By Kumar David –
It has been widely reported that by a slim majority (31-27; my absentia vote makes 26 into 27 ) the ULF, led by Lal Wijenayake (Lal), Jayampathy Wickremaratne (Jumpy) and Vijaya Kumar (VK), changed its stand on the presidential election. At a 23 October Central Committee meeting it adopted a new line sponsored by Jumpy. The previous two-point strategy which I still endorse (Nurture a democratic-left alternative: Vote “First preference for Anura, second for Sajith”) was changed to a “Support Sajith” formula. The blunder weakens the long-term strategy of building an alliance against the two big lavatory-parties. I also owe an apology to Colombo Telegraph readers who I assured two weeks ago that such a flip-flop would not happen.
Both factions (pro Sajith led by Jumpy; pro NPP/JVP led by Lal) have blown open the lid with interviews, statements and press conferences and the putrefaction has festered in the open. Foolishly neither side is willing to compromise and the defeated Lal-faction seems reluctant to face up to the fact that it lost the CC vote. A patch-up after 16/11 depends on the outcome of that election. If Sajith wins influential positions may be offered to the pro-Sajith faction which they are likely to accept, that would be end of reunification. If Gota wins both ULF factions, the JVP, and many other social movements will be forced into a defensive huddle to protect themselves and to defend democratic society in general.
The resolution adopted on 23/10 said: “In view of the danger to democracy from Gota, canvass and vote for Sajith. Supports of the previous left-unity concept (aficionados of the National People’s Power) can continue to work with NPP, but must use their second preference for Sajith”. (Text abbreviated by me).
Withdrawal from NPP was not envisaged. This made a compromise possible, but was blown apart when the winners (Jumpy faction), de facto removed Lal from the post of party Secretary. In momentary anger, when the outcome of the CC vote was declared, Lal blurted out “Then I don’t want to be Secretary”. The other side took this as a pronouncement carved in stone and rushed to anoint Keerthi Kariyawasam (a nice chap) as replacement, notwithstanding Lal’s dissent. Lal refutes any suggestion that he resigned as he did not submit a resignation letter nor did he make a formal pronouncement. I think the Commissioner of Elections will hold with Lal. Though it makes no difference in this presidential election it will be a matter of interest in future parliamentary, provincial and local government elections.
Political difference has been compounded by tussles over the Secretary position and organisational power struggles. This is another insane split of a small left party into two even tinnier splinters; a chronic mental defect of the Sri Lankan left. Which splinter of the ULF will make gains after 16 November? That depends on how many votes Anura polls. If it exceeds 8 lakhs the left faction will forge ahead. If it falls to 5 lakhs, then those advocating a relationship with the UNP will consolidate till next year’s general election, at which point they may, de facto like the NSSP, merge into UNP in some guise.
I need to explain why the ‘ULF-effect’ outweighs its size; the splitting away of the pro-UNP faction will not make any difference. The JVP is much larger, better organised and popular, but the ULF brings to the NPP qualities that outweigh its smaller size. The leadership of the ULF is educated not only in the conventional college-going sense but also in matters that left parties much value; political ideology, knowledge of international affairs, economics, modern socialism, classical Marxism and science & technology. It can contribute in these ways to the People’s Power alliance.
The other way in which ULF makes a useful input is its long experience in a different political home. The provenance from which the ULF descends are the traditions of the LSSP and CP – there are some with a CP background in NPP. This you might call the LSSP-CP vintage and flavour. The JVP comes from a different provenance and many of the other organisations making up the 28 or so in NPP are of liberal-democratic or JVP-like heritage. The different left-culture that the ULF brings into the NPP movement is valuable for cross-fertilisation.