Sri Lanka Socialist Equality Party regime expels seven more members from the Party

Statement of the SEP-SL Left Faction

Stalin’s Great Purge 1936-38

Extending their bureaucratic policy of “purge”, the leadership of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), Sri Lanka has announced the expulsion of 07 more members from the Party. The respective members have been informed through a letter that states that the Central Committee which met on August, 2 2023 has taken the decision for the expulsions, due to their “continued indiscipline, while repudiating the recommendations of the Political Committee.”  

The Political Committee of the Party is claiming that the members have violated the PC recommendation to abstain from continuing any relations with Sanjaya Jayasekara and Nandana Nanneththi who had been Expelled from the party earlier; and to refrain from supporting the Colombo Action Committee (CAC) – the Colombo based action committee which unanimously adopted the July 20, 2022 resolution of the SEP, during its inauguration meeting held on September 11, 2022. Sanjaya was expelled for publicly representing the revolutionary perspective of the SEP in ‘Gota-go-gama’ (Galle face Greens protest site) during the mass uprising last year, and for establishing CAC and sharing its facebook posts. Nandana was subjected to a systematic and provocative mudslinging campaign amongst members of the party on various bogus charges. When the repeated requests for a discussion was denied and Nandana started responding through his facebook page (while his membership was under suspension, depriving him to defend himself in branch meetings), he was charged with violating the party discipline. Their responses to the charges levelled against them were never taken up for discussion among the members, nor any disciplinary inquiry was ever held. The party leadership has not explained to the membership the political reasons for the expulsion of these two leading members, except for publishing three documents in Sinhalese, which are full of nothing but subjective allegations without political substance, demonstrative of its nationalist orientation on the issues.  The party leadership has also, so far, failed to give any political reason as to why they are hostile to the CAC. 

Following are the seven party  members victimized on the latest round:

  1. Ivan, Kandy LocalA retired government clerk, a member of Kandy Committee since 1972;
  2. Nihal Geekiyanage, Chilaw Local – a member since July 1980 and former Central Committee member; 
  3. Ratne alias Punyawardena, Chilaw Local – worker in fisheries sector, a member since 1990;
  4. Wijesinghe, Chilaw Local – health sector employee, a member since 2008; 
  5. Karunasena, Rathmalana Local – Factory level Union activist in early 1980s, who actively participated in forming an action committee under the guidance of Revolutionary Communist League (RCL) during the Rowlands Factory strike – a member since 1982;
  6. Udayaprema, Ambalangoda Local – Cartoonist, a member since 1988 and former Central Committee member;
  7. Geetha, Ambalangoda Local – a member since 1990, a full-time party activist in ’90s, campaigning among workers in the Free Trade Zone, Katunayake. 

Under circumstances in which nothing was politically explained, never given any opportunity to have a discussion to clarify issues, and contravening the party constitution by not allowing them to prove their innocence at a disciplinary enquiry, these comrades took a principled stance in refusing to submit to these edicts presented in a dictatorial manner. 

The SEP’s third national congress, held from May 14-16, 2022, was a congress almost exclusively prepared to carry out these expulsions, and directed through covert machinations. Earlier It was attempted to be held in March 2022, giving only a few days’ notice to the members, such that the membership would have no chance to prepare for the congress. The purpose of this plan was to avoid all discussion about the political, theoretical and organizational retreats of the party and anti-democratic tendency taking shape in the party. However, following the intervention of the International Committee (ICFI) upon being informed of this attempt by the members of the left faction of the party, the effort was defeated.

Although the purpose of postponement was to allow necessary time for pre-Congress discussions, the actual mannar the things took place was disgraceful. The documents forwarded by members for the pre-Congress discussions were not distributed among the membership. Even in the limited cases where some discussions were held, the party regime acted to suppress the opposing views and eliminated every possibility of a deep going discussion on the issues. The Congress was held online due to the COVID-19 epidemic situation and the regime used the situation to its advantage even to the extent of rigging the vote. Some members were denied the right to vote. Members who fought for principles were forced to leave the party or to become inactive. For example, comrade William of the Bulathsinhala Local, who is a long-time member of the party, was assigned to the Bandarawela Local, a locality more than 100 miles away from his home or work place. Comrade William had no connection with this area and there was no reason what-so-ever for this decision, which was taken purely at the discretion of the leadership. Considering the extensive travel time under the prevailing poor transport facilities and costs in Sri Lanka, this decision – which added to the party leadership’s ban on so-called ‘cross-connections’ (banning the members of different locals discussing with each other) – was nothing but forcing him to be inactive in party politics. The only logical reason one can derive on this decision is that it was because he dared to question the leadership based on his long experience in the party. Principled members who opposed the regime’s anti-Bolshevik actions were removed from the leadership and replaced by backward and economically well-to-do petty-bourgeois individuals, such as businessmen.

Two members, who were very much frustrated by these events, left the party ranks within two weeks following the Congress. They claimed that, as their all efforts to clarify the situation were not allowed, they would have no further relationship with the party. They had submitted written statements to Vilani Peiris who was the secretary of the Colombo Fort Local and to the Political Committee, with supporting evidence on the issues they raised. One of these two members was Missaka, who was a member of the Central Committee until the Third Congress. 

When the Ambalangoda Local Committee met for the first time after the Congress, the local secretary and political committee member, Ratnasiri Malalagama acted in contravention of the long-standing tradition of conducting a political discussion and assessment of the Congress. When Nandana Nanneththi opposed this practice and requested a review discussion about the Congress, the newly appointed General Secretary, Deepal Jayasekara decided to ban Nandana Nanneththi’s membership. Comrade Amartunga, a member of Ambalangoda Local and an active member since 1976 – a mining worker who joined the party having fought against the bureaucratic witch-hunt by trade union leaderships – was de facto expelled for his opposing views on the expulsion of comrade Nandana. 

On November 19, 2022, comrades Nandana and Sanjaya were permanently expelled from the party membership. Afterwards, comrade Migara of the Kolonnawa local committee was expelled for opposing this move. Comrade Sunil of Ratmalana Committee, who had been with the party since the ’70s, too had to face the similar fate. Thus, within a period of little more than one year after the Congress, the regime led by the new General Secretary, Jayasekara has ‘purged’ (the word historically closely associated with bureaucracies, is often used by SEP leadership to mean to administratively suppress dissenting views) twelve members from the Party. Thereby, the party leadership may justly lay claim to a special infamous record in the history of the Fourth International! The list of defectors runs longer than that. More members, although not having expressed any opposing view prior to or during the Congress have left since the third Congress, proffering various reasons for leaving; or, there are others who ran away without as much as a word. Among those who left after the 2022 Congress are Dhanapala (a member since the early days of RCL) and Niluka from the Kandy Local, Mahesh from Chilaw Local, and Sathish Kumar from Ratmalana Local. Several Dozen left the party between the last two Congresses. The Avissawella local committee was disbanded. The irresponsible response from the leadership to those who questioned this serious erosion and its political implications was, “they come and they go… there is nothing to discuss about it”.

Significantly, the Party has also lost another Political Committee Member, Prageeth Aravinda, who decided to leave the party, yearly this year. Aravinda was re-appointed to the Central Committee at the Third Congress, and was a member of the Sri Lanka Editorial Board of WSWS. He was employed by the unclean hands of the party bureaucracy to destroy the Action Committee for the Defence of Freedom of Art and Expression (ACDAE), which had been operating successfully. When the pertinent issues were raised in the open letters addressed to him by Comrade Nandana on November 19, 2022, and by the committee’s former Chairperson, Comrade Sanjaya on January 30, 2023, he ran away failing to answer them. 

Ananda Wakkumbura, a founding member of the SEP, as well as a leading founding member of its predecessor, the Revolutionary Communist League (RCL), had to spend several months under suspension of membership, due to his intervention, with the ICFI Perspective, in the last year’s mass uprising at the Gota-go-gama protest site. Bowing down to the bogus allegations, he was lately able to regain his membership, but is being treated as an invalid coin in the organization, which he devoted his entire life to build. The regime is demanding the Left faction to follow his example.

Generally, a congress is an opportunity, which provides space for a party’s issues to be debated, clarified and finally resolved, thus laying the groundwork for the party to begin work with a renewed vigor as a theoretically, politically and organizationally stronger, unified organization. Although the party developed and published a Perspective under the supervision of the International Committee, the leadership has only treated it as just another formal ‘document’. The Congress concentrated on taking the focus away from its Perspectives through slander and mudslinging. This example alone is sufficient to understand that the party regime pays only lip service to the perspectives, while adopting pragmatism in practice.

In contrast, Comrade David North, Chairman of the International Editorial Board of the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), at the beginning of the third Congress, brought ICFI’s greetings for the Congress and assessed it as follows:

“In the present circumstances, the Congress is not an occasion merely for commenting on the events happening outside of it. The party leadership, every delegate, must clearly understand, as I am sure you do, that all the discussions are invested with an immense and immediate political and historical content. Therefore, the fundamental challenge that this Congress confronts is to clearly define the attitude of the Sri Lankan section of the IC to the immense and decisive global events, and, of course, to the developing revolutionary crisis within Sri Lanka. In this sense, the Congress that you are holding has many similarities to the Congress of the Bolshevik Party in April 1917, the first Congress held following the return of Lenin to Russia amid a revolutionary crisis.”

The party regime treated this objective historical assessment as a laurel conferred upon it, and a license from comrade North to do as it pleased for holding a congress similar to the one held by Lenin! Indeed, North’s emphasis was on the historical responsibilities of the party. It was an emphasis on politically preparing to confront the developing world war situation and on the challenge of facing the growing revolutionary crisis in the country itself. Despite this insistence, the regime turned its back on the revolutionary crisis as it escalated and, conspired against and ousted the members who resisted the evasion. The meaning of alienating itself from the genuine mass movement of April-August 2022, the rejection of genuine action committees such as the CAC and maintaining the position that true action committees are only those approved by the party, is that the bureaucracy wants mass struggles to seek its approval, and suppressed, as, being politically and organizationally unprepared, it is unable to face the challenge posed by unprecedented mass struggles. According to the bureaucracy, the independent Action Committees are to be dictated by the programmes of the International Committee and are not viewed as instruments of mobilizing mass movement. 

We assure the working class that the SEP-SL Left Faction, which opposes this anti-Marxist tendency within the party, cannot be silenced and numbed by expulsions and all kinds of witch-hunts. Members of the Left Faction will fight to protect and safeguard the ICFI  programme and its best traditions and, in that regard, will not hesitate to stake their lives.  It will fight any attempt by the Party to derail the Party from those policies. We reject the SEP regime’s claim that the CAC is Identical to the Left Faction and it hides behind it. The Left Faction does not seek shelter in CAC and fights within the working class with a revolutionary perspective. We have successfully fought for the ICFI perspective within the CAC to adopt it and, we carry forward this struggle more intensively within the working class. We, the Left faction, are determined to break all bureaucratic barriers placed between us and the ICFI and fight for the unity of the working class and for the perspective of World Socialist Revolution under the banner of ICFI.  

[A statement with the similar content was published in Sinhala here on August 07, 2023]

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