In the Sri Lankan political theatre, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), comprising largely the educated youth, mostly unemployed graduates who saw no future for them, took recourse to revolutionary politics. Their two insurrections in 1971 and 1987-89 were clear proof of such revolutionary politics. Generally, they were referred to as ‘frustrated youth’, but one school of thought aptly described them as ‘the angry children of 1956’. To explain the ever widening social cleavage, their captivating slogan was:
“Kolombata kiri, apita kekiri, and “Asadharanaya” as referred to by the post 1987-89 Youth Commission Report. The leaders of the= traditional left parties were liberals who firmly believed in parliamentary government, while the JVP gave a new twist to Sri Lankan politics, with their two youth insurrections.
Their role as present day Parliamentarians, is quite interesting. The JVP MPs are well known for their constructive criticism at parliamentary debates, making acerbic comments on burning issues. One outstanding attribute of JVP Parliamentarians is, they are always well equipped with information, such as, history, statistics, weaknesses, etc. of any issue before Parliament.
Their crusades are always against bribery and corruption, waste of state resources, under-utilization of public funds, and any acts detrimental to the people. Almost all JVP Parliamentarians hail from rural areas and are familiar with the hazards of life, suffered by the low income groups. In a country, constructive criticism by the Opposition is a boost to the functioning democracy. The JVP has the potential to weigh the pros and cons of any project, and protest against possible loopholes or corruption that creeps in.
JVP Propaganda Secretary MP Vijitha Herath speaking to the Sunday Observer, said:
“Both, the UNP and the SLFP are adopting the same policies. The SLFP also appears for neo liberal and free market economy followed by the UNP. Budget 2017 is a clear reflection of that policy. The state-private partnership program is a corollary to it. Within this system, the economy would collapse. Both major parties don’t have any viable solution for the current economic crisis. Therefore, the people hope for an alternative economic policy.
“The JVP is the only party which has the ability to present such a policy. Even the SLFP-UNP Government has failed to find a solution to this crisis. At present, the JVP is moving forward as a powerful political entity against the two major parties. Rohana Wijeweera was the founder of the party, and we have engaged in politics, based on the ideologies introduced by him. But, we have changed our political program in keeping with the present socio and world economic trends. We have not however, changed our political ideologies. We have selected a more practicable program and the party would proceed with it”.
The JVP stalwart said, they have already presented an economic and political program to suit the future generation.
“Our intention is to further take this program to the people. We have already launched a political program targeting the next election to be held in 2020. We would contest it as a broader people’s alliance led by the JVP.
This would consist of civil organizations, intellectuals, artistes and professionals in various fields, for which we have already laid the ground work. At the next election, we would strengthen ourselves as a party capable of ruling the country. Nationally, we are in the process of forming such a, broader alliance, while a program has also been launched to win over the support of the people at village level”.
Policy and vision
According to MP Herath, the JVP has not extended its support to any Government. The JVP separately contested the last election and introduced its policy and vision. When the incumbent Government assumed office, we said that both major parties cannot change the system and restore true ‘ good governance’ in the country. Yaha Palanaya (Good Governance) is a good concept, but it has not been translated into action, so far. The JVP is always amenable to change. Anyone going against the party policies and discipline will be sacked. The removal of people who cause damage to the party is mainly in the interest of the party, and the country at large.
A glance at the recent past of the JVP reveals, it has established a new political culture in Sri Lankan politics, having integrated into the mainstream politics of the country. JVP founder Rohana Wijeweera did not come from a wealthy family or the upper segment of society. However, he could form a formidable political force that shook the very foundation of a system which exploited the masses, as seen by him.
The significant gesture of the JVP’s political ideology is, since its emergence in 1965, it has produced volunteers who sacrificed their time and substance to serve the people without amassing wealth and other perks gained by other politicians.
According to party sources, all elected JVP representatives transfer their salaries and other allowances to the party coffers. Since their entry into mainstream politics, the JVP has produced honest, dedicated, committed and efficient politicians.
The JVP, which also became a coalition partner of then UPFA Government produced Ministers above corrupt practices.
They saved public funds by checking waste and rejecting luxury vehicles and other perks enjoyed by the Ministers. For the first time, the people themselves witnessed how the JVP MPs as Ministers, burned midnight oil in the service of the country. They proved that they could deliver a better service to the people.
Another landmark of JVP politics was that they offered conditional support to the then People’s Alliance (PA) Government when the UNP was attempting to topple the Government. The JVP signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the PA, ensuring benefits to the masses.
Deliberating for more than 10 months, the SLFP and the JVP formed the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) in January 2004. During the General Election held on April 2, 2004, the JVP was a coalition partner of the UPFA that won 45.6 percent of the popular vote and secured 105 out of the 225 seats in Parliament. The Cabinet of Ministers of the new UPFA Government headed by President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga had 4 JVP MPs.
The JVP withdrew from the UPFA Government on June 16, 2005, protesting against the signing of an MoU between the Government and the LTTE to establish a Joint Mechanism to manage Tsunami- affected people in the country, particularly in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
While maintaining parliamentary traditions, the JVP constantly attacks the misuse of state resources and any moves to confer concessions to the privileged, at the cost of the poor. The budget debates are a grand opportunity for them to dissect the budget proposals and demonstrate its impact on the lives of the poor, while the rich remain unaffected.
The JVP is dedicated to its principled politics, unlike some other political parties obsessed with a ‘personality cult.’ in politics.
When all other political parties are silent on the perks for MPs, the JVP raises a loud voice against such moves, questioning how the cash-stripped Government coffers could bear such luxuries, when the poor is burdened with ever increasing taxes.
The COPE, headed by a JVP MP for the first time, is a classic example of how it conducted its job independently, without taking sides.
On the question whether the JVP is playing the legitimate role of a constructive Opposition, the JVP MPs, through their constructive criticism in and outside Parliament have shown their ability to successfully accomplish this task. The manner of the JVP MPs conducting themselves in Parliament is clear proof of the responsible role played by them as representatives of the people, in the larger interest of the country.
Source: ‘Sunday Observer’