Political turmoil in Sri Lanka

United Socialist Party (CWI in Sri Lanka) statement on deepening crisis in the country.


(See previous article from 29 October here)

In the last two and a half weeks, Sri Lanka has seen an unprecedented political crisis instigated by the desperate and power hungry capitalist rulers. Though perpetrated by a few cliques at the top of the ruling classes, it has direct bearing on the lives of the ordinary working people and the oppressed minorities in the country.

After a series of un-presidential and unconstitutional measures taken by the extremely weak President Sirisena Maithripala, the country is facing its gravest political crisis in decades. For the first time in the history of Sri Lanka, an intractable conflict has developed between the presidency and the elected legislature, threatening the very edifice of bourgeois democracy in this country.

Already, the situation is going out of the hands of the constitution, set up by the capitalist ruling class. In all likelihood this will lead to a civil strife situation where the warring factions of various rival cliques will take the law into their own hands. In this extremely confused situation, with the Supreme Court’s interim order staying the president’s illegal measures, parliament was convened on 14th November and passed a no-confidence motion against the illegally appointed prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, by a majority voice vote.

After parliament’s majority decision, President Sirisena and his appointed prime minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, announced that they will not obey the majority decision in the parliament and they will continue their illegal government, disregarding all accepted norms of democratic procedure.

Today, 16 November, when Parliament met again, Mahinda Rajapaksa made a special statement saying that he does not recognise the parliament’s decision as a democratic decision and he believes in the “people’s power” outside the parliament. Ironically, in a different way, he is giving a call to people – mainly his supporters – to come to the streets to show their brute force.

Of course we as Marxists, in the final analysis, do not believe that capitalist parliaments really represent the interests of the workers and poor people and their aspirations of democracy. Rajapaksa’s call to the people to come to the street is not to defend democracy or the interests of working people; in reality it is a call to his supporters who are racially and religiously motivated, who will create violence and confusion.

The United Socialist Party, very categorically and boldly, said in a statement on 29th October, soon after the beginning of the crisis, that if Rajapaksa cannot show his majority in the parliament, this is going to be his Waterloo in his politics – he will have no way to retreat and he will say he does not accept the parliament’s decision and would call for “people’s power”.

As we prepare this statement, even the blatantly neo-liberal politician, Ranil Wickeramasinghe of the UNP, trying to stay on as prime minister, has called on his supporters to fill the streets. The calls by both the rival wings of the capitalist class can lead to mayhem and blood on the streets; they have no interest in the welfare and well-being of the people.

Workers and poor people

Although, unfortunately, there is no powerful left movement in the country, this is a crucial time for all working people and their organisations that claim to lead them to come forward with their own action. The hooliganism that we have seen inside and outside the parliament has recently exposed the limitation of bourgeois democracy and the nature of a power hungry capitalist elite.

The majority in society – the workers and poor and oppressed masses, and minorities, have had a wake-up call that their interests are not expressed via capitalist parties or the parliamentarians who claim to act on their behalf. This crisis has certainly opened up an enormous political vacuum.

If the anarchic situation created by the capitalist parties persists, then it can further deepen the resentment that exists among workers, particularly the urban workers and youth. This can lead to a situation where the masses may be pushed to take to the streets in defiance of all the wings of the capitalist parties. However, in the absence of mass workers’ organisations capable of articulating and expressing the demands of the mass of the population, racists and violent populist forces could begin to dominate. The bourgeois class has presently no way of holding on to power other than controlling the population through inciting various divisions.

Hence it is extremely important that all workers’ organisations and the left take immediate action. We are calling on all trade unions, working class youth, oppressed Tamil people to come forward to form a united force against all capitalist cliques and to put forward an alternative anti-capitalist socialist programme.

In the current situation, it is clear that there is no way out for the struggling masses, if they continue to be ruled by the capitalist and landlord class whose only interest is to remain in power by any means to benefit their own class. People should refuse to be cannon-fodder for either wing of the capitalists. When they call on the people to come to the street, they do so only to defend their position of power.

Platform for action

Instead we, the workers and oppressed sections, should act to take power into our own hands. Workers and all oppressed sections forming an alliance at this stage can create an alternative power base that can begin to challenge the mayhem that is imposed upon us by the capitalists. Trade unions should call for the setting up of committees in their workplaces and come forward to form a national platform of action to organise strikes and other joint activities.

None of the wings in the parliament even want to implement the promises of the ‘100 Day Programme’ that brought the coalition to power. None of them is interested in reversing the privatisation offensive that has started recently in all the public sectors. No one talks about a workers-friendly budget that would increase spending on health and education. Our interests are not featured in their battle for power.

• We request all workers and all oppressed sections to reject all the capitalist parties. Say no to Mahinda and say no to Ranil.

• We demand an immediate establishment of a democratic and accountable Constituent Assembly (CA). Elections to the CA could be held across the country in constituencies representing all communities. The CA should allow a full and free discussion to take place on this in order to get an outcome acceptable to all.

• Defence committees should be formed together with the trade union involvement in municipal neighbourhoods and villages to counter any potential violent attacks.

• We call on all unions and left forces to establish a national platform to discuss the way forward.



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