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Sri Lanka's violent election
THE RECENTLY concluded Sri Lankan parliamentary election has not given any strength to the capitalist class to solve their problems.
Siritunga Jayasuriya, general secretary United Socialist Party, Sri Lanka
The ruling People's Alliance (PA) has again formed the government with a three-seat majority. PA got 116 seats and the opposition parties got 109 seats.
PA, which originally came to power in 1994 promising an end to the war against the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka and promising social reform, managed to win this election with mass ballot rigging and intimidation. This has also been the most violent election in Sri Lankan history, with 1,171 injured and 86 people killed.
After all this, the PA only just got a majority to form a government with the support of two regional minority parties. Their election results also showed a sharp drop in their support since they first came to power in 1994.
In the North of the country, where the war against the Tamils has been taking place since 1983, the election took place under Sri Lankan army occupation. In some areas the election was conducted by the army and armed political groups like EDDP, a Tamil group who support the PA.
The EDDP got four people elected, all from the Jaffna district alone, where only 21% turned out to vote. Without the support of these four MPs the PA could not have formed the government.
ANOTHER SIGNIFICANT development is the wiping out of the 'traditional' Left parties, like the LSSP. This party was the first political party in Sri Lankan history - formed in 1935 and it became the major opposition party in the Sri Lankan parliament.
It was founded as a Trotskyist party but it entered into class collaborationist, popular front politics and consequently has dwindled to nothing today. The LSSP did not win a single parliamentary seat in this election.
The Communist Party (CP) won two seats but neither MP claims to be a socialist any more.
A vacuum has been created within the working class and the poor masses who oppose the capitalist PA and the former ruling UNP.
People do not want to see the UNP get back into power, mainly because they still remember the dark days of UNP rule from 1977 to 1994. During that period more than 100,000 youths were killed and 40,000 strikers sacked after the 1980 general strike.
Both the PA and UNP based their election campaign on pro-Sinhala communal lines. PA had nothing to offer to people, having broken all their previous promises. As a result the entire election campaign became an anti-Tamil communal campaign.
This helped the Sinhala chauvinist JVP party to mobilise the poorest sections of people to their side, together with the anti-government slogans and their communal politics. They won ten seats in the parliament, winning 5.9% of the votes in the country. The JVP claim they are 'Marxist' or 'Socialist' and some sections of workers and peasants support them thinking that they are the only Left party today.
The NSSP, a split-off from the LSSP, is mainly responsible for creating this confused situation. In recent years the NSSP boosted the JVP and tried to whitewash out their murderous terror politics from 1987-89 and their communal racist politics.
The JVP exposed their thoroughly communal nature in opposing the proposed new constitution along racist lines.
The Marxists in the United Socialist Party (USP - the Sri Lankan section of the CWI, the international socialist organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated) also oppose the proposed constitution but because it does not guarantee the rights of Tamil-speaking people.
THIS ELECTION created mixed opportunities for the Left but the result has been a temporary setback for the working class. The New Left Front (NLF) created by the NSSP leadership for opportunistic reasons broke apart in this election. It was formed from various Left parties and groups, including NSSP, USP, NDP and Diyasa. But the NSSP leadership broke the Left Front to gain a chairman's position in the Western Provincial council, as a UNP nominee!
The NSSP polled very poorly in this election. 18 months ago the NLF won one seat and narrowly missed out on others in provincial elections, gaining 9,400 votes. This October NSSP candidates in the same Colombo district only got 3,877 - a 65% drop.
The USP, based on clear Marxist principles, tried to unite the Left on a clear socialist programme but was unsuccessful.
The USP had to contest seats as an independent group because the party was not recognised by the Election Commissioner. The USP has filed a case in the Supreme Court against that decision.
The USP contested two seats where Tamil-speaking plantation workers and Muslims lived. Its main aim was to campaign for its party programme rather than asking for votes.
Standing in areas which are currently war zones, the USP organised a public meeting of 1,500. 61 copies of our paper were sold and 26 new members joined the party, with another 19 people interested in the party.
One new party branch has been formed in Ratnapara during the election campaign and 95,000 USP leaflets were distributed throughout the country.
Though a new government has been formed, nothing has changed except more burden will drop on the heads of the poor people.
The duty of Marxists now is to open workplace discussions about why the Left suffered setbacks and to show how the working class and the oppressed Tamil minority can combine to overthrow the capitalist system.
In The Socialist 3 November 2000: