By Kumar David –
Disunited opposition squawks like a headless chicken- Get serious about halting the juggernaut
Even the fractious Syrian opposition has finally got its act together. At a recent meeting in Dohar military leaders of ground forces and mostly exiled political leaders (Syrian National Council) formed a unified assembly which was promptly recognised by the Arab League and will probably get arms and a no-fly zone enforced by Turkey and the West. Things could still fall apart, but a huge first step has been taken.
Over here however, a testy opposition, facing the Rajapakse juggernaut and looming disaster, squabbles, implodes and scurries about like a headless chicken. Why so determined to hang separately instead of cooperating to save their necks and salvage Lanka’s democratic crumbs? This tragicomedy has been in play for too long; it is timely and necessary to probe its origins. If we bare its historical and psychological roots, it may address the concerns of actors and encourage cooperation.
My political nose sniffs; it says the fortunes of the Rajapakse regime turned sharply down in the last quarter of 2012. A blend of events adds a more than usual stench to the air. At home, setback in the EP-PC elections, SEC firing, JSC assault, CJ witch-hunt, CP’s dissent, partial Divineguma retreat, swelling challenge to the Executive Presidency, and the unpopularity of the Budget, have all come together.
Abroad too, the screws are tightening;Genevain March 2013 may beckon the Ides of March. Information trickling in from many sources suggests that official attitudes inIndia,USA,NorwayandSouth Africaare hardening towards the Lankan regime. On the foreign economic side, trade deficit and debt servicing are menacing. The last quarter of 2012 will go down as the point when the fortunes of the regime began their descent. For the opposition all this should beckon good times . . . but . . .
Harakiri UNP style
Harakiri, better known as Seppuku in Japan, is a form of ritual suicide by disembowelment. Wow, the monster sized moth in the ointment of the UNP, the largest opposition party, is evisceration by internal warfare. Its inability to function effectively in the political scene is 99% due to internal disarray and 1% Ranil’s ineffectiveness. I am not a Ranil fan, not by a long chalk, am anti-UNP, but I say this unabashedly. There is nothing effective a party can do if its leader has to keep looking back at an armoury of daggers ready to stab, and listen to gaggles of lieutenants callow in confronting the regime. True, Ranil has lost a score of elections (did he loose in 2005 or did Prabaharan lock away the Tamils?); he does not have a clue how to suck-up to the petty bourgeoisie; and worst, he has vacillated on policy matters and allowed perception to spread of sly deals with Mahinda. Otherwise how explain torpidity at this most opportune of moments when the regime is making a cock-up of everything? Or maybe he is just anodyne and lacks the killer instinct of the Pakses.
An outsider, it’s not my business how the UNP resolves the pandemonium in its bowels. But I must assert that lunacy inside is an impediment to cooperation outside. Take a recent example; the UNP dodged General Fonseka’s 15 October rally to launch a front to halt the Pakse juggernaut only because of the fracas in its innards. Ranil, Karu, Sajith and a score of lesser factotums give priority to hobbling each other, rather than politics. Hence the UNP failed to negotiate a format for joint action. Can’t these cack-handed bunglers declare a moratorium on backstabbing for a year till all party cooperation is worked out? In this respect I was glad to see an announcement that the JVP and UNP will cooperate in the public and private sector trade union arenas. This is an initiative for other unions too to engage with. One swallow does not a summer make, but it’s a good start.
What discomfits the UNP most is that despite Ranil’s shortcomings there is nobody to step forward as credible alternative – Karu is untrustworthy, Sajith trivial. A half credible challenger, given Ranil’s record of electoral defeats, would have taken the helm long ago. This is the primary reason why the UNP is better off declaring an internal truce for a few years.
The JVP and FSP
Mano Ganesan’s and General Fonseka’s outfits, thank heavens, are free of otiose sectarianism and are open to joint initiatives. The cultism of the Trotskyite sects is risible; why Bahu and Siritunga have separate parties is beyond logic or rational comprehension; let’s forget them. Of greater concern is the ignorance of united front activity that pervades the larger JVP and the FSP (JVP breakaway also known as Peratugami). A history lies behind the ideological muddle that pervades the JVP and its offspring. From its birth in the late 1960s, to the mid-1990s, the JVP kept aloof from everyone on the left. It believed it was endowed with a revolutionary imprimatur which would be soiled by association; so no fronts, no parley, no joint programmes. This dystopia was injurious in the trade union field and the JVP’s dread of other rising stars on the left was so appalling that it went so far as to murder Vijeya Kumaratunga.
After the slaughter following the stupid 1989-91 uprising, it finally penetrated JVP skulls that adventurism had reached a dead end. Then it turned a series of sometimes principled, and sometimes unprincipled alliances, all of which came to grief; Chandrika, Mahinda and Fonseka. Though JVP Ministers earned good names for efficiency and incorruptibility, one defect mired everything. The drop of mould that did all the rest despoil was the JVP’s anti-Tamil (it would prefer to say anti-LTTE, but the emotional underpinnings don’t fool anyone) orientation and its role as propaganda leader in maximising the war effort. In 2005 Mahinda seemed less chauvinist than now, but it was the JVP that arm twisted him into signing an extremist pact as a condition for support at the elections.
At the core of the Peratugami critique was concern with unprincipled alliances. They were deeply disappointed that the alliances had all ended in a blind alley leaving the JVP electorally devastated. The FSP was born of an experience that predisposed it to shun alliances. It is this past that now makes both JVP and FSP wary of alliances. Both fear that the fruits of joint action will fall into the lap of the larger UNP. Partly true, but better than going to the gallows separately.
The political tide is not going to give the lachrymose JVP and FSP time to lick their wounds. They have no option but to put aside cultish fears and work with others (that is with each other, the UNP and the TNA, to mention large units only). The Pakse juggernaut approaches ever nearer so I hope reflecting upon these realities will help UNP, JVP and FSP overcome phobias and paranoias.