We want the donkey removed and they are trying to change the saddle!”, said Ayatollah Khomeini, during the Iranian Revolution, in 1979. 

Having done the right thing, though belatedly, by de-linking from the Rajapaksa regime and taking its seats in the Opposition as a group of Independents, the SLFP-led 11 parties Group of 40 MPs is heading in exactly the wrong direction, at the wrong time. 

Instead of increasing its distance as quickly as possible from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, it is engaging in a dialogue with him and is willing to entertain the possibility of forming a government under him (though not with Mahinda Rajapaksa as PM), even while not a single one of his powers has been touched. 

Talk about incredibly bad timing: not only are unprecedented numbers

demonstrating for the resignation or removal of Gotabaya Rajapaksa, but the latest public opinion poll by Dr Ravi Ranna-Eliya’s Institute also shows that the President’s popularity has “cratered” as the report’s authors say. Of every 10 people, only one supports

him and 9 want him gone. 

The formula of an all-parties government at this moment of the crisis is ridiculous. With a single exceptional scenario which does not apply here, the formula refers to a reshuffled government under President Rajapaksa with all the powers he enjoys. If anyone agrees to participate in any interim/all-parties government under him, they must know that Gotabaya can tear up the arrangement and throw out that government any day of the week.

That alone should expose the idea as a farce.

Secondly, no government that is formed under Gotabaya will be an all-parties government. Neither of the two major Opposition formations, the SJB and the JVP, will be suicidal enough to agree. So, the all-parties government will simply be an SLPP plus SLFP and 11-parties government, i.e., a reshuffle of the old governing coalition of 2020, with the only difference being that there will be a new Prime Minister, one who is not Mahinda Rajapaksa. 

Thirdly and perhaps most fundamentally, forming any kind of administration under President Rajapaksa, at a time when there is an unprecedented outpouring of mobilized national and social sentiment demanding unambiguously that Gota should leave, is a slap in the face of the people. It is also an act of political suicide on the part of those parties that participate in such a coalition. There is only one, a single exceptional scenario under which it will be tolerable to form any kind of administration while Gotabaya remains President. That scenario is if (a) the 20th Amendment (which enhances the President’s powers) is repealed, (b) the 19th Amendment (which dilutes the President’s powers) is reintroduced, and (c) a compressed timeframe for Gotabaya’s departure from office is publicly announced. It is only those features that will make any administration an interim administration.

It is also only such conditions that will permit a broad-based administration to be formed with any degree of public acceptability and legitimacy.

 In short, an all-parties government can be a legitimate project only after the 20th amendment has been repealed, the 19th amendment reintroduced and Gota has announced an early departure date.

A formula which tosses Mahinda Rajapaksa out but keeps Gotabaya Rajapaksa in and on top is a formula for an old repaired prop for the Gotabaya presidency which has been rejected by the sovereign people. 

The larger reality on the ground is the unprecedentedly massive mobilization of all sectors of the people in almost all parts of the island.

The parliamentarians must realize that they are marooned in an ocean of public opinion and social action; an ocean that is becoming increasingly turbulent and rough. 

The inability of many parliamentarians to see this obvious reality reminds me of Lenin’s term “parliamentary cretinism”. Sri Lanka’s parliamentarian seems to be suffering from a bad case of this malady. How else could they be chattering about things as diverse as all-parties administrations under Gotabaya Rajapaksa or the abolition of the executive presidency which is a painfully protracted process? 

There are only three parliamentary moves that have any resemblance to the reality outside: (a) a No-Confidence motion (b) the repeal of the 20th Amendment and reintroduction of the 19th and (c) an impeachment. All else is a diversion and delay. 

How then to get Parliament to see sense and play its role in the fulfilment of the explicit wishes of the people? 

The parliamentarians must get off their high horse and understand that at this exceptional moment in history, their role, and the role of Parliament is that of an adjunct, an auxiliary of the massive struggle of the multitude. 

The struggle is almost certain to reach new heights in the month of May. The pressure will become irresistible. One hopes that this pressure will also impact the Parliament to achieve what rationality and good sense will not. 

The future of the political parties and politicians will depend on whether or not they are seen to collaborate with a detested Gotabaya Rajapaksa presidency, the main enemy of the mobilised people. Those who do prop him up at this moment, even under the guise of an interim or all-parties government, will be socially isolated and wiped out at the first election that comes down the pike. 

More basically, the future of politicians and political parties will depend upon the role they play against the backdrop of the unarmed revolution that is underway.

Are they with the democratic revolution or against it? Are they attempting to channel the revolutionary energies of the people for their narrow political ends or are they ready to be the agency of the people’s struggle and implement the agenda already spelt out by the people? 

At this point, it will be pertinent for parliamentary politicians to recall the words of Fidel Castro, who said: “Who will make the revolution? The people, with or without the [Communist] Party!”

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