National Sections of the L5I:

Whichever candidate wins will be a threat to democracy, let us fight for socialism!

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Statement by the Socialist Party of Sri Lanka on the Presidential elections

Mahinda Rajapakse planned to benefit from his victory in the war but his plan is falling apart. Society is facing economic problems that his policies cannot solve. That is why he called the election early; he knows that in two years’ time the situation is likely to be even worse and he would stand little chance of re-election! His plan to march from victory in the war to victory in the polls has been upset by General Fonseka's opposition. The military victory led only to division between the President and the General.

The bourgeoisie's plan to use chauvinism and communalism to maintain support has also collapsed. In this election the so-called Marxists of the JVP have sided with Fonseka while the opportunist leader of the Ceylon Workers' Congress, Thondeman, has remained on the side of Rajapakse.

Whoever wins the election, the situation for the people will continue to worsen. The workers and poor farmers are already facing falling living standards and the situation is set to get worse. Before, the government said that rising prices were caused by the costs of the war. They promised that if people tightened their belts to win the war, then peace would bring prosperity and better living standards but all this has been proved to be a deception.

Because of the global economic crisis, the government was unable to negotiate a loan from the IMF without strings attached. Now, the IMF has agreed to a loan of $2.6 billion but only on the condition that public subsidies for the necessities of life are withdrawn and there are cuts in wages for public sector workers. The IMF wants the government to cut inflation from 9% to 7% in its first year and by a further 2% the following year. The government has not dared to present its budget to Parliament before the election - but we can be certain that they are planning sweeping cuts once the election is over.

Although the war is over, the government is still financing an army of 300,000 soldiers. During the war that took 25% of the state budget. Now, on top of that, debts to foreign agencies are reported to equal 90% of national income. In these circumstances, it is guaranteed that the people will be facing severe hardship in the immediate future. We can see that the government's popularity is already falling.

Nor has the General any clear plans for solving the crisis. He has said only that he stands for "democracy, discipline and opposition to corruption". It would be an illusion to expect more democracy from the General than we had from Rajapakse. Both of them stand for the implementation of neoliberal policies. The General was the man responsible for the crushing of the Tamil people and he was the President's chosen military leader. Although there are no clear statistics for the number of dead and injured, even according to government figures, these two men are responsible for the deaths of 75,000 on both sides, including at least 10,000 non-combatant civilians.

The Executive Presidency is a threat to democracy and oppresses the people

The presidential system has damaged the democratic and human rights of the people. Rajapakse has used the system to ignore Parliament and has governed by relying on his brothers and his extended family. During the war, the presidential system was used to crush the democratic rights of the people through the Emergency Powers Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Using these powers, Rajapakse suppressed the free media and restricted the democratic rights of the people. Now we can see that presidential power has risen above the decisions of the law and the courts. Even so it is very strange that the JVP and the UNP are expecting to defend democracy by relying on an army General. Indeed, if the General wins, the situation may be even worse, he may use popular slogans but they can be deceptive. This General will not be accountable to any party or to the people.

None of the opposition parties, such as the JVP and the UNP, have a credible programme as an alternative to Rajapakse. The promises we hear from Fonseka are the same ones we have always heard in the past. What his real programme is we still do not know. He says that his economic policy will be based on an "open economy and privatisation". That is just a continuation of the economic policies of the last 30 years. We already have enough evidence that these policies cannot help the majority of workers and farmers. There is only one conclusion: whoever wins the presidential election, the people will face the same economic crisis!

A programme for socialism

We can all see that the workers and farmers of Sri Lanka can expect a worsening situation. Faced with this, the Socialist Party of Sri Lanka proposed to other socialist organisations and opponents of chauvinism that there should be a common candidate to stand in the election on the basis of a transitional action programme for the country. We proposed that the election campaign be used to take forward the building of an independent workers' party based on a socialist programme. That is the task of all revolutionaries at the present time. Unfortunately, our proposals fell on deaf ears. Although there is a common "left" candidate, Vickramabahu Karunaratne, both he and his electoral ally, Sivajilingam, have chosen to use the campaign for little more than a protest against the two main candidates. Certainly there is much to protest against, but the workers and farmers need more than protest, they need a new fighting party. That is why the Socialist Party of Sri Lanka will continue to call for the building of a new workers' party based on a revolutionary action programme:

Withdraw all military forces from the Tamil lands, full freedom of movement for all refugees currently held in camps, resettlement of all Tamil communities under the administration of elected workers' and farmers' councils.

Resolve the national question by recognising the right of self-determination of the Tamil people.

For an emergency programme of reconstruction in the war zones under the democratic control of the communities involved.

Stop the abductions and killings by government-backed death squads. For a workers' inquiry into all disappearances and abductions.

Repeal the Emergency Powers Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, for the restoration of full democratic rights to all media.

For price controls on everyday necessities, for a sliding scale of wages to protect income against inflation as calculated by the workers' own organisations.

Recognition of full citizenship and civil rights for all communities and equal access to all public amenities, irrespective of language, ethnicity or creed.

Tax the rich and the big corporations to fund the extension of health, education, housing and transport services under workers' control.

Nationalise the assets of the multinational corporations and impose controls on the transfer of funds out of the country.

Coordinate the struggles of the workers and the oppressed through the building of workers' and farmers' councils. For a workers' and farmers' government responsible to a national congress of workers' and farmers' councils.

We call on all the socialist organisations and the trade unions and all those who oppose chauvinism and communalism to join with us during the presidential election, and in the struggles that will follow it, to build a new, mass workers' party committed to the overthrow of capitalism in Sri Lanka as part of a new, Fifth International, a World Party of Socialist Revolution.