LSSP fought for workers’ rights – Prof. Tissa Vitarana

The Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) always fought resolutely against racial, religious, caste, gender, and class discrimination. The LSSP stood up for Sinhala and Tamil to be the official languages, when the UNP and SLFP wanted Sinhala as the only official language, Prof. Tissa Vitarana said at the LSSP’s 83rd anniversary.

To celebrate its 83rd anniversary, the LSSP held a very well attended meeting at Eheliyagoda on 23 December. All leaders of the Socialist Alliance like Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Raja Collure attended. Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) leader Dinesh Gunawardena, being unwell, was represented by Gitanjana Gunawardena, the SLFP by the General Secretary and John Seneviratne, the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) by Douglas Devananda, and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) by MP Wakkumbura, representing Basil Rajapaksa. The Cuban Ambassador read a message on behalf of the diplomatic community.

Prof. Vitarana, Leader of the LSSP, delivered the keynote address. He gave a brief account of the 83-year history of the LSSP, highlighting its leading role in winning complete independence from the British Empire, and in achieving social justice, by reducing poverty through people’s and workers’ struggles, building a social welfare state, and developing a national economy in partnership with other Left parties and the political Centre, represented by the SLFP. To achieve this, a constant struggle had to be waged against the UNP, the agent of global imperialism, and their supporters among the local capitalist class.

His full speech:

The LSSP had leaders of the calibre of Dr. N.M. Perera, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva, Philip Gunawardena, Leslie Goonewardene, and Dr. S.A. Wickremasinghe who took the Nation forward. The LSSP won the rights of the working people (8-hour working day, overtime pay, pensions, EPF, and similar things). He mentioned the role of the LSSP in trade union struggles to win and maintain these gains, and their key role in the Great Hartal of 12 August 1953, in which 9 LSSP militants lost their lives. LSSP always fought resolutely against racial, religious, caste, gender, and class discrimination. The LSSP stood up for Sinhala and Tamil to be the official languages, when the UNP and SLFP wanted Sinhala as the only official language. Had the people accepted the advice of the LSSP, disasters like Black July of 1983 organised by the UNP, and a 30-year war, waged by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), could have been avoided. The LSSP suffered attacks by racialists and lost the bulk of its supporters and some leaders to the SLFP and FP. But war forced the UNP to adopt the LSSP stand in 1987.

LSSP/Left/SLFP gains being lost by this UNP-led Government

Unfortunately, these achievements that enabled Sri Lanka, though a poor country, to reach developed country levels of social indicators relating to health, education, and similar things, is now facing a situation where these benefits are being taken away by the UNP-led Government. This is through the introduction of a new economic agenda referred to as neo-liberalism.
The global capitalist economy which always suffered from periodic crises is passing into a phase of major chronic crisis. America, Europe, and Japan have been worst affected. As a solution, in the 1970s Prof. Friedman and his group of Chicago economists developed this neo-liberal system, as a means of directly exploiting other countries, like Sri Lanka. Thus, the West could retain its leading position in the world’s economy. Everywhere I go, the question asked is “what is happening and what will happen?” People are confused and worried. To understand what is going on in Sri Lanka, the well-planned United States/International Monetary Fund process of neo-liberal transformation of our economy that is going on, under cover of the situation of political, economic, and social chaos that has been created by them, must be made clear.
The implementation of neo-liberalism began in the 1970s, when the US Government signed the Washington consensus with the IMF and World Bank. This is now being introduced worldwide through puppet regimes like the UNP in Sri Lanka. If countries do not fall in line, those Governments are changed by democratic or undemocratic means. Their conspiracy that succeeded in Sri Lanka was done democratically in 2015, when the nationalist Rajapaksa regime was ousted democratically, by the Sirisena-Wickremasinghe duo. This process began with the open economy in 1977 through the UNP Government headed by J.R. Jayewardene (Yanky Dicky).

It is now being fully implemented by Ranil Wickremesinghe (Yanky Wicky). There are high class think tanks in America which collaborate with local think tanks (which include many foreigners) that are implementing a detailed plan step by step. The chaotic behaviour by members of the Cabinet, both within and outside Parliament, together with key players in the Administrative Service, violates the Constitution and laws and regulations. This has led to a breakdown of law and order and a state of confusion.
The investigation of the biggest fraud in our history, which involves the Prime Minister, has been delayed and blatantly covered up. The consequent rise of the interest rate has seriously disrupted the economy, without much public concern or protest. One Government Minister contradicts another and statements made are withdrawn without any sense of responsibility. But beneath the cover of this state of chaos, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)/IMF led process of implementation of the neo-liberal agenda goes ahead like clockwork. For example, the buying of assets, including key Government utilities like the Water Resources Board and the Survey Department.
The welfare state has been dismantled (pensions, EPF, allowances, free education, health, and similar things). The tax burden is being placed on the people through raised indirect taxes, leading to intolerably high cost of living, malnutrition, and poverty. The rich have it good with low direct taxation. Their luxury lifestyle, with importing of vehicle and similar things leads to a massive foreign trade deficit. This together with large-scale printing of currency notes leads to depreciation of the Rupee, and further price hikes. The outcome is large-scale public and private borrowing, leading to indebtedness both nationally and individually.

Sri Lanka is heading towards bankruptcy. This is averted by massive sale of our assets to foreigners. We are caught in a debt trap and forced to give up our national economy, which was directed to serve our people, to accepting the neo-liberal takeover which is ruining our economy and burdening our people into submission. Trincomalee and the other ports are being taken over by the USA for their military purposes, using our troops. In the last 3.5 years, through this process, we have lost our independence, sovereignty, and national economy. We are now becoming a neo-colony. This is an extraordinary situation, which calls for drastic action.

President’s attempt to save the country fails

This conspiratorial foreign takeover of Sri Lanka, after reducing the economy to near bankruptcy, was contrary to the agreement reached with the UNP to form the National Unity Government. The steps taken by the President to oppose these anti-national moves and the breakdown of democracy (delay in holding Provincial Council Elections for over a year and Local Government Elections for over two years) led to a high level conspiracy to kill him. The SLFP left the National Unity Government, which collapsed. The President decided that the only solution to the crisis was to dissolve Parliament on 26 October, and have an early General Election on 5 January. Having lost all faith in Ranil Wickremesinghe as Premier, he ousted him, and gave the people, who are sovereign, the chance to decide on the future of the country. He called upon Mahinda Rajapaksa to form an interim government. All this was done in accordance with the Constitution and legally. There was panic and consternation in the ranks of the American/UNP side. They could not and did not take this up in the Courts.

But they resorted to a counter-attack through a so-called ‘No-Confidence Motion’ without observing the Standing Orders in Parliament, and the paralysis of the MR-led Government through the Courts. The democratic action of the President to save the Nation at a time of grave crisis, was labelled by the USA/IMF/UNO as a coup, and all reactionary forces both in Sri Lanka and abroad were mobilised to oppose and defeat the perfectly constitutional, legal, and moral action of the President. The Government of MR was forced to resign and the real coup that began in 2015 now continues.

Dark future

The UNP has formed a minority Government with 105 members, lost its two-thirds majority, and survives on the support of the 14 MPs of the TNA. There is strong opposition of 95 MPs, with Mahinda Rajapaksa as leader. 2019, being an election year, requires fooling the people once again with massive bribes and corruption. This means yet more loans and perhaps direct funding from the US Empire. But under this cover, the implementation of the neo-liberal agenda will be intensified. If the people protest or the Government backs down ‘the Sword of Damocles,’ the joint United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Resolution 30/1 will be used as a threat to force us to submit. The easiest way out for the Government is the imperialist/capitalist policy of ‘divide and rule.’ Racial and religious discord leading to open conflict to divert the people’s attention can be resorted to once again, as the UNP did in Black July of 1983 that led to the LTTE war. Foreign interference on the pretext of protecting minorities may be resorted to. Besides open warfare, a civil or military dictatorship may be an outcome.

All truly progressive nationalist forces must come together

The LSSP and all Left and Progressive Movements must unite to oppose these dangerous moves. We must unite the 99 per cent of all communities to fight against the 1 per cent that act in the interest of the neo-liberal forces. The fight for genuine democracy using all possible Media, especially Social Media should aim at ensuring that this UNP Government abides by the Constitution and holds the Provincial Council, Presidential, and General Elections on time.

Develop a non-neo-liberal policy leading to a progressive future

If the elections are held on time, the LSSP, together with the other genuine Left parties (not the red elephants), have worked out a new programme to take the country forward. This has many activities, chief of which are the following:
n Build Sri Lankan national unity through a Constitution that is acceptable to a large majority of each and every community.
n To make Sri Lanka an industrialised country by promoting and utilising science, technology, and innovation based on hi-tech and artificial intelligence (robotics).
n Develop a democratic economy based on the solidarity concept, side by side with the private and public sectors. This is based on ownership and management of institutions, corporations, and cooperatives, on the principle of ownership and management by the employees through elected management councils, with all profit being shared equally among all employees. This approach will do away with the political abuse of power, as well as the bureaucratic obstructions and lead to successful enterprises.

Examples are Kerala Plantations and Mondragon Factories in Spain.
The LSSP will become part of a coalition government that is prepared to support such policies with honesty and commitment. The more people that we can mobilise to support the LSSP and the Left, the better will our future be.

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