By Dayan Jayatilleka –
Coups are not always against Opposition parties; quite often they are against governing parties. The Myanmar coup was not against the Opposition; it was against the Aung San Suu Kyi who was the figurehead leader, and the party she leads.
The political parties, by definition civilian and democratic, and civic organizations, across the spectrum must initiate a dialogue and move towards a common forum for the defense of democracy against the encroachments of militarization. It must be a forum for the single, overriding purpose, which can take the form of a Pact, of commitment to the rules of norms of civilian electoral democracy.
I propose a ‘Democracy First’ Forum which should consist of all sectors that would be affected by military control. This ranges from parties and trade unions, to women’s movements, artists and all manner of civic organizations. All those who would be affected by the closure of civic space should come together; be brought together. As in the case of the ECT issue, and earlier the Neville Fernando Private Medical College issue, the traditional Government vs Opposition, and pro-Government vs. pro-Opposition divides need not be rigidly observed or take priority.
At greatest risk are the Left and minority parties. Of the two the Left is most vulnerable. Already plans have been announced for a new Constitution and a new electoral system. The electoral system will doubtless restore the high cut-off point. The Special Presidential Commission will be used as it was by JR Jayewardene and political opponents knocked out. The Opposition will be sought to be crippled as in 1982, in time for a referendum on a new Constitution. The imposition of the Essential Services Act shows what will happen to trade union struggles in the future.
One of the positive spin-offs of the ECT issue was that KD Lal Kantha and the JVP trade unions were reactivated. Other positive spin-offs were that the JVP and FLSP shared a platform. Furthermore, a common patriotic space was carved out on economic issues, bringing together Leftists and Southern nationalists, in which the presence of the Left was a safeguard against racism.
The very discourse of the regime especially in its response to Bachelet’s detailed charge of militarization reveals an ideology and a drive which will inevitably lead to repression. Bachelet’s Report pretty much sounds a loud alarm on such an outcome.
The regime’s policy practices all round show what its economic model is and who its domestic corporate allies are. A showdown with the trade unions, especially the left-led ones, is inevitable. Two, three, many Weliweriyas (and Welikadas) are on the way.
KD Lal Kantha is a rational, realist, radical and a potentially unifying figure for the Left, or at least a coordinating figure between all left tendencies—most significantly the JVP and FLSP. This potential must be acted upon swiftly; it must crystallize.
Lal Kantha has also been the best exponent of a left-populist discourse which is a crucial driver in the struggle for democracy and against dictatorship.
The unity of the left tendencies is absolutely critical because the Left in any country, represents the element that is most thoroughly inoculated against racism, ethnoreligious supremacism and xenophobia. This is evident in the rational radicalism of the well-informed Pubudu Jayagoda of the FLSP, even in the course of the ECT campaign.
What is needed is a Democratic Popular Bloc of parties, mass organizations of the working people and students, and civic organizations.
The lesson of history, including current history, is clear. If a common platform and stand are not arrived at in time to halt and resist militarization, that common platform or unification of democratic forces will take place behind bars, after military rule is imposed.