President Mahinda Rajapaksa came to power using three different and somewhat contradictory campaigns. Firstly, it was the chauvinist campaign led by the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and the JVP. They explained that the victory of Mahinda will be the end of the peace agreement .There will be a real war against the LTTE. Hegemony of the Sinhalese Buddhists will be restored and the unitary state will be consolidated. Of course there will be discussions to make Tamils and Muslims understand how to work within this system. In Sinhala majority areas Mahinda made use of this campaign.
Secondly, he made use of the social reform campaign led by the old left and the populists of the SLFP. JVP also helped them. They said that Mahinda will change the neo liberal economic policies continued by the Chandrika rule. There will be protection for the local industries. Development will be centred on village regeneration. Agrarian revolution through village self rule. Resources will be directed towards the peasant and the fisher men and other small producers. Social services such as education health and transport will be protected. Privatisation will be turned back. Dependency on global capital will be changed. Finally he made use of the trade union campaign for wage increase to balance the rise of cost of living. In addition to the old left trade union leaders, this campaign included Thondaman, Chandarsekaran, etc. They believed that the victory of Mahinda will benefit the workers movement. They were of the view that he will consult the TUs regularly and that TU and media freedom will be protected.
Having come to power he turned against the social and TU campaigns but continued with the chauvinist military policy. Aerial bombing combined with missile attacks at areas suspected of LTTE activity devastated the Tamil homeland. Whole villages were uprooted killing thousands while several hundreds of thousands of people were displaced and became refugees. Mahinda joyfully claims that the east is cleared of LTTE. He also boasts that once the victory is consolidated it will be continued in the North as well.
Assassinations and disappearances continue all over the country. At least 2000 have disappeared. However he has retraced the promises given to the social and trade union movements. He has implemented the tasks given in the Regaining Sri Lanka programme of the UNP. Indirectly he has used the military chauvinist policy against the TUs. Mahinda claims that any trade union campaign at this juncture when the government is involved in a `war to defend the nation` is a crime against the nation, a treachery. Hence the anti LTTE repression can be used against the TUs as well. Mahinda assumes that the chauvinist campaign and the consolidation of the state forces can stand against the social & trade union unrest. Already he has used these against both TUs and media. Global capital is satisfied with his economic policies and the ability to face the social unrest. He was given the 3.5 b dollars promised in 2005.
Last week they promised to give 4.5 bn for his future programme. They all stressed the need of peace. But this help is unconditional and there is no mention of the autonomy of the Tamil speaking people. The Galle Sri Lanka development forum showed clearly that the global capital is keen only arriving at peace as war is a hindrance to their development programme. With the backing of global capitalists UNP has almost totally come over to Mahinda. With the rest of the party, Ranil will be trailing behind Mahinda. Jathika Hela Urumaya has accepted the American dictates. Hence they are in the government to implement their Sinhala chauvinist policy. Social pressure on the JVP has forced them to move out of the government, but they cannot break away form the chauvinist policy that ties them to the Sinhala educated youth. This will create a crisis in the JVP ranks in the coming period.
The current attitude of the western powers and the global capital in general has created a new challenge for the LTTE leadership. It must turn to the workers movement both locally as well as internationally. It must seek support for democratic rights of the Tamil people from the workers` movement, especially of Lankan and Indian. Thus there is a good opportunity for the left to take up the challenge. The struggles of workers in ports, petroleum, railway, telecom and plantations show that workers are not fooled by the military chauvinism. Other social campaigns are also breaking out. Mahinda regime will not be able to cope with the break down of the system. Left should be prepared to take up the challenge.
(Speech given by Comarade Vickramabahu Katunarathna, in London, on 04/02/07)