Sri Lanka’s democracy sector is stuck in the fictitious world where selfless NGO personnel rescue the world from evil doers.
The moral bankruptcy of Sri Lanka’s democracy advocates, hereafter referred to as the democracy sector, has been evident for decades. Since the post 1977 demise of the country’s traditional leftist parties, who were fearless advocates for the rights of the working class, no political party has been able to fill the vacuum left by their demise. Promoting democracy may not have been the primary goal of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and the Communist Party (CP) but the leadership of those two parties understood the ability of democracy to act as the vanguard for their cause and used the tools of democracy to put pressure on the government to grant concessions to the working class.
The present-day advocates of democracy on the other hand have no substantive issues to prop their cause. The LSSP and the CP were fighting for worker’s rights to a living wage, safe working conditions and dignity in the workplace. Those are noble causes that can withstand the closest of scrutiny.
The democracy sector from Colombo’s well to do, the United National Party (UNP) and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the NGO sector on the other hand hold candle light vigils, block traffic while holding placards declaring their confused political loyalties because theirs’ is a manufactured cause imposed by their American and European benefactors. They light candles and hold signs for democracy because they have been told by their American and European handlers that they are fighting the good fight, whether it be for Tamil estate workers, sexually abused women, disappeared journalists or an African American male murdered by the police. Their cause is the latest viral outbreak on social media. Hardly the stuff that would start a Sri Lankan political monsoon.
The democracy sector wants the US and the EU to tell the Rajapaksas’, “enough of your power grab by manipulating ethnic sensitivities. Back off or we’ll impose economic sanctions”. It has worked in the past but the US and the EU are not as interested as in the past of playing bullying games, not because they have realized the error of their ways but because they have bigger fires to put out closer to home. The pandemic is killing their interest in the democracy sector.
Sri Lanka’s democracy sector is totally dependent on the EU and the US to prop them as well as provide them the political clout that they don’t have within the country. The JVP’s determined march towards political irrelevance has added to the woes of the democracy sector.
Rajapaksas’ back to back crushing election wins has compounded the democracy sector’s troubles. The two election victories have given the Rajapaksas the legitimacy to take their program forward and disregard the democracy sector.
Autocrats are winning popular support in many places around the globe because of democracy’s contempt for populism. Instead of using democracy to fine tune populism, the neo liberal world order sought to crush it. As a result, the neo liberals are having to deal with the likes of Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Boris Johnson, Tayyip Erdogan and Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Those who say human struggles are universally binding fail to recognize the immediacy of people’s struggles. Those who are struggling to feed their families in a democratic political order are unlikely to be persuaded that more democracy is the cure for their economic misery. Human economic and political struggles vary and the causes for those struggles tend to be systemic. People faced with generations of stifling systemic abuse and neglect have little need for a feel-good cure. That is what democracy offers, a snake oil to cure the ills of an incorrigible system of oligarchical indulgence camouflaged as freedom.
Sri Lanka’s democracy sector is stuck in the fictitious world where selfless NGO personnel rescue the world from evil doers. They see themselves as modern day Quayles’ (Justin and Tessa Quayle of John le Carre’s Constant Gardener) willing to fall on the sword for the cause. The sector doesn’t, or cannot, comprehend that the battle has moved on during the last two decades. One side has the populists who are determined to serve the needs of the majority and the other has the pseudo liberals doing their utmost to hoist their manufactured version of human rights sans economic rights on the vulnerable.
This is not a fight against democracy, at least not in countries like Sri Lanka. It is a fight to live a dignified life. That is why the neo liberal led fight for democracy is failing because their intellect is incapable of grasping the reality that the fight is about food, shelter and work and not the right to cast a ballot to stay stuck in the same economic situation.