JVP’s credibility on the line
Posted on September 1st, 2019

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

After 20 years, for the first time, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna has decided to participate in the upcoming Presidential Election; on their own right. On the surface this is a positive development and all those who agree with a democratic system ought to applaud it. However, the concern that has arisen with this so-called ‘independent’ candidate from the JVP is that the candidate may be more of a decoy than ‘independent’. 

In that case, JVP presenting their own candidate would not be a strengthening of Sri Lanka’s democratic system giving people a greater choice. Instead, this would be corrupting the democratic system into duping people into believing of having a choice that they never did. 

Piggyback into power

After the demise of Rohana Wijeweera, the JVP did not have the strength to stand on its own and had to always piggyback on the presidential candidate of one of the two main political Parties. It might have been a humiliating experience for the hardcore JVP supporter, for at different times in history they were brutally suppressed by these two main Parties. 

In 1971, the JVP was quickly crushed and its members were thrown in jail and the key thrown away by the SLFP. It took the UNP two years to decimate the JVP, during which Wijeweera was apparently turned to ash. 

However, the JVP managed to regroup and more importantly retain the moral of their supporters by identifying themselves as ‘kingmakers’ – a role that had a pivotal importance that even the ‘king’ himself does not enjoy. The main ruling Party would have to yield to the dictates of the JVP. This was a more satisfying position as it gave the JVP power without its associated responsibilities. As the spine of the JVP was also the grassroot level voter bank, they were able to bring into the equation a vote base that the other Parties could not yet effectively penetrate. This vote base combined with their most efficient propaganda machinery did help the political Party they were supporting gain an edge.

However in the longterm, this proved to be corrosive to the JVP vote base. Especially after the war against terrorism was successfully concluded, and the economy started to pick up and with that employment opportunities and the necessity for the JVP ideology began to fade. 

Supporting weak governments

In an obvious bid to arrest this evolving situation the JVP leaders began throwing their weight behind the political alliance that could never form a strong government. As such, that alliance would not be able to enact strong economic policies. A weak government would be much too engaged with their struggle to survive the day. The biggest challenge of such a government would be negotiating deals with their many partners that would be forgiven by their block vote. 

Such a government would actually be in an impossible position. The ruling Party cannot annoy one partner by appeasing another, nor can it ignore the demands of any of their partners. As these minor political parties are only concerned about their own survival and thus, their exclusive block vote, the demands they make usually have a negative impact on a national level. Hence, giving into any of these demands will ultimately impact the chance of the ruling Party getting re-elected with their own Party loyalists becoming disillusioned. It is this impossible juggling act that the ruling Party is forced to perform that turns the ‘king’ to ‘clown’. Therefore, in effect political Parties such as the JVP are not really ‘kingmakers’, but ‘clown makers’. 

The past four years would best exemplify how self serving political entities such as the JVP turned a legitimate government into an absolute mockery. The Yahapalana Government that was brought to power by vested interest groups was tasked to – replace the unitary Constitution with one that would effectively create nine semi autonomous governments independent from the central government; jail or discredit political and military leaders who played a significant role in defeating terrorism in Sri Lanka; break away diplomatic and economic relations with the Chinese; handover strategic and natural resources to foreign powers; increase taxes and reduce State commitments to social services such as health and education.

As a direct result the job market that existed in 2014 had constricted, giving rise to over 400,000 losing their employment. The taxes have increased by 100 per cent. The country that eradicated terrorism from its soil, ten years ago, is again living under the threat of terrorism from a new quarter. We are yet to recover from the sudden loss of 300 lives from the Easter Sunday Massacres. 

Interestingly, the Easter Sunday Massacres had become an unexpected catalyst. While the real objective of the massacres is still a mystery, it has unmasked the JVP. 

Aftermath of the Easter Sunday massacres, a No Confidence Motion against Minister Rishad Bathiudeen was brought forth by the Opposition. This posed an unexpected challenge to the Yahapalana Government as the Catholic Ministers in the Government also wanted to vote in favour of the Motion. 

Fragility of the Govt 

The fragile state of the Yahapalana Government was exposed by the fact that they could not afford to lose Bathiudeen. It was at this critical juncture that the JVP decided to reduce the Government by bringing a No-confidence motion against the Government. With a NCM against the Government, the Catholic Ministers were forced to put away their differences and unify their strengths to survive another day in power.

Fixated on Rajapaksas

The fact that the JVP did not move a NCM against the Government in the aftermath of the Central Bank Bond scams or when the Hambantota Port was privatised under the fancy terminology ‘equity swap for debt’ is very revealing. Despite the rising corruption in the Government, the JVP’s focus had remained fixated on the Rajapaksa Administration, which was ousted from power four years ago. Even after the much hushed agreements with the US Government, that posed severe challenges to our sovereignty and national security, surfaced the JVP had remained remarkably quiet. 

In the subsequent debate over the NCM, the JVP unsurprisingly offered a very lacklustre argument. TNA also played along and voted in favour of the Government. This is both hilarious and tragic at the same time. 

It is hilarious because until about six months ago, the TNA was the main Opposition to the Yahapalana Government and the JVP sat with the Opposition. Both these parties played a key role in reverse engineering the sacking of Ranil Wickremesinghe and the termination of the Yahapalana Government. They had to pull the same trick again to save the Government in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday massacres. 

TNA and Tamils

It is tragic because most of the victims in the Easter Sunday massacres were Tamil. The TNA is internationally recognised as being the representative of the Tamils in the North and the East. Clearly they are not. During the LTTE days when Tamils in these two provinces faced untold harshness, the TNA studiously looked away. The TNA was excused then because everyone feared the LTTE’s brutality. Yet today, the TNA is not subjugated to such terror. Thus, their support to a government that failed to protect their voters only exposes TNA also as simply self servers.

Having thus protected the Government, it is indeed interesting as to the possible reasons for the JVP to field their own presidential candidate. They cannot possibly hope to win. This was not a possibility even Wijeweera, in his heyday, enjoyed. Therefore, instead of challenging both main political streams it would have been logical for the JVP to have lent its weight to push one faction to its victory and then dictated terms to the ruling Party. 

The answer lies in the fact that the JVP is no longer an independent political Party, but a subsidiary of the UNP. They are today reduced to playing the same role Nagananda Kodituwakku is playing – to bag the votes that are clearly no longer for the UNP, but as an alternative that would have otherwise fallen into the Rajapaksa basket. Voting for either JVP or Naganada is as good as binning it, but at the same time giving them credibility they do not deserve. 

ranasingheshivanthi@gmail.com

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