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JVP can turn the tide: Tilvin Silva

Things have not gone too well for the JVP in the recent past. The poor showing at the Central and North Western Council elections and other setbacks in the political arena have lead many to predict that their days as a third political force is coming to an end. But the General Secretary of the JVP, Tilvin Silva is hopeful that people will realise that the JVP is the only party that has the vision to guide the country in the coming turbulent times….

Q: The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) will be commemorating the 38th April uprising today and many believe that this year is a significant one for the country?

A: There are three major issues faced by the country, first is the global financial crisis that has started affecting us. It is affecting our financial institutions, the manufacturing and the export sectors. Unfortunately the government was too late to identify the problem and even now it has no answer to this question. For example the present government is also taking the same path taken by previous governments, with privatisation, IMF loans and selling our valuable natural resources. These things have been done before but nothing beneficial has happened.

The ethnic conflict is the second major issue. When the military defeats the LTTE in the future, the government has to take necessary steps to convert the military victory into a political one. The government should ensure that development and democracy reaches the liberated areas. But what the government is trying to do is to implement the 13th Amendment to Constitution and devolve powers, which equates to throwing away the sacrifices of the military.

Thirdly the government is ignoring accepted norms of democracy and good governance. It has not appointed the independent commissions that were recommended by the 17th Amendment and is using underhand methods to delay the appointments to the Constitutional Council. Journalists are assaulted, abducted and killed thus preventing the people from knowing the truth.

When the country is facing a grave financial crisis and when soldiers and people are making huge sacrifices and the state is in dire financial state, a responsible government would tighten their belts and cut back unnecessary expenses. Is this what the government is doing? It is spending lavishly on useless pet projects like Mihin Lanka, also billions on its Jumbo Cabinet. Think about the Hedging Agreement, we lost 77 billion on that alone.

The government is heading towards a totalitarian state akin to the Marcos regime in Philippines. These are the issues faced by the country.

Q: But despite all this the government has successfully convinced the people that what they are doing is right?

A: The government has used state media while suppressing the independent media institutions to create an evil hegemony but we believe that the bubbling issues will rise up and destroy this façade. The government cannot hide these burning economic and social issues forever using military victories. After a specific point these issues will take prominence and people will realise that they have been taken for a ride.
But we have fought this type of hype and showed the reality to the people before. If you can remember the previous UNF government used ‘peace’ the same way the present government is using military victories and the JVP alone took on the task to show the people the truth behind this manufactured façade.

Q: What do you think will happen in the forthcoming Western Provincial Council elections?

A: People in this province have a better political understanding and since most of them are city dwellers they see the impact of the economic crisis. The government is using the war again for political advantage and it is using a lot of resources and state might. Some of the UPFA candidates have spent more than 10 million on campaigning. Election laws are being violated openly and the police are turning a blind eye.
Opposition political parties and their political offices are been attacked and members assaulted and this is the same government that claims there is no competition. Why are they attacking us, what are they so afraid of? The JVP has been targetted and hounded. We believe that the government will not find it easy to win this election. They also know that.

Q: Western province, specially the Colombo district and some parts of the Gampaha district is home to a significant number of the minorities. And the nationalistic stance of the JVP in the last few years has adversely affected your appeal on them?

A: We are socialists, we do not support any sort of racism and separatism. Unfortunately both Sinhalese and Tamils are being drawn into ethnicity-based politics by the capitalist political leaders and I admit that because of that the Tamil people are a bit hesitant to join us. That does not mean that we have given up on winning them over. We have made inroads into that community and last year I felt that members of the educated Tamil youth have taken a interest in the policies of the JVP. However I admit that it is not enough and we should work more with them and get our message across.

Q: Any plans of forming another coalition?

A: Yes we will but not with Ranil or Mahinda but with the oppressed people of the country and progressive elements that represent them.

Q: You claimed that people will eventually understand. They might realise that after the elections are held?

A: People are gradually realising the game the government is playing. In a short time people will realise that they are being taken for a ride and that the government will no longer be able to use the military victories to cover all its mistakes. Even now the government has introduced privatisation and it has also gone to the IMF begging for support. These are nothing but indications of things yet to come.
The JVP has always been optimistic about the future and we believe that we can turn the tide in the near future and bring about a real positive change.

Q: We are very critical of the IMF loan taken by the government. Don’t you think that the government has any other options to replenish our foreign reserves?

A: Yes, there is no other option for this government other than to take the loan. But we must consider why this loan is an offer we can not refuse. We had to take this because the tremendous economic mismanagement in the last four years has brought the country to financial doom.
The government knew that financial trouble was on its way but did not do anything to increase our foreign income or at least to save our foreign currency by cutting back on expenses. It did not even bother to reduce the expenses of its ministers and by appointing Karuna as a minister the expenses are only more. When the income generating avenues shrink and expenditure increases there is no other option but to take loans.

Q: The government is trying to hold elections when the tide is on their side. Isn’t it fair political logic?

A: In the next few months the government will have to face serious political and financial issues, so it makes sense for them to go for quick elections but the real question is what will happen to the country at the end of the day. Is a complete breakdown of the system worth brief political advantage?

Q: Over 54 000 jobs in the private sector have been lost in the last few months and the export income has also gone down?

A: There are no quick fixes to this problem. Even strong companies like Dankotuwa Porcelain, Holcim and Lanka Wall Tiles claim that their export income has gone down and the textile industry is suffering more. What should a government do at such a juncture? It should help these enterprises by giving them financial assistance but it has done nothing of that nature.

The government has no clue how to help the people who have lost jobs, it can only think of imposing more and more taxes, like the newly implemented Nation building tax and the new taxes imposed on items like gas, fuel and milk powder.

Q: But the government is claiming that it is using the taxes for the war?

A: No one is denying that, but the amount spent on war is exaggerated. Last year we spent 177 billion on war while we lost 77 billion because of the Hedging Agreement. That is almost half the amount spent on war, if the government has any idea about financial management there is no need to impose such high taxes.
The ministers are embezzling the tax money on a massive scale, dozens of politicians have invested in the Golden Key, how did they make such huge sums?

Q: The JVP in the recent years have been quick to label the LTTE as terrorists. What is the difference between ‘71, ‘89 and the LTTE revolt?

A: The main difference is that the LTTE is trying to sow separatism and delve in the same capitalist system but the JVP was interested in social evolution. We stood for social justice and equality.

On the other hand the governments who ruled the country are responsible for the creation of the LTTE. In the 70s the state mercilessly crushed the peaceful demonstrations of the students in Jaffna, the same way it suppressed the students in the South. The Tamil youth were pushed towards arms, as we always maintain unless the system changes there is nothing stop the repeat of this in the future. The suppression of the JVP as well as the suppression of the student demonstrations is wrong.

Q: But wouldn’t the same military forces attack the students or workers who take to the streets for just demands?

A: We judge individuals on the basis of their current actions, when someone does a good deed we say it is good. That is not a final or an overall verdict on the army or the police. When the military is fighting terrorism in the North we appreciate it but we must not forget that it is an instrument under government control. An army does not take voluntary decisions it obeys. The fault lies with the government who gives the order to attack the students or the workers.