By Kumar David –
Sajith and the SJB (S/S) made a correct judgement call. The proposition they put to the test was: ‘The unpopularity of the government has peaked; it is the right moment to start mobilisation’. The outcome was a success. The turnout on Galle Face Green (Brown?) was large despite efforts by the police to block attendance; the crowd was angry and mirrored the mood in the country at large; and rumours are afloat that Mahinda is sending feelers about a coalition between a Mahinda-Faction of the SLPP with some S/S-Faction. This last surely must be a fib. I cannot imagine S/S blundering at this time when the regime is in the pits and people have turned against the government wholesale. The logical S/S strategy would be to exploit this rage to the full, not to blunt it. Perhaps the rumour reflects memories of the 1964 ULF May Day leading to formation of a Coalition Government later that year. Let’s leave speculation aside – “what will be will be” – and focus on current trends.
The JVP missed the boat by not initiating a united front of trade unions and failing to launch a campaign for an anti-militarisation, anti-Gota “Save Democracy”, All-Party opposition united front. The price of sectarianism may turn out to be high. The JVP does not have as large an electoral base as S/S, which is the modern-day UNP, so it could not have pre-empted or replicated the S/S rally. Still, what is vital now is All-Opposition, multi-ethnic, multi-class, coordination. Complacency that the regime will not attempt military moves or not instigate anti-Muslim and anti-Catholic pogroms would be a mistake. The road ahead is long with twists and turns. What has to be done is to prepare to meet foreseeable and now unforeseeable eventualities.
“There are five musical notes yet their union creates melodies never heard. There are five primary colours that blended produce hues not seen. There are five cardinal tastes whose mix yields flavours not savoured in the past.” Sun Tzu in The Art of War, discussing tactical coordination among allies.
Here are seven basic notes, colours, tastes, or whatever you like to call them that a united-in-action opposition can blend together in the face of a collapsing pack of cards driven by rising prices and falling living standards.
* Defeat attempts at further militarisation and authoritarianism.
* Defend judicial independence and legal processes from added political interference.
* Ensure that the proposed constitution and pending elections conform to democratic norms.
* Halt ongoing persecution of Muslims and deception of Catholics re Easter bombings.
* Reverse Gotabaya’s daft fertiliser-faeces-fiasco.
* Terminate the conspiracy to sell-out the electricity supply industry in the guise of an LNG contract.
* Control Colombo Port City before the Rajapaksas make it another Hambantota-like disaster.
I am aware of issues on which the whole opposition can or will make common cause. The three most significant are: (a) A way out on the National Question and Territorial Devolution, (b) Left or Right orientation in economic policy, and (c) Wholesale repeal of the PTA. Furthermore, in the unlikely event S/S coddles up to Mahinda, standing askance and wagging a finger will gain no mileage. Only those who have made the effort to achieve opposition unity can, in this event, call out, “Treachery” with credibility. The Left must not miss the boat again. Anura Kumara has apologised on behalf of the JVP for the fanatical violence of 1988-89; that’s good. Now the JVP must take the next step of sharpening its strategic skills to win in the domain of democratic politics. The seven bullet points enumerated above are designed around democratic, not socialist, ideas. The Common Programme should be designed to be all-inclusive, not confined to socialites alone. True, the JVP’s long-term commitment is to a socialism (some readers may not like this, but that’s a different matter). Alliances, revolutions and genuine democracy in the JVP copybook are stepping stones towards substantive socialism.
I am of the view that the Single-Issue Common-Candidate strategy that I pioneered in 2013-14 and was adapted and used in January 2015 was correct beyond doubt. It achieved its objective of averting a Mahinda third-term dictatorship seven years ago. As it turned out the Common-Candidate was a coot, Pissu Sira. A price had to be paid for a big achievement. The JVP acted firmly and correctly in participating in that campaign; its conduct was free of sectarianism and ideologically exemplary. Likewise, if defeat of the Double-Paksa virus leads to a S/S government, well it is (sigh!) likely to be as ineffective as yahapalana (“they are the same old people”, to quote Gota for once). The Left knows all that, but first it must stall the virus before it becomes a pandemic.