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Political turmoil in Sri Lanka
A power struggle between Sri Lanka's main establishment parties erupted into violence last week, with MPs brawling in parliament.
The constitutional crisis began when President Maithripala Sirisena announced on 26 October that he had sacked prime minister and former political ally, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and installed in his place Sirisena's former foe, ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa (see 'Parliamentary coup in Sri Lanka' in the Socialist 31 October 2018). Rajapaksa, who ruled with an iron fist during 2005-2015, is responsible for war crimes against the country's Tamil people.
Sirisena later dissolved parliament and called a snap election, only for this to be overturned by the Supreme Court. In the meantime, opposition MPs passed two no-confidence votes against Rajapaksa.
Below, we carry a shortened statement from the United Socialist Party (CWI Sri Lanka) on the current crisis.
Sri Lanka is seeing an unprecedented political crisis instigated by desperate and power-hungry capitalist rulers.
Although perpetrated by cliques of the ruling classes, it has a direct bearing on the lives of the ordinary working people and the oppressed minorities in the country.
For the first time in Sri Lanka's history, an intractable conflict has developed between the presidency and the elected legislature, threatening the very edifice of capitalist democracy.
This will lead to civil strife - where the warring factions of various rival cliques take the law into their own hands.
Sirisena and Rajapaksa announced that they will not obey the majority decision in the parliament and they will continue with their illegal government.
As Marxists, we do not believe that capitalist parliaments represent the interests of workers and poor people or their democratic aspirations. Rajapaksa's call to 'the people' to come onto the streets is really a call to his supporters, who are racially and religiously motivated, and who will create violence and confusion.
The blatantly neoliberal politician Ranil Wickremesinghe of the United National Party has also called on his supporters to fill the streets. The calls by both the rival wings of the capitalist class can lead to mayhem and blood on the streets.
Workers and poor people
The hooliganism that we have seen inside and outside parliament has exposed the limitations of capitalist democracy.
It is clear that there is no way out for the struggling masses if they continue to be ruled by the capitalist and landlord class whose only interest is to remain in power by any means. People should refuse to be cannon-fodder for either wing of the capitalists.
However, in the absence of mass workers' organisations capable of articulating and expressing the demands of the mass of the population, racists and violent populist forces could begin to dominate.
Hence it is extremely important that all workers' organisations and the left take immediate action. We are calling on all trade unions, working-class youth, and oppressed Tamil people to come forward to form a united force against all capitalist cliques and to put forward an alternative anti-capitalist, socialist programme.
Defence committees should be formed, with trade union involvement, in municipal neighbourhoods and villages to counter any potential violent attacks.
We demand the immediate establishment of a democratic and accountable Constituent Assembly (CA). Elections to the CA could be held across the country in constituencies representing all communities.
We call on all unions and left forces to establish a national platform to discuss the way forward.
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