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People Know We Are Trustworthy – Namal Karunaratne, JVP

  • Provincial council system was shoved down our throats by force in 1987

By Camelia Nathanial

JVP candidate at the North Western Provincial Council, Namal Karunaratne says that the people of this country are facing many hardships with rising cost of living. Patients at government hospitals have to buy medicines from outside.

Even farmers’ fertiliser subsidy has been reduced and fishing community has been affected as they are unable to cope with the rising fuel costs.

The provincial council elections are being held under these circumstances. As such, we intend to spread the message that this whole system needs to change. “ The JVP hopes to gain the confidence of the people in securing enough votes in order to make the required changes,” says Namal Karunaratne of the JVP.
Following are excerpts of the interview:

Q. What is the election theme of the JVP for the Wayamba Provincial Council elections?
A. The theme chosen by the JVP for the upcoming provincial council elections is ‘People’s struggle with a new vigour’ (Jana Satanata Nawa Jawayak). We are currently conducting all our propaganda activities under this theme or slogan. By now the people of this country are facing many hardships, while they are further burdened by the ever increasing electricity charges and rising cost of living. Parents are finding it difficult to cope with the rising cost of education of their children. The hospitals are also now piling the burden of medicines on the patients by asking them to buy them from outside.

Even the farmers’ fertiliser subsidy has been reduced by 2% and the price has also been increased, while the government plans on further reducing the fertiliser subsidy next season by as much as 60%.

The farmers’ pension fund that was collected through contributions from farmers has also been stopped and there is no account of what has happened to the funds collected amounting to over Rs. 900,000.

Today people of all sectors of society have been affected be it labourers, government servants, fisher folk or private sector workers. People only get a small portion of their earnings to their hands at the end of the month once all other amounts such as loan repayments, etc. have been deducted. However, today people are unable to even build a humble home for themselves without obtaining loans as the majority of their earnings have to be spent on basic requirements.
The farming community is facing grave hardships as the cost of cultivation is piling up on them and they are unable to even sell their harvest eventually. Their burdens keep piling up and they are forced to gradually give up their farming.

The fishing community has also been affected as they are unable to cope with the rising fuel costs and other adverse conditions. Most of the country’s people are finding it hard to survive in the face of rising cost of living.
It is under these conditions that the provincial council elections are to be held. Hence it is our intention to take the message to the people that this whole system needs to change. The JVP therefore hopes to gain the confidence of the people in securing enough votes in order to make the required changes.

Q. There is infighting within the parties for preferential votes, which we have seen lately. Does this situation prevail within the JVP as well?
A. Unlike in the other political parties, we have no preferential vote war among members of our party, and we are working in unison towards the victory of the party and not for individual gain. We have gathered a good team of members for each province and we are hopeful that we will be able to gain the confidence of the people and take our party toward victory in the upcoming elections. Our themes for the elections are simple and we want to formulate a theme that will be beneficial for the people of this country.

Q. What are the differences that you have made within the JVP in comparison to last time?
A. Well we have not done such a comparison. Instead we have come up with a simple formula of engaging in a door-to-door campaign to educate the people.

We are utilising hand bills, newspapers and in some circumstances we are using CD’s to educate the people. In addition we are also distributing a leaflet containing all our intentions and goals. Our party has decided not to engage in a poster campaign carrying each candidate’s face, but instead we have decided to only carry the party slogan and conduct the poster campaign as a party. We have however designed a handbill containing the party intentions and plans and will distribute them during the door-to-door campaign. We have also decided to get together groups of people and then hold discussions for them in order to educate them on our party policies and future intentions.

We will also engage in leaflet campaigns targeting the Sunday and daily fairs and other small gatherings. We have also made a concerted effort to stick to the legitimate number of election offices allowed for each party.

Q. The JVP has always been critical of the provincial council system, but have repeatedly contested in each election. Do you think you could work within the limitations of the provincial council system?
A. As a matter of fact we are against the provincial council system. This provincial council system is one that had been shoved down our throats by force in 1987, and not one that was brought for our want.

We are a party that has fought against that system with our lives, as we believe that for a small country like ours there is no need to divide power. Instead what is needed is to decentralise power, and equal opportunities granted to the people irrespective of their cast creed or race.
Hence we have not changed our stand with regard to the provincial council elections. But we will be contesting the elections as we cannot go beyond it. We will use this election to take our opinion to the people.

The members of the JVP do not expect any personal gains in contesting the elections except to gain the rights of the people. As our party policy we don’t even take our own salary, and it is deposited in a collective fund. As a group that doesn’t even claim a personal salary, how can we steal from the people, which is totally against our party policies? If we were avaricious like the other party politicians, we would have crossed sides by now and worked toward our own gains.

Q. The JVP was always a party that worked for the people. That being the case why is it that the people have not supported you in terms of votes?
A. Our country still functions in an imperialist capitalist system. This system still prevails in the south Asian region. On the other hand the JVP stands at third place in terms of votes. However in the battle field the JVP is in first place. For example today in trade union actions and in the fight for the rights of the farmers, the JVP is in the forefront.

Even in the Rathupaswela incident the government pointed the finger at the JVP because they know that when it comes to fighting for the rights of the people the JVP is in the forefront. Therefore irrespective of the votes the JVP will fight for the rights of the people and the people know that we are honest and trustworthy. However the votes are not given to us. Even so we value the trust of the people more than the votes, as the votes are not a credible measure of the people’s preference.

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