By Kumar David –
The people have damned all Lanka’s gutless, visionless, hopeless political parties and surged out. The spontaneous gush is cross-class, multi-ethic and omni-faith. (Of course, individuals may belong to this party or that). The government is corrupt, dysfunctional and tottering; Sajith and the SJB have flopped; the JVP is busy sleeping, the TNA with excruciating precision chose this moment to bum Gota and alienate itself from the mood on the streets. As always in such circumstances mass response unfolded with textbook exactness; spontaneous protests will not stop. Let me enumerate the likely responses of the regime. In ascending order of likelihood there are four tactics it will try – variations within each and a mix of options is what will actually unfold. For clarity let me put down the options separately.
* Gota will resign now or offer to step down at the end of his term without contesting again, conceding that his chances are hopeless. This is most unlikely; which Paksa will ever abdicate!
* Between now and the next election-cycle, processes will start in parties and parliament to abolish the executive presidency and give Lanka have start afresh after 2024-25. A referendum can be held if pundits and courts deem it necessary. The people will endorse it by a landslide.
* Sell Mother Lanka into harlotry and kow-tow to the Chinese, Indians, US, IMF, Saudis and the devil incarnate to attract funds, give economic concessions and improve the regime’s electoral prospects. This also gives Mr Ten-Percent an opportunity for additional foraging! But with the internal system collapsing will external promises remain cashable?
* Spontaneous mass anger together with agents-provocateurs and incitement will be used by the regime to launch a palace coup, cabinet reshuffle or some such stratagem. Emergency, extended curfew and social media and Internet cuts are an admission that the regime has gone belly-up and indicative of dastardly moves to come. A combination of options three and four is a tested strategy in other countries.
Defeating the subterfuges of the Rajapaksa Brotherhood is the principal task facing the country. First a little bit of history. In July 1917 (the July Days) the working class of Petrograd swarmed out on the streets ready to seize power, but this was premature for two reasons: (a) The peasantry, the great majority of the people was not ready to overthrow the Provisional Government (Kerensky Regime), and (b) the army had not disintegrated at the Front nor was the Petrograd Garrison ready as yet to place itself at the service of the Petrograd Soviet led by the Bolsheviks and Chaired by Trotsky.
The genius of Lenin was that he did not hesitate for one moment to throw in the Party and place it at the head of this spontaneous pre-revolutionary mass movement. By bold intervention the Bolsheviks took control of the direction of events. By no means am I suggesting that Lanka is in a pre-revolutionary whorl, not at all. The task facing us is to restore and affirm democracy, but the quintessential task of leadership is similar. The JVP if it ever were to wake up, could attempt to throw itself into leadership of the spontaneous protests, take control, expel agents-provocateurs, coordinate with other groups and see Lanka through to the reassertion of democracy. The next election is a footnote. But it has taken the opposite view and sees in the protest movement a black-hand, a conspiracy. Here is a quote from Colombo Telegraph of 3 April (Rajan Philips) “The JVP cautioned against protest campaigns that cannot be traced back to a recognisable and accountable organiser or group.” While acknowledging “the people’s right to organise their own protests against the worsening economic crisis,” it warned of “dangers lurking in a protest movement that has no accountability”.
Remember, in reverse chronological order, the defeats of Aung San Suu Ki, the Arab Spring and Salvador Allende and their leadership shortcomings. Remember Mandela, Uncle Ho, Gandhi and their indispensable leadership roles. The obstacle the JVP-NPP is encountering is that it has blown its credibility by taking a long and peaceful siesta. Repeated warnings fell on deaf years, don’t I know! I see increasing social media traffic infuriated with both the NPP and SJB for “wearing nice suits and firing blank-shots in parliament” without lifting a finger to coordinate the people’s movement. It won’t be easy for either to win back credibility, if ever they can. Things are moving fast and opens up the option of a SLPP-SJB led Liberal & Democratic Transitional Government, mere Cabinet reshuffles, a wider national government etc, but only till the next election. Perhaps L&DTG will assuage – that is pacify – the public for a while and buy time to complete the next election cycle. The much better option of course is full and proper constitutional dissolution of parliament at once, fresh elections and a repeal of the executive presidency. And after that? Your guess is better than mine!