By Kumar David –
Imagine this scenario. A house is on fire, people of the neighbourhood rush to throw buckets of water, others carry water from nearby, still others help rescue trapped children. Then a brainless coot shouts at a helper: “You are a lousy lawyer, you lose cases: Get Out don’t douse the fire!” and screams at woman guiding children out: “You’re a horrible woman: You stole eggs from the house next door: I don’t want you to rescue children; let them burn, go away!” Is it not possible this dumbo is an agent of the arsonist bent on stoking the flames?
There is an attempt by the Executive to erode democratic rights, enhance authoritarianism and push towards militarism. Concerned citizens, political parties, civil society and others realise that an effort by everyone is needed if the push back is to be effective. Then low and behold a self-appointed, or maybe a Sajith appointed dumbo booms out: “What a dumb idea to let you help: Get out, we – presumably dumbo and Sajith – don’t want you!” The “you” in the outburst may be Ranil now, next it will be Tamils and the Muslims and third maybe the JVP and or whoever does not fit dumbo’s fancy. There is a golden rule in united actions against a common enemy: “March separately, strike together”. This means, sure, different organisations if they so prefer can retain their separate identities, but in the face of common danger everyone acts together. In the heat of battle the emphasis is not on your mother’s dowry, the elections some fool lost, or on 1971 or 1989. It is not on the murder of Richard de Zoysa by someone’s father. The emphasis at the height of battle, till the dictator is halted, is on unified action to defeat a common enemy.
I have used my column in the print and electronic media to plead over and over again that Lankan democracy needs a common front of all communities, parties, all religious orders that will participate, trade unions, civil society and anyone else who is willing to join, to oppose a) the rising tide of authoritarianism, b) increasing militarisation, c) dangerous legislation such as the 20-th Amendment, d) Presidential Commissions designed to witch-hunt political opponents and e) downgrading of Muslims and Tamils. Everyone who is prepared to strike against this threat is a need pair of hands. Anyone who weakens an alliance is a saboteur and agent of Nandasena (with or without Sajith’s connivance). Or maybe a plain fool. Let whomsoever it fits, don the cap.
Does this mean we do not educate our own cadres and associates on the foibles of those we associate with? Not at all. The biggest mistake that the LSSP made when it was in coalition with Mrs B was not to fully explain to its own cadre the compromises that coalition politics entailed. It failed to explain that we were compromising on Sinhala Only, it failed to explain that the Principal Place of Buddhism was mumbo-jumbo that we would let Mrs B ramble on about but we would remain quiet just to preserve the coalition. The only point the party explained to its cadre was that since socialism was not on the cards in the short-term we would cooperate with a “progressive” capitalist party for certain short-term forward steps. You can disagree about that tactic, in the end it proved wrong, but at least this so-called tactic was spelled out. So similarly in the effort to push back Nandasena though we cooperate with anyone with a like motive we must explain to our close associates the limitations of our erstwhile allies. But we must not wreck the unified effort by being dumb sectarians. I thought grown up people had learnt all this long ago.