“We are not sure of the legality of this!” “Is it constitutional?”. Sri Lankan reporters saw a huge crowd - hundreds of thousands - mobilised and demanding that the prime minister resigns and they didn’t know what to make of it!
Despite security forces firing tear gas, the protesters stood their ground in front of the prime minister’s office. In fact they sent some of the state’s armed bodies of men packing, regardless of the declared “emergency”. The police and soldiers realise that their commanders no longer have authority.
Unbelievably, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who had to flee for his life on Saturday after his presidential palace was stormed and occupied - and who’d pledged to resign this Wednesday - had “appointed” the already-care-taking prime minister Wickremesinghe as “acting president” in his place. As if anything Gotabaya said or did, could or should have had any weight at all!
Of course, the ruling class in Sri Lanka - not to mention institutions like the International Monetary Fund - are horrified by this situation, which has resulted in a “power vacuum”; something they dread. In fact the power of the moment, is in the hands of the people in the street - if they choose to use it.
But what to do with this power? That is the question. Whose “law” prevails? The law which defends a thieving and murderous Rajapaksa family-regime (in 2009 it carried out a virtual genocide of Tamils fighting for self-rule) - or a new “law”, which the people on the street decide to impose?
Their mostly peaceful protest has been going on for 3 months already. Meanwhile the acute shortages of food, gas, petrol and medicines are getting worse. A third of Sri Lankans are going hungry. The Rajapaksas’ response to the post-Covid supply-crisis was to give huge tax cuts to the rich! (Sound familiar?) They also imposed import controls against fertilizers and vital necessities and whipped up Sinhalese nationalist prejudice against non-Sinhalese.
Tory leadership: a race to the bottom
In fact the Rajapaksas have carried out a Brexit-like, protectionist, xenophobic and nationalist policy, designed to ensure that every bit of wealth is funnelled into the hands of the Sri Lankan rich - themselves and their mates - while putting the country in hock to international bankers and sending the population to hell.
So today, when the Tory “candidates” for Johnson’s World King Crown line up, flaunting their even more ultra-right-wing wares in a farcical ugliness contest, it’s impossible not to draw some parallels. Not least, when these aspiring PMs all promise huge tax cuts - not for the poor, for whom a few hundred quid repaid NICs would never be enough to counter the rise in living costs anyway - but for the bosses and their companies.
They all want to slash corporation tax. And to a man and woman, they propose to cut the public sector i.e., slash its jobs by at least 20%. Now everyone can see the true colours of these reactionaries who intend to “level up” profits and crack down heavily on the working class!
Of course Johnson, like Rajapaksa, hasn’t actually resigned yet. He remains in position as his own caretaker. He’ll go - but only after painting his short tenure in rosy colours. And the question as to whether all this - including not calling a general election - is “constitutional” or “legal”, is answered by nodding experts who say that since the British constitution is unwritten, it’s adaptable, according to the interests of the British ruling class, at any given moment!
As for the nationalist, protectionist nonsense - and economic illiteracy - of Brexiteers’ “British island first” crude posturing, is hardly different from the populist rhetoric of the Rajapaksas. However the British population - compared to the Sri Lankans - are, of course, living in the 5th richest country in the world, and are thus somewhat cushioned against the economic effects of Brexit isolationism.
Whoever “wins” the Tory contest, will turn the screw all the more tightly, while blaming the “most severe world economic recession” since the 1930s, the war in Ukraine (which they’ll still fuel!), the EU, migrants, and anyone who disagrees with them.
New system needed everywhere!
The Sri Lankan protesters have shown as clear as day, the need for a totally different “law” and indeed, a new social system, which acts in the interests of the whole population, abolishes privilege, and organises production and distribution so that everyone gets what they need.
Nobody dares to spell it out. “Socialism” and “communism” are dirty words. Yet it’s obvious that what’s needed is a system allowing everybody to contribute according to ability, in order to provide for all, by using - and not abusing - all available resources.
So let us hope that the Sri Lankan protesters - but also the working class here, which has hesitatingly begun a strike movement - will remain mobilised to carry on the fight, while building their own political forces. Because workers and the poor, protesting and striking all around the world today, need their own political organisations and programmes if they are to effectively dispense with the bankrupt politicians and their decrepit, useless system - along with all its laws.