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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2783

Sri Lanka’s APRC: Hijacked by the Trotskyites !

By Palitha Senanayake

It is indeed an irony that when the nation expects the All Party Representatives Committee (APRC) to formulate a balanced and acceptable solution to the vexed problem in our country and APRC, at this crucial juncture is headed by Tissa Vitharana, a Trotskyite. Trotskyism in Sri Lanka has a drawn out history of being anti Sinhala and worst, anti Bandaranaike. It is a Political Party that finds itself in the political wilderness today for its inability to understand the aspirations of the local population in relation to the imported political theories it’s leaders propounded in the 1930’s and 40’s.

Leon Trotsky was a brilliant theoretician, who was second in command to V I Lenin, during the Russian revolution. But he was found wanting in practicality and lost his race to succeed Lenin to a comparatively unknown Stalin. Ever since then, Trotsky was exiled and was in political wilderness till he was murdered in the 1940s. Trotskyism as a political movement idealizes the political ideology of Trotsky, but in effect opposed everything that the Soviet Russia stood for under Stalin. As a result Trotskyism became an ideological political movement bereft of practicality and effectively anti establishment.

Trotskyism was brought to Sri Lanka in the 1930’s by young members of elite families who were sent abroad to study politics and economics in the West. Trotskyism or even communism as political philosophies had a great global appeal in the 1930, as the world community was in turmoil due to the exploitative activities of colonials. It was a completely new people centered theory benevolent and romantic, appealing to the young.

The irony however was, that the people who brought Trotskyism to then colonial Ceylon knew all about socialism, communism and Trotskyism, but knew very little about the aspirations of the indigenous population. They disowned their socially elitist position in the local community but held on to their intellectual elitism. Following the Communist and Trotskyite strategy, they criticized the Sri Lankan history and religion. They called ancient Sinhala Kings gadol modayas and the local religion ‘opium’. The situation in Sri Lanka at the time was in complete contrast with Tsarist Russia and the Ceylonese were eager to emancipate themselves from British colonialism and not from local feudalism as in Russia. The average Ceylonese was looking forward for the restoration of indigenous values and religion, whereas the Soviet citizens were trying to bury those.

Initially the Trotskyite comrades were able to garner those to whom their intellectualism and benevolence appealed but by and large their vote base rested on the personal charisma and hard work of the individual members than on any value of Trotskyism as a tenable alternative to the political issues of the time. Nevertheless being the only opposition facing the right wing Government, at the time they were able to hold themselves in political firmament of newly independent Ceylon. They called themselves the Sama Samaja (Social equal) Party.

However the advent of SWRD Bandaranaike and the leadership he gave to the emerging indigenous forces posed a bigger threat than the right wing politics of the ruling UNP to the Sama Samajist. The under- privileged Sri Lankan never needed ‘political knowledge’ to understand what SWRD was saying whereas a special terminology was required to express himself in the Sama Samajist philosophy. The Trotskyites soon realized the threat Bandaranaike posed to their political agenda and hence gradually became more anti Bandaranaike than anti UNP. As a result their elitist and imported political theories appeared increasingly irrelevant to the political developments and local aspirations.

Nothing will exemplify this position better than the fracas the Sama Samajist enacted in the face of the Official Language bill of 1956. At the time, even though after150 years of English rule only 6 % of the population in Ceylon could understand English. This tangibly meant that 94 % of the local population was administered by a language that they did not understand. Often the average Ceylonese had to go to an interpreter every time he received a letter from the government.

Even Justice was administered in a language the ordinary men did not understand making it a travesty of justice. The receipt of a telegram would leave the village priest and the native physician at the mercy of the minority who knew English. The sole criteria of governing the country was the knowledge of English, a language that the ordinary people of the country did not understand. When Bandaranaike Government of 1956 introduced legislation to make Sinhala, a language understood by a good 85%, the official language of the country, it was the Trotskyites who opposed the legislation tooth and nail. The opposition from the Tamils came much later and even then on the instigation of the Trotskyites.

Bandaranaikes Language legislation had provision for ‘reasonable use’ of Tamil in the North and East’, and the Prime Minister made a fervent appeal to the dissenters to ‘give him time and to see how it is implemented’. Robert Gunewardene was the first to be carried out of the Parliament house for misbehavior during the language bill debate and the other 13 Trotskytes followed. Being the largest party and the opposition of the time the Sama Samajist thought it was politically expedient to pander to the sentiments of the Tamils.

Technically there was no way the Tamils could be worse off with Sinhala, as oppose to English, as the official language because more Tamils knew Sinhala than Eanglish. But since colonial education favored Tamil areas compared to the Sinhala areas, the number of Tamils employed in Government service far outweighed their national census and this fact was twisted by the Marxist to appear as if the “Swabasha” was directed towards the average Tamil. By then there were pent up emotions among the Tamils too and the Trotskyites being the opposition party with 14 members at the time would have wished to annex the Federal Party which had 10 members. The fact however was that it was to be expected that the Trotskyites would oppose any bill of Bandaranaike, since it had by then opposed Bandaranaike on everything he did including the nationalization of the bus service, nationalization of the ports and the introduction of EPF to workers.

The fact is that the “Swabasha” bill coupled with other legislation of the era liberated the indigenous forces that were denied an opportunity up to then making life competitive for the English educated ruling class. These Anglicized elitist elements whose power base is now threatened reacted sharply clambering on the bandwagon of anti “Swabasha” calling the Bill ‘Sinhala only’. The irony then is that the LSSP who was indoctrinated to serve the oppressed proliterariate ended up serving the elites who were looking for grievances to thwart the march of the progressive forces of the post independent era.

Since then the political fortunes of the LSSP has been on the wane at every successive election held in 1960 July, 1965, 1970. The election results of 1977 manifested very clearly that the LSSP had no political following in the country and therefore it did not contest elections thereafter under its own banner. The position of the LSSP today is no different from some of these INGOs who depend on the western grants for their survival without a base in the civil society.

Two members of the LSSP are serving in the current Parliament, nominated by virtue of the national list: Tissa Vitharana , Minister of Science and technology and Mr Dew Gunesekara, Minister of Constitutional affairs. Mr Vitharana was a prominent member of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK) regime that pursued a disastrous putative peace campaign justifying terrorism. The highest number of armed forces and the LTTE members, compared to other periods were killed during this period, which started by ridiculing those who advocated security measures against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, (LTTE.) CBK’s political solutions encouraged terrorism and emboldened the war. Vitharana also has gone on record in the ‘Rajpal Abeynaike column’ of the Sunday Times saying that ‘they even called Nelson Mandela a terrorist’. This remark was made when he was asked to give his views on Prabhakaran and his terrorist activities. This definitely is a subtle attempt to draw parallels between Nelson Mandela, the world icon on anti apartheid, and Prabhakaran. The world icon on terrorism. Mr Dew Gunesekara was the CBK nominee to represent the Sinhalese in the infamous P-Toms which the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional. His appointment to represent the Sinhalese was treated with such ridicule by the Sinhalese that the talk was that an LTTE member would do a better job for the Sinhalese than this inveterate anti Sinhala person called DEW Gunesekara.

The question before the people at the last Presidential election was whether Sri Lanka should have a “Unitary” or “Federal” state. Since Mahinda Rajapakse represented a unitary state and with Vitharana and DEW known for their hardline federal views, it is difficult to empathize how they could have canvassed or at least voted for Mahinda when Ranil’s Federal position was more close to their political ideology. It is indeed an irony again that when people went out of the way to defeat federalism of Ranil Wickremesinghe and elect Unitary Mahinda, a federalist called Vitharana should finally come to chair over the solution formulated by the APRC.

In the run up to the Presidential elections, an advertisement regularly that appeared in press calling for peace. Although it called for peace, it was an insidious attempt to equate the LTTE with the Government, because it blamed the Government as well as the LTTE for the violence. It was signed by the usual western INGO cabals, but there was one signatory who gave life to adored mother characters in the Sinhala screen. That was Mrs. Iranganie Meedeniya. It indeed was strange how a lady of that repute could give any credence to the LTTE, but the fact is that Mrs Meedeniya is the sister-in-law of Tissa Vitharana and this proves that Minister Vitharan has not lost any of his love for the LTTE’s cause and their means over the years.

It was the formulation of a report called the Majority report, purported to have been drafted by Dr Vatharana that caused the JVP to walk out of the APRC. Even the JHU has has expressed reservations about Vitharana’s chairman ship. Trotskyites like Vitharana always take it for granted that the majority Sinhalese have no cause for worry because they are the majority. But it has been proved time and again that the Sinhalese are a majority with a minority ‘mindset’ because it is only in Sri Lanka that you have Sinahalese and they are therefore week in numbers and in terms of international support.

The reality however is that whatever is presented by the current APRC would be rejected out and out by the LTTE and their proxy the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). Yet the Government had an opportunity to present to the country the consensus of the Government parties to form a basis for the future negotiations with democratic Tamil parties that may emerge in the future. But with Vitharana as the Chairman even that opportunity may not exist now.

- Asian Tribune -

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