By Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne
Parliamentary elections are slated to be held at a time when the people are faced with very serious problems. The previous government’s bogus development programmes took place under conditions of utterly servile exploitation by the transnational corporations under the hegemony of the Superpowers. The Rajapaksa Government regarded the proposals of the IMF, World Bank and the WTO as gospel. Given the combined opposition to such proposals, launched by the working people, the democratic and environmental forces, the future Ranil Wickremesinghe Government may take steps to change.
The Mahinda regime used the repressive apparatus created during the nearly 3-decade-long civil war to crush oppositional forces in order to speed up the implementation of the agenda of the global forces. No country in the world can embark on real development by succumbing to such awful agendas. The rulers exaggerate whatever development that has taken place in some urban areas as the all-round development paradigm in the whole country. Due to excessive publicity propelled by the manipulated technological apparatchiks, people are deluded into believing that what is in fact unrealizable for them, is well within their reach before long. Far from it; in fact, they are really turned into human dust. Defence expenditure inherited, now includes civilian works as swell .
Things happen not controlled still. Examples abound. In Northern Sri Lanka, lands were plundered with the aid of the State repressive apparatus, while in the South, people’s habitats are destroyed in the name of constructing express highways. What is more, people who demanded pure drinking water in the Weliveriya area in the Western Provincial District of Gampaha were shot down. The Mahinda Rajapaksa Government was least concerned with environmental destruction. When workers agitated against the fraudulent private sector pension scheme, there again shooting was resorted to. Racist and fascist forces were resorting to thuggery throughout the Island.
Fallacious development programmes
Billions of rupees borrowed at commercial rates of interest were being dumped into fallacious development programmes, and the masses at large were being burdened with (mostly indirect) taxes. The health and the education sectors were being subjected to merciless cutbacks. The rulers and their hangers-on lined their pockets through the bogus development programmes. Criminal acts and corrupt practices were burgeoning, and thus social values were being destroyed. These are the attendant ill-effects that emanate from such a scenario. We need to overcome all these menaces left behind by the Mahinda regime. Thus, without just confining ourselves to making criticisms, we have to rescue the people from this destructive path. There were discussions in the last few months in many forums to prepare such a set of proposals. The following is a good summary to pontificate on:
1. Concede the right of self-rule to all nationalities as well as the indigenous people and equality to all citizens. The Sri Lankan National Question should be resolved on the basis of the right to self-determination. All religions and their devotees should have the unhindered right to worship and propagate their respective religions.
2. Resistance to the conditions of the global powers that the Mahinda Government accepted, thus reducing us to the status of slaves of the political economy prescribed by global capitalism. To participate in all struggles designed to improve the people’s standard of living. To take steps to prepare a comprehensive consensus document for the country’s development activities in tandem with people’s organizations, Trade Unions, and Non- Governmental Organizations.
3. To prepare a far-sighted agricultural development plan and appraisal, incorporating the sizes of land holdings, soil survey and land use and to assure land ownership to those who till the land. To strengthen the Provincial Councils by introducing power over organic farming, imposing a ban on the use of agro-chemicals including fertilizers. Chemical pesticides are also to be banned. Critical steps to be taken to introduce an appropriate curriculum for higher education so as to vouchsafe environmentally sound natural farming. The Universities and such other seats of higher learning should take responsibility to popularize the expertise obtained for such alternative activities.
4. To take steps against the development plans of the Mahinda Government which sought to exclude or isolate the peasants, livestock farmers, plantation workers and the fisher-folk. Every co-operation will be extended to the demands of the fisheries organizations aimed at improving the standard of living of the fisher-folk at large.
5. To organize direct marketing arrangements through a network of co-operative societies in order to prevent exploitations of the producers by rapacious middlemen. Paddy marketing should be augmented in order to afford facilities to rice farmers to increase production.
6. Free health services to be safeguarded by promoting generic medicinal devices so as to improve the health services. Encouragement will be provided to grow medicinal herbs and nutritious vegetables in keeping with the needs of the country.
7. Planning should be undertaken for the establishment of home gardens and social organizations on a top-down basis at the respective levels of Pradeshiya Sabha’s and Provincial Councils. These should be launched as community organizations in appropriate locations in urban areas. Consultative Councils should be established in furtherance of this plan. These bodies should be monitored by representatives elected by the people who will, in turn, be accountable to the people, and this has to be guaranteed – lock, stock and barrel. All Provincial Councils and national level organizations should, in self-rule fashion, put forward alternative schemes and improve them.
8. Equality of women should become a reality in every sphere. The special roles and responsibilities of women should be augmented in the matter of using seeds, agricultural tools, etc., for the promotion and protection of resources. Through empowerment of women it will be possible to prevent them going for slave labour to the Middle East countries, or to sweatshop garment factories.
9. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution should be implemented in full. Time and energy should be exerted to find ways and means of going beyond the 13th A. At the same time the recommendations of the LLRC should be implemented in full. These measures in themselves would not prove to be a complete solution to the problem of the nationalities. Nevertheless, pressure should be exerted for the implementation of the recommendations.
The activities and involvements of the people should be stepped up towards this end. And this will give society at large a capability to challenge the racists and religious extremist forces. It is only through such actions that the mutual trust and unity of the oppressed Tamil, Muslim and Christian people, and those engaged in religious rites and rituals can be built up. At the same time contentment resulting from power sharing can be achieved and thence forcible impositions, oppressions and fascist activities to be ended, the present Constitution abrogated and ways and means devised to bring about a new Constitution.
So, the masses will have to be prepared to embark on very difficult struggles to put an end to the Rajapaksa fascistic movement as well as to establish democracy, freedom, power sharing and the country’s unity.