21 June, 2024


Livelihood: Liberalism Vs. Left

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

The Livelihood versus Liberalism not a Left versus Right dispute. Leftists and radical mind folk are often not religious, support public enterprises, and are less conventional in social attitudes, behaviour and caste and class matters. The other side of the spectrum, those likely to have conservative views, often religious, opponents of abortion rights and supporter of low taxation and what is known as free-market or pro private enterprise economics. Exceptions are numerous and render the classification almost useless when addressing livelihood issues of the poor. Paul Caspersz SJ, a Jesuit worked tirelessly for upliftment of plantation workers, enjoyed his tot (at least with me) and led delegations to Jaffna to expose murders of Tamil radical-youth (often not LTTE) by the military and the police. One must look at the content of issues than at labels.

What brings this into current context is whether a more liberal, free-market and private enterprise oriented economic outlook, or a more guided economic strategy should replace the now thoroughly discredited GR-MR-BR non-policy non-package when soon, hopefully, it is discarded on a garbage dump. Actually in our current context the better dichotomy is the JR-Premadasa and its brief forerunner Sirima-Felix approach or a prospective JVP-NPP model. The former we have familiarity and experience with, the latter could be an extrapolation from experience Vietnam and Mongolia but a far-ranging interview with JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake by Susitha Fernando is a better guide because it goes well beyond the NPP programme published on 20 December 2021.

Let me quote AKD’s remarks about economic plan. All quotes throughout are edited for length by me:

“In the midterm we will restructure investment. About 35 percent of the recent investments were on roads and highways, but we need to focus on investments that ensure dollar earning. True, traditional crops can generate income in the world market but we must enter the global software market; I am sure we can win USD 15 billion in that market. We will prepare a long-term economic plan taking account of our geographical setting, human and other resources and world politics. We can’t do it overnight, but we will do it within five to six years”. AKD’s confidence, determination to lead, his flexibility in re private and global capital is new while Sajith and his SJB are dumb and the Double-Paksa government is floundering on the floor.

“With regard to change of government our first option is elections. But when corrupt and disastrous regimes are toppled by people getting on to the streets that is also democracy. That is not our plan but we are ready if people do it. The reality is that people are fed up with injustice and queuing up for everything. Corrupt, dictatorial regimes have been toppled by elections or by people on the streets. We understand the sensitivity, needs and movements of the masses”.

But I think AKD is too complacent when he says “There is no room for a military regime in Sri Lanka. Though a few high ranking and privileged section of the military are with the government, the majority in the middle and lower ranks are not with this disastrous regime. They do not want to be a part of ruinous governance. So I don’t think that even if the Rajapaksas have such intentions, they can’t do it.” This is simply not true, the world over history shows that armies are trained like sheep to obey their commanders. It is rarely that a military mutinies.

What really took me aback was AKD’s revision of the JVP’s historical position on the war and injustice done to Tamils and a political solution: “The Provincial Council system is in the Constitutional system; it is a failed system but if people believe that it is their right PCs have to exist”.

“We accept religious freedom and language and cultural equality; there are no second-class citizens. If (minorities) want to be a part of our government they will be equal stakeholders in governance. Tamils and Muslims have been deceived (by governments and their own parties). We will respect every religion and culture and guarantee the right to communicate in their own language. In administration we accept them as equals; they should be allowed to go forward in development of their own areas and be stakeholders in power. We ourselves don’t believe in a federal system, but will guarantee minorities equal political rights and rights to hold power. Without that a federal system is meaningless”.

The next two comments went much further than I expected: “During the war we should have thought more seriously about the difficulties faced by the ordinary Tamil civilians. As a left political movement we failed in our responsibilities; we have to self-analysis our failures”. And when asked whether he willing to work with the TNA he replied “Our doors are open we are ready to work with the political parties that represent the North and East”. This is a new JVP or an unusually bold and confident leader. I hope both.

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Latest comments

  • 6

    We have gone past all that …….. people have nothing but sand to eat ……. and the Rajapakses have sold even the sand to the Chinese.

    I’m beginning to admire the Rajapakses …………… they have talent!

    • 2

      Fully agree.
      If ever we have “Sri Lanka Has Talent” contest, like many countries, R Bros Inc., would win hands down!
      I fully agree with you, that ‘talent’ is inherent in them.
      the direction that talent is used, is inwards directed!
      Self-Serving attitude, to the detriment of the public at large!!
      Great family effort!!!
      Medamulana, Mulkirigala, then to Hambantota, to Uva and now to North Western province.
      Oops; Forgot Western Province.

  • 1

    This article becomes a continuation of the discussion begun here:
    Thanks for confirming that by “apologising” as AKD has done for “shortcomings” in responding to the needs of the people in the North during the Eelam War against the Tigers, the NPP has taken a bold step forward. I had already sensed that, and mentioned it in making a response there.
    I’ve spent quite some “Socratic Time” in the streets and supermarkets of Maharagama questioning strangers relating to “Rajapaksa-developments” in Maharagama, in keeping with Tisaranees request which I hadn’t yet seen.

    • 0

      This interview is also of great significance:
      It is an hour and eleven minutes; Sunil Handunnetti interviewed by the horrible Sepal Amarasinghe (141K subscribers, many more appear to follow him).
      The interview is long because Handunnetti is being extra careful, and Sepal keeps his play acting under control, knowing that he’s confronted by a superior intelligence. Those who have the time must listen to it. There’s no shouting in it.
      When requested for an interview, Handunnetti had to grant it; if not he’d be accused of dodging it. However, I’ve warned enough about Sepal’s calculated efforts to get votes spoiled by writing “NOTA”.
      Also, please explore the trilingual website of the NPP.

      • 1

        “True, traditional crops can generate income in the world market but we must enter the global software market; I am sure we can win USD 15 billion in that market. We will prepare a long-term economic plan taking account of our geographical setting” says AKD. Perhaps, but who will slave away in these plantations? AKD himself may not be aware of it, but , long before tea, when the Portuguese and Dutch set up commercial plantations, they too used imported labour from- wait for it- South India. These people are now good Sinhala Buddhists and would look down their noses at plantation life. So the NPP would have to enforce a complete ban on Middle East employment and a ban on tuk driving to get the required labour force. We are in for interesting times if the NPP gets into power!
        However, the JVP’s guarantee of absolute equality to all religions and ethnicities is a bold move. But will that encourage the brainwashed majority to vote for it?

  • 2

    It is useless any longer crying over spilled milk over the last seven decades. We have to tackle the present Government and its pretentious boastings of a “Saubagye Dekma” – the Path to Splendor”. It is no secret that for the last two years in office, with an “All-Mighty” king, “Crowned” in terms of “20A” to the Constitution together with a near “2/3rd” majority and very recently “Decorated” by his own “Buddagama Co. Ltd” as “Sri Lankadeeshwara Padmavibushana”, the county’s “Must Preserve” and all-important “CREDIBILITY” has been “Desecrated” to a “Decompression Chamber”. This is the present situation in summary.

    Now the all-important task of the country and the people is to find ways and means to get out of this “Decompression Chamber”. (1) This Government MUST GO. Sooner the Better. (2) A Take Over Team has to be established. (3) The FIRST task of that “Team” is to “RESTORE” the lost “CREDIBILITY”(4) To do the task at (3) a WELL DESIGNED, attractive, workable, and achievable “ECONOMIC PLAN” embracing political, economic and social spheres must be firmly planted even within the meaning of the Constitution (if possible) so that no one will go above or below it.

    The task to “RESTORE LOST CREDIBILITY” is the “KEY” to solve many problems of the present.

    • 0

      “It is useless any longer crying over spilled milk..”
      True, crying over it is no good.
      Thinking about it?
      If we do not seriously think about the past, we may not be left with anything worth crying about.

      • 2

        I listened to the interview given by Anura Kumara that is mentioned in this article. I am highly impressed by the experiential knowledge,wisdom and foresight displayed by Anura(I see the same in other leaders like Handunetti, Lal Kantha slso). They read the situation correctly and have the organisational skill to develop a strategy to take the country forward.They gather ideas from Sri Lankans and those in the Diaspora. They engage in regular exchanges with the media and the people. I hope in the new year more and more people will take note of what these leaders have to say about the future strategy!

  • 1

    “During the war we should have thought more seriously about the difficulties faced by the ordinary Tamil civilians…”
    In 2005, they thought so much that they joined hands with the JHU to torpedo the PTOMS programme that CBK came up with for tsunami relief in the N&E.
    The JVP still does not accept Tamils, Muslims and Hill Country Tamils as nationalities. Without a clear cut stand on that matter, one will never arrive at a fair solution to the national question.
    What the people need is not the powerless PCs. (Btw, the JVP joined hands again with the JHU in 2005 to split the N&E Council.) What is needed is serious devolution of power.
    Will the JVP declare in public its new positions and reject its earlier positions?
    I fear that the author is reluctant to see the flaws of the JVP.
    An estate agent or a secondhand car salesman may have done a more convincing job..

    • 0

      There were 58 comments on the first article by Kumar. We discussed because we had something to discuss.
      In this article what was said there has been confirmed. After two days only seven comments (two of them by me – this becomes the third). We are happy with what we see, I’m sure. I’m adding this only because we see nothing new. You just refuse to accept. Can you tell us what sort of statements will suffice? What’s the point of talking about the past, when mistakes have been acknowledged.
      oc has a point when he says that we must now start working. That certainly is a problem; young people not being willing to do any manual work. Well, let’s get started!

      • 1

        Anura Kumara’s interview with Sudaththa was a wide ranging one. To correctly understand his and his party’s views,one has to grasp the contents of his full interview. if we take only selected parts and put our interpretation on them, we lose the context and intent. I am currently translating his full interview from Sinhala to English. will send the translation to CT soon.

  • 1

    (Part I)
    Reference NPP and AKD statement,
    1. “In administration we accept them as equals; they should be allowed to go forward in development of their own areas and be stakeholders in power.”
    a. In administration, if you accept all communities as equals, why not politically?
    b. What is the reason thereof?
    c. Does this result in subservience to the major community (Religion/Race)?
    d. Yes. This could be perceived as such
    2. “We ourselves don’t believe in a federal system, but will guarantee minorities equal political rights and rights to hold power.”
    a. If you do not believe in Federal/Neo federal systems, how would you ensure or guarantee minorities equal political rights and reasonable rights to hold power with equanimity?
    b. This could end up the same way as the fate of article 29(b) of the Soulbury constitution of Sri Lanka, which was incorporated at independence to safeguard the minority rights and interests?
    c. Together with that the Privy Council Appellate court vanished from the constitution, enabling the removal of article 29(b) a “done deal”. Is it not true?
    d. The current system of Jurisprudence enabled thus, is tarnished with bias and nepotism.

  • 1

    (Part II)
    e. It does not appear independent judging by the verdicts handed down since 2000? Examples, P Toms issue , Help Hambantota Fund and North East Council
    f. After some “passing of years” regretting and apologising for handing down such verdicts only after the bad effects of those judgements cause torment to the public?
    g. This sordid events has enabled verdicts by Judiciary and some CJ’s discussed and criticised by virtually every citizen?
    h. UNHRC has termed the SL Judiciary as not independent, with judges appointed by politicians and not impartial body and serve at the governments’ ‘whims & fancies’!
    3. Without that a federal system is meaningless
    a. I fully agree and that is the dilemma the country is experiencing, NOW.
    b. First and foremost elections to PC’s or federal units, should be non-dependant on the ‘whims and Fancies’ of the Central government and Parliament.
    c. The Central government, which is majority controlled like now as they have over 70% representation.
    d. The Federal or Neo Federal unit becomes dysfunctional at the “Whims and Fancies”, of the majority community by implication
    e. That leads to manipulation!

  • 1

    (Part III)
    f. The peripheral units must be trusted to abide by their oath of office and devolved wider powers
    g. There are other ways and means to control attempts at secession.
    h. Not throw the Baby with the Bathwater!!
    i. Also to raise financial resources for their development, including loans and grants, which should not be, the sole purview/prerogative of the central government.
    j. One need not make the peripheral unit to be inefficient/incapable because of the inefficiency/ineffectiveness of the Central government and/or Vice Versa!
    k. Local taxation as Land Tax and mining rights and related taxes

  • 0

    I am not surprised at all by the statement attributed to AKD: “We ourselves don’t believe in a federal system, but will guarantee minorities equal political rights and rights to hold power.”

    Except for Roahana Wijeweera, no other leaders of the JVP had accepted federalism as a solution to the ethnic conflict. This is because though wearing red shirts and carrying sickle and hammer flags, ideologically

    JVP is a communal and racist party marauding as a Marxist-Leninist party. The Tamil people lost whatever little respect after the JVP went to the Supreme Court to annul the temporary merger of Northeast, The annulment was made by ex-chief justice Sarath N Silva who confessed that his judgment was based on Sinhalese history and not on legal grounds.

    The JVP is against devolution at the provincial level and only decentralization at the district level. Marists-Leninists from the very beginning had advocated federalism as a solution to the oppressed people. Lenin wrote as follows:

    The right of nations to self-determination implies exclusively the right to independence in the political sense, the right to free political separation from the oppressor nation. Specifically, this demand for political democracy implies complete freedom to agitate for secession and for a referendum on secession by the seceding nation.

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