Arab spring moves forward, albeit with ups and downs

| by Team Anik Pituwa
(November 20, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Anik Pituwa welcomes the progress of the Libyan Revolution and the first ever democratic elections in Tunisia. The manner in which Gaddafi died is certainly a blot on the Libyan revolution. Every enemy taken alive has a right to be tried under the law for any alleged crimes. What makes it worse is that the International Criminal Court had issued a warrant for the arrest of Gaddafi and the new administration had said that it will cooperate with the ICC. That the National Transition Council may not have had control over events and that the Libyan rebels were poorly organized with no clear command structure are no excuses. That Gaddafi liquidated his opponents without trial, hung people in public places and broadcast their hanging on TV in the holy month of Ramadan, sent death squads to kill Libyans abroad and ordered the killing of 1200 political prisoners in Abu Sleem prison are no reasons to deny him justice. We also condemn the execution of some 300 Gaddafi loyalists and mercenaries after the capture of Sirte and remind the NTC that the world will hold it accountable to its promise to investigate, prosecute and punish those responsible.
A woman walks past caricatures on a wall of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his family in Tripoli November 20, 2011. -REUTERS IMAGE
The first priority now is unification of all fighting factions and tribes, disarmament of all militias and ensuring peace. Without this sine qua non, no constitution drafting, economic development or democracy is possible.
The Arab spring has had its ups and downs. US-friendly regimes in Bahrain and Yemen have survived despite unceasing waves of revolt. Syrian dictator Assad’s brutal crackdown has killed nearly 3,000 people during the seven months of protests. The success of the Libyan revolt will certainly help keep the flames of the Arab uprisings burning. Autocrats in the Arab world and elsewhere must be having sleepless nights.
Local election results
The local election results were more or less as expected. It is two years since the defeat of the LTTE and the people in general appear unwilling to vote against the Government. But to think that people are not concerned about other issues that are emerging is to be short sighted. Growing disillusionment is evident. Even in the villages, people are increasingly concerned about the rising prices, increase in lawlessness, corruption, nepotism and authoritarianism although they are yet unwilling to vote against the Government. The Government is also blessed with a divided UNP, unable to get its voters to the polling booths, and an ineffective JVP. Since 1977, provincial and local elections have gone in favour of the ruling party. The only exceptions were the elections to the Western, Southern and Wayamba Provincial Councils in 1991, that too thanks to the split in the ruling UNP. The SLFP has lost Attanagalla only once in its history- in 2002, a few months after Ranil became Prime Minister, when Chandrika was still President.
But where there was an immediate threat to them, in Colombo, the people did vote against the Government. The arrogant manner in which the Government got about its development plans for the Colombo frightened city dwellers. Wimal Rodrigo, the Left’s candidate in the UPFA list hit the nail on the head when he stated in his manifesto: “What is needed is broad-based public dialogue; we need constructive ideas and positive public intervention. Flats must be constructed, the financial stability of self-employed persons ensured through diversification of opportunities, and a permanent solution that guarantees the abode of city dwellers provided.” In the absence of such a solution, it is not surprising that city dwellers voted against the UPFA.
Wimal himself could not make it to the CMC. He was also handicapped by illness that kept him in hospital for a week in the middle of the campaign and again in the last week. The LSSP won one seat in the Kotte MC where it contested under its own symbol. It also won a seat each in the Dehiwala-Galkissa, Moratuwa, Badulla and Negombo MCs. Anik Pituwa is happy that the LSSP’s Upali Piyatissa, a candidate that it endorsed, was elected. The CP won 3 seats in Matara, one in Kotte and one in Kundasale, while the DLF won a seat each in Colombo and Kandy. It is also noteworthy that an alliance of a Tamil party with non-governmental left parties did well in Colombo and obtained representation in Dehiwala-Galkissa and Kolonnawa.
Our appeal to vote for Comrades Wimal and Upali evoked mixed responses. Many on the Left who felt uncomfortable voting for the UPFA symbol yet understood that these were people who have consistently fought for maintaining Left identity and when given the opportunity should not have backed out if they are to continue fighting for their position within the Left. Others felt strongly that Comrades Wimal and Upali should never have contested under the UPFA. We are confident that Comrade Upali will not only articulate the interests of the citizens of Dehiwala-Galkissa but also use the Council as a platform to voice the Left position.
The results have also provoked new thinking about the participation of the Left in elections, at least at the local authority level. Many in the Left now think that the Left parties should have contested local authorities separately. While the Left would have secured greater representation in the local authorities, contesting separately would have enabled to assert the Left’s own identity. Sometime back, the Socialist Alliance (Samajawadi Janatha Peramuna) did decide to contest local authorities on its own but that decision was not implemented.

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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