ďI am still a JVP memberĒ

Speculation has been rife in political circles that Nandana Gunatillake, Chairman of the UPFA, and JVP presidential candidate in 1999, either left the JVP or is planning to do so soon. There have been rumours of ideological differences and Gunatillake being offered a cabinet portfolio should he join the SLFP. Chamara Lakshan spoke with the JVP leader to find out how things stand with him politically speaking.

ďI also proposed that we should enter in to an alliance with the SLFP to contest the
local government elections. My argument was that in this way we could secure power in several local bodies and thereby be able to do some good work as we did in Tissamaharama.Ē

Somawansa Amarasinghe told the media recently that you had left the JVP. Letís talk about this to start things off?
There has been an ideological difference within the party since around August last year. This is normal for a party such as ours. There is always debate. It is not the case that someone proposes something and the rest blindly raise their hands to approve it. There is often a Ďforí and an Ďagainstí whenever some matter is discussed either in the politburo or in the central committee. The will of the majority prevails. There were two issues over which there were sharp differences within the party in recent times.
What were these issues that matured to the point of ideological difference?
I proposed that just as the party stood behind Mahinda Rajapaksa during the Presidential election campaign, we should enter the government and actively engage in overcoming the challenges faced by the country. This idea was defeated in the central committee. I brought this matter up several times but each time my proposal failed to win the support of the majority. I also proposed that we should enter in to an alliance with the SLFP to contest the local government elections. My argument was that in this way we could secure power in several local bodies and thereby be able to do some good work as we did in Tissamaharama. Others disagreed. They had the numbers. Since both these proposals were rejected several times and it became clear that my views did not enjoy much acceptance in the central committee and the politburo and since it was not possible to accept and work according to the decision that were eventually made, I decided to resign from posts in these bodies.
When did this happen?
This year. February 7, to be exact. I informed the party in writing about my decision on this day. I didnít think it was important to make this decision public. Since I remained a member of the party I didnít think it would be wise to create any confusion. Even afterwards, as a party member, I tried to win people over to the view that we should enter the government. Several discussions were held on this subject. However, I donít see this bearing any fruit.
What is your decision now?
I havenít changed my position. I am still a member of the party. I resigned from the positions I held in the party, thatís all. I am still a member of parliament and am still the Chairman of the UPFA.
Has there been pressure from within the party for you to resign?
No, I havenít been asked to resign. Even when I resigned from the positions I held in the party, it was subsequent to a discussion. There are no moves to ask me to resign or to expel me from the party. I havenít had any inclination to this effect so far. Furthermore I donít believe there would be such moves originating from within the party.
There was talk that you were going to join the government and accept a cabinet portfolio. What do you have to say about this?
If I wanted something like that I could have done it around the of April 6, 2004, or else a few weeks later when the JVP accepted four ministries. At that time the party requested both me and Wimal Weerawansa to take ministerial positions. We both refused.
Why did you refuse?
There were two reasons. We wanted to set an example for the lower ranks of the party; we wanted to demonstrate that our efforts to form the UPFA were not motivated by such objectives. On the other hand I wanted to be more active in party work. So we refused to accept these posts. If I really wanted to become a minister it would have been very easy at that time. So no, I donít have any ministerial aspirations.
It is rumoured that you have been charged of leaking information about the party?
I have never ever leaked party secrets. I am not a person like that!
It is also said that youíve been meeting the President over the past few days?
Mahinda Rajapaksa became president thanks to the UPFA. I am the Chairman of that alliance. If I can make a large number of speeches in support of his candidature, whatís wrong in me meeting him? I can talk to him anywhere.
Has he invited you to join the government?
No, never. He always wanted the JVP as a party to join the government. As far as I know even when there was talk about individuals being asked to join, the President always showed that he was keen about the JVP joining the government.
Are you at odds with the JVPís position on the national question?
It is wrong to say that I am opposed to the JVPís position. The only medicine that can cure this problem is a socialist revolution. But making a socialist revolution today given the configuration of forces is no easy task. So we need to look for some kind of transitional solution.
What do you mean by a transitional solution?
Let me put it briefly. Even as we defeat separatism we should seek a solution where all citizens can feel that they have a government that they put in power, a government that is accountable to them. There is mistrust among Sinhalese and Tamils due to the erroneous political decisions taken over the years. Had those in power then decided not to pursue short-term political profit, but to bring people together, unite them and create conditions where people can live in harmony with one another, this would not have happened. Unfortunately, on numerous occasions communalism has been employed on account of political expediency. And so, today, there is mistrust. This is the reality we need to understand.The Tamil people believe that they have not been treated fairly. We have to go for radical political reforms to ensure to dispel such notions. I donít think we can satisfy the Tamil people if this is not done.
Well, the UNP and the SLFP are now discussing ways of obtaining agreement on key national issues. How do you view these developments?
If there is a genuine will to sort out these differences and develop practical strategies, it is something that we should welcome. Whether there is genuine interest or not can be determined by how they propose to resolve this issue. We are yet to see this happening.
However, I agree with one thing. We cannot postpone the matter of finding a solution. We have to be wise enough to seize the opportunity. The time is ripe to weaken the LTTE and to find a solution that is sustainable and grounded. I donít know about political parties, but progressive individuals from all parties should come together to form a broad national front. If we are able to form a strong national front in this manner we will be able to find a solution and move forward.
Somawansa Amerasinghe recently criticised you in our paper. He said that you had left the JVP. Your comments please?
Yes, he had said that I had left the party. But I have not done so. I have only given up the posts I held. I am still a member of the JVP, I have to emphasise this.