SLFP: TRUE CIVIC NATIONALISM | Daily News
70th Anniversary falls today:

SLFP: TRUE CIVIC NATIONALISM

S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike-Sirimavo Bandaranaike
S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike-Sirimavo Bandaranaike

Very few social forces have managed to live above the deeply dividing ethnic and religious politics of recent Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is the only national ruling party that had actively accommodated all identities in Sri Lanka and adopted that as a core value of its political operation. The SLFP is the voice that called for an inclusive multicultural identity and even power devolution to the region. This was very clear in the original analysis of the founder, the late Prime Minister S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike.

Departing from its situational ideology of a firm Sinhala Buddhist embodiment, the SLFP always had formulated and remained itself on the multi-ethnic and multicultural philosophy. This is evident by the very fact that Saravanamuttu Thangarajah of Jaffna and Dr. Badiuddin Muhmud of Matara were among the founder members of this party and as earlier as 1960 Alfred Duraiappah was able to win a Parliament Seat under the SLFP ticket in Jaffna. This is significant because the SLFP is the only non-Marxist party that reached to edge of the society and to the common citizens of all identities.

The SLFP is a party that believes in multi-party democracy and the free, frequent, and fair elections as the cornerstones of any functioning democracy. It is for this reason that in 1972 even with some key missing elements in the Constitutional making process the then SLFP Government while taking steps to make Sri Lanka a Republic, hinged strongly on the principles of Social-Democracy as guiding principles of the new Republic.

DEMOCRACTIC GOVERNANCE

As the party that had ruled independent Sri Lanka in the greatest number of governments, the SLFP always entered coalition governance as a consociational process. On one hand it listened to the extreme Sinhala Buddhist nationalistic sentiments while trying to balance with the most radical demands of the Tamil polity. It is easy to survive as a regional ethnic party or small pocket ideological party. But the SLFP always strived to make the balance of politics in providing space for democratic voices however small or difficult they are. It is for this reason it was tagged as the “party of the common person”.

Extreme ethno-religious forces assassinated S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike not only for their personal greed and needs but also for the futuristic vision he carried and how the SLFP was planning to implement those as a promising model post-colonial state.

INTERNATIONAL CITIZEN

It is noteworthy to mention that SLFP under the widow turned first woman Prime Minister of the world Sirimavo era solidified Sri Lanka’s foreign policy in the Cold War decades, which set the stage for the island to increase bilateral ties with India and China. In fact, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was a trustworthy friend of Mrs. Bandaranaike and Sri Lanka was able to settle many issues via negotiations like the Sirima-Shastri agreement and the ownership of the Katchativu Island off Sri Lanka. This period also saw the closest bilateral relations between the neighbouring countries. Mrs. Bandaranaike was a giant among Non-Aligned leaders. In the summer of 1976 at the fifth Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit held at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) in Colombo, Mrs. Bandaranaike stated, “The non-aligned countries should fight against injustice, intolerance, inequality, old concept of empire and intervention”

Since 1976 keeping with the global political turns SLFP consciously moved away from its working partnership with Marxist-Socialist ideology and looked for a more Homegrown Nationalist mix economic model. The rule of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was marked by such attempts to enter a reformed economy and to settle the separatist war by means of negotiations and accepted power sharing mechanisms via transparent peace talks.

Present Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa became the Southern hero of the party and true to that call he was able to lead the country against the separatist Liberation Tigers committed to terrorism as their political mechanism and defeat it militarily in 2009 ending the most dangerous political threat Sri Lanka faced in our post-independence rule. Defeating the separatist political ideology within Sri Lank is one of the single most structural consolidations made by the SLFP to the State of Lanka.

President Maithripala Sirisena could be named as the symbolical political alteration that SLFP introduced to the socially transformative politics of this country. Beginning from a rural, very ordinary family, Sirisena was able to win the highest post in the State as the 6th Executive President. With his simple manner of lifestyle, open mindedness to solve the ethnic political issue and above all the humane approach to International Relations he was able to win many otherwise unfriendly forces in the West as well as in the East. The “Maithri Doctrine” repaired the deeply damaged image of Lanka. It is with humbleness that SLFP should take credit for all these modern achievements in Sri Lanka.

PARTY OF THE FUTURE

SLFP has an unbroken, inseparable, interwoven journey with the independent state of our motherland. While the party has reached 70, the country at 73 is facing some serious economic and socio-cultural challenges. It is therefore even at 70 SLFP is conferred with the national responsibility of envisaging an economically independent democratic Sri Lanka. In the face of the global pandemic of COVID-19, a striking paradox underlies to most states with weaker economics but situated in highly contested strategic geopolitical locations. National parties are forced to look for a newer form of economic nationalism, an accommodative participatory democratic reform and construct a social platform for the aspirations of the millennial Y2 generation voters. Political theorists, sociologists as well as global political leaders have predicted a newer wave of demand for better democracy to come in the post COVID global order. Therefore, the question is no longer about how shall we live politically, but how we shall in the short time build and consolidate a stronger consociational, participatory multicultural democracy via which a true indigenous national economy could be constructed. That will be the new social contract between states and citizens. The SLFP stands as the most qualified candidate to lead such a national political transformation. This is an ideological and applied political analysis that key leaders of the SLFP should take seriously. The 70th anniversary under restricted social mobility is the most suitable time to contemplate on such a futuristic vision for our Motherland.

(MP Dr. Suren Raghavan, is Deputy Secretary – International Relations, Sri Lanka Freedom Party)


Add new comment