By Emil van der Poorten –
It is the belief shared by all non-racist, non-xenophobic Sri Lankans that, particularly after the most recent outbreak of mayhem provoked by simply being “different,” an alternative to the two main political configurations is needed and urgently so.
I have deliberately omitted consideration of the People’s Liberation Front (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna or JVP) as an alternative because its persistent adherence to a discredited set of political beliefs and its deification of Rohana Wijeweera, its leader until he was “terminated with extreme prejudice” as the old Central Intelligence term had it. The latter, in particular, makes it totally unacceptable to people of the so-called Cultivator caste (Govikula) in Sri Lanka who believe, rightly or wrongly, that they were targeted for extermination by the Wijeweera-led JVP at the time of the second Sri Lankan insurrection at the end of the ‘eighties purely and simply because the JVP leadership and rank-and-file saw them (the Goviyas) as opposed to what the JVP stood for by virtue of their being established in feudal and post-feudal Sri Lankan society as superior by virtue of a significant majority of the Sinhalese belonging to that caste, while the JVP leadership and cadre belonged to two of the so-called ”Depressed” castes.
The primary challenge in trying to build a new political entity in a country such as Sri Lanka whose fundamental political culture has been changed by the J. R. Jayewardene-led United National Party beginning in the latter part of the 1970s, is the financial demands of such a venture. Beginning with their first insurrection in the 1970s, the JVP sought to meet this need by holding up banks and individuals. Simply put, it didn’t work and, given the fact that the Sri Lankan political establishment, irrespective of its political hue, has armed forces equivalent to the Russian army at its command is less than a pipe-dream!
I would suggest that one route to raise the funds that are required to establish any kind of new political organization could come from the kind of electronic fund-raising that has emerged in the United States of America ever since the urgency of dumping Donald Trump and all he stands for became apparent.
Sri Lankans have the reputation of being technologically savvy beyond the norm of so-called developing countries. The fact that mobile phone usage, with all the attendant gizmos that go with that means of communication, is well above the average, even for the more economically-advanced countries, could be the, until now, hidden clue as to where this can begin. “Texting” is no longer exotic and, particularly with younger people, has become a major part of the routine of their daily lives.
That fact needs to be exploited and an initial group of “believers”, no matter how small, needs to get the ball rolling. The numbers of recruits could grow exponentially if enough effort is put in by those first engaged in the task.
While the preceding description might seem simple enough, the over-riding reality of the Sri Lankan political culture must not be lost sight of: the moment that any such dissident movement, no matter how peaceful and democratic, is showing signs of success the forces of repression will mobilize themselves. And make no mistake, those forces cut across all the phony political divisions trotted out for those who’d like to believe that some sort of multi-party democracy prevails in Sri Lanka.
If the forces for change can expand rapidly enough, the very nature of that growth is going to make it difficult to contain by the hegemonists backed by a very, very large armed force to which it will feed privileges that prevent it from making common cause with the suggested agents of change.
As I stated earlier, the need for swift change is of the essence and, even if the initiative does not succeed to the extent possible or ideal, it cannot but, at least, alleviate what awaits us in the way of governing forces without any real concern for the wellbeing of those it controls. We might, at worst get some crumbs from their table!