Living down the past | Daily News

Living down the past

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is going to great lengths to rebrand itself in a bid to emerge, not as a third force in Sri Lanka’s political scene but as a front line party by dethroning the traditional SLFP/SLPP and UNP/SJB and mounting the seats of power. It has now taken its vigorous grassroots campaign to the cities and metropolitan areas with its top leaders visiting marketplaces speaking with traders and distributing leaflets among train commuters as they emerge from the railway stations and chatting up with the public at bus stops and crowded bazaars, plugging its line of ‘true socialism’ and claiming to have the ideal solution to all that ails the economy and the problems that has beset the country.

Its firebrand MP Vijitha Herath has even disowned the title ‘JVP’ saying their outfit was now known as the Jathika Jana Balavegaya (National People’s Power) and that their party colour too was no longer Red but Purple pointing to the colour of the shirt he was wearing while addressing an event. He wanted the people not to view their outfit from the same angle they were identified in the past but to see things from a different point of view.

The message the MP was taking great pains to convey to the public was that the JVP had put behind the ghosts of their past and was now in an entirely different avatar and deserved to be tried out with State power in order to bring about the much sought after transformation.

It is difficult to conceive the JVP edging out any of the major parties to be placed in a position to assume State power under whatever new baptism or party colour for no other reason than that it just could not happen. The Sri Lankan voter has all along been voting for either of the main parties and is quite content to stay that way whatever the faults attributed to these parties.

The JVP made its first foray into electoral politics in 1982 when its late leader Rohana Wijeweera offered himself as a candidate at the Presidential Election and 40 long years is ample time to have made an impact with the voter which it had failed to do so far. The only time it stood up to be counted was in 2004 when the party contested the General Election on the People’s Alliance (PA) ticket whose main partner was the SLFP, and got a sizable number of its candidates elected to Parliament. When it decided to quit the Alliance it was back to square one for the party, its vote share hovering at between 3-5 per cent as all subsequent elections demonstrated.

Try as it might, the JVP cannot live down its violent past which in a way a pity is given the great pains taken by its leaders to almost plead with the public that they are now a reformed lot and would never again embrace violence as a means of capturing State power. This may appeal to the present generation who were born after 1988/89 but not to those who lived during those violent times.

The gory killings of Buddhist monks, those who opposed the party including their own Marxists brethren, mowing down artistes including Vijaya Kumaratunga, Premakeerthi De Alwis and Sagarica Gomes, killing of intellectuals such as Prof. Stanley Wijesundera, Police officers, UNP Chairman Harsha Abeywardena, plantation superintendents et al. no doubt are still fresh in the minds of these sections. Nor will they have forgotten how daily lives were disrupted with the forced closure of shops and groceries through the issuance of the dreaded ‘chit’ and the cruel fate that befell those who defied such orders, under the hand of the Deshapremi Janatha Vyaparaya (DJV) - the sparrow unit of the JVP.

The solutions proffered by present day JVP leaders to resurrect the economy too in the minds of most experts are impractical and unworkable on the ground, however impressive the rhetoric may sound. The party still appears to be immersed in the old socialist mantra when even hard-nosed Socialist countries such as China and Russia have cast off these theories and have embraced the market economy.

On one thing though most will agree - the party’s avowed pledge to eradicate corruption from the body politic, eliminate waste and halt the perks and privileges of Parliamentarians, including abolishing MPs’ pensions. The JVP has said merit would be the sole criterion for top positions in the State apparatus and for granting Government jobs. The JVP has also demonstrated one positive aspect - the selection of many educated youth to represent the party in Parliament and there is no reason to doubt that the trend would continue if and when the party acquires State power some day.

Here too, as they say, the pudding is in the eating. All holier-than-thou among politicians in the past became transformed once power entered their heads. Could the Rathu Sahodarayas be the sole exception to the rule? Of course one would have to wait and see - a long wait at that.


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