The tragedy of the JVP                           

Had it happened to anyone else, the script to this political drama might not be as tragic. But when the holier-than-thou Wimal Weerawansa, the firebrand Propaganda Secretary of the JVP who has unleashed his venomous tongue on many a political foe breaks down in Parliament like a crestfallen schoolboy, it is nothing but a tragicomedy of Greek mythical proportions. The masses of this country, suffering under the weight of making ends meet, were treated to a well deserved seasonal skit by Weerawansa last week when for the first time since coming into the democratic mainstream, the JVP showcased that it is in fact just another political party, no different from the rest of the bandwagon claiming to be the leaders of this country.

In a way it was a positive turning point for a party which had up to this point no platform except the frustration of the people to sustain its political agenda. The failure of the two main political parties since independence to deliver on their promises of development has resulted in extremist parties such as the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and the Jathika Hela Urumaya gaining political ground. Interestingly, it was such parties that strove to be alternatives to the mainstream, preaching their politics of hatred, extremism and frustration. In this light it is but ironical that those who claimed to be different to others, and promised utopist lands of milk and honey, now find themselves entangled in the same sort of political mudslinging that finds perfect resonance with the rest of the Sri Lankan political spectrum. It is nothing more than natural justice that the main proponent of this form of politics, Wimal Weerawansa is now finding himself having to tearfully explain his pathetic predicament to parliament. The revolutionary party, the self-proclaimed liberators of the people, has been reduced to public mudslinging between its factions.

The split has caused greater waves not only because the JVP has blown its own trumpet about being unlike the other two mainstream political parties, but also because the fissure has been followed by unprecedented levels of violence and turbulence. Divisive politics is nothing for Sri Lankan political parties and so common have they become that it is taken extremely lightly by the political parties in the thick of the drama itself, with the divergent members often patting each other on the back and enjoying a good deal of camaraderie with colleagues with whom they have so recently parted ways. Not so for the JVP. Finding themselves in a situation hitherto experienced only by the UNP and SLFP, the JVP’s great divide has been a real baptism of fire. As the conflict brews, events indicate that old habits die hard and that the JVP still has a great affinity towards the violent and the tumultuous. Since the saga erupted last Tuesday, JVP members have been assaulted, had their cars hijacked and now in the latest twist, one member has been remanded for allegedly perpetrating some of the violence. No doubt the UNP and the SLFP are laughing their sides out at these goody-goodies turned ruffians, turning latent violent tendencies upon against each other.

With the Weerawansa episode the JVP has finally been shown for what it truly is. Not a representative of the suffering masses against the capitalist, oppressive class, but just another pawn in the massive political game played out at the cost of the Sri Lankan people. Maybe the forces of nature were greater than the individuals’ capabilities or perhaps the cause was far too great to be undertaken by a bunch of revolutionary pin-up boys. However, the JVP has failed in its undertaking to liberate the people from the oppression of the capitalist politics and deliver an alternative to the politics of corruption, nepotism and violence. It has instead, become very much a part of the political muck that holds sway over the land as uncouth and violent and undignified as the rest.
The farce had to be done away with eventually. Decades after bloody revolutions, most of the party’s comrades are reaching ripe middle age, the grey now clearly visible on their Che Guevara beards and sporting pot bellies that put the two main parties to shame. Naturally, the lure of revolution and that greater promise of utopia may have been eclipsed by more mundane matters such as their children’s education in international schools and the expensive lifestyles of their wives.

The sooner the people of this country see the true colours of the JVP and others like it the better for everyone. Their once misguided agenda has led the youth of this country in to two bloody and useless insurrections. The tragedy of Sri Lankan politics will remain that the mainstream parties have failed, time and time again, to make meaningful contributions to this country that would have provided lifelines to politics not born of hatred and opportunism. At least the flip side to this episode is that the people will have something interesting to talk about during the Avurudu season that is not looking too auspicious on many other fronts at the moment.