2 December, 2020

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Mobilise Now To Defend Our Demands

By TU Senan

TU Senan

TU Senan

The attempted coup following Sri Lanka’s presidential election by ousted incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa, was spoiled when his long-time allies switched their loyalty. Many of those who went over to the opposition had supported the murderous war against the Tamil minority in the past. In the aftermath they either watched in silence or gave vociferous support to Mahinda in his attempt to bury the truth about what happened during the war. Likewise his accumulation of dictatorial powers. What stuck in their craw was not so much Mahinda’s bloody record against Tamils and Sinhala workers and poor, but the concentration of power in the hands of his family. The benefits of Chinese investment and economic gain have not been shared out among the political elite and the capitalists; instead swallowed up by one family and their cronies.

It is not, however, a surprise that the new Maithri government is in a way protecting the Mahinda family from any war crimes accusations. We could throw number of questions at Maithri and Co. Why are you still hiding the details of the attempted coup? Why didn’t you reveal the details of the whereabouts of ex-defence minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa and other members of Mahinda’s family? Why did you allow former minister of economic development Basil Rajapaksa to leave the country without investigating how much money he had already transferred to the US?

In the election the masses got rid of the self-named ‘devil they know’. But they have now ended up with an uncertain situation. As per the election results Mahinda still has a 200,000+ vote lead on Maithri if we discount the North and East vote. However it’s no secret that he used all sorts of dirty tricks to pull the voters. Even the commonwealth office (of which he was head) noted that an “inadequate electoral and legal framework coupled with an unequal pre-electoral environment means that this electoral contest did not comply with all the key benchmarks for democratic elections”.

A Sri Lankan Tamil woman holds a portrait of a missing relativeHowever the election defeat is not a complete defeat for chauvinism and the monstrous face of Sinhala nationalism. We should be aware that even a small section of Mahinda’s supporters could mobilise to disrupt any attempted progress away from dictatorial rule. Whether his family or his supporters make a comeback in the next general election or not is linked to how the whole situation and all aspects of society develop. This question is also linked to the potential for Maithri’s 100-day programme to be realised and maintained. A serious re thinking of social organisation is necessary.

From pay rises to protection of state education, on the list of promises in the 100-day programme there are some proposals that if delivered would improve the conditions of the working and poor masses. But there must be vigilance to push for their realisation – We should ask the question of how this can be done on the basis of the current profit motive system. The defence budget can be reduced enormously. The more than 200,000-strong military can be reduced. But these efforts alone will not provide enough resources to maintain the better conditions for all the working and poor people in Sri Lanka. A programme and strategy relentlessly in favour of the masses is demanded to insure these measures meet the expectations they’re arousing. Taking the commanding heights of the economy into the hands of the state and running them democratically and a drive towards implementing a democratic planned economy is one way of delivering a great deal of ‘betterness’ to the masses.

However this will be resisted vehemently by the capitalists and by the institutions of imperialism. The IMF in the past rejected requests for further loans on the grounds that the government had not reduced the budget deficit and it wanted more ‘reforms’ to be implemented. In the IMF terminology ‘reforms’ mean cuts in public spending and a push on privatisation, deregulation, etc. Prior to the election, the mouthpiece of the capitalists, the FT, produced an editorial that argued in favour of Mahinda saying that it would be “foolish to switch horses now” and justified it with the following argument:

“Country at Sri Lanka stage of development can tolerate an authoritarian leader and a bit of crony capitalism so long as it is growing. After all, Park Chung-hee, the architect of South Korea’s ‘miracle on the Han river’, was an autocrat. So in his way, was singapore’s Lee Kuan yew.”

In summary what they argue is that they are prepared to tolerate a genocide and the suffering of the working and poor in Sri Lanka as long as it ‘grows economically’ and they have a piece of this growth.

Does the current government have any intention of colliding with the capitalists to deliver on our behalf? Everything they are doing is proving otherwise. Its proposed populist measures should not be a temporary gestures to buy vote for general election and should not be allowed to evaporate. Without a mass movement developing we cannot put a check on the capitalist taking away everything that is won.

Complying with the demands of the capitalists and meeting the masses’ needs are diametrically opposed to each other. This is why some such as the FT above argued that a ‘stronger state’ is needed to achieve growth. By strong they mean ‘ruthless’ in terms of implementing policies that will have disastrous consequences for the masses. And of course there is another important question – how can the national aspirations of Tamils be addressed?

If only Mahinda had taken the ‘western turn’ he would have been protected by the west as they did during the war. The western states continue to use the ‘human rights’ threat against many countries to advance their interests and to secure resources, rather than out of any real concern for human rights. Even when they are forced by mass movements in their home countries to act in the face of horror, they always try to find the way out of it – it is ‘unnecessary expenditure’ for them, a drag in the profit equation. If Maithri shares Ranil’s vision regarding the west then he will almost certainly get the western blessings. Western governments will almost certainly limit their ‘war crime concerns’ to the persecution of the Mahinda family and delivering small ‘aid’ to the victims.

But the Tamils in Sri Lanka and in the Diaspora are demanding justice – a full justice. Mere compensation or a staged crime investigation will not suffice. Most of them link these demands to the lasting solution for all their problems. What is expressed through their demand for a separate nation is the demand for a dignified life – a feeling that they could find common ground with the majority Sri Lankans of all ethnicity. That means improved conditions and all democratic rights including language rights of course been allowed. Having gone through decades of suppression the Tamil masses want to have more of a say in how they are governed. These key factors also manifest as part of their national aspiration. Without directly addressing these questions, how can there be a lasting peace? The new president’s ‘address to the nation’ completely ignored this aspect. It seems Maithri would prioritise the support of the JHU over the Tamils’ aspirations.

Whether Maithri actually implements his promised programme cannot be left to fate to decide. Trade unions and other workers’ organisations and students must begin their mobilisations now in support of these demands and the democratic nationalisation of the economy. There should be a countrywide discussion about how the masses’ conditions can be improved and maintained. Tamils should mobilise now to put forward their demands and reject the right-wing TNA leaders who are more than happy to sit it out until the general election to weigh their opportunities to be in government ‘positions’ after three months.

Act now rather than regret later.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    0

    TU Senan –

    RE: Mobilise Now To Defend Our Demands

    “The attempted coup following Sri Lanka’s presidential election by ousted incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa, was spoiled when his long-time allies switched their loyalty. Many of those who went over to the opposition had supported the murderous war against the Tamil minority in the past.”

    Why?

    Are the reasons still present?

    Does your demands include excluding Muslims and Sinhala from the Another Province? Eastern Province? Treating Muslims and Sinhala as secondhand citizens or sub-citizens in the Northern and Eastern provinces, as the Sinhala Administrations have done in the South and in the Land of Native Veddah Aethho for the non-Sinhala Buddhists?

    So, ask the same rights as the Sinhala Buddhists enjoy as equal citizens, in the Land of Native Veddah Aethho.

    That means Democratic Governance, Rule of Law, Accountability and Citizens rights.

    This should be the demand of All the Citizens.

  • 1
    2

    If there is continued demand for a solution based on Thimpu Principle 1985 which resulted in the 13 amendment (An Indian design)

    THEN at this point there is NO option other than joining Northern and Eastern Province + part of Ampara district to the Batticola district
    andd call it the NE region.

    Whilst the remaining country should be joing in forming the South-West Region. (SW -region)

    This is the BEST solution that Sinhala people can expect. There is NO point in dividing South West region into many provinces if the logic of joining the Northern and Eastern province is the presence of a large Tamil majority in this region.

    Same logic should be applied to South Western Region as there is large Sinhala majority in this region.

  • 2
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    Senan:

    Ranil may not be the perfect person as you or even Prabhakaran may have envisaged but he, and only he opened up the maximum space for the Tamils. Instead of moving towards something good for the Tamils, the likes of you destroyed and literally annihilated the future of the Tamils. It took Sampanthan and his team to patiently rebuild the lives of those affected Tamils who had to pay a heinous price for the madness of one person. If you as much care, and I mean really care for the Tamils in SL, particularly the North, instead writing all these “stories”, gather your “group” and go to the North to work, help and invest there. Don’t talk about restrictions imposed by the SL regime as shouldn’t and doesn’t seem to be an impediment to you, quite unlike the odds faced by the people and the elected reps there. What the Tamils have lost is huge, much like generations. The calls by those like Ananthi and some in the diaspora not to vote for either presidential candidate could have meant only that Rajapakse would have won again. Either this shows utter stupidity or are in cohort with the Rajapakses, just like what Prabhakaran did and for which the people paid a heavy price.

  • 0
    2

    Senan is calling for the mass mobilisation of the Tamils in order to put forward their demands. He is also calling for the rejection of the right-wing TNA leaders (rightly though) who he says ‘are more than happy to sit it out until the general election to weigh their opportunities to be in government ‘positions’ after three months’.

    But he has not suggested as to who will be able to mobilise the Tamils or how this mass mobilisation could take place. That is the biggest problem.

    Tamils have never in the past mobilised spontaneously. There is no history of mass mobilisation or uprising of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. The Sathiyagraha campaign of the sixties organised by the Federal Party was not a mass movement, because it fizzled out the moment the FP leaders were taken into custody and sent to Panagoda. Poor youths who gathered in front of the Kachcheries in the North East and who were left behind ran for their lives once the troops and policemen descended on them with sticks and rifle butts. Even the revolt of the Tamil youths including that of the LTTE cannot be called a mass movement by any yardstick. That was a revolt sustained by armed violence and intimidation of the Tamil population.

    The Jaffna leadership which had been ruling over the whole Tamil population in the North East since independence and immediately before that had consistently been right-wing whether led by Ramanathans, Ponnambalams, Chelvanayagams, Amirthalingams, Prabaharans or Sampanthans. Until now Tamil leadership had been dominated by lawyers and advocates throughout the post independence era and the only exception was Prabaharan. Even after the demise of Sampanthan it will be Sumanthiran, a leading Colombo based lawyer, who will be the de-facto leader of the Tamils. Sumanthiran is already known to be in the pockets of the Americans and the West and the darling of the right wing UNP. Waiting in the wings as an alternate leader from a rival group is another lawyer from the Ponnambalam family.

    The stark reality in Sri Lanka today is that Tamils are in no position to demand anything from any Sri Lankan government which will be invariably dominated by Sinhala extremist politicians. They must dissolve their Tamil party organisations and merge into national parties. It will be better if they get into left-leaning parties like JVP (which in the long run will gain ascendency in Sri Lankan politics), and work from within for the upliftment of their community.

  • 0
    1

    Isnt this the same man who said Maithree should be boycotted? Now he is asking Maithree to do things :)

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