21 January, 2022

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JVP-NPP Manifesto Sparks A Season Of Debates

By Kumar David

Prof. Kumar David

The NPP released its initial political Manifesto entitled a Rapid Response to Overcome Current Challenges on December 21 last year. Notably it is introduced as an “initial” document so presumably after accumulating public comment and benefitting from debate and perhaps a consultative seminar (physical or Zoom) a final version will be written up later this year. Therefore this is open-season for debates and dialogue. The Sajith-SJB and the SLPP, the only other entities with national-level clout, are sterile; they will surely print drab scraps nearer the elections, or crib from the NPP draft. Forget them for now.

Last week (2 January) I introduced the Rapid Response document and a mass of feedback has landed on my desk, or is it more fashionable to say computer-screen. Three or four articles intended to cut the ground under the JVP’s (apparently) rising popularity have also appeared in the Island, the Sunday Island and the DBS Jeyaraj column. I do not intend to reply to any because I have no mandate to speak for the JVP or the NPP, only for myself and make no reference to these authors by name. The were varied: (a) The Rapid Response document is too general and lacks nuts and bolts details, (b) the JVP must not make itself a footstool of the Sajith-SJB in the latter’s quest for presidency and parliamentary power, (c) denigration of the history of the JVP from alpha to omega, and (d) re the Tamils, “I have reservations about your (KD) assurance that the JVP now is not the JVP of 1971 and 1989”.

My responses, not the JVP or NPP’s – as said I am nobody in these circles – follows after I enumerate issues on which I agree (a, c, d, e and f) or disagree (b and g) with the post-Somawansa JVP. The Tamil question I discuss separately at the end.

a) Joining Chandrika’s government was WISE; the JVP proved its ability to run ministerial administrations.

b) Quitting CBK’s Administration on relatively flimsy grounds, instead of staying on and proving her error in enrolling right-wing opportunists was IMMATURE.

c) Supporting MR in 2005 and SF in 2010 were ARGUABLY the best options in the circumstances.

d) Campaigning for the Single-Issue Common-Candidate strategy in 2019 and leading the drive to defeat an MR third-term was 100% CORRECT.

e) Electoral bids in the 2019 and 2020 were JUSTIFIED as it was reasonable to hope that the NPP would poll better than it did.

f) Consolidating JVP-NPP strength and now emerging (apparently) as a significant force is GOOD.

g) Failing, concurrently with (f), to take the lead in consolidating a joint-opposition alliance to stall potential junta adventures is WRONG.

Thoughtful if cautious JT of liberal political disposition had this to say when I remarked that it was absurd to ask the NPP Manifesto to spell out economic policy down to nuts and bolts. This is both absurd and undesirable and just what a programme must not do. A Manifesto lays out broad attitudes and thinking, it must not become a straightjacket. As circumstances evolve it is necessary to respond flexibly. My interlocutor was unconvinced and responded:

“I agree that no manifesto can spell out each nut and bolt and how and where they will fit. But I remain convinced that the NPP-JVP needs to tell the voter more about its economic policy. Saying it is ready to take over governance and guarantee an “adooshitha palanayak” is inadequate. A severe economic crisis already here and there are foreseeable trends to which the NPP-JVP needs to respond now. The point I have consistently made is: What is their (JVP’s) true analysis of the crisis facing Lanka? What are the solutions they offer to solve this crisis? Don’t the voters need to know now? If it is to become a credible alternative government the JVP needs to provide its answers to these question.

The NPP document does do quite a bit of this! But JT is sympathetic to the JVP and discards the SJB and the SLPP as dead-ends, so the NPP must consent and include in the second version of the Manifesto carefully drafted details. The drafters can benefit from a review of NMSJ’s constitutional proposals – see Jayampathy Wickremeratne for a short review of the proposals. 

Fraternité or Liberté?

However as I cautioned readers TJ is a “classic” liberal, hence I need to digress and explain the inadequacy of liberalism in today’s world. Year 2021 was bad for liberal democracy globally; there were military take-overs in Burma (February), Chad (May), Mali (August), Guinea (September) and Sudan (October). Khaki-clad thugs imposed varying degrees of brutality; Buddhist Burma the worst. The incapacity of liberal economics to deliver public goods bamboozled some into accepting coups in desperation. When maalumiris (capsicum) sells at Rs 960 a kg, surely food riots can’t be far off. True-blue liberals in their love of democracy (bless them) overlook that feeding families and schooling children is the priority of the poor. They neglect livelihood concerns to pursue a liberal agenda. That said, one must never let criticism of liberalism turn into repression as in Russia where liquidation of Memorial which unearths Stalin’s crimes or, imprisonment of Putin’s foes on trumped up charges is routine. In Hong Kong, Beijing’s acolytes are snuffing out press freedom, cashing in on the idiocy of the 2019 rioters which led to draconian legislation passed by the National Peoples’ Congress in Beijing. The HK judiciary mercifully is still independent but it does stringently enforce laws on the book.

Rs 960 per kg!

In Lanka deception crept into the 2019-2020 elections when dumb majorities swallowed the bait and threw their weight behind known authoritarians – “A little bit of dictatorship” was prescribed even by some in the sangha. Russia, China and the West prioritise their own interests not a concern for other people’s democracy. International actors striving to increase their global influence now mimic a low intensity Cold War. Beijing is explicit; Moscow stretches to back-up putsch leaders like Mali’s Goita and Sudan’s al-Burhan, and carries online disinformation. The first fissure in the international stance against military juntas this millennium was the 2013 Egyptian coup. The Western world, led by America denied calling that the military takeover a coup and embraced el-Sisi’s cabal which is now also a darling of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and China.

From Sunday Times 2 Jan 2022

Liberté, égalité, fraternité” is a far cry from mercantilist free-market capitalism, the lode star of twentieth and twenty-first century liberalism. In all the great revolutionary events of Europe (1789, 1830, 1848, 1870, 1905, 1917 and 1923), in the surges of 1945-48 and 1966 and in post-Soviet 1990 liberation, material hardship of ordinary people was a crucial driver. I mention cultured Europe to alert true-blue liberals to pay attention to livelihood misadventures. If liberals lose the masses they will lose democracy! This is the plus point of the NPP’s left inclined manifesto, though granted it needs enhancement.

Turning back the khaki-clad thugs

Where I am most critical of the JVP-NPP is when in reply to my demand (g) above some say: “The regime is weak; it can’t get out of this mess. If the situation changes, we can reconsider”. This is like a man who waits till after death to take an insurance policy! Points (f) and (g) in my enumeration are complementary; they are not either/or propositions; both must be done. I know what is holding the JVP back on (g). It has suffered a long history of being used and discarded by bourgeois parties. Now it suspects well known Sajith salesmen of singing the united-front song for their master’s benefit. Yes that’s why Sajith’s choristers caterwaul loudly. But that’s all beside the point. The JVP must lead a defensive treaty not because Sajith wants to use it as a footstool but because it, the JVP, understands the need for a well prepared united-front to throwback emergent threats.

Oh for the tactical clarity and firmness of touch of a Lenin! The left must take the right stand on issues at each point in time knowing that every political actor is strategizing to benefit from everybody else’s moves. The JVP needs strengthen its theoretical confidence and sureness of touch so as to reinforce its base while also leading alliances for defined purposes.

A brief comment on a thoroughly negative and destructive piece in the Daily FT must suffice. But for the fact that I know the author VI and hold him in good regard I would have assumed it was written for the benefit of the SBJ or the SLPP; but this cannot be the case. It is carelessly drafted and pays inadequate attention to the evolution of the JVP from a pre-1989 phase, via the Somawansa interregnum to its current avatar. Pity that it reads like a harangue! But the life-story of the JVP is outside the scope of this essay.

The NPP, JVP and the Tamils

One of my fiercest interlocutors was Pineapple Lover, a Tamil with pristine left credentials (LSSP, Hector and Vama) who to this day remains far to the left of the liberals. Here are his reproaches – abbreviated.

“I have strong reservations about your assurance that the JVP is no longer the JVP of 1971 and 1989. In your Sunday Island/Colombo Telegraph column today (2 Jan) you correctly explain the left’s post-1956 debacle on the national question. You say that the LSSP and CP despite heroic and steadfast commitment to secularism and pluralism during 1956-60 finally gave in and were part of a government which implemented blatantly racist policies like standardisation and gave constitutional status to a unitary state, Sinhala and Buddhism”.

“The JVP’s racism did not end in 1989. As late as 2006 it went to Court and got the North East Province bifurcated. Given half a chance the SLFP and UNP (in all their forms) will roll back the 13A, but up to now only the JVP has carried the threat through. I think a political party built in the 60/70s on racism which and according to you murdered the likes of Vijaya Kumaranatunga for supporting 13A in 1988, and post-88 achieved the breakup of the North East Province, has been consistently Sinhala Buddhist. Those like you who are sympathetic to the JVP brush over this saying: “If you detect any slippage on the national question in the programme blame not the NPP, hold the Sinhalese people to account.”

This is a strong and well-grounded indictment. But I continue to hold from my knowledge the NPP and from the presence of Comrades Lal Wijenayake, Prof Vijaya Kumar and Dr Harini Amerasuriya, all of whom will make short shrift of any racism in NPP inner councils, that there is no tangible racism in the NPP. I think not in the JVP either though I am less familiar with its leaders and have never observed the Central Commission in session. A far-ranging interview with JVP leader Anura Kumara by Susitha Fernando however is a better guide because it goes well beyond the NPP programme and anything the JVP has openly said before.

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Latest comments

  • 6
    1

    Kumar David, Sir,
    I am taking an unusual step.
    Here, below, is my comment under the article by Siri Gamage, dated January 8, 2022.
    CT is holding on to it for whatever reason they have.
    Kindly provide your valued opinion on my position. Thank you.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I agree that the independence of the judiciary is questionable; It favours the politically significant.
    But, that is where my agreement ends.
    .
    On: Anura prefers if there is a Sri Lankanness instead of various ethnic categories.
    This is merely a slogan. It will be decades before the ethnic divisions disappear. It has to have a natural death. It cannot be killed by a ‘broom’.
    .
    On: We will not mix politics with religion. AND on: Our country was built on the basis of Buddhist culture.
    Put together the latter defeats the former!
    .
    Overall, AKD would be better, but not good enough.

    • 4
      1

      Nathan, what’s the point in guys like Kumar explaining everything in detail, when nothing is ever sufficient?
      .
      I’m going right back to ages ago when I proved certain things about one of your earlier workplaces. Your explanations for why you can’t do something sounded reasonable and eminently “respectable”, but how many times doe we have to keep saying the same thing? Yes, to Lankanness, instead of racism, but these have clearly become such huge tasks that they will take generations to put right. Not in our lifetimes, but your support must be steady and unwavering – unless something outrageous is done.
      .
      I know next to nothing on the Buddha Dharma; if anybody talks seriously about it, I will listen, and not express opinions. Give me superstitions and exaggerated claims, and I quit even listening.
      .
      And if, for instance, you’re going to teach English to everyone, don’t be vague about solutions. Just say you don’t understand.
      .
      I’m glad you didn’t get involved here:
      .
      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/parliamentary-erudition-a-case-of-failed-guile/
      .
      You did, with his earlier article on Ragging, to which I have provided a link. Please apply that approach to what you say, dismissively, of the NPP.
      .
      Panini Edirisinhe

  • 8
    0

    Mr (Dr) Nathan here are my responses as briefly as possible; it’s crazy the number of things I have to do Please extrapolate and extend in your own mind.

    ON Anura: No, I don’t think his comment is false liberalism put on for show. Quite the contrary. Anura loses more Sinhala votes than all the Tamil and Muslim votes he will ever win by saying that he is not Sinhala-Centric. (Remember NM). Yes agreed, it will be centuries (not just decades) before racial/religious prejudice dies out in all parts of the world. That’s a more general philosophical point than holding the JVP responsible for it.

    ON Secularism vs Buddhist Culture: If the JVP forms a government I am convinced it will be far more Secular than Buddhistic. Look Nathan, face it, these buggers are more Marxists than Buddhist in their heart of hearts. All over the world parties make compromises in what they say openly.

    ON AKD is better but not perfect: Oh come on Nathan, are you waiting till the Son of God, or Lord Siva, or Gautama or the Prophet comes down from the clouds. You may have a long wait! Politics is the art of the possible. The real challenge is the catch the best available buggers by the scruff of the neck and make them better.

    • 5
      3

      There, Nathan.
      .
      I didn’t think that Kumar David would be able to find time to respond to you. Hasn’t he said almost exactly the same things as I have.
      .
      Now stop asking the same (virtually unanswerable) questions as you always do.
      .
      Don’t go round and round in circles.

    • 1
      4

      Thank you, Sir. I appreciate your taking time to respond.
      .
      I have not said anything against AKD.
      What I said was,
      We will not mix politics with religion AND our country was built on the basis of Buddhist culture, don’t add up, for me.
      .
      I see AKD mixing up politics with religion.
      .
      That makes him an average politician.

  • 5
    1

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.

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  • 1
    3

    I give a nursery lesson for Anura on convincing and converting the masses: “If you talk honestly and truly, they will be attracted to you, but not for your communist-political-punditry or flourishing Sinhala language, which the 6.9M had proven that they don’t recognize.
    Anura can play any gimmick, but Tamils will not buy any Sinhala Buddhist Communism or not even any Tamil communist. Prof. Kumar knows how many votes he will get if he stands for an election in a Tamil area, based on V. Ponnar’s records, who were the most powerful communist ever appeared in Tamils’ soil. Based on that, if he thinks he could sell Anura to Tamils, he is just a nincompoop. When his talk to Tamils can go only to that extent, and if he is hoping Sinhala Buddhists to take it anymore seriously, it is really pathetic of him.

  • 1
    4

    As it appears in Daily Mirror:
    “Q . Do you think that you should make a public aplogy for what happened (in the war)?

    A . We are an active political movement. During a war the military and the government are working as one unit. In a war ordinary civilians get caught in the crossfires and there are loss of lives. As a left-wing orgnisation we should have thought about this more seriously and we should have been more cautious. We admit that our failure to concentrate on these issues were shortcomings on our part.”

    Anura was not prepared to give an unconditional “Yes ” to that question. Neither he publicly says sorry to Tamils for what happened in the hands of the Rapist Army, during and after the war. He bluffed a lot and dragged it to a good length. But he did not take the opportunity to discuss how he would correct his past mistake, in action, instead of naive, cheating talk. He was specifically asked about the March and September semi-annual pilgrims to Geneva. He did not come out with a clear answer.

  • 1
    3

    He did not willingly take on the Resolution 30/1’s requirement of four pillar Transitional Justice. He falsely says provinces can remain split “if that will satisfy them”. He denied devolving power in black and white reply “No, we do not believe in power devolution”. Again he fell short of explaining why that is so and how another community cannot benefit by a power sharing that can benefit one community or how that will be hurting if the power split based on races. Doesn’t Anura see that when people vote for EP as one nation making extremely flawed decisions. But when the electoral elections were held, they took much better decisions and winners were more educated and cultured? Anura knows it well but supports PR only to build him up on the flawed representation by gaining a seat for every 5% voters, but actually it should at 51%, ten times higher.

  • 1
    3

    On the issue of economic recovery: Anura should know what he is talking about his short-middle-long term plans. Sinhalese refused to give 5-year plan-based development to Dudley. Because of that Siri Ma O came to power and destroyed the large scale of many development plans and she declared that she could bring rice from the Moon. She could not get any help from America and the country recorded the worst famine in its history. Anura putting borrowing from IMF & China in one Bin. Further he is mixing a government wasting money on unwanted concrete structures and the private inventors putting up profit making production facilities. There is no real economic solution, ignoring market economy. All modern Economics inventions are only on that path.

  • 1
    3

    China is only a dragon, swallowing its captives for its hunger. So, ignoring a friendly relationship with the West is a prescription to disaster. India’s ETCA must be signed immediately to allow inflow to take place and inflation to be curtailed with people finding consumer goods to go on with their life. Instead of exporting slave labor, Indian factories should be encouraged to open production facilities to use the cheap labor. Western FDI should be attracted by reestablishing Law and Order, to exert real control on industrial thefts and laundering.
    Rest of his talk is hollow like a belly dancer shaking her back and front, but there is no artistic dancing choreography. Just empty rhetoric, not worth to analyze.

  • 1
    3

    On the point of Prof. Kumar’s Single Issue Common Candidate’s successful: He, right at the ends of Yahapalanaya’s disastrous actions of, NCM, Coup, staging of artificial Jihadi war, New King’s family were tipped by Indian investor and caught in hotel parking lot,…………… he had conceded the result of Single issue was not an appropriate methods to selected an executive president, though with a condition that he still had chased Old King. But they are back with double virulence than earlier, because of Yahapalanaya’s insurmountable failure. Further, New King re-emerging as the savior of the land, declaring that he did not shot any criminal inside the prison. Probably Prof. Kumar too thinks that Sinhala Modayas have only two-week memory. So, he has bragged again about his CC method, which was only a pure mathematical calculation, but not a political solution. That was the only reason Yahapalanaya was handicapped in “One Party taking the responsibility and implementing any Policy based decision to resurrect the county from the clearly foreseeable disasters it faces before2019”.NPP can have a saloon door for any bird to come & go, but has to make the birds to lay eggs before they fly away from the open window.

  • 2
    1

    If AKD has enough gumption, then there is no need for him to tangle himself in a saree tail.

    • 3
      0

      HP,
      .
      can we ever rely on the voter eligible in SL ?
      :
      How many among us expected more seats would have been earned by AKD led NPP during the last election ?
      Even Prof. KD ‘s guess was at least 5 seats in Parliament for them.
      But the reality was not even 2 seats right ?

      This being the GROUND reality of srilanken voters – would we ever be able to see wonders happening in the same old island nation ? within a shorter period of time ?
      .
      I think MEDIA should change their biased and mlechcha nature instead turning to support the general public than their selfish gains.
      :
      Just imagine, yesterday, 8th Jan 2022- the day Rajapkshes are allegedly to have killed one of the fearless senior journalists of mother lanka – Lasantha Wickramatuhuge was not even mentioned by main stream media.
      :
      The ridiculous truth is the media minster himself was a senior journalist. His tongue is tied today – by Rajapakshes. ?
      Alahaperuma over to you – we never thought you would hide your tail behind your rear legs

      May God help SRIALNKA !

  • 1
    0

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    • 1
      0

      A0000,
      What did you smoke today?

  • 0
    0

    Who is sri lanka eats malumiris with labels on. only the No PP party .

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