BY DR. DAYAN JAYATILLEKA
The situation is deadlocked: the Popular Movement rightly demands that GR GO HOME; GR will not return home; the Movement will not go home either.
Since the president will not resign, parliament can cut him off while he is still sitting in his presidential chair.
Parliament must become the engine of transition, drawing its social power from the Democratic Civic Movement and becoming the instrument of the collective political will of society.
This is how the GR president, who will not make the transition, can be transferred down; reduced, miniaturized:
Abolish or remove the 20and Modification of excessive powers.
Adjust the 19and Amendment to avoid the debilitating dysfunctions of the past and substitute it for the 20and amendment.
This can be done by a two-thirds majority.
Once on the 20and The amendment is abolished or reduced and on 19and The amendment is reset and restarted, it should be possible to:
Install a multi-party or multi-party interim/provisional administration.
Such an administration can negotiate with the IMF to stabilize the economy and relieve the population, while safeguarding the rights and the standard of living of the population.
It can facilitate early elections at the presidential, parliamentary and provincial levels so that the country can restart with a clean slate.
The methodology should not consist in aiming for a result that satisfies one or the other of the parties. There should be no unnecessary arguments. The methodology must be one that goes to the objective.
The aim should be to get a two-thirds majority in as few days as possible (set a tight deadline, work continuously) and implement that solution before the regime sends in the tanks and bloodshed. flowing through the streets outside.
Once achieved, the perfectly legitimate objection of the opposition to serving under an autocratic Gotabaya Rajapaksa would no longer be relevant and they can play the role people expect of them.
This will come closest to meeting the demands of the people of Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans around the world in the Diaspora, speaking with one voice, effectively exercising their sovereignty as enshrined in the Constitution.
A political transition
The only meaningful discussion today is the discussion about a political transition.
It is now a Mexican standoff in the Indian Ocean. We are in a seemingly insoluble situation. The best political thinker of late modernity, Antonio Gramsci, described situations such as the present one by the term “catastrophic equilibrium…a balance of forces tending towards catastrophe”.
We learn as school children that an irresistible force meeting a stationary object results in an explosion.
The irresistible force is the “whole of society” civic movement, or simply the Movement, which has gotten to the root of the problem and demands the removal of the autocrat. Although some claim that the “real” problem is economic, those who suffer most from the economic calamity understand that the country needs a fresh start; a reset for a reboot.
Unlike local neoliberal experts, The Hindu Editorial of April 6and describes the Movement in Sri Lanka as a “political revolution”. The Movement has a simple, clear and strong slogan, GOTA GO HOME!
In this case, the immovable object is President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who refuses to step down in a catastrophic context where any decent and self-respecting leader in any other country would have done so.
Instead, he is in bunker mode, digging in, when the vast majority of the entire population is against him. He has only one source of political support, the majority of SLPP deputies. This calculation does not include their voting base which seems to have evaporated. The SLPP cannot even organize a single mass demonstration anywhere in the country in support of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s continued rule. At best, they can muster a group of followers to defend their residences.
The last card in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s deck is the army (along with the STF). I take the liberty of suggesting that it is also his former military brothers in arms and some members of the general staff currently in service who reinforce his decision to stay.
Given the current state of overt and active discontent centered precisely on the President, discontent which extends to almost every Sri Lankan community on the planet, including Estonia, is it possible for any rational mind to imagine a scenario in which President Gotabaya Rajapaksa could maintain the status quo, remain in office for the remainder of his term? I certainly can’t.
Judging by Chief Government Whip Johnston Fernando’s speech, Camp GR seems to think the status quo can hold on just by saying NO, holding on and pushing back hard. The dangerous official rhetoric already suggests without evidence that the Movement is driven by a dangerously subversive agenda of the JVP, which is, of course, the same lie that Minister Ananda Tissa de Alwis uttered in 1983, accusing the JVP of Black July and banning it, making the horrific Southern Civil War of the late 1980s inevitable.
A military solution?
Voltaire said “if we believe nonsense, we will commit atrocities”. As the contemporary colloquialism goes, if you’re a hammer, every problem feels like a nail.
For the military mentality of Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his relatives, those on whom he relies, behind the Civic Movement hides a violent revolutionary attempt by the JVP and the FSP, that is to say a security threat. By “securing” a social, political and economic problem, the militaristic GR bloc will inevitably arrive at a hyper-secure and militaristic solution. There may be military repression and subsequent induction of the military into power.
My readers may remember my concern when in 2020 with the outbreak of Covid-19 and the scheduled legislative elections, extremists from the GR team openly denounced the elections, called for the closure of Parliament, the postponement five-year elections and worst of all, ruled by the president with the armed forces. For the militaristic far right, it was Plan A, not Plan B. In the context of the challenge of unarmed civic revolution, this Plan A, which was probably shelved as Plan B, can now be dusted off to be implemented.
If enabled, it may cause temporary disturbances, but will generate a much worse problem. Militarists may think that provoking the civic movement in armed resistance will facilitate its destruction, but the Sri Lankan situation today is quite specific. The economy is collapsing and the only way for it to begin to stop its collapse is to release good news about the resignation of the President and the departure of the Rajapaksas. Since that won’t happen, any crackdown on the vast protest movement will only bring the economy to the bottom, as the crackdown will spark a general strike and uprising.
When this resistance is bloodily suppressed, the economy will be destroyed, the ruler will have an angry population of all social classes, races and religions to rule. Already, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa no longer has “soft power”, the one Professor Joseph Nye has described as the power of a narrative to persuade and attract. He retains only “hard power”. If he deploys this hard power in the irreversible absence of soft power, he will lose every last ounce of legitimacy, will have to run an economy, run a country, win compliance from a bitter populace, and weather a storm. of global denunciation leading to sanctions. .
Cumulatively, it is a recipe for a violent revolution, led mainly by the young workers and the older workers themselves, supported by an awakened educated youth and parents from the privileged classes. This time, a guerrilla will be lasting in the countryside and the cities, leading finally to an armed insurrection of the whole nation, and to the bloody overthrow of the regime and of the entire political, social and economic order. Think of the overthrow of the Somoza oligarchy and the defeat of the National Guard (army) by the Sandinistas of Nicaragua in 1979. Normally I would applaud, but I saw far too much bloodshed and destruction in 65 years.
What about abolition?
The goal of ‘Gota Go Home’ cannot be achieved soon enough to resolve the current crisis, calling for the abolition of the executive presidency as suggested by the leader of the opposition, as this would not guarantee the support of the 40 numerically very large dissidents, including the SLFP, and would almost certainly require a referendum (notwithstanding the opinion of Jayampathy Wickremaratne).
The “abolition” solution presents a more serious risk. Any student of democratic transitions knows that the armed forces must be embarked or at least neutralized, otherwise the hawks will succeed in enlisting them to abort a peaceful democratic transition. If the Sri Lankan armed forces sense that the executive presidency is about to be abolished while the provincial councils remain entrenched in the Constitution (as they should), thus weakening the strong center – a strong state – and encouraging the centrifugation, they will be more likely to intervene. against the democratic social movement.
The quickest and best solution is to do what is immediately possible within the existing Parliament and Constitution to establish political stability by neutralizing 20A, streamlining 19A and establishing an Interim/Provisional Administration in order to begin to achieve economic stability. (I should add that my personal recommendation for the Minister of Finance – through the National List – would be the head of the Verite think tank, Dr Nishan de Mel, who warned against the latest debt repayment without restructuring, alerting that there will be no money left to pay for the bulk.) After that, the process of exercising people’s sovereignty and sovereign choice through presidential, parliamentary and provincial can begin.