By Sudat Pasqual –
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna’s (JVP) has been in the thick of political activity in Sri Lanka since the early 1970’s. While their initial forays were bloody and disastrous, JVP made a move towards the mainstream of Sri Lankan politics in the early 1990’s. A party founded on Marxist-Lennist principles and deeply suspicious of the status quo, JVP nevertheless found the political wherewithal to support the successful presidential run of Chandrika Kumaratunga and subsequently played a significant role in her People’s Alliance government. For the next decade JVP remained an important, albeit a somewhat reluctant political force in the country. JVP were also a significant contributing factor in Mahinda Rajapaksa‘s successful first presidential run in 2005. It would not be hyperbolic to say that the Rajapakse candidacy of 2005 would have been dead in the water without the organizational support of the JVP. In spite of their relatively small voter base (hovering around 10%) JVP are a potent political force due to their ability to galvanize the electorate through the Party’s grass root political organization.
In spite of their alliance with successful political campaigns, JVP has never been very comfortable with shouldering public responsibility. Even during the brief period where the party “agreed” to take in ministerial responsibilities, one got the feeling that the dalliance would be temporal. Sooner or later, JVP would find irreconcilable policy differences with other members of the team or the ideological purists within the Party would find the partnership to be ideologically incompatible with progressive forces of history. The collective obsessed JVP hierarchy just cannot seem to accommodate a political reality outside the collective mind set. In other words, JVP does not like to play and interact with others who don’t believe exactly as they do. JVP was simply not confident enough to deal with the big guns of the established political dynasties. They might be in the room with you but they are never with you. They are like that kid who lived on your street who used to watch from behind his gate others play street cricket but would never join when asked. He always had an excuse. ‘My parents think I will get hurt”; “I have homework”; “I am not that good”; “I like watching”. But he would be glad to be the umpire and would be full of useful advice on how to improve your game. That’s the JVP in a nutshell.
The average Sri Lankan voter, even the ones affiliated to a political party is not a doctrinaire. Their vote is generally decided by bread and butter issue. By extension, systems created by such humans also tend to reflect that malleable nature. Therefore, abstract political doctrines and absolutist stands have very little impact on the Sri Lankan electorate. Political parties and politicians who ignore this reality do so at their own peril. JVP only need to look at the sorry state of their fellow reds in the country for evidence of this actuality. Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and the Communist Party’s (CP) political dogmatism have been pummeled into political irrelevance by the political karma of the voter. The LSSP and the CP, it seems, can get a seat in Parliament only through an act of charity (a national list nomination). If the JVP does not like Ideological inconsistencies, it is probable that they will like wallowing in political pauperism even less.
The JVP has been an important contributors to the election of two Presidents and may well be the deciding factor in electing another come January 9, 2015. JVP failed to turn past successes into concrete long term political gains because of internal squabbling and slavish devotion to an isolationist and otherworldly ideology. Regardless of the outcome in January, 2015 the Comrades will have to do some soul searching with regard to the future course of the party. The JVP will have to decide whether their calling is to keep alive presumptions made based on observations of a by gone era by a couple of foreigners at all cost, be the cat’s paw of other political parties or whether it is to serve their fellow humans in their place of birth and domicile to the best of their ability. The choice is a no-brainer.