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July 20, 2022 4:22 pm

In a conspiracy against the People, Sri Lanka Parliament elects Ranil Wickremasinghe the President

By Sanjaya W. Jayasekera

On 20 July, Sri Lanka Parliament constitutionally elected the former Prime Minister and acting President,  Wickremasinghe, a right-wing politician and the longtime leader of the United National Party(UNP), as the eighth  President of the island. Rejected by the people, his appointment is anti-democratic.

His election was occasioned by the massive support of the parliament’s other major right-wing Party, the Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna (SLPP), led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was forced to resign on 09 May, followed by the ousting of his brother and former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa from office, on the 09 July, by a massive popular uprising – “Aragalaya”- that lasted continuously for close to hundred days.

Wickremasinghe addresses the Parliament just after elected

The mass protests led by youth were triggered by the worst economic crisis – a balance of payment and a foreign exchange crisis – that hit the island since its formal independence from British colonialism in 1948. Since the beginning of the year the people have been suffering from long hours of power cuts, high inflation of consumer gooda, lack of fuel and cooking gas and long queues for the same, driving the economy and households to a standstill.  

The mass uprisings commenced at the end of March with slogans calling for all 225 members of the Parliament to go home, along with the then President, and continued islandwide, despite all efforts by Rajapaksa to crush the protest movement. 

Tens of thousands from all walks of people, majority being the youth, participated the 09 July protests in Colombo, called by pseudo-left, left-liberal and liberal youth leaders of the Aragalaya, who called it “non-partisan”, “leaderles” and “non-violent”, a political trap against the working class and the oppressed.

Elected as new President upon a conspiracy constituted against the popular will of the citizenry, and knowing very well his lack of popular mandate, Wickremasinghe thanked the parliament and stated “I am especially grateful to be given this honor from the Parliament.”

Vowed to resurrect the crumbled economy, Wickremasinghe is heading to lead a constitutional presidential dictatorship and implement austerity against the people, aided by an armory of repressive laws and milarization. 

Wickremasinghe has no popular mandate to the Parliament, nor to become the President of the country. He was defeated by his constituency to be a member of parliament in the Parliamentary elections held in August 2020, but was selected as a member thereof under the constitutional provisions to nominate one among the party’s national list. When mass protests led former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to quit his office on 09 May, the then president Rajapaksa appointed Wickremasinghe the Prime Minister on 12 May. 

A section of the country’s business community, the upper middle class and the middle class hoped some silver light from the maneuvers,  diplomacy and intrigues of Wickremasinghe, being an experienced capitalist leader, to lift the economy back to track, with a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and withdrew their support for the mass struggles to oust the then President Rajapaksha, who was blamed for his maladministration, bad economic decisions, mismanagement, corruption and cronyism. Two months later, mass protests continued with renewed  vigour, this time calling for the immediate resignation of both president Rajapaksha and Prime Minister Wickremasinghe. 

When Rajapaksa, who contested the 2019 presidential election as the candidate of SLPP, was ousted as President, and fled the country, he surreptitiously appointed Wickremasinghe the Acting President. Just after (on 14 July), Rajapaksha sent his letter of resignation to the Speaker, Wickrasinghe was once again sworn in as Acting President before the country’s Chief Justice, as per the constitutional provisions. Now appointed by Parliament as the successor President, he is entitled to serve in office for the remaining period of Rajapaksha’s presidency.   

Wickremasinghe is the chosen one of the international financial capital, imperialism and the ruling capitalist class of the island, which was proven even during the Aragalaya. Aiming to strike a deal with the  IMF,  Wickremasinghe will implement deficit cutting measures, severe austerity, indirect tax hikes, tax concessions for the investments,  privatization or commercialization of state owned enterprises (SOEs) and policies of market and labour liberalization.

The objective will of the oppressed was never the will of the bourgeois parliament just after it was elected. While this fact was shrouded inside the sham shawl of democracy, the present conspiracy against the people is ostensible to millions of oppressed masses and the working people who despised Wickremasinghe and forced the Parliament not to elect him the president. 

There is broad disappointment among youth and the masses on the appointment of Wickremesinghe. The new President will not hesitate to use dictatorial measures to confront the future mass struggles with police and military state apparatus. Wickremasinghe already has a notorious past and is infamous for monitoring tortue camps as former Prime Minister during 1988-89 youth uprisings, which was brutally suppressed. 

The coming times will be a period of intense class struggles in the country, parallel to similar uprisings in the region and around the world, in view of a global economic recession, stagflation and war.

As long as the bourgeois parliament remains a means of duping the workers, and phrases about “democracy” are used to cover up financial swindling and every kind of bribery (the particularly “subtle” brand of bribery the bourgeoisie practise with regard to writers, N. P. s, lawyers, and others is nowhere to be seen on so wide a scale as in the bourgeois parliament), we Communists are in duty bound to be in this very institution (which is supposed to express the people’s will but actually covers up the deception of the people by the wealthy) to untiringly expose this deception, and expose each and every case of the Renners and Co.’s desertion to the capitalists, against the workers. It is in parliament that the relations between bourgeois parties and groups manifest themselves most frequently and reflect the relations between all the classes of bourgeois society.”—  Vladimir Lenin Collected Works, Vol. 31, pp. 267–69.

Photo courtsey: adaderana.lk

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