How many people, one wonders, observed and themselves wondered – that, in the joint communique issued by President I. R. Jayawardene and Prime Minister Pham Van Dong of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Republic of Sri Lanka was designated by a new name the "Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka"? When was the name of our Republic changed? How was it changed? Who changed it from the old to the new?
The constitution of Sri Lanka in its very first section, declares: "Sri Lanka (Ceylon) is a Free, Sovereign and Independent Republic."
In the very next section, it is declared: "The Republic of Sri Lanka is a Unitary State."
And section 3 reads: "In the Republic of Sri Lanka, Sovereignty is in the People and inalienable."
And so it goes on. The name and title is "The Republic of Sri Lanka." That, and none other. In particular, it no-where and never is the "Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka."
So how simply by fiat of President J R. Jayawardena the name is changed. And remember, the communication is not some journalistic carelessness. It is an official document.
There is only one authority that can change the name of the-Republic of Sri Lanka validly and legally. That is the National State Assembly the supreme instrument of State power of the Republic through which alone – until Mr. Jayawardene's Second Amendment – the Sovereignty of the People was exercised. Only N. S. A., acting by a two-thirds majority of its membership, can change the name of the Republic. Only the N.S.A. and no other institution or person. Any other person or institution who or which purports to do so, does so fraudulently or deceitfully –
or in sheer irresponsible levity.
One also wonders whether there is even more and worse to it than that. Was the sudden adoption of the new name a subtle means of our "strictly non-aligned" country aligning itself with President Carter's campaign against the socialist countries on the "human rights and freedoms" question? To counterpose to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam the "Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka" is indeed a clever, even subtle, move, entirely in keeping with tile political ways of one who claimed m his inaugural Presidential speech that Sri Lanka is the freest country in the world. So free, incidentally, that, at this moment of writing, Mr. Jayawardene's police have refused permission to Mr. Bernard Soysa, U.L.F.-L.S.S.P. candidate for Colombo West, to hold a meeting in a long customary place in Wellawatte, because it is by the road-side and would therefore make crowd-control difficult! So free that, only two days back,
the "Daily News" and "Dinamina," both directly under the President's ministerial control, refused to accept an advertisement of a public lecture on tile subject "Government Offensive against Civil Rights," unless the words "Government Offensive" were cut off. Even there, one sees a Jayawardene – type joke because the subject that would have been advertised would have been: "Against Civil Rights"! Skillful, is it not, to make a meeting for the defence of civil rights appear to be a meeting against civil rights?! Of such is Jayawardene "freedom".
It is, of course, 110 answer to all this that President Jayawardene has a built-in two-thirds majority – five-sixths, to be exact – in the N.S.A., and a totally obedient majority at that. He can, of course, rush through the N.S.A. in a matter of a single sitting, an amended mime for the Republic, by simply getting the Cabinet, over which he presides under his own "Second Amendment," to endorse the Bill for the Law: "urgent in the national interest." This in fact was what he set about doing with his Second Amendment Bill. All this is true. But, until he uses his majority and puts the amended name through the N.S.A. as an amendment third or fourth –
whatever it is to be to the Constitution, neither he nor anybody else, as a person or institution, has the right to pretend that the name of the Republic of Sri Lanka is the "Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka."
It is not only wrong: it also gravely and misleadingly incorrect. The Republic of Sri Lanka certainly was a genuine parliamentary democracy under the 1972 Constitution; and even though, with the 2nd Amendment of 1977, it is moving away from democracy with gathering speed the Republic of Sri Lanka is still a kind of democracy with presidential autocracy built in to it. But, the Republic of Sri Lanka never was and even more, is not a socialist republic!
To those who have eyes to see, or rather, the understanding which alone enables "seeing" in such matters, the Republic of Sri Lanka is by description in Chapter V of the constitution, entitled "Principles of State Policy," still a Republic which is pledged to carry forward the progressive advancement towards the establishment in Sri Lanka of a socialist democracy, the objectives of which include (among others) –
"The development of collective forms of property such as State property or co-operative property, in the means of production, distribution and exchange as a means of ending exploitation of man by man"
In the first place, what you are pledged to advance is clearly what has not yet been established and is still to be established. Today is no tomorrow; and constitutions register, or rather, consolidate, what has been achieved and not what is to be achieved, even though what is aimed to be achieved is stated – as in our Chapter on "Principles of State Policy."
Thus, we are yet to be a socilist republic: we still are not. And our aim is "socialist democracy." The latter phrase – a scientifically accurate phrase was, we may say, carefully discussed in the committees of the Constituent Assembly and deliberately adopted by the Constituent Assembly. The U.N.P., led by Mr. Dudley Senanayake opposed the inclusion of this Chapter, as committing the Republic to a particular political programme. They did not then realise that they had in their ranks a future Prime Minister who would teach them to interpret the "Principles of State Policy" to signify a neo-capitalist policy carefully adapted to neo-colonialism and flying in the face of every principle of scientific — and even utopian – socialism. Just see how he has taken from the "Principles of State Policy section 16 (2)(d) the Sinhala phrase; or dharmika jeevithayak," linked it with the Buddhist concept of a "dharmika samajaya," and put the latter forth to cover the most "adharmista," acts which the U.N.P. and its followers have engaged in since they came to power. This should not be difficult to grasp in a country where the Buddhist concept of the Middle Way has been misapplied to politics in order to justify especially in the case of Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike, sheer rightist and utterly capitalist policies. See again how he goes forward in the name of socialism to erode, undermine and even to liquidate one socialist achievement or another of the People's Government of the United Front of the S.L.F.P.,. L.S.S.P. and C.P. S.L…
But let the list stop there, against some other occasion. The point is that what we have today in Sri Lanka is not socialist democracy but capitalist democracy - and more and more imperfect democracy at that. By Capitalist democracy is meant a form of democracy which functions within the framework of capitalism or rests upon capitalism. It will be readily seen that, in a similar way, socialist democracy signifies a form of democracy which functions within the framework of socialism or rests upon socialism. The task then, in a country of capitalism democracy which has by Constitution itself set itself the aim of carrying forward the progressive advancement towards socialist democracy is to move out of capitalist democracy into socialist democracy.
In that connection, let us remember that capitalist democracy provides the most .advantageous political conditions in which to carry forward the revolutionary struggle for socialism. From one point of view, historically, the mass movement in Sri Lanka – especially in its advanced sections – has sensed this truth and set about the task of utilising the conditions of capitalist democracy which have pervaded in Sri Lanka since 1947/8, to bring about the political and social overturn which is necessary to enable the masses to set out on the task of building the socialist society. This is a course which they have not abandoned despite the serious setback of the sharp rightward shift within the electoral mass which we have seen at the July, 1977 general elections.
What is important at the present juncture is to realize that the capitalist class of Sri Lanka, the U.N.P. and the U.N.P. Government, and not the least, Mr. Jayawardene himself, fully realize the fact that their electoral victory has not snuffed out the mass movement for socialism in Sri Lanka and that, unless they utilise right now what could be a fleeting victory to take the maximum precautionary steps in the minimum possible time, the next electoral overturn will probably bring in the Left or a Left - led and dominated Government which will spell the doom of capitalism in Sri Lanka.
Every step that Mr. Jayawardene has taken since he came to power has been directed at closing every avenue of parliamentary democracy available to the mass movement to carry forward the
revolutionary struggle for socialism and at undermining, neutralising and, if possible, destroying the fighting organisations of the masses, especially of the working class. That is the meaning and intent of his constitutional amendments, already implemented and on the eve of being implemented. That is the meaning and intent of his developing attack on the trade unions and trade union rights and the building up and use of the police to stifle especially the political activity of radicalised youth in the century-side. That too is the meaning and intent of his administrative and legislative offensive against long-won democratic rights and freedoms.
The task before the left and the wider progressive forces is to stop Mr. Jayawardene in his reactionary career, to turn the mass political process from the deflection it has undergone back to its original direction so that all of capitalist reaction, including J. R.'s adroit constitutional amendments; are thrust into the limbo of forgotten history and power comes truly and lastingly into the hands of the democratic masses, that is to say, the people.
King Jayewardene absolute monarch though he aspires to be cannot be allowed to sit securely on his throne. As it happens, it is beginning to be apparent that he is neither as secure as his followers thought in the first flush of overwhelming electoral victory nor as politically sure-footed as his admirers would have us believe. Other forces, both domestic and from outside are beginning to assail him and shake his power structure. Beggars at the door of international big capital are always expendable – be they as sticky as him who thought up a non existent Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to counterpose to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
Fic transit omnes: or if, you wish it in English and in Buddhistic term: All Things are Transient. No less Mr. Jayewardene and his neo-compradore capitalist Government.