by Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratne
The parties of the opposition who joined in the campaign of Virodhaya, the VV, were jubilant that general Fonseka was given freedom. If there are restrictions, obviously we should continue our campaign for release of political prisoners.
In any case Sarath is only one of them. There are more than 800 such political prisoners, who are variously dubbed as Tigers, Sinhala Tigers, etc.
In addition, the regime arrested over a hundred in the recent searches in the Tamil homeland and they are kept illegally in various illegitimate places.
Even though there is no emergency, people are kept under arrest without explaining the legality of the action. Lawyers say that parents and members of the families are scared to take legal action, as it could lead to disappearances! It is a sorry spectacle to see these affected people going around in circles pleading and crying.
Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratne – pic courtesy: YATV
There were hunger strikes by prisoners, demanding equal treatment to all political prisoners and freedom now. There are many prisoners who are not charged at all. Issue of political prisoners came up in the discussions held by TNA with the government recently.
It was reported “Though the talks between the government and the TNA seemed to be going ahead, the TNA has charged that not a single pledge made by the government has been met so far. TNA MP M. A. Sumanthiran said that though the government had assured his party of providing access to relatives to visit those being held in detention centres during the talks held in April, so far they have failed to honour that promise.
He said that as per the agreement with the government those relatives ought to have been given access to visit those held in detention centres by the end of April. However, when relatives had arrived at the camps they had been turned away by the security officers. MP Sumanthiran lamented that when they had questioned the government in this regard, govt. representatives had merely expressed apologies. In the meantime all promises made to the TNA with regard to the freeing of political prisoners have also been broken, the MP charged.”
It was agreed that the VV will include release of political prisoners as a major item in the coming campaigns. Next VV protest will take place in the Gampaha district.
It will be organised by a committee that combines the political parties with trade unions and other mass organizations. Assistant leader of the UNP, MP Joseph Michel Perera is expected to play a leading role in this event. NSSP Negombo organizer Luxman Rosa is of the view that the major sections that could be drawn in to the protest are FTZ workers and the fisher community. He told me “It is correct to fight together at this moment of barbaric repression. But we must keep our perspective of building proletarian power bases.”
I explained that VV is not an alternative to the left unity, but the latter has to develop within the common struggle. Because the immediate tasks before us are democratic, such as creating a democratic constitution that eliminates the dictatorial presidency but includes autonomy and the right of self determination for the Tamil people, secular state and people’s participation at all levels.
Even on this perfectly normal democratic perspective there could be differences within the VV. We have to expect that. Trotsky said, almost a century ago, that the bourgeoisie of the developing countries is incapable of taking an independent revolutionary democratic stand. In the dawn of capitalism, European bourgeoisie played a very revolutionary role in brushing out the old structures of feudalism.
Today the local bourgeoisie, even the most radical section, is incapable of playing such a role. On one hand they are tied to global capitalism, hence will play only within the space dictated by the masters. On the other hand, they will be using chauvinism and religious sectarianism to counter the power of the proletariat. Today the bourgeoisie ideology of nation building has moved into the blind ally of chauvinism.
However, we are now living under a backward regime that is sinking further. In order to overthrow this regime we need to mobilize all forces that stand for democracy and devolution. Though Ranil cannot be compared to Abraham Lincoln or even Garibaldi, he has committed to work with Tamil and Muslim mass parties, and managed to get them to come into the VV. So we have to unite with him in the struggle against backwardness. After the overthrow, what will Ranil do if he becomes the leader of whatever the regime that will emerge?
Will he establish a democratic constitution with at least substantial autonomy to the Tamil people? What ever it may be, the NSSP will continue the struggle until the tasks of revolution are completed.
Obviously we are not going to be a part of a bourgeoisie government. We are independent today, while we work together with the UNP of Ranil. Tomorrow we will be more independent as we will not be a partner in his government.