On the current situation in Sri Lanka


by Dr Vicramabahu Karunarathna

The PA (Peoples Alliance) government is struggling under two pressures. On the one hand the pressure of the IMF to carry out the structural reforms promised. It has declared to reduce consumption through higher taxes and limiting wage increases. A drastic drop in the real incomes means lower living standard for the majority of the populaces. However this cannot be achieved except through a massive confrontation with the Trade Unions. On the other hand the pressure of peace makers for a negotiated to carry the burden of the war. Not only the massive expenditure but also the difficulty of improving man power, have be come unbearable LTTE has shown it could continue to fight.

Chandrika (President of Sri Lanka) has offered to form a national government with Ranil (leader of UNP, conservative party). Discussions have started, with Choksy as the agents of Ranil meeting Chandrika. It is claimed that they discussed the possible constitutional arrangement that could satisfy both leaders and also the common proposal for devolution.

But the agreement at the top will be opposed at the lower levels in both parties. Social democratic and national minority leaders have seen this as a conspiracy to outwit them. Already there were protests within the PA. LSSP, CP and minority leaders have condemn this as an attempt to undermine the democracy.

At the same time, the Karu faction of the UNP has mobilized a strong force within the party to appose such a coalition at the top. They believe if Chandrika starts talks with the LTTE, that the UNP under the leadership of Karu will be able to built massive force against the Chandrika regime. For such a National Movement they say that the support of the JVP and the Shinhala Urumaya (Sinhala chauvinists) too could be mobilized. In fact the JVP has already taken first step to organize such a national movement by starting a discussion with Maduluwe Sobita and some isolated individuals and groups.

This means S. B. Dissanayake`s dream of a national government will be very unlikely. Ranil has no power to over rule the racists within the party and accept a share of power from Chandrika. Today racism has become an upper class setup with military elites becoming a part of it. The Sinhala Urumaya with Champika Ranawaka`s version of Jathika Chithanaya is only a facade for this capitalist national social organization. It is clear, with the failure of parliamentary capitalist parties such as the PA and the UNP, to control the social and national unrest, the ruling classes will look for an authoritarian way out.

If such an authoritarian force gather momentum then it will generate a counter movement within the working masses. Already workers agitation is developing in several fronts. Railway workers are agitating against the suspension of 131 workers who were involved in a sudden protest. It has got support from many other sections as these trade unions see this as a threat to the right to protest. On the other hand CMU had a one day token action against the unbending employers this again was supported by all private sector unions who see that increasingly employers have become harder. Unrest continues in the estate sector with sporadic struggles breaking out against individual managers. Tamil people are in general pushed towards
the LTTE.

At the political level substantial section of the PA has shown resentment against the intolerant and authoritarian tendency that is developing within and outside of the PA. PA stalwarts have warned against any attempt to seek authoritarian situations to the present problem. There is a move to bring together all social democratic forces both inside and outside of PA, in a common agitational front often now we hear that the time has come to forget all differences within the left and to come together to fight for democracy. Establishment of an integrated democracy has become the agenda of the left. Democracy that includes national freedom for all.

From their actions it can be seen that the JVP doesn`t see any authoritarian threat that could come form outside the government. As far as they are concerned PA is the worst that can happen to Sri Lanka. Worst is that the PA is for further devolution. Devolution has become the worst reactionary concept within JVP thinking. In a way they could help any movement that may challenge to overthrow the PA government. It is true that there are those within the JVP who look beyond the official thinking of the party. Already several have come out of the party opposing the official line of the JVP on the National problem. One classic example is the Bata workers leader, who was an elected JVP member of a Town Council, resigned from his post and came out of the party.

Several other relatively unknown leaders of the JVP have come out on the same issue. This shows that the JVP is not a monolith as some people like to believe. It is a fairly large mass party with a following within the working masses.

We have to wait and see how the lines are drawn when the crisis comes.
July/August is crucial. Parliamentary noconfidence motions are only the fig leaves that cover the real conflict. The real conflict has gone beyond the division that we see in the parliamentary sector. We should expect funny combinations and strange bed fellows in the coming period.

Dr Vicramabahu Karunarathna
Nawa Sama Samaya Party