By Alex Rajasinghe
Once upon a time there was the CP, LSSP and other parties and they called themselves socialists. But, most of them like N.M. Perera, Colvin R. De Silva, Leslie Gunewardane, Peter Kenueman, Bernard Soyza belonged to a different class and their education was different.
They never could be real socialists however much they tried to because in their hearts they knew where they belonged.
We only saw them marching in May Day parades in red t. Shirts with their poor comrades. Then came the likes of Sarath Muttetuwegama, DEW Gunasekara, Batty Weerakoon, Tissa Vitharana, Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Wickremabahu Karunaratne. They couldn’t become socialists either though that great human being late Sarath Muttetuwegama came very close to becoming one and Prof Tissa Vitharana continues to remain very humble. Of course these parties boasted of members who were really humble, poor. They believed in socialism. Those days they were invited to visit Moscow and China. Some of them belonged to Peking wing and others to Moscow wing. Socialism was divided even then.
Then came the JVP. They told us “We are poor people. We are the real socialists because we know the suffering of the people. We can make a change. We have the youth with us. ” But, the JVP and its firebrand leader Rohana Wijeweera did not stop at that.He and the JVP tried to over throw the government not once but, twice and take over the country. First time they tried to overthrow the government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike and second time the government of JR Jayewardene and R. Premadasa. Both times their rebellions ended in bloodshed and disaster with many youth sacrificing their lives to keep the dream of their leaders who misled them.
Having given up arms the JVP entered the mainstream and attracted many youth, mainly with their military style and disciplined May Day Parades, poster campaigns and firebrand oratory whilst their older socialist comrades like DEW mainly attended cocktail parties of the socialist countries. The JVP portrayed them as the third force. They were refreshing to many and people suddenly saw them leading by example. Even the likes of late Lakshman Kadirgamar was impressed by their attitude, punctuality and the thought process.
But, suddenly they lost it all. First they tried to play politics with Chandrika Kumaratunga, Mahinda Rajapaksa and even Lakshman Kadirgamar. I do not think for a moment they liked Mahinda mainly because Mahinda is from south the JVP stronghold and Mahinda’s closeness to the people. Having failed with Chandrika to make Kadirgamar Prime Minister purely to save their skin later the JVP gave in eventually to fall out with Chandrika. The JVP campaigned aggressively in 2005 for Mahinda when even Chandrika and several SLFP stalwarts refused to extend support to SLFP candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa. Several people advised Mahinda to go for a general election after his victory. However, to show his gratitude to the JVP, Mahinda did not go for an early parliamentary election.
The ‘socialist’ JVP could not for long work with Mahinda either. May be because they lost all their slogans to Mahinda Rajapaksa. He ended terrorism, reached out at village level, gave a generous fertiliser subsidy to the farmers and reached out to the masses. The end result was the JVP lost both their pants and the masses. Rajapaksa did not distance himself from the common man though his ministers did. Breakaway UNP members filled the vacuum created by the JVP and held Rajapaksa to steady the government. People lose faith in the JVP with the denim wearing old gentleman and a relative of a former UNP strongman, Somawansa Amarasinghe from Queens England.
He became a joke to many and made people distance themselves from the JVP. Tilvin remains Tilvin and the Rasputin of the JVP Weerawansa and others split and extended their support to Rajapaksa. JVP which only attended the Indian national day celebrations at the India House slowly started to attend cocktails and functions of even other embassies. The ‘socialist comrades’ who wore lounge suits for these events were photographed. In fact they had joined old comrades like DEW Gunasekara in the cocktail circuit in Colombo. As I write this I read in the newspapers that the old Communist Party is celebrating its 69th anniversary on 10th July. What a coincidence.
Tilvin Silva was never a factor. To me he represents a ‘socialist’ in the same shirt and trouser he wears. (Only thing is that he wears the same shirt and trouser and looks like a ‘socialist’ to me.) Weerawansa who is a minister is living a life of wealthy capitalist and betrayed the cause of the JVP and the people who voted for him.
The Sunday Times published a story that he is using 30 vehicles and that not only Weerawansa but even that his ministry is in a mess. Newspapers even ridiculed his chance meeting with Che Guevara’s family during President Rajapaksa’s visit to Havana in Cuba. Cartoons have appeared of the pseudo socialist carrying expensive cell phones and touring the world. Looks like he is no ‘socialist’ either and he only will have to put his foot further in the mouth.
JVP has now even split further with another group with an Australian flavour challenging them. The ‘socialists’ have two newspapers and even their radio station V FM was sold to a capitalist businessman Minister from Kurunegala who crossed over from the UNP.
So where is the old guard? Where have all the old and young comrades gone to? Are the socialists with Mahinda Rajapaksa’s party or Ranil Wickremasinghe’s UNP? Do people consider Mahinda and Ranil the biggest socialists of this country??? Did the ‘socialists’ lose all their slogans and have no one to borrow them from? Or will Hemakumara Nanayakkara become a socialist.
Someone recently commented that Sri Lanka has got only socialites now, with even the socialists joining them. May be the Editor of the famous HI Magazine Shyamalee Tudawe will have a list of the socialite socialists! But, we are still the socialist democratic republic of Sri Lanka. Named by none other than late President J.R. Jayewardene known as Yankee Dicky who opened the economy in 1977.
I got the idea to pen this article having seen a picture of JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe greeting US Ambassador Butenis at the American Independence day. The picture had the caption “Imperialist? Pah! She good friend”
Will the real socialists, IF any in Sri Lanka PLEASE step forward? We need you. courtesy: Daily Mirror