It is the starkest of choices: our survival as a community and as individuals vs the survival of Gota’s rule.
Isn’t there anyone or any place—individual or institution—who can get the leaders of the Opposition and Resistance parties together to discuss, debate and agree on a common platform to remove Gotabaya Rajapaksa from office non-violently and in the shortest possible time?
All political leaders and personalities will be judged by what they did and were willing to, and what they didn’t and were unwilling to, in the service of the cause of peacefully, democratically ending Gota’s rule. Any political sacrifice should not be ruled out for this cause. No political compromise or concession should be seen as too expensive. But that is not the situation.
The Sri Lankan tragedy is not only what the bad guy has done and is doing to us but what the good guys are unwilling to do for us.
The country will know when the endgame, the last phase of the Gotabaya presidency has begun when they see an unmistakable sign. That sign is when all the leaders of the Opposition parties without exclusion or exception, get on the same platform and start campaigning for one thing and one thing only: the ending of the curse of Gotabaya Rajapaksa rule on this island.
The situation is unprecedentedly dire and the country needs all Opposition parties at the leadership level to arrive at a formal agreement.
Imagine the impact if all the leaders of the Opposition without exception were to address the people while literally gathered upon one platform?
Imagine if all leaders of the Opposition parties were to sign a common declaration expressing their dedication to the goal of removing the ruler?
The question is who will bell the cat? Who will bring these leaders together?
In the 1970s and 1980s there were several individuals who brought together leaders or leading representatives of all parties. Prominent among these were Fr Tissa Balasuriya (Center for Society & Religion), Godfrey Gunatilleke (Marga, Citizens Committee for National Harmony), Fr Paul Caspersz (Satyodaya center) and Gunasena Mahanama (Government Clerical Services Union better known as GCSU).
Fr Paul Caspersz’ Movement for Inter-Racial Justice and Equality, better known by its anagram as MIRJE, had representation from every Oppositional political party, trade union, student movement and peasants front. In the publication EMERGENCY 78 Kumar David, Rajan Phillips and I are among those listed as signatories to the founding document of MIRJE.
The Lanka Guardian magazine also served as a platform for all Opposition party leaders and intellectuals from its founding by Mervyn de Silva in the late 1970s through the 1980s.
Today there is no such personality, place or publication. Everyone works their side of the street. Thus, the UNP, SJB and liberal civil society can be gathered together by certain personalities and organizations, while the JVP and FSP, not as parties but through their affiliates the NPP and IUSF can be gathered together by left trade unions.
No one has brought together the JVP and FSP at leadership level.
No one has brought together the SJB and the JVP leaders.
No one has brought together the SJB, SLFP and 10 parties.
Certainly no one has brought together all of the above-named parties at leadership level. Unless that happens, the day of departure of Gotabaya Rajapaksa will be postponed.
The very fact that none of these permutations and combinations have taken place shows that the political leaders are insufficiently motivated to do so.
One Target Only: The Autocrat
If one really wants to end the autocrat’s rule, and in our case an unwittingly democidal autocrat’s rule, one must target the autocrat, not the whole executive or the Government, from which crucial defectors may come! To do so, only means to objectively protect and prolong Gotabaya’s rule—because an iron rule is that the broader you make the target, the narrower your coalition of support and conversely the more you delimit your target, the broader the support base of the Movement to overthrow him.
The SJB says it will bring all parties together in a Movement of mass struggle to overthrow Gotabaya. Sajith Premadasa told the Reform Movement activists that in his expansive view, the executive means not only the President, the PM and the Cabinet but all those in parliament who politically sustain them.
Anura Kumara Dissanayake says the JVP leadership is willing to take a backseat in a Movement to overthrow Gotabaya which everyone can join irrespective of party affiliation. AKD is new campaign is to overthrow the government (“Aanduwa”).
Both AKD and SP are making a huge error, both in the historical and the strategic senses. The notorious Filipino autocrat Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown not only by the gigantic mass movement, but in the final moment, by his own Defence Minister Juan Ponce Enrile. Surely Enrile was a member of the government (AKD’s “Aanduwa”) but also the Executive?
If the SJB and JVP-NPP leaders really mean what they say, they should have sent out invitations to all Opposition political party leaders to attend a conclave for the purpose. However, no one is talking clearly about a joint platform all Opposition political parties as represented at the top leadership level.
More basically, I have yet to see Sajith Premadasa and Anura Kumara Dissanayake around the same table, willing to sign a document for the common purpose of throwing Gota out and discussing a program of action—a campaign—for that single purpose. the day I see that, I will know that Gota is operating on borrowed time.
If there is such a common platform and common campaign, I am certain that the Sri Lankan Diaspora will renew its impressive campaign of April 2022.
The political parties are choosy about the company they keep. They are allergic to each other.
The dirty little secret is that they care more about what divides them – ideological identities and electoral competition–than what should unite them, namely the zeal to see the back of Gotabaya Rajapaksa as soon as possible and the fire in the belly to make that happen.
The SJB doesn’t mind sitting together with the JVP. But the JVP does not let the term SJB pass its collective lips while Anura Kumara Dissanayake the JVP leader mentions the Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa only to insult him.
This is no display of anti-capitalist sentiment because the same Anura Kumara Dissanayake does not sully his lips by uttering either the name Frontline socialist party or Kumara Gunaratnam. So, sectarianism is what it is.
For his part, Kumara Gunaratnam says the FSP is willing to enter “united actions” with the JVP and its trade unions, peasant unions, student unions etc., but he makes no mention of a leadership-level bloc of the JVP and FSP.
The SJB is no paragon of non-sectarian virtue. It sits down with individuals from the 11 party Independents but never with the party leaders. The reason given is that all of them were once members of the ruling coalition.
If the SLFP and the 10 parties were to go by that logic, then the SJB leaders would stand accused of being in the UNP governments which entered a lopsided Ceasefire Agreement with Prabhakaran, entertained federalizing constitutional change and remained in-house during the Bond scam.
Furthermore, the presence of the SLFP in a broad Opposition in-gathering is vital since it would guarantee linkage with the rural heartland where peasant disaffection makes it a reservoir of anti-Gotabaya resistance.
The aim and objective, the goal of removing Gota, should rise above any other but obviously does not.
My hunch is that each party leadership thinks that it is either going to be swept into office by the collapse and consequent uprising and/or by the election that inevitably follows.
Hence the conditionalities, the excuses, the caveats, the exceptions, the evasion and the prevarication.
As the old Resistance fighters used to say in support of the wartime anti-Fascist Popular Front, ‘unity not merely adds, it multiplies’. If the citizens see a coordinated Opposition leadership, then coordinated actions to end Gota rule will be that much easier. The very sight of Opposition party leaders in cooperative mode will lead to a spike in the morale of the masses.
Disclaimer: How To Send Gota Home: What Is To De Done & Who Will Do It? By Dayan Jayatilleka - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view