Mahinda’s toadies coddle his grab for power
Treachery what is Left of thy name

Kumar David


The German Communists and Social Democrats have been eviscerated by history for not seeing that the rise of Hitler marked a tectonic shift in the history of Europe, if not the world. They failed to stop it, but they could have by determined, united and timely action in the first years of the 1930s. But my god nobody has ever accused the German Left of positive collaboration in the rise of fascism! When LSSP, CP and DLF parliamentarians support Rajapaksa’s naked grab for power, their sin is more odious than the German Left’s transgression by omission. Theirs is a crime of commission; they join the retinue of the pallbearers of democracy.

At the end of last week it appeared that my worst fears, expressed previously in these columns, may turn out to be unfounded. The LSSP’s Politburo and the DLF’s Central Committee decided not to vote in favour of the 18th Amendment and called upon the CP to join hands and stand firm. To their infamy the three figureheads (DEW, Tissa and Vasu) turned double-agents and resolved to support the executive’s grab for total power. They meekly aligned with Mahinda in defiance of their own party instructions. Portfolios, perks and sinecures matter, stabbing parties and principles in the back is no obstacle. When before long the bayonets of the state begin to spill blood on the streets of Sri Lanka the curses of the people will come down on the heads of collaborators of all hues.


The political impact of 18A

Bourgeois democracy has been relentlessly buffeted ever since independence, the executive presidency is one of the darkest infringements of the sovereignty of the people, but nothing is as black as the future that 18A portends. A Rubicon has been crossed; the democratic system as we have known it for six decades, albeit dented and bruised, is finished. Mark my words and I do not speak lightly, we have passed into an ominous new world whose full import will unfold in time. The way back will be tortuous, perhaps bloody, and demand the direct intervention of the people. Experiences with many crooked elections forewarn us that the ballot-box of the future will be raped and debased. The Left leaders and dozens of party functionaries who enjoy official vehicles, salaries and benefits paid out of state coffers had no qualms about throwing their lot in with the artisans of future fascism.

The impact of 18A is three-fold; lifting presidential term limits, excision of the Constitutional Council and substitution of a lame duck parliamentary committee empowered to make toothless observations, and thirdly the emasculation of the Elections Commission and Commissioner. These have been dissected in articles and forums in recent weeks as the government speeds its soiled underwear through cabinet, courts and parliament, so I can safely omit summarising their individual thrust towards totalitarian power. Instead I will make just one overview observation. Everything is streamed to a single objective; all the provisions of 18A are targeted to bring absolute power into the hands of the executive president. In fact 18A is the prelude; the real game-plan comes afterwards, stage-managing future presidential elections to keep the incumbent and his family at the helm forever. Then like Marcos, Musharraf or Ceausescu, change can come only by the direct intervention of the people; 18A is the precursor to violence and conflict. The regime’s necessary complement on the streets, to this constitutional strategy in the chambers, will be, will have to be, repression; repression naked, brutal and direct. Such is the gravity of September 2010, an inexorable consequence of May 2009.

This calls for a brief aside. You may love or hate the LTTE, no matter, the point I am making in passing and have been making for some years is well summarised by a quote from this column in September 2008 – and I stand by every word of it.

"My most forceful assertion is on constitutional matters: if the LTTE is wiped out let us forget about federalism, deep devolution, autonomy and such pie in the sky. All of this came on the agenda only because of the military balance; remove the military threat and it will disappear from the radar screen. The victorious Sinhala mood, the hard-line character of the regime, the enhanced power of extremists in society and government, and Mr Rajapaksa’s own non-pluralist penchant, will ensure this. Agreed, state controlled or quisling politicians will be appointed or ‘elected’ to Tamil districts and they will be able to bargain for concessions on economic and social issues. This is a sub game not to be confused with the main game of devolution and constitution making. Furthermore, a military triumph will embolden the state to broader and greater repression and abuse of power in the South".

I take no particular delight in rubbing it into my Sinhalese compatriots that, as surely as night follows day, when state power raises itself above society through victory in a racist civil war, its subsequent transformation into an instrument for the repression of its own people is a lesson that history has demonstrated many times. The psychological setting and balances of power fashioned by the overwhelming victory of the state over the LTTE is the backdrop to today’s march to dictatorship. Triumph in ethnic (race, language, religion) war is an opiate that drugs the masses into adulation of the emperor-dictator and deadens the victor community to the worst excess in the exercise of power by the conqueror-hero. In hindsight this is self-evident, but not many saw it ahead, and before the end of the war fewer still dared warn the nation of this peril. Both the UPFA-Left figureheads and self-proclaimed pro-war ‘progressives’ failed this test. They were unable to rise above merely hurling slogans like "Defeat terrorism!"

These two paragraphs were a necessary digression from my theme: What will Sri Lanka post 18A feel and look like? I have made the point, and it can bear repeating; we are past the last of the somewhat democratic presidential elections as we know them. Others have explained the bias of incumbency and elaborated why all democratic constitutions impose term limits to counteract this bias and protect the sovereignty of the people against the excess of political power. But this is not my point; I am emphasising something else. From past electoral experiences, especially the Wayamba Provincial Council in the 1990s and the 2010 presidential election, the shape of things to come can be foreseen. The abuse of state property, vehicles and funds, misuse of power, repression, all will rise to fever pitch next time. In my reading, 18A is the law-making side for the strangulation of democracy on the political side.


Abstention versus opposition

I have been unsympathetic but willing to compromise with the Left figurehead’s previous assurances that they would abstain from the vote or leave the chamber, but will not vote against the Bill. This now stands exposed as deception to hoodwink the membership. The new poppycock is: "We are opposed to this vile constitutional amendment but we are going to vote for it!" What bipolar disorder or cunning logic inhabits these minds? Such screwball utterances have made the spokesman the national laughing stock of the week.

There is nothing of a progressive nature that can be done through this government and the Rajapaksa regime, but I was prepared to leave differences on this to one side and cooperate on strengthening opposition to 18A. Abstaining or opposing has the effect of reducing the government’s hope for 150 votes. The crucial point of abstention would have been its political impact; that is placing the left at the centre of gravity as opposition to the regime mounted in the future. The figureheads even promised to kick off the campaign by speaking strongly against 18A in the parliamentary debate before abstaining or quitting the chamber, but they have gone full circle: "We oppose it so we vote for it!" By the same logic I guess next time when they vote against a Bill they actually support it. Some dialectics!

In future years when public anger mounts on economic issues and against political repression anyone implicated in the adoption of 18A will be anathema to the people. These figureheads and the greedy state-employed party-functionaries surrounding them will be seen to have enlisted as ground troops for fascism. Indeed a problem the Left faced was that many at the grassroots level were opposed to abstention. I am fresh out of CC meetings where comrades from the districts said: "We hate 18A, we have no bloody confidence in that Rajapaksa, but the problem is our base wants you to stay in post and help with all those little things that MPs can do for poor and desperate people. We need the political leverage, letters and phone calls". The leaders neatly married these pressures with their own personal agendas to justify the sell-out.

Poor Vasu to end his political life on this garbage heap! No wonder the political party now poised to make the largest gains is the JVP; the UNP has gone belly-up and the national opposition has become the JVP. The UPFA-Left has no leg to stand on hereafter and in the hereafter! The SLMC’s cortège has already departed for Kanatte. The field has been left wide open for the JVP. Sinhala racism and the rotten state created the LTTE, then screamed "Terrorist" and split blood. Need I spell out the obvious parallels for Sri Lanka’s future?

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