Strange bedfellows falling out
Posted on January 6th, 2016

Editorial Courtesy The Island

The JVP has started kicking the government it has been kissing for months. It is going to stage a protest on Jan. 08, when the first anniversary of defeat of the Rajapaksa government and President Maithripala Sirisena’s first year in office will be celebrated. What has prompted it to do so?

The JVP’s smooch-and-spurn method is not of recent origin. In 1970, it was supportive of an SLFP-led coalition, which captured power in Parliament. It then took up arms to topple that administration in 1971. Following the UNP’s victory in 1977, which led to the release of Rohana Wijeweera from prison, the JVP started playing political footsie with the UNP so much so that its critics derisively dubbed it Jayawardena Vijeweera Peramuna. A few years later, the JVP took on the UNP and went so far as to unleash mindless terror to dislodge the governments of J. R. Jayewardene and Ranasinghe Premadasa in the late 1980s.

In 1994, the JVP cosied up to the SLFP again and backed Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s presidential bid. But, towards the end of her first term, it became one of her bitterest critics. In 2004, it opted for a political marriage with the SLFP and received 39 seats as a wedding gift at the parliamentary polls in that year. Interestingly, the then Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa opposed a coming together of the JVP and the SLFP, tooth and nail, but in vain. The following year the JVP broke ranks with the Kumaratunga administration but threw in its lot with Rajapaksa in the presidential race. Thereafter, it backed Sarath Fonseka, who unsuccessfully challenged Rajapaksa in the 2010 presidential race and threw its weight behind Maithripala Sirisena at the last presidential election. Now, it has turned on the incumbent government.

The JVP wants to keep the polity in a state of flux and thrives on disorder, promising to bring order out of chaos. To achieve this end it is willing to share bed with anyone and its political alliances are ephemeral.

The coming together of the UNP and the SLFP to form a joint administration would have created a situation where the JVP could project itself as an alternative to both parties at the next general election; its plan went awry because of the so-called Joint Opposition consisting of UPFA dissidents loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The JVP is bent on eliminating the Rajapaksa factor which has become an obstacle in its path, but this is a task it cannot accomplish on its own. It is co-operating with the government for that purpose as evident from the friendly Q&E sessions its leader and the government have in Parliament; they go to the mat with each other on many issues. It has in the process come to be seen as an appendage of the government. This may explain why it could secure only six seats at the last general election.

JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake has publicly declared his party’s intention to capture state power in 2020. The need has, therefore, arisen for it to look more anti-government than the Joint Opposition if it is to gain the lost ground and improve its performance at the next local government polls let alone win the 2020 parliamentary election; it has been left with no alternative but to launch a frontal attack on the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration to shore up its crumbling image and arrest the erosion of its support base.

Having been an integral part of the oppositional movement which brought about the Jan. 08 regime change and paved the way for the present state of affairs, the JVP will find it difficult to absolve itself of the blame for the wrongs it is accusing the incumbent government of. As a prominent member of the so-called National Executive Council under the UNP-led interim government, it is also responsible for the unfulfilled promises it is now flaying the government for.

The JVP may be able to hold a successful rally on Jan. 08 thanks to its dedicated, indefatigable cadres, but whether it will be able to pull the wool over the eyes of the discerning public remains to be seen.

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