19 September, 2020

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Whither The JVP; Is It A Political Carcass?

By Vishwamithra1984

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ~ Confucius

April 5th marks the 45th anniversary of the famous ’71 Insurrection. It claimed many thousands of lives; destroyed an untold number of families, small businesses and aspirations of a whole generation. It was led by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).JVP

JVP has a storied history. Ever since its beginnings in the late Nineteen Sixties, first as a revolutionary movement and then as a recognized political party, it has been amongst the leaders in the following five categories:

  • A Marxist-Socialist political entity with no tolerance for the capitalist system
  • Draws its mainstay from the youth of the country
  • An ostensible appeal to the downtrodden classes and castes in Sri Lanka
  • Sustaining an aura of authenticity and sincerity in commitment to the cause
  • Led by a demagoguery populist leader

It is not the intention of the writer to pen a historical narrative of the development of the JVP. Many books and essays have been written and orations delivered by many pundits and luminaries on the saga of a movement that progressed from a ‘cellish’ political organization into a full-blown party. It was instrumental in not only triggering two violent uprisings on two different occasions, but lending leadership and then spearheading both revolts. Those two revolts led to the death and destruction of many Sri Lankan youth, families and property. All hallmarks of an unorganized uprising, an insurrection whose fundamentals were at best, childishly clumsy and organizationally juvenile and at worst, brutally phony and blatantly insincere.

The youth of any country, the late Tyrone Fernando, a former Minister described as far back as 1975, as the ‘barometer of change’. By the time Tyrone wrote this piece in the then ‘Weekend’ newspaper, the 1971 Insurrection had already its day and failed; many thousands of our youth were in police custody or rehabilitation camps. A countless number of them were killed, tortured and maimed- the most infamous among them was the murder of Premawathi Manamperi in Kataragama. The youth who were roused by the then JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera to work incessantly for the election campaign of the then coalition United Left Front (ULF) led by Sirimao Bandaranaike took up arms against the very regime that they helped put in power. It all happened within one year of the ULF assuming office. The conversion from loyalty and reverence to armed confrontation and violent outbreak was visceral.

In addition, the romanticism that was associated with ’71 Insurrection was magical for the nation’s rural youth for whom a promise of a ‘communist-socialist utopia’ was far more appealing and intoxicatingly attractive than a gradual evolution from capitalism to socialism as was preached by the then traditional left-wing parties led by N M Perera, Pieter Keuneman and Colvin R de Silva. That romanticism which was woven into the lives of the Podi Athulas, and Bopages of the ’71 Insurrection continued its course well into the second revolution of ’87-’89 with ‘freedom-fighters‘ like Saman Piyasiri Fernando – the real person behind the Keerthi Wijayabahu fame – and those dozens of JVPers such as H B Herath, Upatissa Gamanayake and Shantha Bandara who perished under police brutality and interrogations in dark cells of the ‘Darmadeepaa‘ called Sri Lanka.

These flirtations with an abstract notion of revolution aside, a critical analysis of the performance of the JVP would reveal a dreary picture of a political party that is seemingly grounded on populist policies yet acutely lacking in popular support among the broad masses that are still tending towards conventional and traditional politics- the very political philosophy of the JVP looks more like an infatuation that the youth nurtures during their adolescent years rather than a sustained commitment to a political school of thought. When describing a revolutionary, Castro of Cuba proclaimed thus: “there are only three places for a revolutionary to find himself in: 1) on the battlefield, 2) in a cell or 3) amongst the dead. While his loyalists and armed cadres were on the battlefield, the leader of the JVP, on both occasions- 1971 and ’87-’89- was MIA (missing in action). Rohana Wijeweera was in Jaffna prison during the former, ’71 fiasco, and living a cushy life of a landed proprietor on a tea estate in the cool climates of the hill country in the latter.

No amount of political spinning would turn statistical truths into delusional innuendos. Despite a wide-ranging appeal of the message- as one of honest, hardworking and committed- the voting public time and time again rejected them at the polls. JVP’s path to power is definitely not through the ballet. Dreaming of a national consensus for power for the JVP in a democratically elected parliament is an illusion, a mirage that recedes before one’s eyes before it even materializes. Nevertheless, the vibrancy and vitality the JVP has rendered towards Sri Lanka’s polity in the past three decades continues to bewilder many a pundit. Its spiritual power, its message of honesty and integrity and the extraordinarily magical oratory of their leaders from Wijeweera down to Anura Kumara Dissanayake never cease to mesmerize a public who, when confronted with a choice from amongst alternative governing parties, time after time have chosen to disregard and reject them totally at the polls.

JVP was gifted with leaders of unmatched oratorical skills. The mastery of Wijeweera’s speechifying, Gamanayake’s and Bopage‘s surgical analysis of socio-politico-economic issues are amongst the best presentations on public political platforms. It was only R Premadasa who could be ranked above Wijeweera in public speaking. And Premadasa’s ability to reduce a very complex socio-political issue to simply comprehensible alternatives made him a powerful public speaker yet unmatched.

Let us look into the JVP’s performance at the elections in which they were participants. The following table of statistics shows the JVP’s distressing tale:JVP elections results

Note: The anomaly in 2004 is due to the JVP not contesting on its own as a separate political party but as a constituent party of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA).

Now let’s look at their Presidential Election results:JVP elections results

The current leadership of the JVP would not like them. They are not pretty to look at! The total poll in 1982 was 6,602,617. In 2015, it reached 11,684,098, while the JVP vote bank as a percentage of the total polled, more or less, remained the same- 4.1% to 4.8%. A remarkable lack of improvement! In the context of elections, the mindset of the country’s electorate has not changed since the formation of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) in 1951. The voter is doggedly wedded to either of the two mainstream parties- UNP and SLFP.

It is depressing to observe that, in spite of wide publicity the JVP speakers receive, both in the mainstream and social media, when it comes to votes, the electorate seems to be astonishingly reluctant to place trust in them and their policies. In War and Peace, Tolstoy wrote: “A man on a thousand mile walk has to forget his goal and say to himself every morning, ‘Today I’m going to cover twenty-five miles and then rest up and sleep”.Today’s JVP leaders may well be advised to borrow a hint from Tolstoy and take stock of their political strategy. They must come to terms with the ultimate goal of all politics- gaining power, either as one single entity or as a part of a coalition. No political party worthy of serious consideration by a majority of the electorate, can choose to be content being spectators. Or are they following the ancient wisdom of Plato who said that: “one of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”?

Whichever way one chooses to read the current plight of the JVP, the intellectual would feel thoroughly depressed, the poor man’s anxieties would linger on and wheeler-dealer politicos would invariably turn their backs on a generational cry and encourage the electorate to carry on regardless of the unsustainable status quo that the JVP has been fighting against.

The distrust that the JVP is having with the UNP is beyond repair; it is one of doctrinaire genre rather than about personalities and tempo. They have been betrayed by the traditional left-wing parties, including the SLFP. Minorities mistrust them and the majority has no faith in them. Caught among these unforgiving horns of mutually-antagonistic forces, the revolutionary movement that created political tremors in the 1971 and ’87-’89 periods, however, reached into its depths and worked for the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa in January 2015. That alone would have justified their existence as a political force.

To be called a political carcass might be too harsh; to be categorized as an ‘also-ran’ might be too lenient. Yet, each time when one overhears the resounding voice of Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the current JVP leader who is arguably the most accomplished Sinhala orator in the country today, it resonates the anguish of the dreams that were dashed and promises unfulfilled.

The poor are too busy with their own woes; the rich have no time for lofty rhetoric, the vultures are pecking on a carcass not knowing whether the spirit is still alive or gasping its last. The parasitical politicos are salivating to devour the political insects that have been flushed out by the searing flames of revolution. The JVP saga is indeed a tragedy of uncommon measure.

*The writer can be contacted at vishwamithra1984@gmil.com

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Latest comments

  • 8
    0

    A rather flawed analysis I would say.

    For example, the JVP’s election table is wrong and intentionally misleading.
    It reached its peak in 2001 contesting alone to gather 9% of the vote.
    The 45.6% in 2004 should have been avoided as it creates a false impression. The JVP did well in 2004 to gather more seats than its due share based on is vote base. Joining the UPFA was its undoing to a degree.
    The vote in 2001 was perhaps an expression of disappointment with the two big alliances. It was also the year in which the Sihala Urumaya entered the fray (to score a big victory in 2004 as the JHU).
    JVP’s ‘fall in support’ is nothing significant compared with the disastrous decline of the LSSP & CP between 1952 and 1977.

    The statement”They have been betrayed by the traditional left-wing parties, including the SLFP. Minorities mistrust them and the majority has no faith in them.” is flawed too.
    The left (except for the NSSP’s brief flirtations with the JVP) never trusted the JVP and there was no love lost at any stage.
    If at all the JVP returned the favour that JRJ did it in 1977/78 by attacking the Left & the SLFP rallies.
    The SLFP was never left. It was anti-impeialist up to the earlly 1980s.
    Today there is little to tell the SLFP and the UNP apart, except for the faces (sometimes not even them).

    The JVP was always a Sinhala nationaist party with a bogus left posture. It was bitterly anti wrking class and antil Hill Country Tamil in 1969-71.

    I reject the JVP for many reasons, but will give the devil its due.
    It seems a far more credible parliamentary opposition than the SLFP-led alliance (or the TNA).
    Its support base is stable at around 5% (after having shifted from the villages to urban centres in the 1980s).

    It is the JHU that performed hara-kiri by close alliance with the MR regime and then switching sides.

    Let us not rule out the JVP growing in strength, perhaps to 10%, before long if the SLFP is wrecked from within.

    THe JVP’s fortunes in electoral politics will depend on how badly the ‘Yahapalanaya’ performs and how well he SLFP-led alliance holds together.

    But, even if the JVP gathers many more votes in the years to come, there is no parliamentary road to socialism, not even JVP’s version of it.

  • 16
    1

    Couldn’t agree more!!!

    It is so unfortunate that both the UNP and the SLFP (and to a good measure Tamil and Muslim political parties) have corrupted the political scene in Sri Lanka. This political class, like vultures, have been feeding themselves and their cronies, families and the ever present sycophants, with the wealth of the country that should have gone to improve schools, hospitals, transport and other public services.

    Whether or not the current JVP could educated the masses to realize their plight is doubtful. There is a cultural aspect among us that we tend to extend our loyalties not to benefit us as a whole people but to benefit us personally in some trivial matter. These are trivial matters the lackeys of major political parties can deliver to the supplicant in return for his vote and support for the party. Until this hold on the voter is changed, through ensuring due administrative processes rather than political chit system, voters will be forced to exchange their vote for personal/individual/small group benefits.

    And, of course there is the issue whether we can trust the JVP politicos. The best example of this is what we now see as the true face of Wimal Weerawansa!

  • 9
    0

    Vishwamithra1984 –

    RE:Whither The JVP; Is It A Political Carcass?

    1. “April 5th marks the 45th anniversary of the famous ’71 Insurrection. It claimed many thousands of lives; destroyed an untold number of families, small businesses and aspirations of a whole generation. It was led by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).”

    1971 was a different era.That was the “infantile” revolution, years after L:SP sols out to racist parties.

    2. “Yet, each time when one overhears the resounding voice of Anura Kumara Dissanayake, the current JVP leader who is arguably the most accomplished Sinhala orator in the country today, it resonates the anguish of the dreams that were dashed and promises unfulfilled.”

    Yes. Look at his contribution to defeating MaRa.

    3. “The poor are too busy with their own woes; the rich have no time for lofty rhetoric, the vultures are pecking on a carcass not knowing whether the spirit is still alive or gasping its last. The parasitical politicos are salivating to devour the political insects that have been flushed out by the searing flames of revolution. The JVP saga is indeed a tragedy of uncommon measure.”

    JVP is the only spokesman for the downtrodden and the discriminated.

    LSSP sold out to the Racist parties. The saga continues…

  • 12
    2

    Beautifully written with conviction.
    Compare this to the rubbish written by the likes of HLDM & DJ.

    What a challenge to our cast expert HLDM, boru Cuban revolutionary & smart
    patriot DJ.
    Will HLDM & DJ respond to the above or chicken out ?

  • 8
    1

    Just nonsense! Wijeweera’s and Samana Piyasiri Fernando’s laid the foundation for JVP to grab power even when being killed, which was an interesting mix of Marxism and Nationalism. The same formula which was used decades later by latin american socialists to come to power.

    Somawanshe and Weerawanshe took the party along the same line and then the fundamentalists took over the party (with the help of some UNP stalwarts I strongly suspect). If JVP had remained in Rajapakshe’s government till the war victory and parted on good governance and economic issues JVP would have been the main opposition at Rajapakshe’s fall.

    The same party that spearheaded nationalistic politics became the strongest critic of nationalism overnight. That strategy did not have any logic and the results are speaking loud and clear.

    JVP has dug their own grave too far. They can’t turn 180 nor can they keep attacking the common opposition without arousing any suspicion. They will end up been the next three-wheeler marxist party. I strongly suspect that most of the current JVP leaders will live their retirement in a foreign country.

    • 4
      5

      When you see how much the pro UNP elite circles love the current JVP leadership you can understand their election misfortunes.

      When did the elite business class applaud a supposed radical leftist party this much? Of-course after they bought it.

      JVP is history folks. What late Ranjan Wijeratne couldn’t do even after skinning alive their cadre Malika Samawickrama/Ravi K did without even touching a bullet.

      It remains to be seen who will eat into the nationalistic voter base JVP used to command after Mahinda Rajapakshe exists.

  • 1
    17

    “Youth is the barometer of change”, is a borrowing from and slight (albeit unacknowledged) adaptation of Trotsky’s “youth is the barometer of revolution”.

    • 5
      0

      All hail the fake Trostkyist who understands near naught of what the man had to say – Dr. Dayan J!

      Doc, we missed you and your opportunistic political mood swings. I’m not sure a barometer would be appropriate to measure you – perhaps a weather vane? Since you decide to turn with the breeze (usually in the wrong direction)?

      Your morph from a 20-something LTTE sympathizer to a full blown Sinhala chauvinist was quite amusing to watch in the last 30 years.

      Has the fact that you’ve been wrong about pretty much everything in the past 5 years yet struck you? Like the ‘sure thing’ MR victory in January, the ‘sure thing’ after the drunken mob gathered at Nugegoda (you said you will retire from public life if you were proven wrong there – you were proven wrong but are unfortunately still around in that garbage TV show of yours).

      Now DJ is running around on his TV show claiming he “expected it” anyway. So he’s right when he’s right and right when he’s wrong. What a remarkably infallible man!

      Just to dispel any residual doubt that the man has some standards however, apart from the endless barrage of fallacious arguments, he can even be seen spouting utterly racist BS like the argument that Sirisena shouldn’t have won unless a majority of the majority supports him. Does anyone believe this to be a valid argument? So if a majority of the majority are willing to oppress minorities, the minorities are not entitled to vote hand over feet to defeat that? DJ will be in fine company with the bigoted halfwits who are distributing maps of Eelam superimposed over Sirisena’s majority win districts.

      The chap also says the notoriously political GMOA Padeniya should be believed for his misinformed knowledge Economics (not medicine) purely because he forged his way into a government sponsored post graduate programme at Oxford – a week after saying one should not believe Rajitha about legal matters as he is a dentist and not a lawyer – was particularly laughable recently.

  • 3
    2

    Upatha, pavatha and vipatha. It says it all.

    I have been an observer of JVP for a long time. What i see is a collection of bald heads(and asses).

    That viagra eating Mao said “anything which does not grow, dies)

  • 3
    2

    The idiots! Desperately tries to sell even their mothers for a vote? Thinks they know every thing some times stupid beyond belief! Even the uneducated man has realized this?

  • 1
    2

    “To be called a political carcass might be too harsh; to be categorized as an ‘also-ran’ might be too lenient.”
    The JVP from the inception has many similarities with the LTTE. For example its leadership was derived primarily from those casts that were socially marginalized. It was also virulent in its attack on Sri Lankan neighbor India. The JVP class called “Indian Expansionism” was plagiarized from India’s Naxelbari groups who supported Chinas aggression against India. It was, and is anti-old left/new left because it considers itself as the sole representative of the proles. Just as the Tigers considered themselves as the sole reps of the Tamils. Like DJ says it’s basically frustrated marginal rural youth who vote for it. This is precisely why the elderly and urban youth reject it.Many intellectuals who were in the JVP left it having realized its limitations. Even Somawansa, who cannot be called an intellectual left the lost cause…

  • 1
    0

    Utter nonsense without exploring the contextual and background factors in tribal sri lanka.any political discourse without taking and dissecting the contextual factors is bound to serve its masters, in this case tribal slave masters, sri lankan oligarchy.If JVP taken out of the equation, i wonder which direction sri lankan oligarchy head.

  • 4
    4

    Its a political carcass………..

    What is Marxist/Nationalist Anura Kumara aka rathu Ali Patiya doing in Ireland instead of visiting Moscow or Beijing ??

    Whom is he meeting & for what?
    Is he meeting the Protestants or the Roman catholics?

    • 4
      2

      Should be meeting with the British Tamil Forum. That is the only logical conclusion we can arrive at if the party can’t be more transparent regarding this issue.

  • 1
    3

    It also stinks to High Heavens..

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