10 June, 2023


NPP Revisited: The JVP-NPP Equation: Response To Dr Kalugampitiya

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Why do I call it the JVP-NPP rather than the NPP-JVP or simply the NPP?

Let’s start with the fact that the NPP was founded and is led by Anura Kumara Dissanayake who is the leader of the JVP. Talk of interlocking directorates! Dr Kalugampitiya accuses me of virtually ignoring the NPP and focusing on the JVP. As someone who is on the left of the Realist school, perhaps I do prefer to focus on the organ-grinder rather than the monkey.

Any comprehensive account of the JVP’s history would show that its political playbook contains important tools of front organizations or avatars – there is a distinction–usually named “Deshapremi” or “Deshahithaishee”.

This goes way back, beyond even the notorious “Deshapremi Janatha Vyaaparaya” (DJV) which was virtually a pseudonym, to the early years of the party.

All Dr Kalugampitiya has to do is to walk down the corridor and ask Prof Gamini Samaranayake, a veteran of the original JVP.

The NPP is a new-generation model, but the template is the same. Certainly, the NPP has more life, more visibility and more autonomy than its predecessors. But the precedents must not be forgotten.

In its post-1978 democratic phase, the JVP attracted a few notable personalities of the upper-middle class, most notably Indika Gunawardena and Sri Lanka’s potential equivalent of Joan Baez, Sunila Abeysekara. The entire group was evicted together with Sunila’s spouse Kelly Senanayake.

The JVP also had even at the worst of times, quasi-endorsement for some of its slogans, from very eminent civil society personalities. When in the late 1980s it insisted that parliament be dissolved and power to conduct election handed over to a committee chaired by the Chief Justice, a supportive petition was signed –perhaps not entirely voluntarily but that’s not my point– by some of Colombo’s most respected personalities. But this was of purely tactical significance.

Sri Lanka’s contemporary history also has the examples of the sisters Rajani Tiranagama and Nirmala Nithiyanandan, first-rate intellectuals, who enthusiastically joined the LTTE and of only one survived.

The NPP’s fate will not be that of its predecessors, I’m sure, but I have no doubt as to who calls the shots—and that is the founder and leader of the NPP who is also the leader of the JVP.

This is where the NPP model can be distinguished from the Latin American model in which the Broad Front or the Democratic or Civic Front affiliated to the radical-left/revolutionary political party is NOT led by the party leader. That guarantees the autonomy of the broad democratic or civic front. An important example is El Salvador’s FMLN-FDR, where the FMLN and the FDR were led by two different leaderships.

Now to the question of strategy. I derive my understanding what that might be by the speeches on a solemn occasion, the anniversary of the second uprising, by Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Tilvin Silva. There is a remarkable consistency in the speeches of last year and this year. When the leader and the general secretary of the JVP make authoritative speeches and the JVP leader also leads the NPP, I think that’s fair procedure on my part.

The JVP’s strategy may not be the NPPs but as long as there is a concentration of offices at the apex, in one person – the JVP leader being the NPP’s leader and founder, the NPP will not be able to have a strategy that is not complementary to or a subset of the JVP’s strategy.

I have to say though that I am far from opposed to, and would in fact be broadly supportive of and in solidarity with, a campaign of mass agitation which leads via a general strike to a political general strike and a hartal. The problem I have is the same that Prof Kumar David— someone I have hardly ever agreed with since the 1980s– also does, namely the blind eye turned to the ominous military build-up, and the savage dialectic that can be unleashed, especially if the mass movement has not been alerted to the danger.

As for the NPP’s economic alternative, Dr Kalugampitiya should take on board or be taking on the important critiques by Devaka Gunawardena, Kusum Wijetilleke and Uditha Devapriya; critiques which, inter alia, take exception to the overwhelming focus on corruption.

My own critique of the NPP’s economic program has been its start-line, the denunciation of the Open Economy of 1977 as pretty much the root cause of all our present evils. I find myself in broad agreement with Kusum Wijetilleke and therefore shall not repeat it.

My basic political disagreement is that the NPP document stands for the abolition of the executive presidency while retaining the system of Provincial Councils. I am glad of the latter, having been a supporter of PCs even before their establishment in Sri Lanka, but I am firmly of the view that abolishing the Executive Presidency while retaining the PCs is dangerously centrifugal given the axiomatic geopolitics of our situation. Sri Lanka cannot afford a Scotland or Catalonia given the proximity of ethnic kin in the closely neighboring subcontinent. This is a fundamental issue.

May I venture to make two constructive suggestions to the NPP?

Firstly, it should take a strong stand against university ragging and pledge to abolish it.

Secondly, it should strive to really represent a progressive civic alternative by incorporating respected radical personalities such as Pubudu Jayagoda and Duminda Nagamuwa who belong to the FSP. The NPP should become the platform on which the JVP and FSP can come together. That would also be a test of its autonomy.

In conclusion, I think the NPP is a positive phenomenon and provides a valuable public pedagogic function. It has considerable potential if it guards against turning into a (better-read) ‘red Viyathmaga’.

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Latest comments

  • 8

    A systemic change in the political framework of Sri Lanka is probably needed, as the major players have consistently fooled the people through a parasitic system that has been wholly self-serving while offering token benefits to the people they purport to represent. All factions that genuinely desire to uplift the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” and the “Resplendent Isle” must work together while recognizing and purging charlatans and pretenders.

  • 6

    Dr. DJ asked a question for himself:- “Why do I call it the JVP-NPP rather than the NPP-JVP or simply the NPP”?

    He himself answers:- “Let’s start with the fact that the NPP was “FOUNDED” and “LED” (emphasis by me) Anura Kumara Dissanayake who is the leader of the JVP”.

    I didn’t want to proceed with reading the article beyond that answer and further do not wish to comment on that “Idiotic” answer, except to say that his knowledge of forming a political front is MINIMAL. What does or how does he present to us the recently “FOUNDED”, his “Pay Master” – SJB?

    • 3

      Doctoral thesis of DJ should be based on lies/in apabransha formulations. This is clear to many in between. To me, DJ is the English version of Wimal Buruwanse who is now making every effort to cover his smears…… The kind of men should be beheaded by dragging to Galle face green if anyone of us would ever seek progress in many way in our home country. #4

      Believe or not like or not DJ or the like proven opportunists would say anything and everything to show their voices, but if these men handled things better, would srilanka ever be fallen to the levels we are compelled to see today ?
      President GotaBaya- makes untruthful statements being his RAJASANA position with not even any single main stream media makes anything about that. Like for example ” I did not touch the judiciar”….. ” my govt would not underestimate the values” etc….

      I thought people are sitting in a country Mugabe the TRIBAL leader of Zimbabwwe ruled.

  • 3

    So the JVP and the NPP are closely connected at the Apex level. So what? Any people Power movement/organisation has to have a leader or a leadership council. In the absence of any other people power movement, the NPP can have a critical and transformative role to play at this juncture when people are seeking a system change(Political,economic,electoral,judicial,educational, cultural). Traditionally, the expectation was that such system change will come from rebellious factions of the ruling elite. At long last, people now seem to think that this is not a wise option anymore given the recent history of forming coalitions with rebellious leaders who criss-cross political loandscape for matrialo gain without any shame. The ideas expressed by both DJ and Dr. kalugampitiya are important. I like to know what are their views on how should the system change proceed? What should be the drivers? Any organisational and strategic steps required? Strategy to meet militarisation and concentration of power within an unelecte few?

  • 0

    Tomatoe — potatoe

  • 0

    Dr D J , how can /why should the minorities in SL support NPP when they put out anti Indian slogans etc.?
    The national parties should get a common solution to the minorities of SL. Without it there will be NO progress in our motherland. The motherland is not only for Sinhala Buddhists

  • 1


    Political-social-economic transformation:

    The idea of one day revolution or one week revolution has to be discarded right away with or without hartal. Socio-economic and political transformation can take place in a progressive way .For example achieve small targets first and then go for the big bang. Small targets can be educating people in selected electorates that are winnable, linking up with grassroots organisations and other stakeholders, other progressive minded people from various strata of society including political activists. Building a movement from bottom-up this way could realise the dream of transofrmation.

  • 1

    Both SJB and JVP divide the main opposition camp. If UNP also enters the fray they too will further divide it.

    Unless they field a common candidate for presidency the next president will also be from the blue camp. That’s an impressive record since 1994.

  • 4

    DJ, using all your self claimed expertise can you help in getting some fuel, $ loan, electricity, food and milk powder for survival. If not , soon people may not be around to hear your empty solutions.

  • 4

    DJ, do people really need expertise and titles to opine on Lankan politics ??? Political alliance in Lanka is Rajapaksas sitting with opposition while Pissu MS was President and now it’s Pissu and his team’s turn to sit in opposition. Pissu and RW, are still threatening to lead the nation. Pole vaulter Dayasiri, challenging in media “lets see how Namal can be next PM”?? Rajapaksas still maintaining (lately, not with same enthusiasm) “our parliament is a saloon where people can walk in and out as they wish”. SLFP threatening to leave govt whereas Muslim MP’s as usual will abandon ship midway to fill vacant deputy/state minister post. SJB members realizing SP is as good as RW in playing ” Dumb and the dumber role “.

    • 4

      Sorry for not adding, Johnston telling media “bring it on, we are ready with suitcases filled with looted cash for hoarse trading” . SW and politician Ranjith calling each other clowns. Sir, telling Parliament “he will not allow any human right abuse”?? Ganasara appointed to head one family one country one low, in turn recommending Rev/politician Ranjith for IGP post.

  • 10

    I do not know the title of the PhD thesis or the university that offered the doctorate of Dayan jayatilleka ,but note that he always uses the title, even when it is not relevant at all, like when ordering food on Uber

    However when DJ says in this article that he is ‘ left ” of the Realist school, we are left wondering what he is, fish or fowl.

    DJ was working as an aide to R. Premadasa who presided over the annihilation of the JVP and was a capitalist although of a non-ideological frame.

    DJ then got on to MR camp and was their representative in Geneva, advising them on denying all human rights allegations.

    DJ then got sacked by MR, as his ego was becoming intolerable.

    However when MR lost in 2015, DJ was very active in trying to revive MRs political fortunes.

    Again , others around MR wanted DJ out .

    DJ then went behind Sirisena and became his ambassador to Russia.

    Now DJ is promoting Sajith Premadasa.

    Can such a man be” left” of anything ?

    All we can see is a man without any principles

    • 0

      Dear deepthi silva,
      An excellent comment.

      I’m wondering whether this is the first time that I said something like that of you.
      But you really sum up the attitude that I have to Dayan that prevents me from reading his “intellectual stuff” carefully.
      Panini Edirisinhe of Bandarawela

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