16 May, 2022

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New Interest In Politics

By Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda

Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda

New Directions in Life

This unprecedented crisis in Sri Lanka’s history has driven many of its citizens to engage in politics. Most of them, who have spent socially reserved apolitical lives until now, are suddenly seen playing an active role in the political life of the country. Perhaps many of them are being compelled to take these new directions for the sake of their children and the younger generations of Sri Lankans. Their engagement in the field of politics is a positive sign and ought to be encouraged.

One of their primary concerns is to find a new leadership which would pull the country out from the present mess and bring it back to normalcy. Currently, there seems to be two main political streams.

A large number have realized that the Rajapaksa family rule has proved to be a disaster and therefore believe that another party which has governed the country at various intervals of recent history has to be brought back to power. The others argue that those traditionally dominant parties have themselves contributed to the creation of the present crisis and therefore none of them can be trusted any longer.

The Emergence of a New Phenomenon

Amidst these conflicting views, the gaining in popularity of the NPP (National People’s Power) is a new phenomenon that is steadily emerging among people. Of course in my view, no one would guarantee that the NPP is a party which has attained a perfect state in its political life.

Yet, even those who dislike the NPP (perhaps for the reason of the JVP’s involvement with it), do not dare to support the dominant traditional parties either, knowing very well the damage done by them during the last 74 years and more particularly in the recent past.

The question then arises if one does not for some reason accept the NPP as an alternative, whom would he or she vote for in the event of an election? Does that mean that the remaining option for them would be to bring back one of those corrupted parties to power or else abstain from voting?

In my view, one strong point in the NPP is its fundamental belief that one person or even a single party for that matter has no magical power to bring about social and political change in the system. It would be achieved only through a common and collective action of people’s power. Therefore, the strategy that the NPP advocates in building up a collective is to bring together various groups of people from different backgrounds such as political activists and parties, professionals, university dons, artists, social activists, religious groups and so on.

Working out such a strategy automatically requires new skills in human relationships: openness without prejudices, attitudes which cultivate the spirit of dialogue, recognition of and respect towards others and a non-judgemental approach in human encounters and so on.

An allegation thrown about at the NPP is that it is merely a cat’s paw of the JVP. Such charges often originate from one’s own prejudices. Undoubtedly, the JVP has to be recognized as a strong member of the NPP collective and is also a major contributor towards building up the NPP. It obviously holds a unique position within the collective on account of the maturity that it has gained over the years through its past political experiences. Nevertheless, the political mistakes it had committed in a particular historical context are neither overlooked nor justified by anyone. Despite the key role played by JVP, the decision making body within the NPP consists of a wider spectrum of its constituencies.

Capturing of Power

There is also another unique feature in the NPP. It is common knowledge that a just and humane society cannot be built when the reign of power is in the hands of a corrupt leadership.

Hence capturing political power is a prerequisite to building a just world. That indeed is a political priority in the agenda of the JVP and is also a focal point in the whole agenda of the NPP collective as well.

Dethroning the ruling regime established by the Rajapaksa family which is actually the cause of the crisis in the country is an urgent need at this hour. Many of those recommended by the party leadership as candidates and later get elected to the parliament to rule the country are mostly uneducated, inefficient and are ignorant even about their role in the parliament. The allegiance to the leader of the party is the main qualification needed for being selected as a candidate by the party leadership. The sole purpose of their entry into politics is to earn quick money and not to up-lift the people.

As a consequence, the lives of the common people, particularly that of the poor, has become an agonising and painful task. If the present regime continues in power, people in their frustration may take to the streets in their thousands to protest against the current rule. Such a situation can become chaotic, and violence can erupt at any moment as a result.

A Wider and Nobler Task

The non JVPers within the NPP on the other hand have an additional task. While sharing with the JVP a common responsibility of dethroning the present regime, they have committed themselves to another mission which is much wider and nobler, namely empowering the people, promoting democracy, ensuring the peoples participation, securing justice and equality and so on. That indeed is a herculean task. It is a mission that has to be carried out with people at the grassroots level.

Although working out such a mission is a difficult task, if people becoming their own subjects is one of the political aims of the NPP, it is essential that the empowerment process is considered as an integral part of its agenda.

Educational Programme

Such an agenda ought to comprise of an educational programme and a mechanism for its implementation. Education does not mean the use of empty words or delivering long speeches at public platforms or using high language or new concepts learned from books or elsewhere. It is neither directing one’s anger or frustrations or animosity towards others. That would not bring any transformation in people or help them to develop their critical consciousness to understand the causes of their social realities around them and to design new political solutions.

An outcome of a genuine educational programme would be freeing people from various religious, social and political myths, which have been imposed by the ruling class to control people’s behaviour. Another outcome would be to make people who have lived socially reserved lives and those for whom living means to follow the dictates of the powerful elites, to start living politically active lives.

One cannot win freedom for another or make another a subject. It is an outcome of a new awareness which motivates people to engage in a common struggle. Therefore, becoming a subject with personal agency, cannot be realized instantly and the empowerment process ought to be an on-going activity.

Dethroning a regime and gaining access to the seat of power by a new group does not mean the final realization of a revolution. The new regime has to undertake a massive challenge of building up an alternative economy and a development process with the participation of all the people. The muddle we are now in is due to a development model imposed on people which is more profit-friendly rather than people-friendly and environment-friendly.

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Latest comments

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    Traditionally dominant parties have themselves contributed to the creation of the present crisis.

    The president is calling to unite at this moment to come out of this situation. The president can take the first stem bring a National Government. Formation now, and it is “national consensus” that can help the country tide over its current challenge When there is unity there is always victory.

  • 5
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    Dear Rev.Farther
    An interesting thought provoking set of arguments. Yes people have been pushed to a point of no return
    And enough is NOT enough
    Yes people want change and do away with the Presidential system of government, which has brought misery after misery to the populous

    Dethroning the current outfit is easier said than done . It is rather impossible to get the incumbents out easily because fat cats wouldn’t want to give up the power they weild over the nation and the perks they enjoy along with their sidekicks
    A NPP option is possible provided the right set of people are at the helm to take the country out of the rut it is in

    National government for SriLaknka would end up like the Yalpanaya outfit., inept, corrupt and selfish lot
    May be with over 100 ministers .
    No government should have more than 20 ministers, fullstop.

  • 3
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    No doubt, JVP/NPP has attracted the attention of the people. But how do the organizers managed to handle and maintain that momentum is still questionable? In my opinion, the “Organizers” have not addressed or completely lost sight of two factors. (1) They have overestimated the crowds that attend their meetings. That crowd of people, for instance, that marched at Nugegoda is not only JVP/NPP but belonged to many others who voted SLPP, SJB, UNP, SLFP, and many other political outfits. Did the speakers have an iota of that reality while addressing such a crowd? Every speaker, including AKD “FAILED” to identify that fact and create a “PSYCHOLOGICAL” turnaround among the people who still are on the “Fence”. They (the speakers) rather than continuing with the same old stories should have given a briefing on the economy and the most urgent solutions needed to be done to solve the day to day problems and “ASK” them to go home and “THINK” at leisure “WHAT” is best and “WHO” can do better. (2) Where are the “NEW” who would take charge of affairs of Governing? Why those people are not presented at these big meetings? Bring more and more of them to the stage and let them FACE the people and make an IMPRESSION in the peoples’ mind that there is a “RESERVOIR” of Talents and Capabilities to manage the Governing functions.

    Hope JVP/NPP would do better.

  • 2
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    Catholics are for the Masses. Also, the mainstream of the other religions. It’s the Christian-alt-right that is most worrying. Together with the alt-Buddhists, the alt-Muslims and the alt-Hindus, all are protecting their monetary interests that the Regime doles out for their religious expansionist projects and to also protect their accumulated assets. Hence, they will do everything in their power to protect the regime over the blood, sweat, and tears of the suffering Masses.

  • 2
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    /b>An excellent article which shows clear and sharp awareness of the issues facing us; and you’ve come to the same conclusion as I have, that we must firmly and consistently back the NPP, while quietly encouraging thinking within the Group so as to bring it even closer to being the political force that we need at this time.
    .
    You have correctly identified the weakness of the NPP as being lack of grassroots organisation. Another that people want to be rid of the “current lot in Parliament” with no idea of where to go after that. That sweeping statement is no good; indicates laziness even to think. 200 out of 225 in Parliament are so bad we can have nothing more to do with them. It is up to us to identify those who must be kept, and work on it to increase their numbers.
    .
    Who knows? There may be a violent revolution. Yes, such upheavals are not solutions. Life, with its mundane requirements must go on. Competent government is the requirement, not spouting ideology. The deaths of thousands owing to malnutrition is inevitable now. How to minimise that and look after the survivors is the task now. Other debates must wait.
    .
    Panini Edirisinhe, “Senior Citizen” of Bandarawela. (NIC 483111444V)

    • 1
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      Dear Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda,
      .
      I know that the power cuts are making it difficult for readers to make comments on this article that deserves discussion from various perspectives.
      .
      These power cuts are another instance of the unfairness of this nepotistic regime:
      .
      https://ceylontoday.lk/news/191-zones-to-get-uninterrupted-power-ceb
      .
      So 191 “zones” have uninterrupted electricity. We ought to be told what all of them are. Instead, only eight are identified. I’m sure that most of Gota’s favourite Ministers and Generals are among those who are not listed here.
      .
      One Country, One Law”?
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela

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