By Ameer Ali –
Never before in the history of democracy in Sri Lanka, destiny has placed the common good of the nation on the shoulders of four minor political parties, JVP, TNA, SLMC and ACMC, of which the first is progressive and national in vision and the other three are ethnic in composition and regional or sectarian in outlook. With the two major parties, UNP and SLFP/SLPP that are equally corrupt and opportunistic but locked in a do or die power struggle, while an impulsive President is utterly clueless about conducting his office within the parameters set by the constitution, and while the judiciary is yet to pass its verdict on charges and counter charges filed by the two main contenders, the country’s economy is tottering to remain steady and facing a dangerous precipice. The ultimate victims of this power struggle are the people left in a quandary as to who is governing over them and whom to approach for assistance for their economic ills. The fact that they have not come to the streets like in France is a testimony for their forbearance.
Whether there is going to be a general election sooner or later or whether the President is arbitrarily going to nominate an interim government until the time is legally right for dissolution of parliament, the issue facing the nation is the future of democracy under the current Republican Constitution. The minority communities and their leaders should realise that an alliance between an ethno-nationalistic majoritarian government and a president elected with the same mindset will be detrimental for the good of their communities, and in the long run, the nation. Therefore their choice is not between UNP and SLFP/SLPP, both of which speak with forked tongue and pass different messages to different constituencies, but between these two and a third but one that is progressive with a solid base in the majority community. It is only such an alternative that will have the guts to carry the same message through every part of the country.
The common good of the nation lies in the rule of a grand coalition between the majority and minority communities cemented by an agenda that treats every citizen a Sri Lankan irrespective of that citizen’s religious and ethnic belonging. That coalition needs to re-write the JR constitution or seriously amend it to prevent the recurrence of more Sirisenas in future hijacking it and paving the way for a dictatorship. So far JVP has shown its readiness for such an alliance with the minorities and willingness to do away with the executive presidency. With moneyed interests in the country backing one or the other of the two major parties, this coalition may not win a majority of seats to form a government on its own. However, it will have sufficient number of seats to influence the policies and direction of whichever party that wants to form a government.
It was disappointing to note that TNA, in its last meeting with President Sirisena, engaging in a cheap bargain for not supporting a possible impeachment motion against him in return for the quick release of Tamil prisoners and lands held by the army. Without denying the legitimacy of the prisoner and land issues however, it should be stressed that those issues will find easy solution under a progressive coalition with a common agenda for the common good of the nation and not for a particular community.
There is no hiding the fact that SLMC and ACMC are parties driven not by any grand principles or policies but by personal and regional differences and aspirations. Given the current turmoil in the country this is a luxury that they can ill afford. Gone are the days when Muslim leaders could engage in opportunistic politics to win favours from ruling parties. It is time these parties join hands with progressive forces within the majority community and work for the common good.
Let a JVP-TNA-SLMC-ACMC coalition add real substance to the hitherto vacuous call for UNITY IN DIVERSITY.