27 June, 2022


Red Viyathmaga: Can The JVP’s 2022 Game-Plan Succeed?

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Fans of Titans (Netflix) will get it when I say that the question is whether in the Gotham that Sri Lanka is set to become in 2022, Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s Red Hood will beat Sajith Premadasa’s Nightwing.

What is at stake right now is who and what will be the alternative to save the people and rebuild the country in the vortex of the crisis: AKD and the JVP-NPP’s team and program or Sajith Premadasa and the SJB’s team and project? AKD is attempting to displace Sajith Premadasa as the de facto leader of the Opposition, become the Opposition leader based on the social movement.

That however, is far from the limit of the JVP’s aim for next year and beyond. In his commemorative speech of 13 November this year on the 32nd anniversary of the JVP’s second uprising, Anura Kumara Dissanayake referred to the years 1987-89 and significantly concluded that “…Exactly as then (“edaa vageyma”) the battle for the independence of the Motherland, the struggle for the independence of the Motherland, is before us…” (Mts 23:39-23:45, Anura Dissanayake, 13 November:

The JVP is going for the gold. The game-plan is clear, straightforward and transparently in the public domain. Its key personalities such as Anura Kumara and Wasantha Seneviratne declare their roadmap fairly openly on television and in the case of AKD and JVP Gen-Secretary Tilvin Silva, more formally at the 32nd anniversary (2021) of the Great Heroes Day of November 12th.

This is the scenario. Next will be the year of economic collapse. The masses from all social strata and areas will hit the streets. The JVP has an advantage in that it has the most powerful unions. It will bring all manner of unions including those it does not directly lead, into a single front or movement. The intellectual and professional ‘front office’ will be the Jathika Jana Balavegaya (JJB). Matters will move to the point of a General Strike and an August 1953 ‘hartal’ or nonviolent direct action. A Rathupaswela by the military will only cause mass outrage to escalate.

While the Old Left called off the August 1953 Hartal in two days, the JVP will not. The slogan will be the replacement of the government. The instrument will be an indefinite political general strike as the main axis of a mass uprising.

The JVP has publicly refused to negotiate a broad front with other Opposition parties because it rules out a political dialogue with “the two traditional political camps which, having wielded power for 73 years are responsible for the present catastrophic crisis”. In the literature distributed at the Grand Monarch gathering of Dec 20th, these parties were referred to as “the old doctors” (“parana veddu”).

With its control of trade unions and advantage over all other Opposition parties in the ‘ground game’, plus the availability of its national plan as launched at the event at the Grand Monarch on December 20th it will be well-positioned to project itself as the alternative government.

In his address to the nation at the Dec 20th Grand Monarch event — which I instantly recognized as a ‘Red Viyath Maga’—Anura Kumara Dissanayake repeatedly proclaimed that the (JVP-driven) NFF was ready, willing and able to lead the country: “Rata baara ganna api soodaanang!”

‘“…We shall say one thing. We are ready to take up [the leadership] of this country. We’re also ready to build this country,” he said.’ (Sri Lanka’s opposition NPP ready to take up leadership: Anura Dissanayake | EconomyNext)

Will the JVP succeed? That doesn’t depend primarily on the Police, STF, the Gajaba Regiment or the Army’s newly raised 1 Corps and its tough former Special Forces commander.

Tactically, it depends on whether:

(a) The JVP and FSP are tempted into launching the urban trade unions and the students into sustained action before the harvest fails and the peasant masses enter the struggle or whether the Left has the patience and discipline to await the convergence of the urban and the rural; the workers, students and peasants.

(b) The citizens will tire of strikes in the public utilities, health and transport sectors and turn to the military to restore order.

(c) The JVP and FSP can neutralize Deep State agent-provocateurs who will instigate violence and looting during mass demonstrations.

Strategically though, the JVP’s chance of success depends primarily on which of the two following propositions the majority of the country’s citizens believe.

Proposition A:

Though it could have done much better, Sri Lanka has done fairly well and better than many developing countries, for most of its life as an independent state. With all the ups and downs things were reasonably alright for the most part, until the present, aberrant administration of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, an aberrance best evidenced by the unprecedented, irrational policy on fertilizer which is ruining the agrarian sector.

Whether the proponents of Proposition A are aware of it or not, theirs is the same position that most Americans held about the Trump Presidency. Until Trump, the US system for all its faults, pretty much worked. The ultranationalist, Alt-Right Trump was the aberration and had to be seen off peacefully and democratically at all costs because his continued incumbency would have brought the US close to some form of autocracy if not fascism. The Gotabaya presidency is Sri Lanka’s equivalent.

Proposition A holds that an open economy is better than a closed economy. This does not preclude the adherents of Proposition A preferring a reformed, more equitable Open economy.

Proposition A adherents are for, or aren’t opposed to a reasonable measure of the devolution of power and self-governance to the provincial periphery as a solution to the Tamil quest for greater autonomy.

For adherents of Proposition A, there are more mainstream options than the JVP, such as the SJB and probably the SLFP. The JVP should be a strong Opposition but not the party of governance, since what the democratic system needs is a course-correction, not a change of system, which under the leadership of the JVP would be a leap in the dark.

Proposition B:

The country has not experienced any real progress since 1948. The Open Economy was a mistake and has run its course. Provincial-level devolution of power is no solution to the problems of the Tamil people which can be ensured not by autonomy but by equal rights, non-discrimination and a different economic model. The two main democratic political parties/blocs have failed the people. The System is rotten and must be replaced by a new, different one. The SJB is the UNP in a mask or is a ‘shell company’ for UNP policies and is therefore an organic part of the two blocs of old traditional, conventional parties. Both these blocs, the SLPP-SLFP and the SJB must be rejected and cannot be partners in the push for a new Sri Lanka. the JVP and its ally the NFF, is the sole possessor of the solution and is the sole solution.

The case for Proposition A is not self-evident, it has to be fought for, just as the case for Proposition B is relentlessly prosecuted by the JVP. Proposition A should be easy to fight for because there exists a potential combination of continuity and change. The continuity is an audit of the positive achievements of democracy since Independence and a presence of a pool of talent with experience in governance and macroeconomic development.

The change element is the presence as the main Opposition, not an untested third party, but of a new mainstream party, with a new leader and a new ideology: an explicitly social democratic project, poised between the old neoliberalism of the party it had broken from (UNP), the governing statist closed economic policies of the oligarchic ruling party (SLPP), the ultranationalist-militarism of the incumbent president and his inner circle (GR), and the homegrown nationalist-leftist project (JVP-JJB).

What then is the obstacle? Why is the going uphill for Proposition A?

The answer lies in a convergence of ideology, consciousness and political sociology. The main Opposition party has three layers: firstly, the social democratic, populist leader who was a dissident at least since 2010 in the Ranil Wickremesinghe UNP on its long downswing; secondly, an elite Establishment or old guard of Ministers and deputy ministers/state ministers from the Cabinets of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe (2001-2004, 2015-2019) who were enthusiastic conformists of the Ranil-Mangala neoliberal line of the Yahapalanaya phase; and thirdly, the superbly performing populist-democratic new comers and backbenchers (men and women) from the Yahapalanaya period.

Of the three, the problem is lodged in the second tier, which I would call the ‘Ranil enrolment’ or ‘Ranil cohort’; favorites and ideological co-thinkers who were given office during the UNP’s decline, its rapprochement with the LTTE and its ideological IDU (International Democratic Union) phase of Thatcherism and Reaganomics.

The problem is that unlike the ruptures leading to rebirths as new projects and parties as in the cases of SWRD and the SLFP, Vijaya-Chandrika and the SLMP, and MR and the SLPP, these elements have so far refused to rupture with the economic ideology, Constitutional policy and foreign policy of the utterly failed UNP of Ranil Wickremesinghe, and espouse views on a continuum with him, rather than with the declared social democratic vision of their party leader Sajith Premadasa, building on the developmental heritage of President Premadasa. Their invocation of a ‘social market economy’ derives not from the Social Democrats but from Konrad Adenauer and the German Christian Democrats.

It is the policy discourse secreted by this second tier that makes the SJB an easy target for Anura Kumara Dissanayake and the JVP-NFF, clearing the space for Proposition B.

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Latest comments

  • 6

    “It is the policy discourse secreted by this second tier that makes the SJB an easy target for Anura Kumara Dissanayake and the JVP-NFF, clearing the space for Proposition B”
    Do I sense some slight rumblings of discontent from Dr. DJ on his failure to rebuild the SJB in his image, ie, a Pohottuwa without Rajapaksas, and some sops to the minorities. But the fact is that Sajith has little more than vague bombast for policies. He simply reacts to government follies. The brains of the SJB reside in ex-UNP members like Eran and Harsha. Even Harin Fernando would be a more credible leader, but then he doesn’t even pretend he’s a Buddhist. Only the UNP had the courage to adopt unpopular policies for the country’s sake, like pruning state employment and introducing the fuel price formula. It did for a period, fall under Ratana’s spell and ban herbicides, but saner counsel prevailed. It was wiped out not because of bad policies, but political manipulation by the Pohottuwa (supported by the author himself), exaggerated publicity for the “bond scam”, the 52-day fake government, and finally the Easter bombings, which now seem to have been a Pohottuwa operation.

    • 4

      The National People’s Power (NPP) is ideologically centered to communism but it also supports democracy. The NPP is Secularism unlike the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna(JVP) which is Marxist. NPP opposes the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna calling it anti-democratic
      Just few days ago, JVP-NFF (NPP) has sent an X-ray-like message across clearing the doubts about their future allies.
      They NPP leadership made it very clear that they would welcome any individuals with proven records on their genuine contributions already paid tot he nation be able to join with them. This will be a slap to SJB leaders, because honourable Harsha de Silva, Eran Wickramaratne, and Harin Fernando or the like young politicians and their loyalty to SJB is now questioning. However, NPP or NFF leadership would not join hand with SORYSENA and RW and their henchmen; nor would they welcome even a cat and a dog close to most corrupted Rajapkshes. Going beyond 2015-2019 govt, people anticipate looters be highly punished not being able to bear the angers towards Rajaakshe tasteless behaviours, also these days the manner they continously behave. As was the case with Gadafi and his close circles, Mahinda and his family are very likely be draged on the roads, in coming months- all fake public perceptions based on fair tales would not last long.

      • 5

        I happened to study comments added to a video clip on MR’s family trip to Thirupathi few days ago, there whole lot of commenters are wishing him sooner death and leave out of their sight soon.


        A self glorificaitons kept him above the sky for a while, now he is about to a free-fall. All because their total ignorance by nature, leaving the destitute be fallen even deeper.
        Further JVP-NFF – they have made it clear that they would not take revenge on anyone, but giving „3-months or so, will kindly appeal looters to return the wealth illegally grabed, unless they would not react only, the legal threat would corner them forever. Accumulated wealth is estimated tob e going beyond billions.
        I believe, it is fair, JVPrs should be pardoned today, forgetting 89 insurgency by which over 50 k of youth went missing across the island. Besides, it was not just JVPrs ony, but mixed forces took the life oft he youth then. Compared to those losses, harm Rajakshe done over the recent years, alone in post war period, is good enough to fully reject them. Their family-rule oriented false propganda should have to stop forever. Buddhist forces should be warned not to mislead the nation anymore. There should be more Rehab clinics for racism-promoters, by making them clear – no chance be given to promote SINHALA racism any more“.

    • 1

      Old Codger,

      Spot on, superb observation!

      Yes! DJ is trying to prop up, Pohottuwa without Rajapaksas, but with Sajith at the helm, but failed. He is neither there or here.

      Senior Premadasa was a populist President and lack leadership qualities.

      He is incapable of creating wealth, but went on spending spree – on populist welfare measures while he was the Prime Minister as well as the President.

  • 1

    Mr Jayatilleka

    ”…….social democratic vision of their party leader Sajith Premadasa, building on the developmental heritage of President Premadasa”
    What exactly is SP’s vision for SL? Rajapakses also had a vision, that of property & splendour but it turned out to be a joke, although, no one is laughing (apart from the jokers). So far in his political career, I am only aware of SP’s pledge to increase the number of Buddhist monks & temples with a Buddha statue in every corner. As for ‘developmental heritage of Premadasa snr’, are you referring to his wasteful ‘gam udawa’ projects?

    Premadasa snr’s vision, if at all, was flawed & in the short term. Maybe junior, with his better education, can do better but what has been his contribution so far?

    • 2

      If Chileans claimed a victory for GB, why not srilankens give AKD a chance ?

      Srilanka can work on a better nation, if ramphant corruption would be eleminated by crushing the buds of Rajapkshes at its emerging levels. We should not allow their offsprings be the leaders in future. People should be fed with the facts based on the levels of corrupted handling, deliberately made by Rajapakshes.

  • 3

    Only if JVP had joined hands with LTTE then….would country now be in a much better position a unified reconciled and economically prosper. There wont be any Chinese or Indians or Americans dictating terms

    • 1

      The days, that UNP and SLFP led groups made permament efforts to marginalize JVPrs are impossible. NPP the groups of their political coalitiona including JVP is polarising today like an X ray traverse any matter. Longer Rajakshes stay unkind to the very same voters, 6.9mio made it possible their comeback, the worst will be the outcome towards them.
      I truly believe, even nothern srilankens will grasp this soon and stay behind NPP next days. No doubt a new dawn of brightful clouds will be rising from now on, since NPP is making very clear that they woudl have no room for highly corrupted UNPrs, SLPFrs in their coalition.

  • 1

    Modern JVP lacks racism so it may not succeed. If JVP is to win more seats than TNA, then JVP must beat TNA in the game of racism.

    If SL goes to the IMF then JVP will get more support. JVP’s rise from 1994 to 2004 was mainly due to IMF and nationalism. Take Weerawansa back into the JVP. That will super-charge them.

    Every vote the JVP gets is a vote lost to the SJB. JVP views are outdated and anti-capitalistic. These are proven failures.

    FSP has nothing to do with this matter. Nobody cares about FSB. They are negligible.

  • 1

    If only Sampanthan had done a deal with Mahinda Rajapaksa in Oct 2018 to grant basic minorities rights, the country would not have witnessed the EASTER bombings. By supporting Ranil W, the Tamils did not achieve anything. Since 2009 the Rajapaksas and Sirisena have brought the Country in to the present situation. All the SL citizens are suffering except the current Corrupt Politicians.

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