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World Affairs








Mihin, BoC directors face court action

Why the JVP knocked Wimal off his pedestal

With husband Wimal spinning a web
around his party it seems Spiderman
has given the Weerawansa a tip or two

By Polyanna

For long, the JVP's now dethroned spokesman Wimal Weerawansa was not only a political kingpin; able to pull strings, influence the UPFA administration, give employment to close associates at government institutions in mere seconds and to remove them, but also the unofficial leader of the JVP.

So powerful was he that his fall came as an incredible shock, caused by the very party that elevated him to such heights. The cadres and the average citizen always felt that there was no JVP without the charismatic presence of Weerawansa only to realise that the JVP adopts its own pruning techniques and practices them well.

As fate would have it, not only does Weerawansa find himself in the political fringes, shamed and exposed for his covert links with the government both political and business that precipitated his fall.

But the JVP insiders who have pledged allegiance to the current leadership feel that Weerawansa simply overestimated his own popularity and hijacked the party's opinion for years without understanding that there would be a day of reckoning for him.

Parallel political organisation 

It is given that the JVP that now criticises Weerawansa for creating a 'parallel political organisation,' namely the National Patriotic Movement (NPM), does allow and promote the concept of  'infiltration' through affiliated organisations. It is largely through those arms that the party affiliated unions increase membership and all sectors get invaded.

It is simply that two things happened simultaneously. Weerawansa was indeed building himself to the level of national leadership from within the JVP and was no longer happy to pay second fiddle in a party that he believed was dependent on his personality and oratorical skills. Likewise, the Somawansa led old guard felt sufficiently threatened by the growing popularity of the younger politician and felt the need to curb him. But it could not be done suddenly without risking a massive split and losing party cadres who might feel Weerawansa was a wronged man.

For his part, Wimal Weerawansa for a while had been playing into their hands. If anyone provided the party hierarchy with reasons for expulsion, it was Weerawansa himself.

For a man who prides himself for being a smart player, today Weerawansa is made to grapple with reality and pay a huge political price, with fresh charges including 'fictionalising the party' being framed against him by the JVP's decision making body, the Central Committee.

Pricey mobile telephone

The fall from grace, originally stemmed from Weerawansa's alleged business links with the government. This newspaper from time to time highlighted some of those incidents including his involvement with the vanaspathi issue which the President no less had mentioned and how he came to own a pricey mobile telephone which was a 'gift' for a business favour done to a businessman.

Then there was the sexual harassment charge levelled against Weerawansa by a former Lake House employee who was sent on punishment transfer after she complained over the issue.

Besides, there was a charge that the JVP was politically worried about - according to a senior politburo member from the Amarasinghe camp -  the life-style of the Weerawansa family. He notes that the party policy was 'frugal living' for members and especially office bearers and that the life-style and the associated opulence of the Weerawansa family with trips to Disneyland and Hollywood questioned by the membership.

"We have been defenceless at times. Some newspapers have been slandering Weerawansa and the JVP for all his faults. But we have to admit that where his extravagant life-style was concerned, there was some credence to those theories," adds the party senior.

Part of the problem

And party General Secretary, Tilvin Silva appeared on private television and openly claimed Wimal's spouse Shirsha Udayanthi to be part of the problem. "That lady obviously has political ambitions. She has been trying to do various things and we have warned Weerawansa against the conduct of his wife. This is not the UPFA or the UNP. Our political example is different, and this applies to our families as well," Silva said.

Now, besides framing fresh charges, the JVP believes that their spokesman has gone well beyond the 'limits of decency' to try and patch up. He insists: "We tried to bring him back. We gave him an opportunity to explain. He only answered some charges and simply avoided answering others. This is the end of the road. He will die a natural death politically."

As if to illustrate this point, when Weerawansa conducted a press conference on May 7 at the National Library Auditorium,  a tense situation arose when Western Provincial Councilor Priyantha Bellana and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Councillor Priyanjith Vitharana got entangled with other members in the audience.

A JVP Madagama Pradeshiya Sabha Member, Umarau Lebbe Kiyas alleged that there was a conspiracy against the 'true' JVP, angrily claiming that he was brought to the media conference for the 'purported' reason of attending a conference on sugar cane cultivation in Moneragala in which he was interested as a Moneragala representative.

Trying to 'buy them'

A fuming Kiyas alleged that there were many JVP volunteers who worked for the party without accepting any money, but the group that organised the media meeting was trying to 'buy them.'

The JVP old guard now justifies the ouster of Weerawansa with a few examples. The opulent lifestyle, the business links, creating an alternate political group with a hidden agenda and for hijacking party opinion. What is openly not stated are the specific charges of corruption, a fact that the JVP is still keen to conceal given that the party's reputation would take a further nosedive if details were divulged.  

Then enters former presidential candidate and party frontliner Nandana Gunathileka. This MP, a slight misfit amongst the fire breathing Marxists slowly aligned himself to the SLFP and began gradually fading out of the JVP. To facilitate the move, he also left for Canada, appearing in parliament only to have his leave extended.

Weerawansa who habitually pounces on those who defected or went against JVP's ideology with absolute contempt showed magnanimity towards defector Gunathileka throughout.

Crucial budget vote

Then came the December 14, 2007 crucial budget vote, fought with the same intensity as any actual election. That's when Weerawansa elected to throw a lifeline in government's way and put a smile on the President's brother and advisor, Basil Rajapakse's otherwise worried face. In order to do that, he did battle at the opposition lobby and locked horns with K. D. Lalkantha and Anura Kumara Dissanayake.

The last minute change of stance, the JVP owed to Weerawansa. And the resultant deterioration of the JVP's popularity given that the Marxists' shamelessly hitched their wagon to a government that increased the tax burden on the masses.

And now, the JVP is ready to go all out to isolate Wimal Weerawansa as the party feels there was no point in negotiating with a 'goner.'

Despite the high profile state of the dissident, well informed party sources said, "We can't turn a blind eye to his private deals with the Rajapakse administration." And added: "They want to run the JVP by remote control through Weerawansa. We can't ignore the threat posed to the party by government strategists."

 A top JVP official said that out of the party's 37-member parliamentary group 10 had challenged the party's authority and claimed that the first defector was Kalutara District MP Nandana Gunathileka who has since then worked not only with the government but also with Weerawansa to break the party.

Eastern election campaign

What's more, the  JVP now accuses Weerawansa of plotting to have Trincomalee MP Jayantha Wijesekera in remand with a view to destroying the party's eastern election campaign.

Come May 27, the JVP will also hold its fifth party convention at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium, ahead of schedule with a view to officially clipping Weerawansa's wings.

Not only him, insiders say that the party will zero in on Piyasiri Wijenayake, Jayantha Samaraweera and Achala Suranga Jagoda who are aiding Weerawansa to attempt capturing the party leadership.

 The JVP is furious with Wijenayake particularly for launching an ambitious signature collection campaign from other dissidents for a petition to be submitted to the Secretary General of Parliament, Dhammika Kitulegoda requesting their salaries not be credited to the JVP party account from the date of receipt. The JVP accuses that all these decisions are taken at the Borella headquarters of the National Patriotic Movement (NPM).

Revealing party strategy

And firing salvos is party General Secretary, Tilvin Silva who accuses Weerawansa of revealing party strategy to the government and making the JVP politically vulnerable as well as allowing the SLFP-led ruling coalition to manipulate party opinion in its favour using Weerawansa. He has repeatedly accused Weerawansa by now, of being engineered by the government to revolt with the hope that Weerawansa would be able to break the party.

It is not just Silva's belief but also of the party's that having survived two bloody crackdowns in 1971 and 1987-1989, that the defection of a handful led by a single personality would create a dent. "What happened to the other leftist parties in Sri Lanka won't happen to us. Others simply allow the parties to decline. The JVP has always emerged stronger. We need cadres who love this country, not those who seek self-glorification," adds a JVP frontliner.

And he concludes: "The problem with Weerawansa and his politically ambitious wife Shirsha was that they sought to control the party. They wanted to live unlike other members, and this was their downfall. They forgot they were in a truly Marxist outfit. We have no reason to risk a party's political future and its reputation built over years, for a handful of politicians full of self importance." 

Fresh charges against Wimal

As divisions become more apparent and the two camps stand firmly apart, JVP dissident group leader Wimal Weerawansa is now facing fresh charges in addition to the charges framed against him by the party's Central Committee.

JVP frontliner and group leader aspirant, MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake on Monday told the media that Weerawansa now faced fresh charges in addition to questions on his conduct and breach of confidence.

Accordingly, Dissanayake claims that Weerawansa had exposed an internal matter to the outside, used parliament as a forum to attack his party without settling matters from within and had seriously breached party discipline by factionalising the party.

Dissanayake interestingly noted that Weerawansa would soon be replaced as parliamentary group leader and a fresh appointment would be made shortly by the party's decision-making body, the Central Committee.


Wimal Weerawansa: A profile

Full name: Weerasangilige Wimal Weerawansa

Aliases: Wimalasiri Gamlath and Wanshanatha

Address: No: 570/5, Siyambalape, Mawaramandiya, Kadawatha. (former) No 26 B, Eight Lane, Ananda Balika Mawatha, Pita Kotte (former) 198/19, Panchikawatte Road, Colombo 10. (office) 163/6/1,Vimukthi Mawatha, Pittugala, Malabe (disclosed private address)

Date of birth: March  7, 1970

Occupation: JVP parliamentarian for Colombo District

Civil status: Married. Wife: Ranasinghe Mudiyanselage Shirsha Udayanthi

Date of birth: February 1, 1967

NIC No:  675320233V 

Children: Son - Wibhuthi Wishwajith Weerawansa (8) Daughter - Wimasha Wishwadari Weerawansa (4)

Haunts: No. 14, Modarawatte, Palena, Weligama; "Savithri," Makewita, Malegoda, Matara; No. 59, Rit Rit Park, Kekanadura, Matara

Associates: Members of the JVP politburo, Central Committee members and other active members of the JVP.

Passport No: M1691301

NIC No: 700670805V

Position in the party:  Propaganda Secretary of the JVP; Politburo member of the JVP; Co-ordinating secretary of the JVP for Western Province Members of Parliament representing Colombo since 2000. Currently functions as Group Leader of the JVP in parliament.

Personal description: Height: 5'  4"

Complexion: Brown

Appearance: Slim and bearded. Hair parted in the middle and combed backwards.

Educational Qualifications: Was admitted as a student of Tissa  Central College, Kalutara on January 1, 1977. Sat for his G.C.E. O/L Examination in 1986 and passed obtaining  2 Distinctions (D),  3 Credit  passes (C) and  3 Ordinary passes (S). After passing the G.C. E. (O/L) Examination in 1986, he attended the G.C.E. (A/L) classes. He studied in the Arts Stream at Tissa Central, Kalutara. On April 30,1989, the school principal terminated  his studentship on the grounds of prolonged absence from classes. In 1998, he submitted an application to sit for one subject (English language) at the G.C.E.  (O/L) Examination, but failed to turn up at the examination centre. On March  9, 1990, he obtained his school- leaving certificate (No. 204716) from Tissa Central College, Kalutara.

Family background: Father - Weerasangilige Podineris.  Was a dancing teacher at Velapura Maha Vidyalaya,  Kalutara. Professional drummer and dancer who had performed with Niththawala Gunaya Gurunnase. Podineris Gurunnase received the Kala Wibhushana award from President Ranasinghe Premadasa for his contribution to the performing arts. It has been falsely publicised that he died on May 22, 1992 whereas he actually passed away a decade later.

Mother:  Wadachcharige Salie - residing at 59, Rit Rit Park, Kekanadura, Matara.

Brother: Sarath Weerawansa. Represented Matara Municipal Council from 1997 to 2002. Currently functions as a full time JVP activist.

Elder sisters: Weerasangilige Sumanawathie. Married to Wadachcharige Hemasiri, a carpenter by profession. They live at "Savithri," Makewita, Malegoda, Matara.

Younger sister: Chandani Weerawansa. Unemployed. Lives with the mother at the Kekanadura residence.

Younger sister: NilaniWeerawansa. Unemployed. Resides at the Kekanadura residence.     

Involvements: Published articles in pro-JVP periodicals Lakdiva and Hiru in order to propagate the policies of the JVP. Functioned as the president of the Peoples' Movement for Freedom (Nidahasa Udesa Janatha Viyaparaya). At the general elections held on August 16, 1994, contested the Matara District as a candidate of the Sri Lanka Progressive Front (SLPF) and polled 302 votes. Participated in the summit meeting of the JVP held on May 15,1995 at the Tangalle Urban Council hall where he was appointed propaganda secretary of the JVP. At the local government elections held on March 21,1997, he submitted his nomination papers to contest the Colombo District and was elected a member of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) by obtaining the ration of preferential votes. He unsuccessfully contested the Western  Provincial Council (WPC) elections on the JVP ticket for the Colombo District. The JVP hierarchy nevertheless appointed him as a member of the WPC. Successfully contested the general elections held on October 10, 2000 on the JVP ticket for Colombo District and was elected. He obtained 13,284 preferential votes. Successfully contested the general elections held  on December  5, 2002 on the JVP ticket for the Colombo District and was elected, obtaining 19,128 preferential votes. In 2004, he once again was elected to parliament polling the second highest preferential votes from the entire Colombo District, coming second to UNP Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe. Active member of Patriotic National Movement (PNM).

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