By Ameer Ali –
The end is nigh indeed for the Rajapaksa Regime and Gotabaya’s Vityathmaga cabal. No amount of finetuning by monetary authorities in the Central Bank could postpone the day of reckoning, and the magic wand of an all-in-one Finance Minister is not going to stop the inevitable collapse of the economy. The people are not prepared to stomach the pain any more, and, in spite of the danger of getting infected by the pandemic, they are coming out in increasing numbers to voice their disgust and frustration and anger. One cannot fool all the people all the time. Yet, the pandemic has given a good excuse for the regime to arrest and quarantine the protestors to prevent protests from escalating. Covid is actually protecting the regime. In any case, barring a de facto military rule with or without Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a regime change is inevitable.
The biggest question confronting the nation is what then? Is there a credible alternative? Regime change itself is not sufficient. Among the available contestants for power, Sirisena’s SLFP is calculating the odds of deserting the coalition now or later to form a coalition on its own with breakaway elements from SLPP. RW has taken over the UNP captaincy to spoil any chance of SP’s SJB forging ahead. Earlier, SLFP and UNP joined hands under Yahapalana but failed miserably to deliver what they promised to the voters. SJB, apart from criticizing the current regime has nothing original and special to offer. Parties of minority communities have absolutely no hope except, as usual, to join one of the winners. There are no other contenders in the arena except JVP, the only party and with an alternative agenda or program for economic revival that is trying hard to convinced the masses of the party’s credibility. The purpose of this addendum is two-fold. One, to appeal to JVP leadership to forge a broad coalition with progressive elements within existing political parties including those among the minorities, and two, to convince the minority communities that a pluralist democracy based on a principle of fair-go to every citizen is possible only under a JVP-led coalition. It is time that this party is given a chance to take the nation and its economy along a new direction. Seven decades of communal politics and economic squandering have made Sri Lanka a fragile state.
First of all, voters must be convinced that the new generation of JVP leadership is not even distantly connected to its 20th century pioneers, although reactionary elements in the country are incessantly reminding the public of this connection. In actual fact, many of the party’s current leaders were not even born during the days of the two JVP insurrections, and one or two of them may have been babies at that time. It is simply an act of vicious fear mongering by reactionaries to paint this party with the old brush. The new generation has nothing to apologize for.
Most importantly, this new leadership is secular in political thought and ethno-nationalistic in public appeal. This is the only salvation to a country and society that has been historically groomed to think in terms of ethnic and religious interests. Yet, JVP’s message is not cutting through to the masses, because the party continues to make the same mistake as previous leftists did to concentrate its campaign mostly among urban populace. Although JVP claims to be rural based, it is not clearly evident from its organizational activities. There is enormous room for a village-based campaign and among womenfolk. JVP also should extend its campaign within the two minorities.
In relation to the two minorities, Tamils and Muslims, it is time they realize that their future would never be prosperous or peaceful under any government that comes to power on religious cum ethno-nationalistic cards. At best, there may be a few crumbs the masters would throw for the minorities to consume and nothing more. Only under a government that is prepared to treat all citizens equally and based on merit that minorities can prosper and live peacefully. This is why voters from the two communities must break away from the habit of voting for their own parties and leaders and expect them to deliver the impossible. Among the Tamils, it was the failure of traditional leadership that led to the revolt of the youth in 1980s, which ultimately ended in disaster to the community as well as the nation. A similar situation is brewing amongst Muslims now. The Muslim community is actually leaderless at the moment, but Muslim electorates are qualitatively different now, in the sense that there is a notable class of educated men and women who are able to think originally and independently. This class has to become the vanguard for change and that change should reflect in the voting behavior of Muslims. The community should therefore think anew and work with a multi-ethnic and multi-class coalition. They should get rid of SLMC and ACMC altogether.
A JVP-led coalition is the only post-fire salvage to both minorities and the country.
*Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Business & Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia