Is the Opposition A ‘Progressive Alternative’?


  • By  Dr. Shanthikumar Hettiarachchi
  • Sunday, 30 November 2014 00:00
 Is the opposition A Progressive Alternative?
Slovenian cultural critic and a Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek suggests what the ‘New European family’ requires as it expands a different way of being at least a shared economic entity, even though politically diverse. I suggest this scenario as ‘manyness in political passionoption’ but ‘oneness’ of economic purpose. Žižek is seen as representing one of two trajectories in contemporary thought of ‘a progressive alternative’, which he suggests for European Union and further afield in the Market led globalism – that of communism rather than mere institutional imagination. Having listened to Žižek, and reading his material, Europe is politically sluggish and comparatively stale with imagination. 
There was indeed a spark of a political imagination, at least among some who created an opposition in the context of Sri Lanka as there was no real active opposition over a decade of politics on this island democracy, which is why any incumbent regime could gear itself for near autocracy. Some call it a conspiracy while others name it as breath of political fresh air. The formation of the common candidacy could be an oasis in the long drawn oppositional politics, but clearly shows that the parliamentary opposition in Sri Lanka’s legislature had been an utter failure, hence the reason for any ruling party to form a formidable counter narrative. Many are examples in Asia, India under Indira, Jayewardene of Sri Lanka, and the current regime now as some would depict.
The latest resignation of a prominent cabinet minister and the General Secretary of the SLFP is a perfect political coup which was an instant blow to the ruling coalition. The ‘Pivithuru Hetak’ led by Ven.  Rathana Thera was the clear icebreaker. But he needs more clout to carry his slogan through in the post common candidacy. The other flag posts of the JHU represented are Champika Ranawaka and Udaya Gamanpila, the latter is struggling to be or not to be. While Ven. Medhananada Ellawala Thera seems to have taken a different stand on the incumbency. The JHU is ruptured once again.  The priority is changed from pressurizing the incumbent ruling party to abdicate the presidential constitution which seemed like the sword of Damocles while some of them wish to sniper the heel of Achilles of the government. The first of its kind might be the Sirisena factor.  CBK and Wickremesinghe other unknown actors perhaps found the weakest membrane of the heel to shoot. Right now calculating individuals seemed to have won the first hurdle which is what Ven. Sobhita Thera did say to Sirisena at Naga Viharaya. Certainly there is more political opportunism for detractors of both parties to ‘do business’, currently a sad state of affairs of political parties. Whom to be trusted has become a nightmare for the leadership, the campaigners and the reformers. The public looks at all these summersaults by various individuals with profound interest, but not without disgust. The public is sharp and might be thinking that although one may understand what one is doing does not mean that one is doing the right thing. What is the right thing for the country now? The same applies to all campaigners and contenders of both sides with no exceptions.
Wave makers
Victor Ivan wants a civilizing (because he thinks the current regime has engaged in uncouth politics, Aseelaachaara deshapaananayk) package for the country. It is a sublime thought (moralist stand point) but he too has to get his act together for a new interpretation with the Sirisena factor. Some argue that Rawaya is also responsible for the current mess of supporting an ‘able Queen’ and then to find a ‘Choura Rejina’ in the same person back on stage. But we must leave Victor with a benefit of the doubt for his analytical journalism. What he wishes is Shishtasampanna deshapaalanayk, with his complicated argument India as a model. What he must remember that India is a billion + population with abject poverty and drawing alongside with a 21 million island nation is incomparable. He must find a different model for his argument. Victor has an analysis, Ven. Sobhita Thera has a clout, but neither has a voter base and remain good campaigners, while Ven. Rathana Thera, at least can claim a party backing though fractured within. They (which include Sirisena and other defectors) are being hailed by some as heroes, patriots, but also accused as backstabbers and cutthroats, basically as opportunists with no political principles. The final judge of all these wave makers, any group and including the ruling alliance will be the people themselves. However, one can be happy that people are back on the political corridor of franchise with which they can make or mar the actors on stage. They have done it before and will do it again, they might want a new social contract, who knows, or perhaps renew the old with a different agenda.
Basically this opposition that is looming MUST be a ‘progressive alternative’ as Žižek suggests, then to govern the people and shape the nation’s destiny. People should be able to encounter a ‘progressive alternative’ among the messy theatres of engagement. The  declaration by the common presidential candidate, Sirisena that Wickremesinghe would be made the prime minister was even unconvincing to Sirisena himself, muddy press conferences, conspiracy theorisations, resignations and linking up with other alliances have become already ugly. This is also the reason why the Slovenian Marxist critic Žižek comes under heavy fire for his failure to articulate the concreteness of the ‘progressive alternative’ or program that he promotes because the mere denunciation of contemporary social, political, and economic arrangements only forms one part of governance and it certainly lacks the rigor in the argumentation for a nation to be hopeful of change. Wave makers have a duty by the people to drive the wave in the right direction, failing which, the history will judge them too as being just protesters not as reformers, agitators and not insightful social planners.
So the challenge is now more on the opposition that claims a space on the centre stage after years of lethargy and slumber.  UNP with a historical voter base will go down in the history of electoral politics as a party that could not field a suitable candidate to challenge the incumbent president in 2015 presidential election. In a sense UNP by political logic has lost its face as a party, but is able to be part of a bigger wave if they mobilise their grassroots power like R. Premadasa did.  Can the people have faith in a prime minister in the making with a 100 day presidency of Sirisena?  Would he know that happens to him thereafter? Sirisena should not be allowed to be ill-fated politically like the clueless Fonseka. Sirisena must be aware that there is a possibility of a repeat telecast of Fonseka drama in 2010 for him in 2015, and complete abandonment by those who sit next to him which would be a very sad destiny of a man with a grounded politics of the founder members of the SLFP of this country.
People’s political contract
The bankruptcy of an opposition has never been this bad and shameful since independence because there was no rallying point for people. Now that there is a common candidate they must move from the ‘Colombo alone campaign’, for a strategic movement into the heartland of electoral politics. Whereas the governing party has strategically penetrated into the rural sector months ago with their state machinery.  Ruling party seems to have done half the campaign already. What people see is an opposition that awaits crossovers, dysfunctional manner of speech, displaying policies and political options made redundant in the politics of the 80s and 90s.  It is one thing for the JHU, UNP, JVP, TNA, MC, Ven. Sobhita, Sarath Fonseka, CBK and her clan including Vimukkthi, the analytical and reformed Victor Ivan and other groups to form an opposition, but people must be able to see a ‘progressive alternative’ (pragathasheeli vikalpayak). Sirisena has to hurry if he wishes to be the next president, but not with his disgruntled politics, but a demeanor that he is gifted with. Not with avenging politics, but with an accommodating openness allowing people to encounter him, not CBK or Wickremesinghe. Sirisena must appear with a clean sheet and not sing from the same hymn sheet of the politically limping ducks.  People think that the rhetorical arguments by the opposition lend itself more to provocative politics rather and insightful political agenda for the nation. This birth of Maithripalanaya, whatever that means, must be turned into a Mahathma deshapaalanyak, but with a jana moola naayakathwayak if they  genuinely wish an alternative to the incumbent ruling alliance – the dream of a common candidate is now dawned – a Diyasena? saviour to redeem? – a progressive alternative, if not, the alternative too shall be a Puswedilla.

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