Jousting with the JO: Let the real opposition do its duty to the country
Posted on March 2nd, 2017
By Rohana R. Wasala
Kumar David (‘First trounce the Joint Opposition’/Sunday Island/February 19, 2017), speaking for those whom he calls ‘many experts’, asserts that ‘if amendments to the constitution live up to what is really needed, they have to be substantial and hence need to be approved at a referendum. If an entirely new constitution is to be enacted it will of course require a referendum’.
By ‘what is really needed’, doesn’t he mean a camouflaged federal constitution? the federal seed inside unitary seed coat of the constitutional rice grain, as one Joint Opposition MP puts it?
Kumar David’s concern about a referendum being defeated shows that the amendments that he and his ilk envisage are such that the resultant document will be nothing but a new constitution.
According to Kumar David, ministers from the Sirisena faction of the SLFP are among the majority of those who believe that a referendum cannot be won, though ‘political radicals seem confident of victory’. But the point, he says everybody has missed, is ‘that the Joint Opposition (JO) and hate-mongering chauvinists have to be confronted and defeated BEFORE the referendum.
This hate-mob has to be shattered now before it goes on the rampage.
Once the JO is politically broken the referendum will be plain sailing’.
Kumar David warns that if ‘chauvinist “terrorism” runs riot and law and order is undermined it may not even be possible to conduct a referendum’. He claims that there can be seen ‘on every side incitement, disruptions and street actions, some genuine and justified, others JO instigated attempts at sabotage’.
To make such utterly false, misleading and malicious statements, Kumar David has to be boiling with unquenchable hatred against the JO and the patriotic forces and the masses it represents (whose ranks have swollen two or three-fold over the past two years since the uncalled for ‘change’ in January 2015).
If, as Kumar David implies, the JO is full of chauvinists and hate-mongers, then the millions of currently disgruntled ordinary citizens who support it and the thousands who attend its rallies amidst obstacles placed in their way by the powers that be must be assumed to approve of racist chauvinism and hate-mongering.
The failure of Ven. Gnanasara Thera (who is normally attacked as a racist and fanatical rabble-rouser) to attract a crowd of more than a few hundreds shows that unlike Tamil and Muslim leaders, who explicitly urge the exclusive interests of their respective communities, Sinhalese leaders who choose to do the same for their fellow Sinhalese quickly go out of circulation.
Ven. Gnanasara’s recent Bodu Bala Sena organized Nugegoda rally was poorly attended, and the firebrand monk was visibly upset and demoralized by the fact, and he vowed there and then to keep away from his accustomed awareness-raising activities for a time!
Of course, he is not of the JO. Even the former president was a target of his attack in that speech.
(Ven. Gnanasara’s problem, as I see it, is mainly the undeniable truth of his message – that the unitary state of Sri Lanka and the Buddhist culture that is inbuilt in it and defines it are both facing serious threats to their survival from federalists on the one hand and from religious fundamentalists on the other; his fiery temper doesn’t help.
Though his message is genuine, the manner of his communicating it puts people off. I know that few people expect to hear anything positive said about this monk and as a result I am running the risk of being censored for saying this. But the truth must be told. To anti-Sinhalese racists, he sounds like a racist; besides, Buddhist monk bashing is today a global phenomenon.)
Kumar David makes a pathetically frivolous attempt to argue that JO rallies are not so well attended as claimed. Like me, thousands of others must have seen these rallies live online broadcasts, from various points across the world. Only those who refuse to see miss what is obvious to others who view things unbiased.
No foreign authority is necessary for us to deny, in emphatic terms, false allegations (about chauvinism, hate-mongering, terrorist violence etc) leveled against those in the JO.
Kumar David says that the JO is ‘a bloated corpse’. That is one of his many baseless anti-majority assumptions without a shred of evidence to support them. The federalists are exhuming the putrefied carcass of the tiger.
At least 80% of the ordinary people of Sri Lanka (including all communities) would not approve of the present dysfunctional government’s indecently hurried attempts to introduce a new constitution drawn up by some nondescript ‘constitutional experts’, who don’t have any empathy with the ordinary people of the country.
In reality, the JO is a legitimate political entity that the country will not agree to turn against, simply because foreign NGO backed anti national marginal elements would like to write it off as a mob of mischievous troublemakers.
As for Kumar David, he surely should know better than to denigrate those whom he doesn’t agree with, or to betray in his own make-up qualities that he maliciously attributes to others he chooses to personally dislike for their views.
The millions of ordinary Sinhalese he disparagingly calls ‘Citizen Bandas’ and ‘Jane nonas’ and has already injured by helping engineer the ouster of the national leaders who restored normalcy to the country, despite undue obstructions, after decades of terrorist violence against them, are not likely to have even heard of him. Can such a person lay down rules for the free sovereign citizens of a democracy?
The nascent political stability and economic progress achieved under independent local initiative in a newly terror-free secure environment in May 2009 were undermined by global and regional interventionist forces pursuing their respective geopolitical ends, making use of the minority of extortionist separatists among thousands upon thousands of migrant Tamils in Western countries who had earlier been living in and outside particularly the terrorist-ravaged areas of Sri Lanka, but who had wanted to escape actual poverty, not any real persecution by the Sinhalese, camouflaged as war refugees. (This false pretext stood the latter in good stead; but the same stratagem had condemned the vast innocent majority of Sri Lankans left behind to decades of untold suffering on account of the separatist war).
Trouncing the JO won’t be ‘plain sailing’ this time around. It won’t be easy to defeat the nationalist forces that are against the coalition of the accidentally rejuvenated comprador class and the few frustrated old Marxists long since rendered hors de combat, who are on their last legs, determined to destroy a nation that consistently refused to accept either group for sound reasons.
Kumar David was the Marxist mastermind that conceived of the evil ‘Single Issue Common Candidate’ (SICC) mobilization strategy (later repudiated by the late Ven. Sobhita Thera, one of its prominent backers, on his deathbed). The idea was adopted by the foreign backed agents of the 2015 ‘regime change’, though there was no groundswell of rational opposition to the then incumbent that justified such a change.
The need for a ‘common candidate’ was created because the United National Party (UNP) leader, who was losing elections at an incredible rate, had no chance against the justifiably popular then Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) leader who was also successfully leading the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). The marginal victory secured after making a mountain out of a molehill of a ‘single issue’ was going to be decisively reversed by a quickly disillusioned electorate at the parliamentary election that followed the much touted ‘change’, but this was cunningly prevented by certain acts of omission and commission of the new SLFP leader which were prejudicial to the preceding one. This demoralized a substantial proportion of the pro-UPFA voters who had supported the ousted president. They decided to keep away from voting on the D-day (August 17, 2015).
Had the former president been denied SLFP nomination, the UNP would have easily trounced the SLFP making use of his absence in the fray as well as the ‘jump on the bandwagon’ atmosphere that emerges after a presidential election, that is favourable to the party of the winner (notwithstanding the fact that, in this case, the winner had to temporarily quit the party to win the election).
The UPFA got 95 seats even after those manipulative actions and non-actions, almost entirely due to the popularity of the former head. Pre-election opinion polls had predicted 117 seats for the UPFA, 4 in excess of the critical 113 required in a house of 225 members to form a government. Even with such lowly scheming, the yahapalanists missed by miles a popular mandate comparable in its strength to the legitimate electoral victories of 1972 and 1977 scored respectively by the SLFP-led coalition of left parties and the UNP, nor even to the parliamentary majority built up by the then UPFA in 2010 solely on the basis of a call for national unity for dealing with the aftermath of the devastating civil conflict that had just been ended.
Kumar David boasts about alleged gains made through his SICC mobilization ploy and sounds a warning:
‘Remember the ‘Single Issue Common Candidate’ mobilisation? We did not get everything we wanted; the executive presidency was downgraded, not abolished. But what victories we have scored; removed Rajapaksa, safeguarded democracy and now we have a chance to pursue a constitutional option which may overcome the worst transgressions on the national question. If like then, we get a fairly decent even if not perfect constitution by broadening mobilisation, it would be a big step forward. But to repeat, be warned, unless the JO and its goons are FIRST defeated, we will have no constitutional options at all!’
The ordinary masses know the nature and extent of the achievements made after the ‘change’. Whatever gains are claimed to have been made due to the ‘change’, they may not be impressive enough to dissipate the growing public disaffection with the government. The indefinite postponement of provincial elections, suppression of dissent, witch-hunt of political opponents, stepmotherly treatment of security personnel who sacrificed their life and limb for the unity and safety of all communities, and humiliation of Buddhist monks on the slightest pretext cannot be hailed as safeguarding democracy. Opposition politicians remind us that if people’s democratic right to express their criticisms of a government that they think is inept and corrupt through peaceful means is denied, then they will feel forced to take to the streets as has happened in some countries already. No amount of calling the JO a bunch of racists, chauvinists, hate mongers, etc will be of any use.
However, there’s no need for street protests to be staged if the ruling politicians act wisely; such demonstrations are not developments that anyone could relish, for obvious reasons. The government’s responsibility is to meet the just demands of the masses, and desist from implementing policies that the majority think are unwise, and prevent such untoward eventualities.
What Kumar David is trying to do is to interpret public agitations that he anticipates in his wisdom as acts of thuggery and sabotage instigated by the JO. According to some critics of the government, such public displays of democratic dissent seem inevitable due to the wrong policies of a set of blundering ‘strange bedfellows’ at the helm who have begun feuding among themselves, that too in public, lately. Needless to say, on the other hand, Kumar David’s warnings can
have ominous implications for oppositional forces. For, who is he addressing in this article (as can be inferred from the paragraph quoted above from the same)? Obviously, not the ordinary masses who are supposed to be sovereign in the country, nor the genuinely concerned, more enlightened sections of the Sri Lankan society, but the international ‘gallery’.
What does ‘broadening mobilisation’ mean? Who is there to mobilize to do or achieve what? Does he expect to mobilize the majority against itself to agree to a plan that divides the country into several mutually non-cooperative ethnic enclaves? (Implicitly, the mobilization he talks about is for the purpose of defeating alleged Sinhala racism. But we know that the Sinhalese are not racist unlike their accusers.)
Does it mean some cancerous extra-parliamentary extension of the 2015 scheme (whatever form it metastasizes into, including, Heaven forbid! a return to armed conflict)?
Not an encouraging extrapolation of possible future events! Or maybe the importunate change advocates behind the constitution making project have something up their sleeve to make use of as a last resort to prevent the return to power of the forces that are represented in the JO, such as launching a rival party under a ‘friendly’ defector pretending to champion a nationalist agenda to rival that of the JO, thereby dividing the nationalist electorate and weakening it.
(Please await a sequel to this essay. – RRW)
Written February 22, 2017