Sri Lanka: Parliamentary General Election 2010

Election Manifesto of the New-Democratic Party

Introduction

The entire people of Sri Lanka are facing acute crises and problems at two levels. One concerns the failure to resolve the national question caused by chauvinistic capitalist oppression. The other concerns the economic crises and problems that developed as a result of class oppression. Besides these, people have to struggle against a variety of problems faced by them in their daily lives. In all of these problems, the ruling classes comprising the government and the opposition factions are on one side and the overwhelming majority comprising the working people are on the other. Another fact that needs to be noted is that the imperialist forces of global hegemony and forces of regional hegemony have continued to meddle and tamper with the national question which is the main contradiction, and in the economic issues arising from the class contradiction, which is the fundamental contradiction. The effects and consequences of the above factors are been experienced as sorrow and suffering by the people at all levels of the political, economic, social and cultural aspects of society. Hence we briefly place before the public in the Election Manifesto of the New Democratic Party the basic political stand and the demands put forward by the Party.

The National Question and the Tamils

The New Democratic Party has consistently emphasised that the national question is the principal contradiction in Sri Lanka. The end of the war has not brought the national question to its end. Since chauvinism is even more closely bonded to the state machinery, national oppression against the Tamil, Muslim and Hill Country Tamil nationalities has intensified further. The three nationalities are affected in different ways according to their specific conditions of existence.

Generally, all three minority nationalities are subject to discriminatory treatment. Their right to education in their mother tongue and the right to conduct their affairs in their language are unlawfully denied to them. Besides, allocation of places in higher education, vocational training and the professions are unfavourable to them. In addition, owing to chauvinistic oppression against the Tamil nationality being implemented as a chauvinist war of national oppression in their traditional homelands, Tamils have suffered loss of life, disablement, and loss of property on an unprecedented, massive scale. Several hundred thousands have been forced to be displaced within the country and abroad. Amid this, in addition to land already appropriated from Tamils for establishing “High Security Zones”, planned colonisation of Sinhalese is being intensified with the aim of reducing them to a minority in their own territories.

Besides those in the open prisons called “Refugee Camps”, thousands are languishing in prisons and detention caps, as terror suspects, without trial or inquiry. Not merely Tamils and Hill Country Tamils but also Muslims and Sinhalese are put through such suffering for political reasons. The main cause for this situation is planned chauvinistic oppression by the state. Yet, attempts to resolve the national question, firstly as parliamentary deals, secondly as peaceful campaigns and thirdly as armed struggle, based on the claim that the Tamils could by themselves resolve the Tamil national question, failed. There were two fundamental reasons for the failure. Firstly, at no stage was the liberation struggle of the Tamil nationality carried forward as a mass struggle. That was the reason why weapons gained prominence while democratic practices were rejected. Secondly, the struggle with a narrow nationalist outlook was isolated from the struggles of other oppressed people. As a result, the struggle of the Tamils tended to rely on and side with Western powers and to deny support and even be hostile to struggles against imperialism and hegemony. As a result, the liberation struggle of the Tamils became isolated within Sri Lanka as well as internationally. It was because the three stages of struggle were guided by the same incorrect, upper class, elitist thinking that they pushed the Tamil people into a great tragedy. Thus there is a need to be freed from these errors, unite the Tamil people on a working class basis, create militant solidarity between them and other oppressed people and carry forward the fourth stage of the struggle. The New Democratic Party made clear its observations on the matter even before the struggle of the LTTE faced downfall.

Muslims

Since the Muslims are spread throughout the country, they face different kinds of oppression according to the environments in which they live. Also, their livelihood and small trade have been subject to attack by fanatically chauvinistic gangs, Muslims in different parts of the country have from time to time faced fierce chauvinist attacks. Tamil narrow nationalism has, in addition, targeted Muslims and carried out massacres. The expulsion of Muslims from the North in 1990 was a major act of cruelty against them. The government, while on the one hand engaging in activities that divide the Tamils and Muslims, has been colluding with chauvinistic gangs in seizing land and property from Muslims, and denying the Muslims their rights.

Hill Country Tamils

The Hill Country Tamils have, since deprivation of their right to citizenship in 1948, have struggled for their existence. The Sirima-Shastri Accord of 1963 was a great injustice perpetrated against them. Cruel exploitation of their labour and their expulsion of many from the plantations following the nationalisation of the plantations facilitated the implementation of that accord. Efforts have intensified to suppress the political voice that they may have through the right to vote that they won as a result of a prolonged struggle. Planned Sinhala colonisation and schemes like the Upper Kotmale Scheme designed to destroy plantations on the one hand and chauvinist attacks against them on the other persist. The so-called leaders of the Hill Country Tamils are accomplices of the chauvinists in activities designed to prevent the identification of the Hill Country Tamils as a distinct nationality. The people need to recognise the true nature of such leaders.

The Way to a Solution

In the current situation where the national question is being exacerbated and the minority nationalities are severely oppressed, the New-Democratic Party emphasises that, without resolving the national question, it is not possible resolve other problems faced by the country. From that position, the New-Democratic Party has consistently put forward the following idea as the basis for a long-term solution for the national question.

A just and lasting solution to the national question is possible only through rebuilding the country as a multi-ethnic, multi-nationality entity with autonomous regions for the nationalities and autonomous structures to preserve the unique identity of communities without a contiguous territory, based on the principle of the right to self determination within the framework of a united Sri Lanka which treats all nationalities and national minorities as equals.

Immediate Steps

At the same time, taking into account the consequences of the war and the direct impact of chauvinistic attacks, the New-Democratic Party urges the following immediate steps.
• All the people been displaced as a result of the war should be immediately resettled in their own homes.
• Normal life should be restored for people affected by war, through reconstruction and rehabilitation.
• All losses due to war should be compensated and opportunity provided for communities to rebuild their lives based on self-reliance.
• Military camps should be removed from areas in which civilians live in large numbers.
• All those under detention without trial or inquiry should be released forthwith and due compensation paid for the injustice done to them.
• Planned colonisation should be stopped forthwith, High Security Zones done away with, and the right of communities to their traditional territory respected.
• Acts of communal hatred affecting the life and livelihood of Tamil, Muslim and Hill Country Tamil people should be ended immediately, and firm action taken against those who provoke communal hatred.
• The legal right of all speakers of Tamil to education in their mother tongue and to carry out all affairs including matters relating to the state in Tamil in any part of the country should be safeguarded.
• Provocation of hatred towards the Muslims and acts of violence directed against Muslim communities should be prevented.
• Moves to appropriate land belonging to the Muslims in their traditional areas should be prevented.
• Hill Country Tamils should be recognised as a nationality and their right to existence in regions in which they have lived for several generations should be affirmed.
• The Hill Country Tamils, especially the plantation workers, should be given an adequate wage increase, and be granted the legal right, opportunity and means to possess their own homes and land in order to maintain an independent economic existence by developing cultivation and animal husbandry.
• Educational and employment opportunities should be enhanced for the Hill Country Tamil community, which is still backward in education and employment.

Social Oppression

The well being of any nationality of Sri Lanka cannot be isolated from that of other nationalities. Hence, it is not possible to isolate the liberation of the Tamil, Muslim and Hill Country Tamil people cannot be viewed in isolation from the interests of the country as a whole. Likewise, we cannot ignore oppression based on class, caste and gender, nationally and within each community. It should again be reminded here as a lesson of historical experience that the tendency to be blind to social oppression, on the pretext of the liberation struggle of the Tamil people and unity of the nationality, has in no way helped the liberation of the Tamil people.

Many trade union rights and other legal rights won by the workers through struggle have been lost under the liberalised private sector economy, which is part of capitalist globalisation.

Several obstacles exist in society that prevent the victories scored in the struggle against casteism under the leadership of our Marxist Leninist party from leading to a total elimination of caste domination. Tamil narrow nationalism has been an accomplice to those evil forces.

While education and employment opportunities for women have increased, their work load too has increased. Besides that, there is also an increase in sexual harassment in their places of work. Thus, besides oppression based on caste, nationality and class, working women suffer gender-based oppression within the family and outside. Neither armed struggle nor urban employment has helped working class women to win liberation. The concerns of feminist campaigners remain confined to the boundaries of the well to do middle class.

We never accepted the argument that the unity of the nationality or of the community will be wrecked by raising issues of social oppression. The New Democratic Party has not exempted any social injustice. It has struggled against all forms of social oppression including chauvinistic oppression. Thus the following demands are included in the Election Manifesto of the Party.
• All trade union rights denied to the working class following the Open Economic Policy should be restored. All employment sectors should without exception be given the right to organise as a trade union.
• The rise in prices should be arrested, the cost of living controlled, and wage increases should be granted.
• The rights of working people including workers, peasants and fisher folk should be assured.
• Untouchability, caste-based discrimination, disregard and oppression that are still practiced as a result of residual caste ideology should be fully eliminated.
• In addition to strong legal action against all social violence against women, the idea of gender equality should be emphasised in all social institutions including schools.
• Sections of the people who remain backward on the basis of class, gender, caste and region should be granted special concessions in education, higher education and employment.

Alternative Political Path

To win the above demands, it is important to build a new front of mass struggle that brings together all nationalities and national minorities along an alternative political path based on broad unity of the people. It is only through the total rejection of the narrow Tamil nationalist outlook which portrayed the Sinhalese people as enemies and acting on the basis that the broad masses of Sinhala working people are an ally that it will be possible to defeat the chauvinism afflicting the Sinhalese people and enable them to accept the rights of other nationalities. Through that, it will also be possible to salvage the struggle of the Tamil people against national oppression from the tendency to isolate the Tamil people from other nationalities of Sri Lanka, and thereby carry forward the struggle.

Global domination by the US and the regional hegemonic ambitions of India, besides contributing to the transformation of the national conflict into war, have been obstacles to finding a just solution to the national question. The imperialist grip on Sri Lanka has tightened during the past three decades. Sri Lanka is now a major debtor nation. Sri Lanka, without a national economy, depends on earnings from the sale of its labour power in the international market, directly or indirectly through means such as the garment industry. Hence, it is important to rescue the sovereignty and the economy of the country from US-led Western imperialism and from Indian hegemony. All foreign involvements that seek to use the national question for purposes of intervention, and domination trade, political and military affairs should be opposed.

The New Democratic Party has never believed that useful political change can be brought about through the parliamentary system. It has never propagated such faith among the people. The importance of this election to the Party is the opportunity that it provides to take correct ideas among the people and thereby mobilise the people along an alternative political path.

The people by studying, understanding and supporting the stand of the Party will be strengthening the struggle for their rights. We pledge that, with the strength of that support, the New Democratic Party will work resolutely with the people within and outside parliament to mobilise the people and advance along the path of struggle.

If the people will grant us parliamentary representation at this election, we pledge that we will continue to be an honest political force which is true to the people and act to build a new political culture and advance our political cause.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: