Sri Lanka: Power Struggle Within the Ruling Class Threatens Democratic Rights!


Report from M. Thangavel, United Lankan Workers Party (RCIT Section in Sri Lanka), 9 November 2018,




Note from the Editorial Board (16 November): Below we publish a letter which we have received from our comrade M. Thangavel, a leader of the RCIT section in Sri Lanka. The comrade describes the deep political crisis in his country since President Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Wickremesinghe in late October in order to replace him with his predecessor Rajapaksa.


However, since the letter was written, the chaotic situation in Sri Lanka has deepened. The de facto coup by the President to impose a new Prime Minister against the will of the majority in Parliament has provoked mass protests as well as resistance from sectors of the state apparatus itself. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe refused to accept his sacking and claimed to still command a majority in parliament. In response President Sirisena first delayed to reconvene the parliament and finally decided to dissolve it and to call new elections in January. However, Wickremesinghe’s party UNP declared the move unconstitutional and subsequently the Supreme Court has stayed Sirisena's dissolution until 7th December. Meanwhile, Rajapaksa and his followers have split from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and joined the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) – a party formed by Rajapaksa’s younger brother.


It is obvious that President Sirisena’s intervention is a reactionary attack against the, albeit limited, rights of bourgeois parliamentarism. The utterly corrupt and extremely Sinhala-chauvinist Rajapaksa clan has a long tradition of suppressing the Tamil minority. As President, Rajapaksa oversaw the horrific smashing of the Tamil national struggle which had succeeded in liberating large parts of the north and east of the country between 1983 and 2009. In May 2009, Rajapaksa launched the final attack of the army against the liberation fighters which resulted in the slaughter of at least 40,000 Tamil people!


The power struggle between Sirisena / Rajapaksa and Wickremesinghe is also a reflection of the rivalry between U.S. and Chinese imperialism. Given its geostrategic location, Sri Lanka plays an important role for both Great Powers. (See on this e.g. the RCIT Pamphlet by Michael Pröbsting: The China-India Conflict: Its Causes and Consequences, While Beijing has close relations with the Rajapaksa clan, the U.S. (and India) are close to Wickremesinghe.


As comrade Thangavel explains, revolutionaries can not lend any political support to one of the two capitalist camps and their imperialist masters. However, revolutionaries do neither ignore such reactionary coup attempts which would strengthen the most chauvinist and reactionary forces. Defending democratic rights (including the limited democratic rights of a bourgeois parliament) is a crucial task of the moment. Furthermore, the latest political crisis demonstrates once more the reactionary nature of such semi-dictatorial institutions like the President. Revolutionaries call for the dissolution of the presidential institution. Hence, we call for the election of a revolutionary constitutional assembly, controlled by the working people!




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Sri Lanka is constantly facing this kind of social, economic and political crisis. The coalition government of Sirisena’ SLFP and Wickremesinghe’s UNP, which was elected on 8th January 2015, collapsed due to President’s Sirisena authoritarian intervention on 26th October. The government was anyway a capitalist one like the current one suppressing social and democratic rights.


The newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was a predecessor of Ranil Wickremesinghe. In his period as President, Rajapaksa committed numerous crimes and was responsible for killing at least 40,000 Tamils in May 2009 alone. He was also responsible for various other violations of human rights of civilians as well as progressive forces.


The President has promised to reconvene of the parliament on 14th November but at the moment of writing this letter I receive some official news of dissolving the parliament by the president’s order.


Anyway, the bourgeois “democracy” which is being practiced here in Sri Lanka as well as most other corners of the world is not the democracy of the working class and the oppressed people. It is the “democracy” of the rich and powerful!


In addition, Sri Lanka is a plaything of imperialist forces – in particular of the main Great Powers China and U.S. (the latter in collusion with India).


The working people of Sri Lanka are watching this political jam. However, no fundamental solution can come out of it for future generations if the working class and the oppressed people do not start organizing and struggling on a socialist basis.


We revolutionaries in Sri Lanka oppose all attacks on democratic rights and all authoritarian interventions by the President or other forces. We defend the national rights of the Tamil people, including their right to have their own state. Whatever will be the future developments, we will take the side of oppressed people!