‘JVP and TNA must fight together’

JVP leader Anura Dissanayake   | Photo Credit: Ishara Kodikara

Sri Lanka’s leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) have a duty to fight together and protect democratic rights, JVP leader Anura Dissanayake said, proposing a novel partnership between parties representing the country’s two main ethnic groups.

“The JVP (or People’s Liberation Front) and the TNA represent sections in the country’s south and north that have suffered most due to the actions of the repressive State,” he said in an interview to The Hindu on Wednesday. He was referring to the JVP's two youth insurrections in 1971 and 1987-89 that were suppressed by State violence, and the Tamil armed struggle that was militarily defeated in 2009.

Mr. Dissanayake’s comments come in light of a month-long political crisis in Sri Lanka, which began with President Maithripala Sirisena’s arbitrary sacking of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and the appointment of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his place. The Sirisena-Rajapaksa combine has since disrupted Parliament and rejected two confidence votes passed in the House, without proving a majority.


Ideological shifts

As a political party, the JVP has undergone major ideological shifts in the five decades since its founding. In more recent years, it saw two groups breaking away and forming new parties. Since 2014, the leadership of Mr. Dissanayake, 49, is seen as giving the party some renewed vigour, visibility and expression.

All the same, suggesting that the party’s links to its past and core ideology may still be intact in some measure, the reception of the party headquarters has a photograph of its rebel leader Rohana Wijeweera, sporting a “Che cap”, a thick beard and a wide smile. In the visitors’ room, three large black and white photographs — of Marx, Engels and Lenin — occupy a prominent place on the wall.

Ahead of the 2015 presidential elections, the JVP was at the forefront of opposition to Mr. Rajapaksa and his “anti-democratic, racist and highly corrupt” government. Last week, again, the JVP, with its six MPs and along with the TNA that has 14 MPs now, proved a formidable force in the 225-member Parliament, taking on the powerful leader.

In addition to their emphatic resistance to Mr. Rajapaksa’s “power grab” facilitated by President Sirisena’s “illegal and unconstitutional moves”, they voted against Mr. Rajapaksa, indirectly helping ousted Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s front muster a critical majority.

Futher, Mr. Dissanayake sees potential for long-term collaboration, apart from recent manoeuvres in the legislature. “Even though we may have some differences on certain issues, we will be able to work together closely in the future, on most questions,” he said.

Since neither party had a “secret agenda’ and both worked based on “principles and policies”, it was possible to work together in a transparent way.

Observing that people in the north and east have been suffering the most since the end of the war, Mr. Dissanayake said: “Now we need a united struggle by the people of the south and north... we work with them on the basis of democracy and equality. We are working for social transformation in this country and the Northern Province must also be part of that transformation. We have a common cause and we are committed to working together will all communities.”

‘Shared economic project’

In the JVP leader’s view, neither Mr. Rajapaksa nor Mr. Wickremesinghe worked with the TNA “with integrity”. “They exploited the TNA and its engagement for their own interests.”

Pointing to more things “in common” between the SLFP and the UNP, Mr. Dissanayake noted that their “core economic policy” was the same, though the parties framed them differently.

“That is why a former General Secretary of the SLFP [Sirisena] could become the Presidential candidate in a UNP-led alliance, that is why Ministers and MPs are able to switch camps so easily on a daily basis. There is no difference in the fundamental economic project of these two parties.”

And that is also why the JVP cannot directly back UNP or Mr. Wickremesinghe, even in the current crisis. “As a party, we don’t think we have a political course aligned to that of the UNP. Our political course will be certainly one opposed to their policies,” Mr. Dissanayake said.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2020 10:04:14 PM |

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