23 September, 2019

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JVP & Minorities: Towards A Third Way

By Ameer Ali

Dr. Ameer Ali

As Sri Lanka moves toward a political show down between the UNP and SLFP/SLPP traditional political rivals, there is a third force with great potential strength emerging as a decider in any final outcome, provided that force remains united. By this I refer to the combined strength of JVP, TNA and SLMC/ACPC parties. There is certainly no common program or policy that brings them together at the moment, but the current constitutional crisis that has derailed the functioning of democracy in the country, and the role these three have played so far in preventing the realisation of a constitutional coup engineered by an erratic president, must have made them realise that in their unity lies the survival of democracy, justice and peace and prosperity of this paradise island. It is worth exploring the possibilities for a closer alliance among these three groups and provide a third alternative for a beleaguered electoral public. 

A common economic program must be worked out that would provide a solid foundation to such an alliance. Some lessons from the past can become useful in designing such a program. The tradition of cooperative movement is still not dead among the Jaffna farmers. The cooperative movement can be revived and reintroduced on national level as a means of not only bringing together the toilers of this country but also adding a human face to the current predatory market economy. The tradition of market gardening and cottage industries in the Jaffna peninsula and peasant farming handicraft industries in Sinhalese villages can be linked through the cooperative movement.

Also, the linguistic link between the Tamils and Muslims must be strengthened further but without its religious parochialism.  The Muslims and Hindus should work hard to move away from their foreign injected religious zealotry. If this can be achieved there can be common ground between the two communities for some form of political devolution, particularly in the Eastern Province.        

JVP of today is not the JVP of 1970s. It has grown out of its initial revolutionary political delinquency and evolved into a matured national democratic political party looking for support across all ethnic and religious communities. It is essentially patriotic in outlook but pragmatic in approach. Although JVP’s vote bank is based chiefly in the Sinhalese electorates, it is trying hard and with some success, to reach out to the Tamil and Muslim voters also. With a manifesto that prioritises solutions to minority grievances and the nation’s economic woes JVP could present an alternative platform attractive enough for disgruntled Tamil and Muslim voters who have so far seen no tangible benefits from backing their ethnic parties. Obviously, there are enough hurdles to overcome. 

First of all, TNA and its Tamil rivals, including Wigneswaran’s yet to be formalised new party, have to accept the reality and realise that bargaining with either of the two main Sinhalese dominated parties without the support of Muslims and a critical Sinhalese mass is not going to yield them any substantial outcome for their demands. The international pressure they hope for is a mirage. They can forget about India ever coming to their assistance in time of crisis. Likewise, Muslims also must realise that both SLMC under Hakim and ACPC under Badiuddin are only a coterie of self-motivated individuals conveniently operating as political parties without any coherent philosophy or program. Because these two groups are primarily Muslim focused they lack a national vision and their leaders rarely express their parties’ views on national issues.  

Their only program so far seems to be winning maximum personal benefits from the ruling power. In fact at the last elections only one from the two groups, the MP from Eravur, contested under SLMC ticket and won. All others entered the parliament either through the UNP or through backdoor. Their informal alliance with the yahapalana government could not protect the Muslim community from recurring episodes of racially motivated violence. It only goes to prove that the strategy of party-hopping by Muslim MPs in return for personal favours imperils the life and survival of ordinary Muslims, particularly in the current environment of simmering ethno-nationalism.   

This being the case both minorities need a critical quantum of Sinhalese voice that speaks for everyone irrespective of language, religious or ethnic differences. The two national parties have developed the art of addressing the Sinhalese and Tamil audiences with forked tongue. What they say to the Sinhalese is not what they say to the Tamils and Muslims. This is why the minorities need a Sinhalese voice that tells their side of the story to the Sinhalese masses also.  Attempt to do this was undertaken by the leftists in the 1950s and 1960s and particularly by the Lanka Sama Samajists. But Tamils and Muslims never supported them. While the former chose to go behind their own ethnic parties the latter alienated the Tamils and alternated between UNP and SLFP in search of preferential treatment.  Both have reached a dead end at the moment. Time has come to rethink of their strategies. Although the traditional vote banks of the two contending factions, UNP and SLFP cut across communal and religious boundaries, they lack the sincerity and honesty to treat all communities equally. Thus is where JVP can rise to fill the vacuum.

Unlike the leftists of yester year today’s JVP has a rural Sinhalese Buddhist base. The voice that speaks on behalf of all Sri Lankans including the minorities from such a base has a greater chance of receiving acceptance than the one that comes from an urban milieu. If the minorities can realise this fact and forge a closer alliance with JVP their prospects for a peaceful and prosperous future would look promising. The strength of that informal but formidable alliance has already been demonstrated in the current constitutional drama. A formal coalition among them may lead to a Third Way in Sri Lanka’s hackneyed bi-party politics.                  

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Latest comments

  • 6
    1

    Dear All

    I am looking for education/knowledge sharing please correct me accordingly.

    My upbringing in Vaddukottai alone make me wonder about many issues that exist amongst us as a Nation today from a very different prospective based on what my Father had to deliver to his subjects since 1943 having started as a Teacher and ended being a Politician (rather a social worker) until he was assassinated in 1981? I am trying to think, bench mark/gap analyse/revaluate/risk & benefit analyse what did really take place in our Nation from his thoughts and actions too as well as the facts and figures/time lines I checked and checked again to date.

    Based on all what has transpired ever since in our Nation and Internationally and through my life/work around other asian nations/west I feel we should take the path of no identity politics and stick to it for good. History is only there for us to teach/learn lessons and feel we all exited the difficult paths far too soon compare to other Nations. After all the blood letting the country is really ready for this path of unity to succeed we need to give Mother Lanka the opportunity mindfully for a sustainable future.

    • 4
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      Please do not bring your father into this discussion if you are not prepared to tell the truth about him. There is no doubt he was a respected person as a teacher, but sadly it was not so as a politician. He contested Vaddukoddai as a Tamil Congress candidate in 1970 and was elected for two reasons not because of the party which nominated him. Firstly his students as a token of gratitude cast their votes for him and secondly electorate wanted to teach Amirthalingam a lesson for his arrogance. If one of these factors were not there, he would have never been elected. See what he did after election on Tamil Congress ticket. He jumped to SLFP led government which was discriminating Tamils on university education and state employment, promulgating a new constitution which designated Tamils to a second class status and was letting loose police to arrest and torture Tamil youths who were protesting against the atrocities of the government.. Then why did he abandon the policies of Tamil Congress and join the Sinhala racist government other than for fulfilling personal agendas of enjoying perks. Subsequently being rejected by Tamils in 1977 election, he jumped to UNP led government which had let loose riots against Tamils, refusing to grant worthwhile autonomy to Tamils and was continuing to let armed forces to commit atrocities against Tamil youths. Then why did he do it other than for his personal agenda. Unfortunately for him he could not continue to fool Tamil people for long and was eliminated. LTTE had no business to kill him thus making a mistake of not allowing Tamil people to confine him to the dust bin of history.

      • 3
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        Dear Dr Sankaralingham

        He is a public figure by all means feel free to discuss as required is what we said out to do is to bring the truth out…… thank you.

        The people killed my Father are not LTTE. He was killed during the election campaign in 1981 before the voting took place?

        I also know the killers world with GOSL and India ever-since they fired the fatal shot in 1981 until 2009.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._Thiagarajah

        With regards to your writeup I am intrigued by the (1) basis and assumptions (2) processing/evaluation (3) discussion and conclusion does not seem to have any accepted norms applied such as winning an elections means winning/loosing means loosing (not kicked out)/democratic right to candidacy & vote freely /dislike the arrogance not the policy?/different methodology to problem solving means working with the enemies for perks/ pre tempting election results / generalising voters as tamils will kick out their candidacy, no lessons learned applied in your arguments too as we are now in discussion this in 2018 about something that happed in 1981??, then again we are discussing way forward is why revisited some events for consideration in future planning not applied to your conclusions?

        Even after reading your case scenario I feel my argument still hold as to why people voted for him in 1970 and why they may have voted for him again in 1981 too is because people felt this separate state business was a red herring and could have avoided the blood bath too. Our historical discussion between you and me can not be any more important than this ever.

        Thank you

        • 0
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          Please do not cover up the dastardly act of your father. In 1970 Tamil Congress won only two seats – Nallur and Vaddukoddai. TC stalwarts and sitting members like GG Ponnambalam and Sivasithamparam lost, which shows that TC was not popular compared to Federal Party. Verdict of the people is sacrosanct whether the decision is right or wrong. How can you explain when a person who was a giant killer in one election, losing his deposit at the next election. People rejected your father as not suitable to represent them due to his behaviour. What sort of principle he had in jumping to parties which have created untold suffering to Tamils. There was always a dissenting 10% among Tamils who did not support TULF, and your father tried to get those votes to ride to power and not for the benefit of Tamils. This is exactly what Douglas Devananda is doing now jumping from one government to another. Please stop glorifying your father who has been dumped into the dustbin of history by proud and self respecting Tamil people.

          • 1
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            Dear Dr Sankaralingham

            The following is not written to defend my father but written as my birth right to discuss what is important for me as a citizen in my own country…..with this clearly drawn distinction I share the following with you as a fellow country man of mine with all due respect and love.

            You as a voter hold a particular view point from the facts you have gatherd as a citizen of Sri Lanka and voted accordingly and now sharing those understanding you had then and now with us today. All is good and is freedom of expression indeed is respected by us all.

            There is no set ways to use/express democracy for exchange of thoughts/learn and evolve to do better and most importantly to deliver justice to your voters if you want to be a politician too. What you are saying is a particular individual (in this instance my Father) has for selffish reasons to enjoy priviladges misused the trust of his people/misguided them and landed them in harms way which is Sinhala racisim? is one such rational you used as your main basis of discussion point with me and I hope I am correct in interpreting your intention for my following response?

            continued

          • 2
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            My concern as highlighted to you earlier ‘your analysis/methodology’ about my Father does not look right failing to meet basic criteria fairly and without objectivity too is what I responded to you mindfully (even though the reason I wrote what I wrote earlier in the comment section was to give a timely reminder of things need to born in our minds (including yours too) for future analysis with regard to a particular parties historical mistakes meaning minority politics itself needs paradigm change for a better future). I also note you are consistent in all your comments everywhere else too in CT in certain line of ‘story telling’ that Sinhala this and that without any basis known to us the Sri Lankans……now from what you say about my Father personalising discussion straying away from the policies which we are discussing merely confirms my case/concern too hence I started writing recently.

            I will also confirm the 1977 election itself and the campaign methodologies by TULF then had the same patterns too when it come to making a case to the public why they should support their policies. More about folk story telling without facts repeated enough with the Sthenthiran news paper hate message over decades indeed have affected our peoples mind loosing sight of what it is like to live with others or rather what it is like for others to live with us including the ‘cast’ in our own spaces who prayed the same god and spoke the same language living in their own smaller ghettoes amongst the Northen Tamil identity/kingdoms for survival oppressed by the same for conturies?.

            continued

          • 2
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            Anyone who did not buy into this story telling were subject to being harassed/haranged/called names/intimidated/ threatened/ physically harmed/killed. The fact Suthenthiran news paper will publish article the MP’s who joined the government should not die naturally (transcript of the speech by Mr Kaciananthan when SJV was on stage says it all), The river of blood speech made by Mr Amirthalingham in Colombo following the TULF victory in 1977(before the riots) says it all with regards to the care they had for Tamil peoples safety a violent democratic duplicity/nature unknown to human kind indeed. When the youngsters killed their opponents, many other civil servants, so many other civilians they did not condone nor have they attended the funerals to stop this undemocratic ways to harness support for a cause has in its own merit the flaws we are all come to live today. The fact you will sit there not revisit/enlighten your self after all the blood letting your believe/politics now made us all destitute in our own country tells us what we need to know hence I brought my Fathers name to the discussion for an extra measure. He does not need me to speak for him..his life and work speak for itself thank you.
            continued

          • 2
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            The way you spin one unfortunate event and through your actions the resulting event/outcomes onto your opponents as their fault blows my mind to this day. Then you developed a pattern of tit for tat and as this got bigger, therefore your spin got bigger too. We are living it today please note.

            This is how from all segments the ‘uglies’ had their field day first with words, then with guns made us all loose our Mother Lankan future we shall change is what is being discussed in this article. My suggestion was to the author/readers is not to have the identity politics to make right the wrongs in our life hidden under monitory party politics complementing the racist elements in the majority too. Two wrongs does not make any think right also is the fact of life as SJV was a friend of my Father too be it different in his political believes were always respected by all. His non violent discussions were lost with late Mr Amir in the leadership position brought along the misunderstanding of Nation building to a great new heights. I say nothing personal about Mr Amirthalingam please note.

            Then another point regard to your believes who should work with the GOSL and who should not after all the protection the TNA had from GOI and the GOSL for their own survival to date should at least humble anyone to revisit their politics???

            continued

          • 2
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            This is why the Truth and Reconciliation is critical as this reconciliation is not about Sinhalese vs Tamils vs Muslims alone but more about or equally about the party politics itself we have practised in our Nation taken away the very rights from the masses is another issue being discussed in this article by us all. When Hon Sampathan ask Hon MR not to present his parties proposed solution to Sinhala masses incorrectly correct? we all ask the same from TNA then in response you run your distorted /well rehersed thoughts without any objectivity and violated my argument is the case here? not being open enough to be a participant in a democratic process?? This is one of the reasons we have no one come forward to say anything openly? then you brought Mr Douglas into this discussion too except he was brave enough to stand upto your bullying/ignorance? I think you are bordering law and order issue in your manner of discussions too and indirectly threatening people by this ‘undermining democracy by belittele others’ by any other means too?

            If I may add none of us ever supported the discrimination of any kind (without going into details) by anyone nor has anyone supported the violence in its all ugly forms (be it riots/disappearances/extra judicial killings/prisoners without trials/election violence during campaigns applies to TNA too).

            continued

          • 1
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            What we are discussing through our own actions how this can be avoided in the future. In the meantime via Truth and reconciliation the opportunity is given to people like you to make peace with others too mindfully valuing the law of cohabitation with respect for all mindfully?.
            The fact you will say what you said about the 1981 election campaign is the dilemma for the Tamil speaking people is to say about an election/democratic process and the understanding of it comes across so shockingly – ‘could have avoided killing a man but he would have been disposed as such to the bin by the Tamil voters anyway??’. This does not require further expansion as to why he was killed because Mr T is very pursuasive to others through the act of living the Truth? You were rightfully threatened too and then you say LTTE killed him conveniently?? well I am going no where and we are going to have a journey together Sir to find the Truth for sure.
            This is not called democracy Dr Gnana Sankaralingham but devils advocacy at its worst form now you see why I am struggling to differentiate between you and the racist thugs who killed the innocent Tamil people during riots?? this is what we are coming to terms with in the process of finding a solution even with all the blunders you and your likes have caused now we have to fix. The responsibility we carry is far too much of a burden for the country?? Please change fast and do something useful to deliver the justice to the needy if you can? You can not defend the language/culture/ kingdoms but can defend human dignity at any time if you do listen. Please make an effort is my humble request without criminalising and victimising others and their heritage too.

          • 1
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            Buy the way do you know who try to kill my father in 1972 in his little room he rented as a Government MP (part of the perks we enjoyed as a family) kindly share the same knowledge with the Investigations team too and with the greater world at anytime.

            Please also write articles on the need/scope for the Truth and Reconciliation such the liberators living in Foreign land be returned home for the omissions of their crimes as all unresolved killings of Tamils/Sinhalese/Muslim families are still waiting to be conclude on behalf of the families to date. Please extend invite to all the foreign TN politicians too for the Truth and Reconciliation process to answer the Sri Lankan people.

            I still think you are so deranged in the way you look at right and wrong and from all you write in CT sounds like all the pokies you dished out to the immigration systems of the world at the expense of the Sinhala people for most of the blunders you created through your own policies too. You do not keep any of your discussion in a chronological order and is a very conveniently mixed up soup without any head or the tail. The world is catching up to this deception by taking advantage of your crime of treason and treachery for their geo political manoeuvring further undermining the Nation of People who’s crime is want to live In their own land and shape their own future. Instead of collecting all the Tamils in Sri Lanka to vote for TNA through further divisional politics and risking their lives again for another spin. .

            continued

          • 1
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            Please take advantage of the right to return policy created by the GOSL since 2015 and ship all the diaspora back with their wealth to SL please and sure we will find something useful for them do. I have an action item very achievable/feasible tasks for the like minded people to work together for justice for all in our country.
            The fact you will say what you said about the 1981 election campaign is the dilemma for the Tamil speaking people is to say about an election/democratic process and the understanding of it comes across so shockingly – could have avoided killing a man but he or she would have been disposed as such to the bin by the voters anyway??
            This is not called democracy Dr Gnana Sankaralingham but devils advocacy at its worst now you see why I am struggling to differentiate between you and the racist thugs who killed the innocent Tamil people during riots?? this is what we are coming to terms with in the process of finding a solution even with all the blunders you and your likes have caused now we have to fix
            The responsibility we carry is far too much of a burden for the country?? Please change fast and do something useful to deliver the justice to the needy if you can? You can not defend the language/culture/ kingdoms without defending human dignity? . Please make an effort is my humble request without criminalising and victimising others and their heritage too. This way there is a real chance we may even forgive you for your policy blunders one day….and please do not tell us when we should do so either. Meanwhile the new Suthenthiran is out to mentally impair the next generation too ….

  • 2
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    Dear Dr. Ali,
    Commendations for the very thought itself, an utopian idea where finally a Sri Lankan identity through coming together of three ethnic groups. JVP Anura Dissanayake’s recent interview to the Hindu newspaper about his desire to work with TNA further bolsters the concept. The ‘civil society campaign’ of 2015 presidential election led by the dynamic Sobitha Thero could be the binding force for this alliance. Sri Lanka = Corruption. Corruption in every facets of life, aided and abetted by the politicians, particularly from SLFP, SLPP and UNP. Thus the cleaner looking JVP and TNA are principled enough to show the society there is a better way. The biggest challenge would be the well known apathy, indifference and the shortsighted of the Sri Lankans. Are the Sinhalese better off after conquering the Tamils? Is Sri Lanka now a fast developing country, 9 years after the defeat of the so-called “terrorism”. What is it’s GDP growth rate? 4%, pittance by any standard. Are the Buddhists in Sabragamuwa better off? The list is endless. Educating our masses is imperative for this tripartite idea to succeed as the simple folks of Sri Lanka are used to the cult worship of the politicians and are easily persuaded by a ‘bath parcel’ here, a ‘sil redhi’ there and white vans everywhere. They don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know 50 years year ago, Singapore wanted to be like Ceylon, they don’t know 30 years ago Thailand was way behind us and now way ahead of us, they don’t know 10 years ago we were comfortably ahead of Vietnam but Vietnam will be pulling ahead of us pretty soon. All this while politicians amazed insane amount of wealth with impunity rivalling the world’s most notorious. So for those espousing proudly that this is a Sinhala Buddhist Country, proven or unproven 2400 year mahavamsa history, congratulations. This is your resume. Well done.

  • 2
    0

    Thiagarajah Venugopal ,

    I agree.

    Firstly, the Tamils, Muslims,Upcountry Tamils and Colombo Tamils accept that they are minorities.

    History of Sri Lankan Tamils from the time of Sir Ponnambalan Arunachchalam up to the present time had repeatedly proved that agreements, pacts,understandings, negotiations will not grant any rights to Tamils.

    On the contrary entering into an agreement is counterproductive.

    By entering into an agreement you guarantee non implementation.

    it is not because the Sinhala leaders are insincere or dishonest or unwilling to honour the agreements.

    On the other hand an agreement is blackmail,and it is doomed to fail at the outset.

    The opponents to the agreements ensure the downfall, you give the opponents the weapon
    to oppose and ensure the defeat of the mainstream political party conclusively.

    Let us look at this alternate strategy.

    The Tamils and Muslims should dissolve their political parties and join the mainstream political parties ,not on any understandings,but individually with dignity and be partners in the process.

    Let us traverse a less traveled path and this mere act will transform the political culture of the entire country.

    Then it will be a new history.

    • 2
      2

      Dear Sri-Krish

      Thank you for your comments. Just for clarity I say the following….the reason I wrote my last comment above was to highlight the back log/enormity of the normal development work that has been put on hold for the past 70 years talking minority politics by FP/TULF/TNA has contributed to most of the problems not just to the North but also to the entire Nation too? Just look at the NPC KPI’s for the 5 years.

      As you have correctly pointed out that for people who did not like UNP/SLFP and feel have no ‘alternative party without racial/language/religious identity’ for the entire nation to consider would be healthier for the democracy? given they come up with a plausible Manifesto for all to review and is of a progressive/inclusive in nature without alienating any of Mother Lankan Children?
      This should lead to everyone making their case why they should be elected. The voters will decide but not get told you are so and so therefore you will vote for me is not Democracy need to be fully understood.
      I am personally happy with the current main stream parties we have and feel we should spend the valuable time recommending good things to improve the existing party structures/manifestos/memberships/job scopes for various elected functions/candidate election methdoloies will be useful. Respect.

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