cross games only to help themselves
JVP has over the past fifteen years succeeded in emerging as the premier
leftist party in the country. Its goal now is to dislodge the SLFP as
the alternative to the UNP. If the composition of the current Parliament
is a yardstick, this is already happening: of those supporting President
Rajapaksa, only a few dozen are SLFPers; the rest are an assorted bunch
from the UNP and minority parties
What do the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Janatha
Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) have in common? Nothing at all, one might say.
But events last week proved that they both hate and fear Ranil
Wickremesinghe’s possible advent to power with equal intensity.
When Mahinda Rajapaksa was elected as the fifth Executive President of
Sri Lanka on November 17, 2005, Rajapaksa himself is reported to have
acknowledged that it was the boycott of the poll in the Northern and
Eastern provinces, engineered by the LTTE that helped him to a victory
with a wafer thin majority.
Two years later on December 14, 2007, it was the JVP who played a game
of political double cross to perfection, preventing Rajapaksa’s
parliamentary majority from evaporating, by abstaining at the vote on
the third reading of the Budget, where many dissident government
members, were waiting to crossover and one-Anura Bandaranaike-actually
And that begs the question why, from the JVP. The simple explanation is,
that the party wanted its numbers retained in Parliament, as it feared
that President Rajapaksa would be compelled to call a general election
that would significantly erode its numbers in the House, which currently
stand at thirty nine.
There is more than a modicum of truth in that. But it is also clear that
the JVP has a longer term plan-that of emerging as the country’s first
choice left-of-centre political party, ousting the current holders of
that mantle, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
The JVP has a chequered, brutal and bloody history that is difficult to
live down. Its first attempt to grab state power in 1971, ended as an
abortive insurrection that led to the deaths of at least 15,000 thousand
youths, and the incarceration of its leader, Rohana Wijeweera.
A similar uprising which began in 1987, culminated in 1989, when it was
ruthlessly crushed by then President Ranasinghe Premadasa, and Wijeweera
and other top rankers of the JVP were captured and killed.
Since then, although the JVP has never disowned its past acts, and even
though it continues to commemorate these events on a grand scale every
year, they have faithfully been passengers in the democratic mainstream.
Arguably, the high watermark of their political journey has been its
performance at the 2004 general elections.
At this poll, the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA), of which the
JVP was a constituent party, polled 45.6% of the vote and returned 105
parliamentarians-39 of them from the JVP. Statistically, that was
equivalent to commanding 17% of the vote.
However, the best showing by the JVP as a single political party at the
national level, was at the 2001 general election, where it polled 9% of
the vote and returned 16 members of Parliament. That too was an
improvement on its showing an year earlier, when at the 2000 general
election it polled 6% of the vote and returned 10 MP’s.
Thus, the 2004 election performance was a political windfall for the JVP.
It was achieved again by much political cunning. The party cleverly
restricted its nominations to the district list, to a few names, and
ensured that there would be no internal battles for the preference
votes. As a result, those with the most preferences were mostly JVP
candidates-hence the disproportionately high number of JVP MPs!
Now the party is not willing to squander such gains merely because the
United National Party (UNP) is sick and tired of being in the
Moreover, with 39 MP’s in Parliament, the JVP has been able to raise its
profile and some of its stalwarts-such as Wimal Weerawansa-have emerged
as nationally recognised figures. Clearly, the JVP would like the status
quo to remain.
The JVP also sees no purpose in adhering to the axiom of marching
separately but striking together with the UNP. Firstly, there is a huge
ideological divide between the two camps, and even if the JVP hates the
Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, they hate Ranil Wickremesinghe even more.
The logic there, is understandable. Rajapaksa and his lieutenants have
demonstrated in the past two years that they are poor managers of the
economy and are inefficient administrators. The resultant discontent in
the masses suit the JVP well: disgruntled voters will turn to the
Marxist party for succour and swell their ranks.
If Wickremesinghe were to assume power, the feel good factor will
surface yet again at least initially, given his and his party’s liberal
outlook, and the JVP will find it harder to woo the voter. The JVP would
of course attempt to exploit Wickremesinghe’s passive acceptance of the
LTTE, but again, if even a temporary truce results, that would not be to
the JVP’s benefit.
The JVP has over the past fifteen years succeeded in emerging as the
premier leftist party in the country. Its goal now is to dislodge the
SLFP as the alternative to the UNP. If the composition of the current
Parliament is a yardstick, this is already happening: of those
supporting President Rajapaksa, only a few dozen are SLFP’ers; the rest
are an assorted bunch from the UNP and minority parties.
Credit should go to the JVP for coming thus far, using democratic means
and using the existing electoral system to their maximum advantage.
But the irony of it is that the SLFP is blissfully unaware of the JVP
eroding its vote base, and is still assiduously courting the leftists.
And, the UNP is still hoping that the Marxist party would support them
in their quest to dislodge Mahinda Rajapaksa from power!
The vote on the third reading of the Budget should jolt both major
parties and encourage them to take a reality check. The moral of the
story is that the JVP is in this not to help the SLFP, or to oust
Rajapaksa from power; they are in this to help themselves.