The Federation of University Teachers’ Associations speaks out on the current crisis
The protests currently underway across the country should embrace and amplify these demands and recognize that many of the burning issues we currently face are consequences of structural, economic, political and ideological causes that we must seek to address if we are to ensure a lasting and non-cosmetic or temporary action. change – Photo by Ruwan Walpola
Here is the statement issued by the Federation of University Teachers Associations (FUTA) on the current crisis in the country.
We are witnessing an unprecedented event in the postcolonial history of this country. Nationwide protests are calling for a change in governance and economic enterprises, including the management of public and social assets like education, health and public services. The protests are the result of severe shortages caused by an impending economic collapse.
The Federation of University Teachers’ Associations (FUTA), as the union of the country’s university community, stands in solidarity and solidarity with all those peacefully protesting. We are of the opinion that all the solutions – political and economic – that are imagined at the moment keep the people at the centre.
The current economic crisis has caused a severe shortage of essential goods and services, rising prices and a collapse in employment and livelihoods. The distress has brought people from all walks of life to the streets demanding drastic changes in the political establishment. The young people of this country, including our students, are also leading the protests by the thousands. The protests have identified endemic corruption, failed governance and elite incompetence as the causes of this downfall and so their call is for the president and government to “go home”.
The president, prime minister and cabinet should heed the call of the people and step down, facilitating the political reforms demanded by the people, including the abolition of the executive presidency. An interim government must emerge that reflects both the call of the protesting people and the broadest possible consensus among the political parties represented in the current parliament. These processes are urgent and necessary to achieve political stability in the immediate future and address the pressing economic concerns of the people.
These protests focused on economic crisis and political authoritarianism should not be separated from the longstanding protests throughout the era of this regime and before, including those of farmers, teachers, garment workers and others. ; protests against militarization, criminalization of “dissent and difference”, forced cremations and ongoing protests for accountability, decentralization of power and land rights in the North and East and the rest of the county .
The protests currently underway across the country should embrace and amplify these demands and recognize that many of the burning issues we currently face are consequences of structural, economic, political and ideological causes that we must seek to address if we are to ensure a lasting and non-cosmetic or temporary action. cash.
The highly centralized form of governance, in which extensive power is vested in a single person (limited to two terms), especially under the 20th Amendment, makes the executive chairman a quasi-despot, and unaccountable to the people of the country, not even to the elected officials. This weakened the parliament and the hand of elected officials. Over time, this system created a culture of intense patronage, nepotism and sycophancy within the political class. Centralized authority also led to negotiations and agreements, where consultation and political participation of the population, especially at the community level, was completely undermined. Corruption and authoritarianism at higher levels have fed corruption and authoritarianism at lower levels of governance.
Governance must involve a) elected representatives who are accountable to the people, and b) maintaining the independence of the judiciary and other institutions. It is vital for the maintenance of democracy. What is also vital is the transition from passive democracy (confined to public voting in elections) to active democracy (as we know it today).
We are in a state of catastrophic bankruptcy and our default on the payment of the external debt demonstrates this unequivocally. The past sins of successive administrations have brought us to this moment when the intervention of the IMF seems inevitable even if regrettable. Although a deal with the IMF is imminent, there is currently not enough discussion about the conditions that may come with IMF engagement and how such engagement will impact people’s lives in the short term. and long term. IMF negotiations are generally based on “austerity” measures which constitute cuts in social protection expenditure. Safeguarding public assets and public entities, such as education, health care delivery and essential public services, is imperative.
Although austerity measures and years of hardship are presented as inevitable, the disenfranchisement of a suffering people, hit by soaring prices and shortages, must be resisted. There is not enough alternative economic thinking in current economic policy-making in Sri Lanka. We must not become complacent with the neoliberal consensus – that we can return to the status quo with the IMF deal. We must ensure that economic planning for the future refrains from repeating the mistakes of the past that have led us to this crisis.
Social benefits: diversity and unity
Increasing economic deprivation may become the battleground for vested interests to play their game of divisive politics again, creating problems where there have been none. Successive regimes have mobilized fears against ethnic and religious minorities during difficult times with debilitating effect. Such actions could continue in the future.
Right now, as the country is united in protest, many are asking that we recognize our plurality in a positive way. It is therefore time to solidify this feeling of unity. Ethnoreligious grievances and the many forms of marginalization that exist will not disappear overnight. Building on the spirit of unity that sprouted during the protests, we must urgently address ethnic, religious, class, gender, regional, sexual and other forms of marginalization to create a more equal society.
Vital conditions and appeals
The current regime, which has lost its legitimacy, must therefore resign immediately.
The executive presidency must be abolished as a fundamental condition for improving governance.
Constitutionally appropriate measures must be adopted to ensure a transition to parliamentary democracy, which should include an overhaul of the current electoral system.
The judiciary and other public institutions must be independent and non-politicized.
Introduce a mechanism to eradicate bribery and corruption to strengthen the accountability of politicians and officials.
Key appointments should only be made through institutionalized consultative processes.
Resist further impoverishment of the population through austerity measures, which may be brought about by the IMF package or other policies.
Safeguard the integrity of public entities and assets, health, education and public services.
Strengthen measures that protect local producers, farmers, fishing communities, small traders.
Safeguard the interests of factory workers, migrant workers and those in the informal sector.
Protect academic freedoms, the right to protest, the right to freedom of expression, and the rights of journalists and artists.
Remove laws and directives that restrict and restrict people’s freedom.
Demilitarize all state institutions and demilitarize the country.
Restructure the education system to build capacity, which in turn will meet the country’s needs and serve as a catalyst for economic growth.
The Federation of University Teachers’ Associations seeks to work with other unions and like-minded groups to find solutions to the economic and political crises facing Sri Lanka and its people today. We want to participate in conversations, collaborations and protests that can help us collectively overcome the current crisis. We reaffirm our commitment to building a society that upholds social justice, pluralism, democracy, equality and freedom.