By Arundathie Sangakkara –
UNP is in my blood. When I voted for Sarath Fonseka placing a cross in front of the swan, my fingers trembled. When I placed a cross in front of the same swan in 2015 to elect the current joker president to his office, the same. But I did it. Because I am UNP.
UNP And Class
The UNP to me represented what I believed was my ‘class’. The idea of class is complex, it includes different elements: your address, wealth, primary language, how you speak English, what you read, the art you discuss, the theatre you go to, the holidays you take, what you laugh at, who you laugh with, what’s fashion, what’s funny and what makes you cringe. Voting with the UNP was and is a ‘supposed feature’ of the ‘upper classes’.
This UNP voting ‘upper class’ didn’t come to be out of the thin air of Colombo 3 and 7. Many are descendants of internal migrants who settled in Colombo from the villages. They all have betel chewing, toddy loving, kasippu drinking, Mahinda voting unsophisticated rural bumpkin relatives. Those relatives talk loud into the phones and tell long stories. They openly harbor prejudice based on caste and religion. But they are promptly excluded from the equation of our identity to ourselves, our immediate families and similar UNP friends. UNPers are not like that, we were taught. They are progressive, liberal, right wing-ish. Voting with UNP is not just a political statement, it resonated with expressing a real or imagined elitism.
UNP was also my best and only weapon against the despotic Rajapaksas. I abhor the Rajapaksas, Weerawansas, Chi-Chis, The Rockets, the Namals, Nil Balakaya, the Yo-Yos, the lootings, the killings. I have had no problem glossing over the lootings of the UNP, nor the killings. After all, the UNP was still the only hope for uniting all races and still is our best and only hope against a Rajapaksa perpetuation.
So I grew up thinking this was my UNP. Ranil was my Ranil. Any criticism of Ranil Wickremesinghe was personal to me. If he was called a born loser I would go in to long explanations about how it was not so.
I still think Ranil is not a born loser.
That’s not fair.
Ranil’s just a plain day to day loser.
If someone said he was an unfeeling, heartless, out of touch political nincompoop, I would rise to his defense.
If someone called Ravi Karunanayake a ‘pal hora’, I would provide statistics on Basil Rajapaksa, Mr Ten Percent.
So how come that I am writing this article titled ‘I Will Vote With The JVP’?
How The UNP Kills Its Support Base
Then, in 2015, Yahapalanaya happened. The UNP went on a rogue appointment rampage. It also went on its mandatory looting rampage (bond scam, anyone?). The ultra-corrupt ministers planted their stooges in many public institutions for the purpose of stealing from our institutions. The politicians and the stooges alike were replenishing their campaign spending. They started tender irregularities, commission taking, womanizing causing the systematic break down of law and order, administration, morality, decency and everything sacred.
As a group of shocked staunch UNP supporters, we thought we should fight this. We resisted like citizens; like government servants; like decent people; “like UNPers”. For two years we wrote letters, protested, called for audits, submitted Right To Information applications. We took all administrative measures. We failed so badly, we became a joke. We realized that we needed political backing to fight this. From the President down to the PM, powerful ministers, cabinet secretaries were all contacted regarding these rogues who were UNP appointees, destroying public institutions.
The reaction we got from each and every UNP minister was…. very UNP. They listened to us indulgingly, like listening to a three year old narrating a fairytale. They listened to us elegantly, making appropriate facial gestures with well timed ‘tch-tch’s thrown in. They said “it’s so wrong, something must be done, and will be done, write a letter here, and send a letter there”. But they invariably ended the conversation with “you know, so-and-so minister is so powerful. You can’t defeat him. Lokka needs him. Why don’t you all get transferred out of your departments”?
We nodded politely, sipping green tea.
I’m Going To Meet The JVP!
We came out and told each other – fuck these UNP bigwigs. They are taking us for a ride. What they meant was-“we are protecting our thieves. You idealists who think you are one of us can continue to believe that and vote for us. But we will commit administrative rape on you and you will thank us and vote for us”.
We had come to the end of a road of our UNP options.
One day I told my colleagues, I’m going to the JVP.
How The JVP Was Defined To us
Now to give you a perspective of what the JVP meant in our ‘upper class’ world, we were told this by our elders; “JVP means poor people, people who smell of sweat. They hate beautiful people, jealous of good clothes, good vehicles, English speakers. They were university raggers, they would strip university students and make them perform sex acts. They killed bus drivers, gramasewakas, artists, teachers and innocent people during the JVP insurgency. They hate the private sector, the international community, they hate progress. They conveniently criticize all governments from their tiny little moral high horses. They are arrogant, areligious, hate the rich. Their followers are unshaven, unbathed street protesters who block roads and hinder day to day activities. They will never form a government, hence, never face the challenges of the real world”.
All this was repeated to me throughout my life, and once again people who knew of our move were repeating it to us.
To cut a long story short, we met Anura Kumara Dissanayake (AKD), the leader of the JVP.
He listened to us showing genuine empathy. He understood the legal, administrative and moral violations we were referring to. He promised to fight it in parliament and outside. The JVP rallied the necessary elements, made submissions, and lodged police complaints. They tirelessly worked on the issues. Several of those rogues are awaiting their jail term soon. Together with the JVP we ended several thief tenures.
I sat in my library, with a teacup in my hand and reflected on what just happened. I have mixed with UNP bigwigs all my life. Not one of them treated me with the genuine egalitarianism of AKD. He actually responded to us as if he has requested an appointment with us! He did not lie. He did not give us any inflated sense of his importance. When he was listening, he was learning. The JVP fought it out for us till the end. And the JVP never tried to collect the credit for it; never told us to be grateful; never asked for anything in return.
JVP: Undoing Historical Blunders
The JVP spearheaded by AKD is attempting to undo the historical blunder of university ragging propagated as a means of recruiting brainwashed cadres to the JVP. The infamous Antharey (the inter-university students’ collective) is no longer a JVP arm, but a Peratugamee Party instrument. The JVP is on a reformist path to steer away from their controversial past. How many political parties do you know who will accept their historical errors and will display the humility to undo their horrors and errors?
Will we ever hear poor little rich boy Ravi K accept that Arjun Aloysius’s ‘unknown little apartment’ was in fact a bribe?
Will we ever hear Gota accepting that he looted public money to build the graves of his parents?
Will we ever hear any accountability from Ranil who was instrumental to the cover up of the bond scam?
Will we ever hear Sirisena accepting his failure to protect the nation on the fateful Easter Sunday of 2019?
Will we ever hear poor little daddy’s boy Sajith Baba accept that he has no degree from London School of Economics and his adult measles case is a lie and that he has a piece of paper called an Aegrotat ‘Degree’ (which basically means that he did NOT graduate)?
JVP’s Dilemma: Retaining Cadres Vs Political Reality
I have learnt some interesting things about the JVP, in conversation with AKD. The JVP will always be the socialist, Marxist party that it is. But it no longer believes in a Socialist-Marxist- Maoist- Leninist utopia. They have a good grasp of global economic reality. They are in the democratic political process today holding on to some of the core socialist values of equity, equality and parity. They have distanced themselves from university ragging.
The JVP has tried some difficult moves. They have apologized for the loss of lives they caused during insurgency, which I don’t think is sufficient. It’s not sufficient because there isn’t a sufficient apology for killing a human being. After all, if the JVP killed my father, no amount of apologies will make me vote for them.
But then, why do we vote for UNP who has also killed so many mothers, fathers, daughters and sons? I mean, I cringe every time Sajith Premadasa mentions ushering in a Premadasa era. How many tyres is Sajith hiding in a yard somewhere?
The two mainstream political parties, UNP and SLFP (SLPP) have managed to secure power and hence have the media, lobbying and the eye wash machinery to gloss over their murders. Also, when a party has power, people forget the dead and go after politicians to get things done. They will barter their memories to little privileges they pick. The JVP has not had a government to play this game.
The mismatch between the evolved, refined modern ideology of the leadership as opposed to that of their cadres is a challenge. The leadership of the JVP are really decent human beings. AKD, Sunil Handunneththi, Bimal Rathnayake, Tilvin Silva actually behave like normal human beings when you meet them. They share their views with unique humility. They speak and act from a place of truth. Even when they know that your truth is not their truth, they understand your pain because they are used to empathizing with other pains and other truths.
The cadres of the JVP are a fraction of the young and old school socialists. The old school socialists are not internet savvy. They are not connected to the live streaming of our panoramic world. The old schoolers believe that they can kneel governments by island wide strikes and streets protests. In the modern world governments and governance are also abstract ideas operating on Google. Personage politics of NM, Colvin, Bernard and Peter is dead. Now politicians are measured not so much in charisma or intellectual luster but in numbers: number of followers, ‘likes’, ‘views’, ‘shares’ and number of people gathering at rallies. Google can count the actual numbers who came to watch you in Galle Face. Today’s celebrity is not an idea, it’s a number. The romanticizers of Mao’s China or Lenin’s Russia don’t get it. The internet age has made the battle lines between capitalism and socialism hazy bringing all battles to a complex middle ground.
The JVP leadership understand this shifting paradigm. If they articulate this raw truth they might lose their cadres. They have a challenge in recruiting new cadres from among the so-called elites, real professionals and upper middle class. Their dubious past is not covered in layers of political make up. The UNP, SLFP (SLPP) keep doing political plastic surgery over theirs’s to look good, every time.
The JVPs honesty comes with a cost.
But JVP’s honesty is essential.
JVP Is Against Homophobia
JVP is also the only party to speak against homophobia. They plat formed Waradas Thyagaraja, an openly gay academic in their rallies. It is the only party in the recent times to stage women speakers and minority women speakers. In the UNP the women are just show pieces like Rosy or Chandrani Bandara – pretty things, nice decoration. Alternatively they have gutter mouths like Hirunika Premachandra who thinks oratory means name calling and verbally enacting supposed sex scenes between the President and his alleged mistress.
If not for the left politics we would not have 8 hour work days, free health or universal franchise. Left political movements have trouble coming to power world over. But they represent our only hope of politicians supporting us in our struggles for justice and our freedoms.
A Vote For JVP A Wasted Vote?
A lot of people tell me that a vote for JVP will be a wasted vote. That it will strengthen the Rajapaksas. But if I vote for the UNP I will only be inviting the economic and administrative rapists to rape us more, loot us more. I have learnt my lesson, voting with the UNP to whom we are just a cross on a ballot. When they get to power they impose their thugs and rogues on our institutions and tell us it’s for our own democratic good. They will show us the Rajapaksa billa to get our vote. Then they will impose their Satans on us.
I will vote for JVP to make them stronger. Because, without honest men and women our democracy is nothing. And if we, the so-called elite, professionals, the tech savvy liberal thinkers, equality seekers don’t support them, the soul of Sri Lankan politics will die. I will vote for JVP so that instead of 6 honest men, there will be 20 JVP men and 20 JVP women in a future parliament.
I will begin that by voting for their candidate at the Presidential Election.
I will vote for them at the General Election.
I will also do this because the rascals of the UNP have taught me an unforgettable lesson of what ruthless, nasty, dishonest bunch of soulless crappers they are.
I will vote for JVP.
(P: S: No one is ‘upper class’. We all carry faeces in our colons. Get over it).