By Dayan Jayatilleka –
July 9th 2022 is the day the final siege of the Gotabaya governance garrison begins. It may end on that day or it may not, but end it will and it can end only one way: with his departure. What we do not know is the timeline, but it is not going to be anything remotely approximating what he dreams it can be, namely the ending of his full term.
With a whole society straining every nerve to liberate itself from Gotabaya rule, July 9th 2022 may bring him down also if, against all evidence, we are very lucky as a nation and/or he generates a sufficient measure of shame, sanity and self-preservation.
Yet even if those factors do not cluster in a manner that Gota rule is ended by the end of July 9th, one thing is more certain than any other. July 9th will be the beginning of the end of his rule. On the morning of July 10th there is no likelihood that he will have even the small space he currently does for governing and functioning in office.
That proposition remains true even if he were to induct the military into the power equation. No one, no combination, can really govern without popular consent and no popular consent will be available for any equation that retains Gotabaya Rajapaksa and contains any member of the Rajapaksa clan.
Whatever the outcome by the end of July 9th, even if Gotabaya is still standing or rather, skulking, that day will mark the beginning of the last phase of the struggle against his rule. July 9th may not be the final battle but even if it is not, it will be the first battle of the last stage of the political war. There will be no more intermediate stages or phases, no halfway houses or way-stations, between July 9th and the ouster of the irrational autocrat.
The battle of July 9th must begin the final offensive that moves swiftly and uninterruptedly to the final victory of dislodging of the dysfunctional quasi-dictatorship which has ruined and is still further ruining the country and reducing its people to destitution.
In short, July 9th may or may not be the final battle but it will be the beginning battle of the final offensive. The objective on July 9th should be the overthrow of the autocratic ruler, and if every nerve is strained for that purpose, the effort would be able to secure a victorious advance and achievement even if Gotabaya hasn’t been ousted by the next dawn. July 9th must shift the balance of forces decisively and irreversibly against the regime and in favour of the democratic revolution.
There are three streams in the struggle.
One is the original, non-party Aragalaya and Civic Movement.
The other is the Left parties, the JVP-NPP and the FSP, with their affiliates and auxiliaries.
The third is the parliamentary Opposition, the SJB, SLFP and 10 party Independents, the TNA – which are now, finally, belatedly converging—and the JVP which is at the interface of the parliamentary and the extra-parliamentary.
What can each of these do to ensure victory on July 9th or at least the maximum possible advance that brings the horizon of victory closer?
Firstly, occupy and retain the moral high ground. That alone guarantees victory. The principle of non-violence must be observed as a rule, but if there are situational exceptions, retaliatory counterforce must be strictly proportionate (unlike May 9th night), and must at all costs avoid innocents –uninvolved civilians– and any form of property.
Secondly, be aware that the crucial variable is the military. Be non-aggressive in addressing the Armed Forces; appeal to them, not go head-to-head. Great care should be taken in discourse, to pivot their loyalty in the direction of the sovereign people; to win them over or at least neutralize them.
Thirdly, do not keep July 9th contained in the southern two-thirds of the island. There should be a Hartal and an ocean of Black flags in the North and East. If one wishes to dismantle Sinhala chauvinism, it must be recognized that a foundation stone of that chauvinism was the allegation that during the struggle against British colonialism it was the Sinhala-majority areas that waged wars of resistance. That narrative must not be renewed someday, concerning the on-going democratic revolution against the autocrat. Even the struggle against militarism has no better, more legitimate target that the ex-military officer who has wrecked the country.
Fourthly, the Opposition party leaders must sign a joint appeal in support of the struggle and there should be a common video with clips from all the leaders. Though it is most welcome that there has been some conversation and convergence on the side of the Opposition, there must be qualitatively far greater coordination and cohesion when entering the titanic battle of July 9th.
The absence of a Left Front is an affront! If the JVP-NPP and FSP do not want to sign anything with the main parliamentary Opposition parties, then they should at least sign a joint appeal with each other.
As someone who belongs to the ‘baby boomer’ generation, supporting the Movement propelled by the millennial generation, I can do no better than to express my solidarity and fraternal wishes in the famous slogan of one of the great revolutionary leaders – Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Tito, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Amilcar Cabral — my generation was privileged to watch as they strode the world stage like Titans. Che Guevara, perhaps the greatest individual personality of them all, regularly signed-off with his phrase “Hasta La Victoria Siempre!” which in English translation, was:
“Ever Onward to Victory!”