20 September, 2021

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Towards Regime Change

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

The Covid-19 pandemic, which shows no sign of retreating yet, is threatening to unleash instead its fourth wave with the highly contagious Delta strain. People who would normally adhere to advice from health experts to avoid close personal contacts and large gatherings, are turning a blind eye to the orders of military men who advise the same, and are engaging openly in protest rallies and marches against the government, although the official media hides the facts. Unlike in previous years, the current mass awakening appears to be largely spontaneous, although political parties in opposition are keen to take advantage of the situation. However, as far as the masses are concerned there is an underlying theme in their loud chorus, and that is, a clear voice of no confidence on the ruling regime. The regime has failed them and failed miserably. If there is not going to be a U-turn in some of its policies such as the clamp down on imports of some  necessities and intermediate goods, an irrational stubbornness to avoid IMF for urgent financial assistance, and tolerance of corruption, food shortages would lead to famine and starvation. The masses who are out on the streets may not understand the complexity surrounding the management of national economy, but they clearly have a sound grasp of the reasons afflicting the misery of their household economy, which they witness first hand and understand better than Central Bankers and pundits who advise the regime and produce statistics. It is this understanding that has driven them out on streets and telling the rulers that ‘enough is enough, change or quit’.

If the electors are saying that what on earth are the elected doing in the parliament? Of the 213 representatives who participated in and the 9 absentees from the Gammanpila vote of no/confidence saga, the vast majority were simply trying to prolong their stay, because it is not certain whether they would return to their seats if a general election were to be held. That much is clear from the manoeuvrings behind the scene. One may see the repetition of that performance after the debate on the Kotelawala National Defense University (KNDU) Bill, which is vehemently opposed by the university communities and academia.

However, the response to the agony of common people is not for X and Y to come out and shout that they are ready to take over and begging voters to give them a chance, but to explain to the masses in a language they understand how would they bring about improvements.  Unlike in times of plenty when efficiency and economy matter little, in an era of chronic scarcities and conflicting pressures those criteria become pivotal. A systematic strategy with a package of coordinated policies is an absolute minimum to repair the damage done by this regime. The idea of economic planning, which lost is credibility and voice in the economic cacophony of a neoliberal era, now needs revisiting. For God’s sake don’t assume that I am craving for a return of Marxism, Communism or Leftism. I am only appealing to consider pragmatism and parsimony in economic policy making. The country cannot afford to have policies on the run. 

The immediate concerns of the masses are, ruinous cost of living that is spiraling out of control, falling income and indebtedness, rising unemployment, failing health, mental stress and breakdown of families. These are bread and butter issues. Infrastructure development, “alternative way” to growth and vistas of prosperity and splendour are high sounding and empty promises beyond the reach of ordinary people. Has the opposition got an alternative or a deliverable package of solutions to these basic issues? So far, except for NPP/JVP allies to some extent, whose level of mass support is still wobbling around the 5-10%, none of the three major contenders for power, UNP, SLFP and SJB, not to mention the parties of the two minorities, seem to have any workable program or manifesto. There is a glaring bankruptcy of original thinking and plan within the major opposition parties. There is no pointing in changing the regime unless the alternative has a meaningful program of action.    

It is time for civil society groups from all three communities to come together and dialogue with the opposition and draw up such a manifesto and become foot soldiers in canvassing support from the masses. The challenge facing a regime change is going to be formidable and may even be bloody under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has divulged his intention to run for a second term. His de facto military rule with the planned KNDU is no doubt, preparations for that race. Having learnt from history how elections are conducted in Sri Lanka and how various reactionary forces work overtime to manipulate the mindset of Sinhalese voters, it would be optimistic to predict that the proposed broad coalition, which includes JVP/NPP, will have an easy ride. However, if such a coalition could manage to garner the balancing votes the two minorities could tip the balance in its favour. 

There is a particular message to the two minorities in this context. Ever since the British introduced the system of communal representation in the 19th century, an idea has been ingrained in the public mind that only a leader from a particular community should and could lead that community and no cross-community leadership was therefore entertained, unless when exceptional circumstances such as the absolute minority position of a community within a particular electorate demands that choice. This was how communalism allowed to be nurtured and over seven decades of that communal plague, peace and prosperity of the country are in ruins. The time has arrived to break this mold and the two minorities, including Up-country Tamils, must realise that they can live with honour and dignity while enjoying their citizenship rights and cultural identity only under a coalition of secular leadership that keeps ethnicity and religion away from political calculations and economic management.  When leftists in the last century went with that promise the two minorities jointly rejected them. It is hoped that a new coalition to be stitched before the next election would promise such an alternative. If that happens, the coalition deserves a chance to prove its mettle. The so-called 13th amendment, North-East merger and cry for help from India and international communities are not going to bring lasting solutions to minority grievances. Such solutions have to be worked out internally through a mechanism of toleration and compromise by a coalition of rational and peace-loving coalition of political and civilian groups. One would hope that civil society organizations within the two minorities work hard to change their voters’ behaviour at the next polls. 

*Dr. Ameer Ali, School of Business & Governance, Murdoch University, Western Australia

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Latest comments

  • 5
    3

    Ameer Ali,
    The article has many loose ends. I’ll touch just on:
    ‘The so-called 13th amendment, North-East merger and cry for help from India and international communities are not going to bring lasting solutions’.
    .
    Just because there is not going to be any lasting solution, running down the worth of 13th amendment and North-East merger does not signal intellectual acuity.

    • 12
      6

      Ali is a typical muslim hypocrite.
      They love using that ‘internal matter’ line to undermine the rights of tamils in the NE.
      But when they are on the receiving end of sinhala state violence, they go running to the same foreign powers begging for help.
      These hypocrites also get endless amounts of external money from arab nations to spread islam in sri lanka.
      On top of that whenever any issues arise between muslims and ‘infidels’ in another part of the world, they will protest immediately. A classic example is when israel launches a military offensive on palestine, you see all these lankan muslims making a huge noise against it.
      All that talk of ‘internal matter’ goes out the window when it suits them.

    • 2
      3

      Nathan,
      Provincial boundaries introduced by Brits for their administrative purposes should be erased from the map of Sri Lanka. Those who are not willing to live in a Unitary State are free to return to their ancestral Homeland allowing those who have no problem with a Unitary State to live peacefully with Native Sinhalayo.

      • 1
        1

        Dumb Eagle, the western concepts of modern nation state, democracy, constitutional governance and the rule of law are remnants of the British colonisers, they left behind along with boundary limitations of districts and provinces to facilitate orderly administration. Given your proclivity towards fairy tales of Mahavamsa and the dislike you clearly have towards any civil forms of modern governance, nobody here is stopping you from getting on the boat back to your ancestral homeland in Kalinga, that is assuming they would take you back, for they unlike you are not stuck in a time warp, but you can still try your luck!

  • 3
    10

    SL had 12 regime changes so far but nothing improved. 13th regime change will not be any better. SL worsens every year.

    Sinhalese’ right of self determination must be met.
    Muslims’ right of self determination must be met.
    Tamil’ right of self determination must be met.

    Only solution is to create 3 mono ethnic nations in the island equitably and relocated people based on ethnicity. Unless and until it is done SL will get worse by the year. After this short interval another war will commence. That is the fate of SL.

    • 5
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      GATAM I don’t think any Sri Lankan would agree with you. Partition will only lead to more bloodshed (think of British India), and outside intervention.

      • 3
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        Paul
        He has very little to say usefully.
        He will keep repeating these lines as long as people take notice.
        *
        Countries have parted company without acrimony (Czechoslovakia for example). but that does not mean we need to.
        People in Sri Lanka mostly get along well despite mischief makers. that is not to say that there are no issues, but nothing that cannot be resolved by dialogue.
        Sad to see that CT is not being helpful by passively encouraging sectarian hatred.

      • 3
        4

        Look at India today! If it was not divided there’d be major bloodshed in India everyday. What happens in Afghanistan would be happening in India if not partitioned. So it is very much worth it. Only one time trouble.

        There is no need for a violent partition if peaceful partition with some force can be done.

        • 0
          4

          So there is no bloodshed in Kashmir.
          Will burning Dalits alive in their huts count as bloodshed?
          Perhaps not, because they are roasted alive.

          • 3
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            SJ

            “Perhaps not, because they are roasted alive.”

            Perhaps they lack protection. China should distribute Mao’s Red Book to each and one of the vulnerable person.

      • 6
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        Paul

        “Partition will only lead to more bloodshed (think of British India), and outside intervention.”

        We have been doing well even without the partition or before that. It does not mean I am for partition. Alternatively I am for repatriating all Sinhala/Tamil speaking descendants of South Indian kallthonies back to south India.

        That wouldn’t lead to bloodshed.
        SJ can go to peacefully rising middle kingdom China.

        • 5
          2

          Ameer Ali
          You urge all communities to sit around the table and have a discussion to solve their problems.
          But right off the bat you undermine the 13th amendment and showing you dont care about tamil people.

        • 0
          0

          NV, please make sure there is room for EE on the repatriation boat!

          • 2
            1

            Ari

            “NV, please make sure there is room for EE on the repatriation boat!”

            Please make sure you take him with you.
            Thanks.

      • 4
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        Paul,
        Sharing power is not partition. India is a United Nation. USA is a united country. UK is a united Country. Why cannot Sri Lanka?

        • 2
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          Because EE and his fellow travellers don’t like it! They are unable to conceptualise power sharing due to their constrained intellectual capacities!

      • 4
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        Paul

        SJ would love if China integrated this island as its next Municipality (Sri Lanka) or Autonomous Region of China.

  • 4
    3

    This sudden announcement by President Gota that he intends to run for a second term means that he has something up his sleeve. He is no longer the darling of the Buddhist Clergy. Then, Military?

    There is confusion in the country with the Covid-19 and all types of restrictions, a struggle to make ends meet for most people.
    Perhaps, that is the Recipe for a second term . Could Civil society, Opposition,Minorities Trade Unions etc etc get their act together to stall his intentions?

    • 3
      0

      Plato

      “……….. that he has something up his sleeve.”

      Keeping up with other past and present dictators, becoming president for life is one aim among many other. Gota needs time to prepare/motivate the people to accept him as dictator for life. The 6.9 million wouldn’t mind giving him the mandate with the blessings of Mahanayakas.

  • 3
    0

    Dr Ameer ali,
    We could visualize history repeats again and again, not first as a tragedy and then as a farce, but always a combined tragedy and farce simultaneously..

    History always provides opportunities repeatedly to the citizens to capture the opportunities and take the country forward. but alas, the citizens always choose for short-term way out and bungle.

    The most reason opportunity was in the year 2015,with catastrophic outcome.Could another coalition possible in 2024 with a favorable result?

    Could JVP and SJB coexist under one roof? or leave out JVP and the frontline socialist party and form a United Front with ideologically similar groups with neo-liberal economic policies and of course with Tamils , Muslims and upcountry Tamils and an alliance with the west.

    As in 2015, it will not be able to withstand pressure from Sinhala Buddhist under another Rajapaakse and this zigzag swing will continue and the country becomes bankrupt, inviting foreign powers to meddle.

    Military dictatorship will not be an option due to weak economic base and unfavorable international climate.

    The best option is not to go for the immediate kill, but to allow the crisis to deepen and mature and the country become ungovernable. Then, in the meantime, a secular democratic opposition with realistic economic policies united under an agreed common programme could opt for a regime change

    • 2
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      Problem is that many Sri Lankans-including the so-called educated-have a wrong conception of power. They tend to believe the power is held only by elected politicians. It is true to some extent. But there is another version of power i.e. collective/popular/mass power. By this I mean that when the people get together,in small to medium groups initially- it can give shared power. At the local level in the electorates and districts such collective or community power can give much strength to launch suitable action to achieve small-medium goals depending on what the local issues are? But in many of the writings and comments in CT, I note that the focus is on political class and their power. We tend to criticise,mourn, dissociate with that power but do not take the initiative to identify like minded people who share a similar vision for the country and its future and develop some goals,values and strategies? Can we turn our attention to such a citizen-driven strategy rather than (a) always critisising the political class per se, (2) entering into arguments with each other with no end to acrimony? Time has come in my view to forget about minor differences and come together for a better future- while identifying the strengths each of us have. Power can be realised by each of us if we do not isolate,individualise and alienate from those with concerns.

  • 2
    2

    Ameer Ali
    The Covid-19 pandemic, which shows no sign of retreating yet, is threatening to unleash instead its fourth wave with the highly contagious Delta strain
    —————-
    Why do so many authors on this website keep promoting this hoax?
    Is it due to genuine ignorance? Or is it because they are freemasons and a part of the agenda to deceive?

  • 3
    1

    “There is no point in changing the regime unless the alternative has a meaningful program of action.”

    Dr. Ameer Ali, you hit the nail right on the (expletive deleted) head! Sajith Premadasa will simply turn out to be another Maithripala Sirisena. This country in incapable of producing true leaders!

  • 1
    4

    Dumbos who brought ‘Regime Change’ in 2015 and ruined this country talking about ‘Regime Change’ again. Please get lost!

    • 3
      1

      Eagle Blind Eye

      “Dumbos who brought ‘Regime Change’ in 2015 and ruined this country talking about ‘Regime Change’ again. Please get lost!”

      Who voted for the fascist, his clan and cronies, its the morons like you and 6.9 million dumbos ……… with the blessing of saffron clad fascist priests.

      By the way who voted for racist Bandas?

  • 0
    0

    “Such solutions have to be worked out internally through a mechanism of toleration and compromise by a coalition of rational and peace-loving coalition of political and civilian groups.”
    Intellectually dishonest statement! Writers and politicians have to honest for the people to care about their thinking.While advocating the IMF’s help for replenishing the wealth sucked by Sinhalese & Muslims politicians, he is denying Tamils’ right under international deeds for seeking UNHRC help for their deprived rights. This only can be from a person who vehemently denying the history of the “independent Ceylon” or from a member who handsomely benefited from the past, Muslim-Sinhala Government’s cutthroat racist policies. One of the worst governments formed in Lankawe was Yahapalanaya. Yet, unlike Dr. Amir discounting here, it was brought in by internal and external powers who cared for Ceylon’s wellbeing. That regime change failed mainly by Muslim ministers and MP’s srike aginst it. As a compromise he is advocating, can Dr. Amir tell to the Muslims politicians to let North Kalmunai go as an independent LC? Remember, there is no explanation needed here that why it cannot be done, because it is the start of Muslim Politicians setting example of compromise.

  • 0
    0

    When the servant girl died at home, Rishard ran to hospital and was throwing the medicines given to him through the windows. It is the excess of the swindled wealth that makes people try for that kind of escape routes. If the sandal paste is excess, then spread it on the buttock? Is this the example for the Muslim mass who are refusing to take covid-19 pointing at the religion? Is there a way of compromise for the dead girl’s relatives to get justice or it has to be solved by that samily giving it up? When Rishard was accused of being involved in 4/21, he organized 22 Muslims MPs and ministers and brought the Yahapalanaya government to stand still. OIC released a statement that Yahapalanaya Lankawe would be going into sanctions unless accused Muslim MPs were released. Why could not Dr. Amir come out and advocate compromise from Muslim MPs and Ministers and had saved the Yahapalanaya government, instead of now calling for Regime Change. Is that a hobby for Muslim writers and politicians to call for regime change and topple the government in every season? Why couldn’t the Muslim politicians to save the Yahapalanaya government which they all supported and part of it. Is that preaching only for the parishioners, not for the priest?

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