By Ranga Kalansooriya –
Everything in this world is subjected to change and so do the people. Political parties, too, cannot avoid this global phenomenon. So, no argument about you and your party.
I thought of writing to this open letter after listening to you at Campbell Park a few days ago at a rally organized by Purawesi Balaya. In fact more than me, it was my wife and a few of her women friends insisted listening to you and were looking for an opportunity. Thus, I accompanied them to Campbell Park. But this does not mean that I am not in your ‘fan club.’
No debate – you have become the most powerful political orator on the contemporary political platform in Sri Lanka. You are with substance, facts and depth – of course with humour to keep the audience glued. You know how to hit the head of the nail by using correct word at suitable place and correct style with an appropriate flow. Some would claim that you are a star on the political stage but I would rather like to see you as a professional politician with strong communication skills. [Stardom does not suit you at all]. When I use the word ‘professional’ it entails knowledge, discipline and honesty, the key requirements to a politician.
The history of your political party – the JVP – is not a strange fairytale for us. I don’t think any political party in Sri Lanka has gone through the bitter experiences that JVP has had during its five decade history. Even though there are no confirmed facts and figures the two unsuccessful revolutions by the JVP may have killed more lives than the ethnic conflict in its entire 30-year period. The loss of lives I refer to was both from JVP and non-JVP camps.
Anura – May I now refer to my opening lines of this letter which I wanted to highlight in line with your own party. Since its re-emergence in early 90s the JVP has proved the fact that it is a formidable political force that is necessary to win elections. From militarism, it has moved to pure democratic pluralism and now has become a powerful campaigner for strengthening parliamentary democracy through the ballot –not the bullet. Ironically people may not vote for your party in millions but of course millions would listen to you before voting for the major political forces. The impact you make is immense. Thus your voice does matter – not to yourselves as JVP but to the others.
But Anura, I should mention here that your style of performance has attracted new voters to your own camp. I have heard many a time where non-JVPers [mainly strong UNPers] claim that they would like to vote for you at a future general election. You have converted them from block voters to floating voters. But they still do not want to vote for JVP as a party. I am not proposing you to cross over – please do not misunderstand me. But the JVP need to develop a strategy to convert these popular personal votes for you in to party votes. This is your biggest challenge.
How to face this challenge? Probably through party reforms – on policy level. This is not to propose you to embrace capitalism to match present politico-economic trends but to think new and think out of the box. For an example JVP needs to redesign its strategy on student movement – something beyond the conventional street fights through Inter-University Student Federation. These reforms should be visible in every sector of society.
Winning over the defectors of your party [or uniting the party] is another challenge. Though not strongly visible, they also make significant impact from within, I suppose. Wimal’s defection could be a blessing in disguise, but I am referring to the Gunaratnam group.
I am highlighting these issues due to two reasons. One, you have become a politician that I like and the second is the change we see within the JVP under your leadership which is entirely democratic. As citizens, we must encourage political forces like yours to become strong voices in defending democracy. There should be a room for a change and also a process to ensure that change to happen. I think JVP has started to change under your leadership but people should feel it.
All the best to you