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Thus Spake JVP

"The JVP needs to acknowledge the ‘ideological difference’ that distinguished the 1987 insurgency from the earlier one in 1971."
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By N Sathiya Moorthy

(July 27, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) The reasonable compensation for all families whose members have lost their lives in the (ethnic) war, financial and physical resources for areas battered by the war, shifting all members of individual IDP families into same camps, constitutional amendment to make Sinhalese, Tamil and English as the ‘national languages’ of Sri Lanka…

If someone thought that these is the latest of reiterated demands of the Tamil Nationalist Alliance (TNA) or some other Tamil political party, international NGO or political think-tank, it is not to be. All these form part of the 27-point ‘Practical Initiative to minimize issues and difficulties confronted by the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, and build national unity”, suggested by the Jantha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), instead.

Only days before JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe released this statement less than a fortnight ago, the party had despatched ‘Red Star’ relief supplies to the IDPs in Vavuniya. “We don’t believe that all issues of IDPs would be solved by distributing these goods. What we are doing by taking these goods to the IDPs is to display symbolically our readiness to mediate on their behalf,” JVP parliamentarian Lal Kantha said on the occasion. “It is the responsibility of everybody to take measures to incorporate them (IDPs) in society,” he said further.

On the political solution, the party had this to say in the post-war scenario. “The JVP extends its full cooperation to implement proposals that protect sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security of Sri Lanka and those that bring peace, national unity and prosperity to the Motherland. We would like to assure that the JVP sitting in the Opposition would never be an obstacle for the above,” senior party leader Anura Dissanayake said.

As leader of the JVP parliamentary group, Anura Dissanayake was speaking at the inaugural meeting of the All-Party Committee for Development and Reconciliation, set up by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Also present were Tamil political party leaders, including those from the TNA, who had stayed away from such presidential panels on earlier occasions. Under the circumstances, this should augur well as a good starter.

Yet, it is here, on the political solution, that the differences have remained, particularly distinguishing the JVP – and also the JHU – from the Tamil parties. Leave alone concepts such as ‘unitary State’ and controversies over ‘re-merger’, the JVP even has reservations about the unit of power-devolution.

As is known, the party is opposed to Province-based devolution, even after it had become the law of the land, upheld as it has been by the Supreme Court. It is here the internal dichotomy of the JVP stands out. Having quoted the Supreme Court judgment in support of de-merger, the JVP cannot cite other causes and reasons for not wanting to accept provincial devolution.

“To completely resolve the ‘national question’, it is necessary to establish genuine democracy and remove socio-economic inequality among various communities,” the July 15 statement said. Earlier too, on May 27, the party had come up with a similar construction, less than a fortnight after the conclusion of the ‘ethnic war’, when “separatist terrorism had been defeated”.

If parliamentary democracy is all about the acceptance of what Parliament has passed into law, and what the Apex Court has upheld as one, then the JVP should acknowledge it and accept it as one. True, Parliament was packed with a four-fifth majority UNP when the Thirteenth Amendment became law. Today, the SLFP, which was then the mainline Opposition and is at the helm now, has lent political backing to the Thirteenth Amendment.

Having repeatedly reiterated the cause of ‘genuine democracy, it is now the JVP’s turn to acknowledge that the Thirteenth Amendment is a part of the Statute Book. So could be further amendments to the Constitution, based on the APRC recommendations as and when ready, or through other initiatives in Parliament. That is what ‘genuine democracy’ is all about, at least until the JVP and/or the JHU is able to muster enough parliamentary support, to be able to re-write the laws as it sees fit.

That takes us to the question if the JVP will at all be able to muster those numbers. There is little on record to suggest that such a scenario can develop in the near future. If anything, it is the proportional representation system that has contributed to the high parliamentary representation for parties like the JVP – and there is already talk of the ‘Big Two’ wanting to return to the ‘first-past-the-post system’.

Even without this, there is no hope in the near future for the JVP to be in the driver’s seat of Government at the Centre, to be able to dictate the nation’s policies. Shared experience at the helm, under Presidents Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa, has left a bad taste in the JVP’s mouth. It has also rendered the policy weaker, and obviously so under the Rajapaksa presidency.

In political terms, it needs no reiteration that the JVP could at best hope to revive its sagging morale and electoral fortunes from the Provinces upwards, if at all. It is in the Provinces that the root-causes of justification for the JVP’s ‘socio-economic ideology’ lies and it is also here that the party could hope to begin policy and programme changes, to be able to make an impact.

Post-Independence growth and development in Sri Lanka has had an urban bias, and has been confined to Colombo, not even the whole of the Western Province. Whatever development that the Tamil areas could boast of, both in terms of agriculture initiatives of the hardy people, and also education and employment now lay waste. The South, where the JVP has its roots, has always remained backward.

Having acknowledged this reality, the JVP needs to look at ways to promote growth and development in the regions and all across the country. If it still argues that the districts could be the unit of power-devolution to achieving even growth, experience has proved otherwise. Provinces as a via media, and possibly a four-stage devolution in which the districts also have a role to play, particularly in terms of delivery, may provide the answer.

The JVP needs to acknowledge the ‘ideological difference’ that distinguished the 1987 insurgency from the earlier one in 1971. The latter was exclusively about economic disparities, between people – which in turn were based on disparities among various regions of the country. Against this, the ‘Second insurgency’ became ‘Sinhala nationalist’ in character. There was no talk of the traditional socio-economic causes that had governed the traditional Left, particularly the traditional Left militancy.

In the name of ‘Sinhala nationalism’, the JVP laid waste thousands of cadres who had been brought up to fight for socio-economic equality and equity. In political terms, it diluted the cause beyond recognition, and weakened the party as never before. Even the 2008 split in the JVP owed to causes that flowed from this ideological aberration, and not otherwise.

Now with the ethnic war behind it, it is not just the Government of the day that will be held accountable on issues of governances – starting with law and order, and price rise. Even parties like the JVP – and the JHU – may find their political plank being pulled from under their feet. They need to have a re-look and re-visit the past, to apply correctives. Further loss, if any, would only be theirs – and the JVP will then have only itself to blame.
-Sri Lanka Guardian

1 comment

jan said...

JVP reflects the sinhala view point.The 13th amendment was forced on the country by India under the threat of invasion.It is anti sinhalese and divisive. If the 13th amendment is implemented fully the ethnic war will never end and Indian interferance will never stop.

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