The Sunday Leader

The Country Needs A New Vision, A Paradigm Shift – Somawansa Amerasinghe

  • People’s Councils will be the beginning of people’s rule

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

JVP Leader Somawansa Amerasinghe says that the set of proposals presented by the party to address the national issue is the first step towards a permanent solution. Pointing out the failures of successive capitalist governments to address the crux of the national issue he noted that the proposal to set up People’s Councils at micro level, while eliminating the concept of Provincial Councils would encourage people to fight for their rights in every aspect – political, economic, social and cultural. The People’s Councils will be based on inequalities in the key sectors. People’s Councils established in areas where there are massive inequalities in all sectors will address the issues, which neither the central government nor the Provincial Councils would be able to address. Amerasinghe believes that the national issue can be resolved in the future under socialism. “The challenge will be met by the JVP with the support of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and everyone else in the country. It would be an effort by us all and not only the JVP,” the JVP Leader said.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

Q: The JVP has presented a set of proposals to address the national issue. How does the party plan to proceed with it?
A: Before speaking of how to proceed, we must say why a set of proposals were prepared. The President and government failed to address the burning issues of the people after the end of the war. As a result, separatism is raising its head and given some sort of legitimacy due to blunders of the President and government. We came out with a set of proposals on May 27, 2009. The President and government could have taken them into serious consideration and implemented them, but they were not interested and ignored them.

They are only interested in strengthening their power. The country is suffering as a result. Political, economical, social and cultural institutions are crumbling. Now the talk is about holding Provincial Council elections in the North. As usual, all political parties other than the JVP started fanning political feelings, which has been the practise since 1948.

Therefore, we thought it was time to come out with a set of proposals, which is an approach to be considered by the people. The country needs a new vision, a paradigm shift. The President is not efficient enough to come out with anything fresh. The President has sometimes spoken about the 13th Amendment, then 13A Plus and then the abolition of the amendment. Now the President has said land and police powers will not be given to the provinces. Other parties are fighting for the 13th Amendment or its abolition. It is the usual, useless dialogue. We wanted to give an initiative. We hope the people will understand and talk about the proposal. We have requested the media institutions to also build a discussion on the proposals.

We will also send the proposals to organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, OPA and universities. The proposals can be discussed and even subject to criticism. We are open to suggestions. We hope there will be a push from the public for the President and government to take the proposals into consideration. There are no other proposals from anyone else. These proposals could be established even under the current system and they would support a permanent solution. These are a set of reforms and it is the duty of the government to proceed and implement them.

Q: The proposals are said to be a first step towards a permanent solution. How do you see the process progressing until a final solution?
A: These proposals are good for the country and people. A permanent solution to the national issue cannot be found through the current system since it should be based on equality, freedom and brotherhood.

The capitalist system does not guarantee equality. It promotes exploitation. We are confident that equality could not be achieved in any sector – political, economic, social and cultural – as long as the capitalist system is in place. The proposals presented by us are an approach towards a permanent solution. The permanent solution could be implemented under a socialist system.

Q: How confident are you of the JVP proposals being used to address the national issue?
A: The problems faced by the people at the moment are due to the successive capitalist governments that ruled the country, separatist elements, imperialists and the Indian ruling class. As a start we have pointed out the problem and all these problems have solutions. Some of these issues can be addressed under the current system and in fact some issues have been addressed at present. We must be honest; there are some issues that are being addressed. However, we don’t think that the government will be able to find the crux of the problem. Except for the JVP all other parties base their politics on communalism. But, all of these parties will reach their limits and won’t be able to implement our proposals.

Q: How have the people responded to the proposals so far?
A: We are still at the early stages and we are very satisfied that there has been a very good response from people who love the country and want to see a permanent solution to the national issue. The reactions so far have been very good and are very encouraging. We hope to move forward from here.

Q: The JVP has proposed the setting up of People’s Councils. How do you think this move would help address the national issue?
A: It is the most important proposal. It is the beginning of a people’s rule. We have come out of the box. Everyone speaks of the devolution of power to the elite and about giving and taking. However, it is important that rights are established. We will get together with the people and establish rights. The proposal encourages people to fight for their rights in every aspect – political, economic, social and cultural.

These councils will be based on inequalities in the key sectors. There are inequalities between the regions in the country. The poorest local council area is Siyambalanduwa; we can then address the issues faced by the people in the area separately through a People’s Council. There are many such areas. People’s Councils in these areas where there are massive inequalities in all sectors will address the issues, which the central government would not be able to address. Even the Provincial Councils will not take any interest in these inequalities.

That is why we propose to abolish the Provincial Councils and set up People’s Councils in areas that are comparatively far behind. Members to the Council will be elected by the people in the area and they will elect a member to Parliament as well. There must be representation in Parliament to raise their questions. Before independence, R. Singleton Salmon was appointed by the government to Parliament. The Constitution at the time made provision for the appointment of people representing certain groups of people in Parliament. There were many such appointments.

So don’t we do that again or something similar to it? Such people can represent the issues faced by those they represent. There are 40,000 people in the country from Andhra Pradesh who speak in Telugu; they do not have any representation in Parliament. People will then be satisfied that they are being represented. Most of all the People’s Councils will be the beginning of the people’s struggle. They can march forward from there.

Q: The JVP says the Provincial Council elections in the North will not address the issues faced by the Tamil people in the North. If that is the case, why has the JVP decided to contest for the Northern Provincial Council?
A: We need to emphasize that the problem would not be addressed through Provincial Council elections. Provincial Councils have failed in the other provinces.

All honest people are rejecting the system. This system was imposed on us by the Indian ruling class. After signing the agreement they said it is an international agreement and that it could not be violated. India violated the agreement at the very outset. As a result there is no agreement to be implemented or abolished. Provincial Councils have intensified the inequalities among the nationalities in the country. There are doubts even among the Tamil population.

The TNA says it is the solution, but it is not. Over 55% of the Tamils in the country are in areas outside the North. How can Provincial Council elections in the North be good for 55% of the Tamil population?

When we hear retired Supreme Court Judge C.V. Wigneswaran saying that everyone living in the country should know that people living in one part of the country speak in Sinhala and the other part speak in Tamil, all we can say is that he has lost his balanced thinking after entering politics. He has not considered the 55% of the Tamils living in other areas of the country. Even the Tamil people must resist when a retired judge proposes to draw a line based on language.

This would pose a problem in future. Other political parties are still thinking inside the box, but the situation has changed and the war has ended. There is a need for a radical change, but the President, government and the other political parties have not changed. We changed our position in May 2009 when the war ended.

Q: If elected to the Northern Provincial Council, what would the JVP do differently to any other party?
A: The first would be to announce that the Provincial Council system is not the solution. As soon as we take office, steps would be taken to implement our proposals to uplift the lives of the people affected by the war for 30 years. Now there is a new approach that could form the guideline towards finding a permanent solution. Being elected to the Provincial Council would be an impetus for the struggle to bring about a change. If people in the North have confidence in us then others would also have confidence in the JVP to bring about a change. The best would be to elect us and see what we will do; after all actions speak louder than words.

Q: The JVP has continuously said the 13th Amendment would not solve the national issue. Do you feel the abolition of the Amendment would be the solution to the problem?
A: Abolition alone would not be the solution, it would be another problem. If the 13th Amendment or the Constitution is abolished, then there’s a need to come out with a solution or a new constitution simultaneously. There must be a new structure so we could minimize the inequalities among people, regions and nationalities. Therefore, it is very important to come out with the solution simultaneously.

Q: Do you see the national issue being resolved in the future?
A: Yes, in the future under socialism. The challenge will be met by the JVP with the support of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and everyone else in the country. It would be an effort by us all and not only the JVP.

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