| by Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratne
( February 26, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Agitation against fuel price hikes, the falling rupee against the dollar, and the removal of subsidies and welfare has created a new situation. We predicted that the policies of the government dictated by the global powers will create this situation. Genocidal wars designed and promoted by them, was very costly and it devastated the Vanni area. Then came the so called development full of mega projects. To say the least, these infrastructure developments do not bring any immediate returns. They gave us money of course, but beholden with bonds and interest repayments.
Now they demand their pound of flesh. Mahinda as a glorified slave, carried out the suggestions made by the IMF, backed by the world masters. On the other hand these rapacious masters are shedding crocodile tears, demanding that Mahinda should implement the recommendations of the LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission). Obviously then, Mahinda is going through the toughest time since the UPFA administration came to power in November of 2005. I have no tears to shed for this government. Due to the pressure of the chauvinist elements the government is incapable of implementing the LLRC recommendations. Hence in Geneva, it is beyond doubt that the state has to give one hell of a fight to the challenges that are aimed at it. On the other hand, the government has to face the wrath of the masses for caving into the diktat of the IMF – to put massive burdens on people. The IMF backed decision by the government was to cut subsidies and pass on the costs of fuel to the people. It did not want the state to grant continuous subsidies to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and the Electricity Board which bought fuel from the CPC.
Whatever prompted the government to take this decision, it became a siren call for mass agitation. The first event organized by the opposition showed very clearly the hatred of the masses for the government. Ranil came out quickly to call a meeting of the opposition. He managed to get all sections, including the Tamil National Alliance, to participate in a joint demonstration opposite the Fort railway station. Ranil, who is generally considered to be the traditional leader of the bourgeoisie, showed his abilities by calling this demonstration.
Dissatisfied UNP radicals
Though the UNP radicals are dissatisfied with his methods, he remains the only bourgeoisie leader that supports devolution as a way out to the Tamil national problem. Also he is rational enough to dismiss using religion for political purposes. It is too much to expect him to lead street battles. Generally, such activities are carried out by proletarian organizations. An oppositio protest is a combined effort where the workers’ organizations join hands with the opposition bourgeoisie parties to challenge a dictatorial chauvinist regime, hell bent on attacking the oppressed masses. The regime has place a great economic burden on the poor and killed workers in broad daylight. White vans ruthlessly abduct people. The joint opposition in action on the 17th was the first step. Our agreement is only for common actions on common demands. Today it is against the oil price hike and for wage increases. On the other hand we are for the implementation of the LLRC recommendations.
As soon as the oil price went up, bus owners went on strike, and the fishermen in Chilaw went on a march. Subsequently the bus owners agreed to accept the government proposal to increase ticket fares by 20%, thus putting the burden on the people. Though the government offered a subsidy, the fishermen took to the streets, saying that a subsidy will not do, and fuel prices should be what they were before. These protests were backed by Sama Samajists, Christian radicals and UNP grassroot organizations. The JVP, with its Sinhala Buddhist chauvinist pass had very little influence in this situation. However, the reaction of the government seemed to be muted and confused, perhaps because those at the apex of the regime had their minds concentrated on something of more crucial importance – the upcoming UNHRC sessions in Geneva where the US has threatened to back a resolution against the Sri Lankan government for non-implementation of the LLRC report. Hence the regime assumes the protest to be a conspiracy. The conspiracy that is was hatched at the government Treasury!