By Kumar David –
The spat between SLPP MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe (WR) and President Rajapaksa (not related I believe) has gone what people nowadays call viral. From a national perspective the stinging attack that WR launched on the Port City Bill is in the national interest. He is getting the much public attention; it would be better if a united front of the opposition led the campaign. It is true that there is a great deal of criticism of WR’s past when he was a minister in both Green and Blue governments. See for example Janakie Mediwake’s stinging rebuke in the last para of Colombo Telegraph 16 April (“Wijeyadasa-Nandasena Spat Goes Viral”) and Comments by readers of CT about his conduct as Minister of Justice. So here’s the conundrum: A chap of dubious trustworthiness is rendering useful service on an important matter; how should we the public respond even if the worst being said about him is true?
Here’s my two cents worth: This is not the time to confuse the public by bickering among those committed to the larger task of defeating this Bill, nor is it the time to disrupt fledgling unity between leftists and non-leftists who wish to work together to push back the dictatorial and militaristic plans of this deeply unpopular government. I hope WR will also join the fight against the egregious legislative proposal to end trials of Paksa family members indicted for corruption and political and military cronies accused of murder and abduction, but even if he throws his weight only against the Port City Bill while demurring on the move to whitewash criminals, it’s better than nothing.
At the same time it is not at all necessary to mislead ourselves about erstwhile allies when collaborating towards a common objective. An experience that I can never forget is how left party leaders mislead (that’s not too strong a word) their cadres about the coalition with Mrs B. The LSSP did nothing to educate its cadre and key members (I was secretary of the university ‘Local’ at the time) and deliberately argued against and mislead the core about the nature of the game-plan. The cadres were intelligent enough (by then brighter than the aging “golden brains”) in grasping the coalition strategy. There should have been discourse within the party about how far Mrs B would go, about backward as well as useful features of Colvin’s short-lived constitution and above all the whole Party should have thoroughly debated its hazardous compromise on the national question for reasons A, B or C.
That’s how Lenin dealt with the Brest-Litovsk concessions of vast tracts of Russian land to the Germans to prevent a rout in the war and how he quite frankly accepted a capitalist road in farming in the New Economic Policy to sooth a peasant revolt. Educating the party increased its inner strength; hiding the truth would have weakened it. In 1966 when the left capitulated to the racist masala-vaddai line its cadres were distraught and speechless in front of the Tamil people. Even egg-heads Hector and Doric, the cream of the parties greying matter (pun intended), ended up with egg on their faces (pun intended again), victims of the lies they themselves had so assiduously told the party.
If today’s story was only about Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe it would not be worth the 750 miserly words that I am permitted on Wednesdays. The likelihood however is that as the Double-Paksa government’s reputation plunges and as public disdain swells more frogs will dessert the sinking ship. Anyone who turn’s against the PC Bill, or authoritarianism and militarisation in general, should be welcome to join a common platform. The more forces won over the quicker will be victory. At the same time, among ourselves, we must not forget the truth about our erstwhile allies but in the interim Wijeyadasa and all who see the light should be welcome to the common struggle!
TMR Rasseedinn, Secretary of the Ceylon Federation of labour has condemned the bill as an attack on the working class; Jayampathy Wickremeratne has clarified in CT that the Bill needs a two-thirds majority in parliament and approval at a referendum; Dayantha Mendis argues in Monday’s (19) Island that, technically, the draft is lousy. The Rajapaksas however are incredibly obdurate so it remains to be seen what calamity will eventually befall Sri Lanka.