decision to sack its MP must be lauded
political party, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), has had a
chequered history in this country. It entered the political
arena offering itself as an alternative to the traditional left,
at a time when that end of the political spectrum was dominated
by the Lanka Samasamaja Party and the Communist Party of Sri
Since then, it has been instrumental in staging two
insurrections in the early seventies and late eighties, both of
which failed at a tremendous cost both to the party as well in
terms of the thousands of lives lost among the youth of that
As a result of these abortive insurrections, the masses viewed
the JVP with some unease but over the last decade, the JVP
re-invented itself to emerge as the most potent third political
force. As its former propaganda secretary once adroitly
described it, they held the ‘remote control’ of the government.
Lately, however, the party has been beset with crisis after
crisis. Its’ parliamentary representation is now split into two
factions, its call for a general strike was an utter flop and it
suffered an embarrassing defeat at the recent provincial council
polls. The latest scandal to hit the headlines is one of its
parliamentarians being deported from Japan on allegations of
But acting swiftly, the party’s disciplinary committee met and
ordered that the MP should resign. And this, despite the fact
that the vacancy would be filled not by one of its own members,
but by a member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), which it
now vehemently opposes in Parliament. That was because of the
quirks of the last general election where the JVP was a
constituent of ruling coalition.
No matter how one views the JVP, its policies and actions, this
is an extremely courageous decision which must be commended; not
only because it was the right thing to do, but also because we
appear to be surrounded by a culture of political expediency
rather than principled integrity.
Of course, in mature political systems, resignations are the
order of the day. Politicians in democracies the world over have
resigned when they have been linked to scandals. In some
countries, such resignations have been tendered even when the
politician concerned is not directly responsible for the
incident in question.
This indicates that a sense of decency pervades these political
systems and indeed, it should be so. Anybody in a position of
trust, be it politicians or high public officials, also have a
responsibility to be above board in their actions and when there
is a whiff of scandal, impropriety or even a strong difference
of opinion, the proper course of action would be to go with
grace rather than wait until you are shown the door.
This is not a concept alien to Sri Lanka. In 1953, the then
Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake resigned following the ‘hartal’
against rising rice and other commodity prices. Then, we saw
M.D.H. Jayawardena, then a senior minister of J. R.
Jayewardene’s Cabinet; resign after criticising Ronnie de Mel’s
budget speech because it violated the principle of collective
responsibility. Thereafter, Gamini Jayasuriya also resigned from
Jayewardene’s Cabinet because he opposed the Indo-Lanka Accord
that Jayewardene signed. These are but a few examples.
However, times appear to have changed. Now, ethical conduct
seems to be the last thing on the minds of politicians and their
hangers-on. And even when they get embroiled in scandal after
scandal, they continue to cling on to positions of power and
privilege. And resignations? These are simply unheard of!
We have seen the spectacle of at least one minister flouting the
law with impunity again and again, so much so that there has
been almost a countrywide demand for his resignation. That man
of course cares not a whit and merrily carries on.
We have also seen how high ranking public officials have been
censured by the highest courts in the land and ordered to pay
fines. They too want to carry on regardless of public opinion
and the judicial strictures issued against them.
What this does is to encourage and inculcate a culture where
probity and principles count for nothing. Ethical conduct takes
a back seat, as persons in positions of power and trust begin to
believe that they can get away with anything. Then, having
political clout translates into being clever. Soon, this becomes
the mantra that everyone recites and the exception becomes the
rule. Recent events suggest that Sri Lanka may be slowly but
steadily moving in that direction.
And that is why the recent decision of the JVP to sack its MP
must be lauded. Some may argue that the JVP may be lacking in
finesse or political vision and that it has committed many
atrocities in the past but in this instance, it has certainly
demonstrated that it maintains party discipline and adheres to
principles of good governance, even at the cost of a
It is an example for other political parties to follow and
especially so, for the ruling party which carries the onus of
wielding power and therefore has to be accountable to the public
for its actions. That accountability must come not only from the
government as a whole, or its leader as an individual, but by
every single person who enjoys a stake in it. And that also
appears to be the message that some minions walking the
corridors of power just don’t seem to get!