By Dayan Jayatilleka –
I am constrained to reiterate my main point, if only because he chooses not to meet it squarely.
The NPP which he charged me with trying to drive into invisibility by folding it into the JVP, was not founded by non-party activists or those of many political parties. Still less was it formed by academics. It was founded by Anura Kumara Dissanayake in 2015.
The NPP is not led by a non-party personality. It is led by Anura Kumara Dissanayake who founded it.
Anura Kumara Dissanayake is the leader of the JVP. He was the leader of the JVP when he established the NPP, and remains the leader of the JVP.
It is reasonable to assume that as the JVP’s leader, rather than merely a JVP member or second-level leader, Mr. Dissanayake would have founded the NPP as part of the JVP’s strategic vision.
Insofar as the NPP is the creation of the JVP’s leader, the NPP is the child of the JVP.
The JVP has almost always had phases in which it had personalities and mass organization to which it gave a long leash. Indika Gunawardena and Sunila Abeysekara are two examples but not the only ones. Perhaps a more important one is HN Fernando the politically highly literate leader of the Ceylon Teachers Union which he had built up into a 30,000 strong organization. All of them were purged from the party when views that dissented from the changing party line, were voiced. (HN Fernando, who was Wijeweera’s brother-in-law was physically assaulted).
These seem to me the earlier prototypes of what is now manifested as the NPP. The NPP seems to me to be a new model of the same old template: a front organization of fellow-travelers.
Dr Kalugampitiya also ignores the examples I have given of the kind of relationship that he thinks the NPP has with the JVP. If the NPP were to be an autonomous civic or mass organization or more ambitiously the formation which should be recognized as a contender to lead the country, the Latin American Left provides the architecture.
Uruguay’s Tupamaros and its Communist Party founded the Frente Amplio, the Broad Front, which lasted from the early 1970s through the decades of military dictatorship, to this day. The first leader of the Frente Amplio who remained so for many years, was General Liber Seregni, not the MLN-Tupamaro leader Raul Sendic nor the Uruguayan CP’s leader Rodney Arismendi.
In El Salvador, the revolutionary vanguard unified as the FMLN, with its politico-diplomatic partner being the Frente Democratico Revolutionario, the FDR. None of the FMLN’s leaders headed the FDR.
That is the model by which the autonomy of the civic front is ensured. In the case of the NPP, it is headed, not even by a JVP personality like Nalinda Jayatissa or Bimal Rathnayake, still less a respected progressive activist, intellectual or cultural-artistic figure but precisely by the top leader of the JVP.
As a disciplined leader who is committed to the strategy and decisions of the JVP, there is hardly a structural possibility of genuine autonomy for and on the part of the NPP.
Dr Kalugampitiya makes a point about the pre-1994 JVP and the post-1994 JVP. My point is that there is a definite continuity and that is not located in the issue of violence. The JVP was and is a party which is the most opaque in Sri Lanka. It is hardly worth our while debating that fact because it is reflected in discourse.
A great many of us watched as Anura Kumara Dissanayake repeatedly emphasized on national TV that Kumara Gunaratnam was never a member of the JVP. Quiet apart from the insult to the memory of Ranjithan Gunaratnam, a real hero and martyr of the JVP leadership, it was a plain lie because it was widely known that Kumara Gunaratnam played the major role in rebuilding the JVP clandestinely after the repression was over.
It is therefore utterly ironic when Dr Kalugampitiya uses 1994 as the cut-off point and celebrates the post 1994 JVP. That JVP was built upon the foundation laid by Kumara Gunaratnam whom Anura Kumara Dissanayake told the nation was never a member of the party.
A few years ago, after Kumara Gunaratnam had been ‘disappeared’ and tortured in 2011, and was released only due to external lobbying and the intervention of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa made a throw-away public remark in response to Anura Kumara’s criticism of him on an entirely different matter, that the crackdown on Gunaratnam and his emerging new outfit (it wasn’t called Peratugamee at the time) was made on an alert from the same quarter that was now criticizing him. There was no answer from AKD.
If anything, a left alternative must occupy the moral high ground, and not only in its own eyes. The historical truth is the only path to the moral high ground.
None of this is meant as an indictment of or attack on Anura Kumara as a person. It speaks to the discourse, the political culture of the JVP and its opacity. The denial of Kumara Gunaratnam, his removal from the annals of the JVP, the sheer falsification of history, tells us what the JVP still is. This travesty is not something that has occurred, would occur or could occur in any other political party in Sri Lanka.
It is the same Anura Kumara who leads the same JVP who also founded and leads the NPP.
Therefore, any influence that the NPP has on the JVP will be secondary, episodic and tactical, while the JVP’s influence over the NPP will be strategic and structural. The tail won’t be wagging the dog.
Let me conclude by dealing with Dr Kalugamptiya’s insinuatory question as to whether I would be advocating the presence of Duminda Nagamuwa and Pubudu Jayagoda on the NPP platform, if the FSP had not split away from the JVP. A little logic would help there. If I were delighted about the split, I would not have advocated either their presence or, far more consistently, a Left Front of the JVP and FSP, would I now?