Q: How did your political career
I have always found Marxism attractive and supported the JVP as a
youngster. I felt that the country required a revolutionary change in
the sphere of politics and identified the JVP as the political force
that would be able to effect that change.
After the second insurgency, JVP
members faced public wrath as murderers and were unable to visit their
hometowns. There was a high level of public rejection of those
associated with the JVP that many a senior felt that they should not
seek public office.
It was my insistence that led the
JVP to contest the 1994 general election. Leaders felt their lives were
in great danger and refused to contest.
I wanted the JVP to enter
mainstream politics and take things from there. I had to persuade some
members to agree to the inclusion of their names on the nomination
papers, so great was their reluctance to dabble in democratic politics
I felt we had to politically grow.
The moment was right. After being elected, I happily stepped down to
accommodate Nihal Galappatty — marking the beginning of the JVP’s
Q: As the first elected JVP MP,
what made you join the UNP, a capitalist political party?
I am a socialist at heart. I quit the party I loved and served a jail
term due to the JVP’s corrupt practices and its racist approach. When
we questioned them, we were labelled as traitors to the ‘great cause.’
The JVP has no inner democracy.
All they wanted was to capture power.
Today, it has completely divorced
itself from Socialist ideals and on an agenda towards power
The JVP of today has conveniently
forgotten that founder leader Rohana Wijeweera accepted the right to
separation. The present leaders don’t remember this Marxist
fundamental anymore. They make cadres work hard and raise funds for them
to lead luxurious lives and to advocate war as a new privileged class
Socialism is not about spreading
seeds of dissention and whipping up communalism. The present JVP
leadership has defeated itself by forging an alliance with a feudal
party that has worked towards its destruction and the defeating of its
Q: But, the use of force to
capture political power is accepted in Socialism?
Yes. The JVP should know that in a multi cultural country like ours, we
should work within its framework. We must respect the cultural practices
and traditions of this country. Respect individual rights. This is not
Soviet Russia to implement socialism in its most raw form.
Q: But you remained a JVP member
despite the killings?
It is a political stance taken by us, I disagreed, but I stayed until I
realised that there was no tolerance within the JVP for an opposite
Q: You mean, there was no inner
There never was. If you compare the lifestyle of the leaders with that
of the grassroots members, you can very well see that.
Following the second insurgency, I
served a two-year jail term. The JVP leaders are ungrateful people. When
the party was revamped in 1989, sacrifices went unrecognised and there
was a ‘friends club’ of the new leader. Then, there was
misappropriation of party funds for personal purposes.
Q: Is misappropriation still
Of course it is. Look at the lifestyles of some of the party leaders.
These are full time politicians maintained by the party. They can’t
afford this lifestyle. Some are known for their maintained good looks
— maintained at great cost to the party.
This is the money that is
collected by poor activists. It is their sweat and genuine commitment
that is thus abused by leaders who lead lives more luxurious than the
leaders of so-called feudalistic parties.
The duplicity is that the JVP is
able to criticise a legal tax amnesty for tax defaulters. The amnesty is
for defaulters of all hues, not simply UNP. While doing so, the JVP also
comes out with rhetoric like their refusal to accept salaries. If so,
the salaries should be re-directed to the Treasury and should not be
credited to any other account.
JVP leaders are lower middle class
people. They have no ancestral wealth or business holdings. Wimal
Weerawansa has sufficient means, maintained though he is by the party.
He is almost a fashion icon and whose money is spent on him? The party
too supports Somawansa Amarasinghe’s family. Capitalist political
leaders in our county don’t lead such privileged existences despite
the constant bad publicity they get. The innocent grassroots activists
must understand this truth.
Q: Nevertheless, as a Marxist, isn’t
it difficult for you to support the capitalist UNP?
It still is. I am still a Marxist at heart. But I have learned to
practically use the ideology within right wing politics.
UNP is a developed political party
with political ideologies, economic thrust, vision, statesmanship and
international acceptance — none of which the JVP possesses. Governance
is not the JVP’s strong point, but playing a critical role in
opposition is. It is a party built on attractive slogans, rhetoric and
As for my presence in the UNP, I
am here because of Ranil Wickremesinghe. I have tremendous respect for
him. He is a man who overlooked personal political gain, position and
popularity in pursuance of a political solution to the ethnic conflict.
There was internal opposition to what he was doing, but he continued.
The UNF’s peace process may have been flawed, his governance too
lacked a populist approach — but he gets 100% for genuine commitment
to see this nation through.
Q: In hindsight, what would you
identify as the JVP’s biggest drawbacks?
Their inability to recognise the need for a federal solution to the
conflict. Instead, the so-called Marxists have turned racists. Their
approach further complicates the problem and an indictment on the very
basic principles upon which the JVP has been founded.
Secondly, its lack of
developmental goals and the inability to deal with globalisation. The
JVP is full of steam but has little ability to develop the country.
The SLFP too believes in the ‘pancha
maha balawegaya,’ or the five great social forces. Look deep into
that and one would find the class and racial classifications within.
That is the link between the SLFP and the JVP.
We need parties like the UNP with
a multi ethnic approach to advocate pluralism — unity in diversity.
Q: But the JVP’s socio-political
approaches have altered in the recent past and they do seem to veer
towards a more liberal attitude. Are you saying that the JVP’s ‘Five
Year Plan’ is at variance with it original policies?
The so-called ‘Rata Hadana Pas Avurudu Selesma’ is at great
variance with the UPFA manifesto. Then, there is also the issue of two
Is the ‘Five Year Plan’ not
valid anymore? The UPFA manifesto does not contain half the things
included in the plan.
The Freedom Alliance was formed
for electoral gains and not for the betterment of the country, something
the prudent voters must take note of. These two parties are so different
in policies and ideals, and have bartered their ideals to capture
political power. By doing so, the JVP has denied the country of a
Marxist option, which is what the people expect of them.
Also, don’t forget that the JVP
has a revolutionary ideology as well. It may be modernised to suit the
current socio-political needs, but it is a fundamental aspect of the
Marxist ideology. The future will be full of fresh problems. There will
be far greater bickering as well. Even if President Kumaratunga wants to
negotiate peace, the JVP will definitely scuttle it.
Q: But the JVP is agreeable to
conditional talks, as long as the people at a referendum would sanction
Why deal with racial elements to pursue peace in the first place? The
UNF did a better job. Flawed it may have been, but the UNF’s peace
process had great potential. As for the JVP, it is fundamentalist and
racial to the core and could only end up aggravating the issue than
The JVP cried foul about the
Manirasakulam Camp and demanded Kumaratunga to take over the defence
portfolio. They are maintaining stoic silence with regard to massive
truce violations since the new government came into being. The LTTE was
at war and over 11,000 people were displaced. Where was the promised
action? That’s the UPFA’s scorecard.
The UPFA has put this country in
great peril. The JVP could have given critical support and played a
constructive role in opposition. Instead, they have become part of this kenda
The JVP, for the first time is in
government. It is up to them to deliver now. Rhetoric got them there,
now is the time for deeds not words.
Q: Despite your criticism of the
JVP, the recent electoral results favoured the JVP and their strategies
have certainly paid off?
Of course. I do admit that the JVP markets itself well. This electoral
victory was purely of the JVP’s making. The election itself was of the
JVP’s seeking. If you seek a poll, you win that poll. This has
happened in 1960, 2001 and now in 2004.
I do not underestimate the JVP.
They are very good at psychological operations. Their campaign targeted
both the heart and the mind of the voter. Without them, the unattractive
PA would not have made it. The JVP has the best political network, the
most effective approach to the populace and gifted orators with mass
appeal to convey the message.
But, the JVP while increasing its
voter base has sacrificed its identity as the true alternative to the
UNP, the SLFP and left parties.
But, they can soon emerge as the
second political force, pushing the ineffective SLFP to the third slot
through attractive sloganistic politics. Yet, it has no solution to the
ethnic conflict and an economic policy that could deliver.
Q: In this backdrop, how do you
assess the UNP’s recent electoral performance?
As a government that lost its mandate in two years, the UNF must think
hard. It must introduce structural changes and heads must roll.
There are some good lessons to be
learned from the JVP as well. The UNF spent much on its campaign, but
lacked attractive packaging. It also lacks politicians who rise from
among the common people. Both the UNP and the SLFP do not ‘create’
leaders. Leaders assume office as if it is their birthright.
The JVP creates leaders at village
level and spends on them. It is also a party that has comprehensively
studied the Sri Lankan society and how to approach it politically, hence
its success in reaching out to the masses.
UNP too must learn to create
leaders, not give nominations to Colombo-bred people to suddenly take
root in villages after getting nominations. That is the strongest base
for any government.
Also, there is no future in
harping on the JVP’s past. People have decided to overlook beyond that
when they elected them into government. It is a new rural leadership
that is emerging through the JVP. We must understand all the lessons
contained in the electoral result and learn from them.