The Leader of the JVP Somawansa Amarasinghe speaking to the ‘Daily Mirror’ on the weakening of the JVP voter base, decisions of the party and the JVP’s non violent ideology, which he feels is the only means of stopping the gun culture in Sri Lankan politics said it is the government that has failed as it could not establish democracy in the country. He said the most important factor as far as the elections are concerned is that the government is using state media, state funds and state property. They also use thugs. The last election that was held in a free and fair environment was the election in 2004- that is the failure. He said the strength of the government is an artificial strength; it does not enjoy the support of the people.
Mr. Amarasinghe said the composition of the parliament has been changed by the President. It is enjoying two thirds majority and this is the strength the government enjoys. But that strength is neither legal nor legitimate and is not the verdict of the people. The persons who crossed over were bribed and they were given portfolios. This cannot be called democracy he said.
He said the setback of the JVP that some talk about is only in the election front. For the JVP the strength of the party is the number of organizations and organizers. “The strength of the organizations is the most important thing for us- not anything else. The number of votes goes up and down-but that is not a factor for us to be concerned about. For us it is not decisive. We have a number of organizations, student organizations and then trade unions and so many other party organizations in the JVP and that is the most important thing for us. On that front we have not lost anything.
Answering a question regarding leaders if IUSF including several central committee members and even a Parliamentarian leaving the party the Leader of the JVP said they are only individuals, no party organization has left the party but the party would be stronger in another three months. He said throughout the last few years there was a setback, we lost number of votes but are still intact. He said people have left the party and the present situation too would not have any impact on the party. He said little happenings in the party are being blown large by various interested people. “The media is making a very big fuss, but please just wait and see in a few months what will happen to the JVP – it is then that you can assess the situation. Some people have left the party, but nothing has happened to the party, nothing has changed to the huge fuss the media was making we thought that we would not win any seats. But the situation has not changed; people are not worried about what is happening here.”
We publish excerpts of the interview:
Q: Your argument is that nothing is wrong with the JVP, the people aren’t worried about it but the media is simply blowing the situation out of proportion. However the media is skeptical about your promise to rectify the situation in a couple of months because, the people saw the other major opposition in the country go through the same struggle and they made the same promise: give us a few months the situation would be resolved. It has been close to a year, nothing has changed, and they are still fighting.
A: They have been giving promises for the past 63 years
Q: And so, has the JVP you are politicians, making the same promises
A: No, no we are politicians but from a different category and a different standard. Don’t assess the JVP, the leaders of the JVP and the members of the JVP with the same standards. This is a party that cannot be corrupted, which will stand without any hesitation for the benefit of the people.
Q: what makes your promise that the intra-party conflict will be sorted out in a few months any better than the promise of the other opposition party that promised the same almost a year ago.
A: We have done what we have said.
Q: What are you going to do about the conflict, what is the action that the party will take
A: There is a programme for our party. We have already launched a six month programme to increase the number of voters. organizations, organizers and number of trade unions. We will make the people aware so that they will understand what is happening with the government and what the government is doing.
Q: You will find new leaders to replace those that have left?
A: That will be decided by the central committee. My view is important within the central committee not without.
Q: What is the action that will be taken against those that have left the party?
A: That will also be left for the central committee to decide. It is not up to me. One person will not take any decisions. It will be, it will continue to be and it was a collective decision, always we take.
Q: How soon is the central committee going to decide about what action needs to be taken?
A: That will have to depend on our day to day activities. Why should I tell Daily Mirror what we are doing inside our central committee? We are making the people aware; we are not going to tell them through the Daily Mirror or any other media that does not belong to the JVP It is not our policy to take our message to the people through other media – because we have our own media.
Q: Is your ideology the same: is the JVP still a socialist party? Because the dissidents have stated that the leadership of the JVP was not following a leftist ideology any more.
A: I won’t comment on anyone’s views. But I will say that, the present capitalist system must be replaced by socialist system that will ensure national unity, national development and many other rights, which are not guaranteed at the moment by this time.
Q: What is your opinion on the gun fire that was exchanged on election day
A: See what has happened, they are killing each other now. They have killed JVP members in the past. Now they are killing each other. Do you think that this government can achieve national unity? No. they cannot. This is the culture we have now, this gun culture. This gun culture cannot be ended by them; because they are the ones that created this culture. It will be the JVP that will end this.
Q: But violence has always been an inherent quality of the JVP?
A: No, it is not. These are the misinterpretations of the history of the JVP. The JVP wanted to be in mainstream politics from the very beginning. The situation created by the government so that the JVP had only one answer – that is to react violently. For violence it is violence.
Q: So you’ll use violence to counter the present gun-culture?
A : No. No. we have learnt lessons during the two struggles the 1971 and 1988/1989 period, we also learnt something. We were responsible for some actions; there were excesses from the part of the liberators. That is why since 1994 we have been in mainstream politics for the past 17 years – that is a great achievement. We are very careful
not to make use of violence.
Q: How does this apply to the present context and the question I asked you?
A: They killed a number of our comrades through the past few years but we never reacted. If it happened in 1971 we would have reacted in the same manner. We are going to the courts and trying to solve the problems in a non-violent manner. Therefore non-violence is number one for us. So using these methods we will somehow defeat the government, using non-violent methods.