Sri Lanka: Going Back to War Again?

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By Sampath Perrera, Socialist Party Melbourne
Last November Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga imposed a state of emergency while her rival, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, was overseas.Last November Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga imposed a state of emergency while her rival, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, was overseas.
This military-coup style attempt by the President has been described by many political analyists as ?a naked power grab rather than an attempt to protect national security?.
At different times both the main capitalist opposition party, the UNP and the President?s SLFP have exploited the ethnic divisions in Sri Lanka. The civil war started under a UNP government however both Kumaratunga and Wickremesinghe were elected as President and as Prime Minister on ?peace? tickets.
President Kumaratunga came to power in 1994 promising peace through negotiations with Tamil rebels and also promising to dissolve presidential executive powers and bring back the powers of parliament. All ethnic communities in Sri Lanka including the majority Singhalese gave her a mandate in the election. However after she won the election her government failed to implement any of the promises and both country?s economic and security situation become bad to worse by her ?war for peace? with Tamil Tigers.
The capitalist class in country like Sri Lanka is very weak and has no back bone to take any progressive or radical change. Even so, President Kumaratunga has shown no credibility to bring peace or economic prosperity into the country. Instead she used her powers to suppress the working class and ordinary people on many occasions.
In December 2001, the UNP formed a government under Ranil Wickremesinghe?s leadership while Mrs Kumaratunga remained as the President. This is the starting point of the current constitutional dilemma where Prime Minister and President are from two different parties and play a political tug of war.
Traditionally the UNP is closer with the imperialist masters and has always tried to implement their policies. The economic policies of this government are entirely dictated by the IMF and World Bank. Unemployment, inflation and poverty are skyrocketing and despite the peace process the UNP government has become extremely unpopular.
Kumaratunga seems to be trying to take advantage of this unpopularity of the government to bring back her lost dreams. She may have plans to even go further and form a government. However the peace initiative taken by the Wickramasinghe government have boomeranged back against her. She has not been able to split the UNP MPs and get some to back to her party. Instead she has been forced to take some steps back. Kumaratunga declared a state of emergency, but two days later declined to sign the order. She ordered a nationwide deployment of the army, which she subsequently denied. These contradictory statements and actions are reflections of the difficult situation around her. Nevertheless the imperialist masters Britain and US, along with the regional imperialist power India, are against Kumaratunga?s move as they hoped that a settlement could be reached.
In this situation efforts to revive the peace talks have been in limbo with Prime Minister saying he will not lead the peace process unless he controls security and Norway suspending its role as mediator until the impasse is resolved.
The left wing NSSP declared that the Prime Minister would be weakening the forces for peace within the Parliament if he opts for a snap election. They fear that Sinhala racists will be the ones who will gain in an election at this critical moment.
The United Socialist Party (CWI Sri Lanka section) has issued statements and leaflets denouncing Kumaratunga?s attempted coup and undemocratic measures; calling for the peace negotiations to resume while explaining that only the working class can solve the communal and social problems that have gripped Sri Lanka for generations.