near term and hence to beak this is very difficult. UNP after being in the opposition for almost 20 years is not going to give up power easily. MARA days are numbered due to his age and will be 75 by the time 2020 elections are round the corner and 80 by the time the 2025 elections are called.

      Gota will struggle to win simply with the Sinhala Buddhist vote and hence likely that the candidate with UNP support will win. Unfortunately there is no quality candidate within UNP who can lead the nation. Thank god Ravi is now out of circulation and Premadasa lacks the stature to lead the party. On the other hand if Sirisena can be President after being a Gramasevaka any one can become the leader.

      We simply don’t have quality candidates and time for professionals and other intellectuals to come forward.

    • 1
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      The JO will win the LG elections. Simply because Sri Lankans with any decency and brains will not vote for thugs, murderers, and rapists.
      The PC’s and GE will be won by the UNP/SLFP.
      The coming elections will see most crooks lose their seats. Which ever party they are.

  • 2
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    “Maybe the 8 January victory has delivered all it can, with one exception…the constitution.”
    Can Prof David kindly list what has been delivered usefully.
    There were plenty of bitter surprises for the faithful though.
    *
    “What I like is that they cut loose from the stereotyped jargon that one has got accustomed to in unimaginative left propaganda.”
    They may also be cutting loose from left ideology in the process, like the various brands of ‘Reborn Left’ in Europe in the 1990’s.
    Was not the “Born Again Left” praised by Prof. David guilty of the offence referred to?
    If the people concerned are coming clean, that is welcome, but there should be self-criticism before people can trust the failed parliamentary left. But that is unlikely to be forthcoming.

    • 1
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      What the parliamentary left wants is just to survive. This is their way of employment. Anything else they get will be icing on the cake.

    • 0
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      SJ
      Can Prof David kindly list what has been delivered usefully?

      One might say certain caution, that it delivered freedom of expression — freedom to express oneself without fear: the most valuable of freedoms.

      • 1
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        RH
        Have you seen how freedom of expression has been handled during street protests?
        *
        The acid test for any freedom is when it hurts the interests of the ruling class.
        AKD may know it better than you.

  • 0
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    Kumar David ~ “A Third-Alternative Is Indispensable – Government Gasping; Paksas Dead-Meat”
    “Alternative” can be only between two. The word “Third-Alternative” is a Freudian slip. We are led by one of two groups sans borders. Kumar David wants one of them.
    A Third Choice (Unhyphenated) is theoretically possible but the “possibles” are lean, hungry and living off scraps.

  • 0
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    Are you suggesting that intellectuals, academics, professionals (NENASARA?) all against the Sinhala buddhist hedgemony shoud form a third party to get the upperhand. IF that is correct, who is funding it ? I remember, last time you suggested the common candidate. It looks you have something else in the bag of goodies.

  • 1
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    The suggestion for a Third Alternative is a good one but the question as to what for ? needs addressing. Kumar focuses on the possible participants. But I suggest that there has to be critical reflection and formulation of several documents along following lines in order to be able to promote the idea among voters:

    1. Analysis of the current national dependency,debt culture , and hegemonic control exercised by world powers, the UN agencies and multinationals

    2. Analysis of the failures of two party system, their causes, and potential solutions,ie third alternative.Define the aims, strategies and expected outcomes clearly. Identify disempowered segments of the population and reasons
    3. Fundamentals of an economic program to develop the country on sustainable and cooperative basis -away from the current model of individualism, more borrowings, mega foreign investments, lavish lifestyles by polis,and corruption based on the Third Alternative
    4. State reform and electoral strategy where grassroots activities become the focus; political project to liberate country from external and internal colonialism, neo-colonialism; citizens charter based on equality principles; centre periphery relations for a 21st century governance; lean government
    5. Overhauling the education system to make it more suitable to address national needs and encourage innovation; liberate minds from academic dependency and servitude
    6. Identify all forms of servitude and cultural practices that drive people away from exerting their civic and political rights thereby leaving the space for professional politicians and thugs; strategy to approach thought leaders at various levels of society
    7. Identify progressive elements in local areas and form local councils affiliated with the Third Alternative to advance the aims of TA. Establish networks,training potential activists and fund raising. Identify progressive elements from the Diaspora and do the same
    8. Develop a media strategy, a strategy to collaborate with like minded parties, associations, and unions etc.
    9. Develop strategy to counter attacks of various sorts that could be expected from the vested interests including mainstream party sources
    10. Develop a policy for international relations based on national interest reflecting the wishes of all citizens rather than ruling elites and technocrats who serve them
    This program should be aimed at winning seats in forthcoming elections but win or loose, the United Left or Third Alternative should be a collective of like minded thinking people who have their foot on the ground that will be a catalyst for change in the political,economic, and social systems through people oriented governance( I hesitate to use the term Good Governance anymore,,,,).

  • 0
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    There is a rumour world’s multinationals want to take over the country for their businesses. So, they provide money to politicians. IT is clear if you see how some politicians work.

  • 0
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    In so many words this is a clear acceptance of the failure of yahapalana project except for unseating MR. It also demonstrates the mortal fear of the return of Mahinda Chintanaya to the center of power.

    So a thesis is put forward on how to prevent return of Mahinda Chintanaya in whatever means possible…..Like the last time which was done through a well planned conspiracy refinanced by public money robbed through CB bonds (advances were taken that were paid for by the bond money) and cemented through parliamentary jugglery (appointment of minority PM, bringing in losers from national list, sidelining real opposition as mandated by popular vote) hailed as yahapalanaya.

  • 0
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    David has a weekly diatribe against Mahinda in the Sunday Island which seems to provide space in its columns to pro YAHAPALANAYA elements. I was told that the Editor of that paper is committing necrophilia sleeping with a dead woman and rigor mortis about to set in! Why is their a need for a third alternative.? And according to David the third alternative will be the so called civil society that brought in this govt While it may be possible that during the last election people saw Sobitaand the the so called civil society as an independent force. That illusion has since disappeared. The country has polarised and that is clearly shown by the reluctance of this govt to face local govt polls. The Avalanche is about to happen and no number of Tiger apologists parading as independent commentators can conceal the disaster awaiting them. Mark my words

  • 0
    0

    Gamage has come out with a lot of bullshit. What is that long tirade of his about? It has nothing to do with the subject at hand and it seems that has an irrepressible urge to disgorge thoughts that he has absorbed but does not seem to have a frame of reference for his thinking! Just trying to make himself heard but lacks quality and originality. I will give him minusm marks for his puerile and sad efforts.

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