By S. Sivathasan –
Bearding the Lion
Mysterious are the ways in which political strategies have moved in Sri Lanka. The opposition determined to do its duty by the people labored for long to unseat the incumbent President, perched seemingly secure in power. Weeks of effort and a day’s decisiveness have directed the country towards a new course of hope and promise. The Opposition which had evolved into a national collective of purpose weighed its strengths and weaknesses. Then it ventured for the best possible terrain and entered the very den of the lion. The collective went for one among the cherished, made it break ranks, and returned with the prize catch.
Following on successful conception are the more arduous tasks of gestation and delivery. Marked for avoidance are the risks of abortion or still birth. All the above are for six weeks. After delivery, care is needed to ward off the danger of infanticide. When showered with triumph, the mightiest challenge is to pull out the entrenched and to destroy the pernicious root and branch. The meticulously nurtured dynasty in waiting, has to go the way of the Bourbons of France and the Romanovs of Russia.
For success in this gigantic venture what assets can the new regime count on? The opposition collective in its bid for unity and a common candidate, got bundled together like the Fasces of ancient Rome. Remaining so for as long as the people expect is mandatory. The collective had neither a winner nor a looser. There was no occasion for acrimony and the ending was sweet.
The common candidate picked up by the opposition from the Ruling side is unique in the nation’s parliamentary history. It will send a wholesome message country wide that to the Opposition, people’s interests are paramount. A senior Minister from an adversarial government is deemed by the Opposition as its candidate of choice! Sentiments expressed by political leaders through public pronouncements of working together and appearing on common platforms are real commitments.
The collective has leaders of stature. There is a remarkable balance in composition on account of their varied experience. Their background commands respect. Chandrika who was Prime Minister and later President is now an elder stateswoman. Ranil having presided over the affairs of several key Ministries, had a record of achievement as Prime Minister. The tenure was distinguished by economic recovery and the advances the nation made. He had hit the grade to be the Presidential candidate in 2005. A repeat but as Executive Prime Minister will be the opportunity to show his mettle.
Sarath Fonseka was a fearless challenger and a combative candidate against the incumbent President in 2009. Tamils of the North and East against whom he fought placed their faith in him and not in President Rajapaksa. He may become the defender of the new regime. Another leader of consequence and with long years of experience Ratnasiri Wikramanayake, has swelled the ranks of the opposition. He too had been Prime Minister. R Sampanthan with over half a century in politics has the experience to resolve the national question in collaboration with the new regime. As the authentic Tamil voice of the North East, he provides an ethnic balance to the new regime. There are very many more from a vast geographical spread, who will promote the fortunes of the common presidential candidate, Maithripala Sirisena.
Each one of the aforementioned, good and great in one’s own sphere is sure to leave an imprint on the electors. The image of this team is sure to take the shine off the incumbent regime. The lustre is bound to gather around the Opposition candidate, since a galaxy surrounds him. A little hyperbolical but none the less true.
From today, a spectre hangs over the country. It is the threat of extra parliamentary violence descending on the reformist initiatives of a united opposition. In such a context emphasis shifts from personalities at the election to concerns about neutralizing violence by the state through its police or para military apparatus. In the last century there were several occasions in Europe when a General Strike by the organized working class saved governance from militarist or fascist rule.
In 1989 When Warsaw Pact East European countries transitioned from dictatorship to democracy, there was a most peaceful one. It was a Two Hour General Strike in November. Workers, students and citizens engaged in a well-disciplined, non-violent and peaceful demonstration of solidarity as seen in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
A left oriented political formation such as the JVP can be the rescuer in Sri Lanka. The national collective should remain strongly welded to forestall dictatorship and to secure democratic structures. As important is to be wedded to peaceful demonstrations deriving strength from numbers.