The Sunday Leader

It Is Premature To Speculate – Tilvin Silva

By Camelia Nathaniel


The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is reportedly undergoing internal disputes regarding the leadership of the party which could lead to further splits.
Several of the older party members are embroiled in a tussle for the post of party leadership, while the current leader is of the opinion that the time is not opportune for such a change.  
During a recent meeting of the Central Committee, several party stalwarts had called for the present leader Somawansa Amarasinghe to step down, while JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva’s name had been proposed as the new party leader, and the post of General Secretary be given to Bimal Ratnayake, which brought on a displeased response from K D Lalkantha.
However, speaking to The Sunday Leader regarding the proposals, Silva said that these were just speculations and that no such decision had been made, adding that it was routine to shuffle the positions of the party during the National Conference.

The following are the excerpts:

Q. It is widely speculated that you will be appointed as the new leader of the JVP. If appointed, are you ready to take over as the leader of the party?
A. This is a story that has been circulating with no truth to it. It has been initiated purely by the media. The issue is not whether I will become the leader of the party or not. Our party’s seventh national conference is to be staged on February 2 and, in that instance, all past positions are cancelled and new appointments are made.

As has been the practice, various members of the party will be appointed to the relevant positions and a leader will also be appointed by the party members. Therefore, it is premature to speculate, as the same members could be re appointed or new positions could be given to them. Similarly, the same group could be reappointed to the central working committee or new members may be appointed. The leadership position too could change, but, so far, the same party leader has been appointed and no change has been made. It is too early to speculate.

Q. There has been a drastic decline in the voter base of the JVP. What measures do you recommend in order to rebuild that eroded vote base?
A. I admit that there was a decline in the vote base in recent times, but that is not something unusual and not something that has only befallen the JVP. In fact, even the governing party in 1977 plunged to just eight seats, and the UNP too stooped to eight seats in 1956. Every party has their ups and downs and we are not affected by this reduction. However, in order to rebuild our voter base, we will never resort to cheap politics or stoop to the low levels that we currently see in politics.

We will not go looking for actors and actresses to represent our party in order to increase the vote base, nor will we resort to handing out bribes in order to gain votes. We intend to strengthen our party and we also intend to formulate a proper set of principles at this conference that we are certain will appeal to the people. We will explain the real situation to the people and, by speaking the truth, we expect to make people understand. We have a very strong team to contest the upcoming election and we are confident that we can gain the votes of the people.

Q. Is the party leader responsible for the disputes within the party?
A. Certainly not. I don’t believe that a single person was responsible for the split within the party or the disputes that led to the split. In 1989, when the party was destroyed, it was the same leader who was instrumental in rebuilding the party and bringing it to a certain standard by winning 39 seats in 2004.

The reason for certain persons to leave the party had nothing to do with anyone in the party, but it was purely due to their misguided politics. There were also many reasons that affected the decline in votes at the elections and one of them was the election culture that prevails today. There is no room for persons who desire personal benefits and perks, and this was also one reason for these persons to leave the party as they would not have been able to fulfill their personal desires.

Q. It is rumoured that there are numerous differences of opinion among the senior party members that have led to various internal disputes. Is this true?
A. I disagree with that allegation as there are no disputes within our party but we do have discussions and dialogue in order to resolve certain issues. We are a party that has adopted the policy of arriving at decisions after extensively discussing and debating the matter. All of us within the party are focused solely on working toward just one objective and that is the success of the party.

Q. Do you think your experience, where the JVP politics is concerned, is enough to spear head the party?
A. Any political campaign depends on the experience and wisdom of the party’s long standing members, but, having said that, a party also needs the vigour and fresh ideas of the younger generation. No party can succeed with just the older hands alone.

Q. It is widely argued that various alliances that the JVP formed with other parties in recent elections have had a negative impact on the party in the long run. Do you agree?
A. Various parties have expressed numerous views about our party, while some are of the view that our vote base declined due to the alliances we formed with other parties, others feel that it was due to the fact that we did not join hands with the government. However, I must state that the main reason we entered these alliances was to save the country from the various adversities that befell us and not for any personal gain. We have learnt from our past mistakes.

Q. Does the JVP plan on forging forward with the same policies it has adopted in the past?
A. Our policies are very transparent and clear; we seek a just society and we want the country and its people to be free. What we are working toward is to take the country toward prosperity –spiritually, economically and socially. Since our party has always held onto these policies, we will not change in that sense. We are always ready to modernize our policies in keeping with the changes taking place in society and we are not adamant in holding on stubbornly to our old policies.

Q. The JVP trade unions that were once a formidable force, having lost their clout and effectiveness, have been unable to successfully conduct any trade union action. How do you feel about this?
A. Well I would not agree that the unions have lost their clout, and we have, in fact, been very successful in all our union actions and protests. However, one must understand that the unions don’t always win every protest or struggle they engage in. Similarly, we have had our successes and failures, but we have engaged in these protests with no personal agendas.

We have always fought for the rights of the people, and, even in the future, we will stand for the people against any injustice. We are also in the process of transforming the anti government sentiments into a people’s force against them in order to bring back a fair and harmonious society.

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