(Text of Editorial appearing in “The Island” of 2nd November 2022 under the heading Reds on high horse)
Cantankerous, holier-than-thou politicians are a dime a dozen in this country, which is badly in need of some honest, capable leaders. So, there is no dearth of braggadocio, and streams of invective on the political front. Many are the self-proclaimed messiahs who offer to deliver the hapless masses from suffering if they are voted into power.
The JVP would have the public believe that it has become popular enough to form the next government. It claims that the main political parties have ruined the country and incurred the wrath of the public; they are not equal to the task of solving the economic crisis, and therefore it is now in a position to capture state power. Hope is said to spring eternal, and anyone is free to dream or cherish delusions.
The JVP’s core ideology is the political version of katta sambol, which is so hot that it can make anyone who overconsumes it bolt for miles like a Raramuri runner. So, it is as unwise as making katta sambol a main dish to hand over the reins of government to the JVP. That is why the JVP has not been able to secure more than a few seats in Parliament under its own steam. It succeeded in having 39 of its candidates returned at the 2004 general election because it coalesced with the SLFP under the UPFA banner. It would not have been able to perform so well on its own. It failed to manage its electoral fortunes and has been reduced to three seats in the current Parliament. It says it will contest the next general election alone. The challenge before it is to win 110 more seats to muster a working majority, which is 113!
JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake has launched into a tirade against all other political parties, which, he says, have taken the people for a ride. One could not agree with him more; they are guilty as charged. They have ruined the country jointly and severally. Now, the SLPP and the UNP have come together to share power and safeguard the interests of their leaders on the pretext of saving the nation; their election manifestos are like chalk and cheese.
Dissanayake’s predecessor, Somawansa Amarasinghe, famously called the UNP, the SLFP, etc., political kerb crawlers. But the JVP has failed to be different from the political parties that have offered their services to the SLFP, the UNP and the SLPP. It has also earned notoriety for what may be called political promiscuity.
The JVP backed the SLFP-led United Front coalition in 1970, and staged an armed uprising against the latter, the following year. Thereafter, it got close to J. R. Jayewardene’s government, which released its leaders from prison after the 1977 regime change, so much so that its critics called it the Jayewardene Vijeweera Peramuna.
It bashed the SLFP and its leader Sirimavo Bandaranaike, much to the glee of Jayewardene, and contested the 1982 presidential election, causing a split in the anti-UNP vote. A few years later, it took up arms against the Jayewardene regime. It played softball with President Ranasinghe Premadasa, and then took him on, and met its match in him. The rest is history.
It reached an understanding with Prime Minister Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga ahead of the 1994 presidential election, which she won. In 2004, it chose to ride on President Kumaratunga’s sari pota, obtained 39 seats and had representation in her Cabinet. Then it pulled out of the UPFA coalition. The following year, it campaigned hard to ensure Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election as the President in spite of having striven to prevent President Kumaratunga from appointing him the Prime Minister the previous year! Mahinda would not have been able to secure the presidency without the JVP’s backing; he did not receive enough support from his own party, the SLFP.
About a year later, the JVP turned on the Rajapaksa government, and, together with the UNP and the TNA, even tried to bring it down, at the height of war, by voting against Budget 2008! In late 2014, it threw its weight behind Maithripala Sirisena in the presidential race and joined the Yahapalana government’s National Executive Council after the 2015 regime change. It sided with Ranil Wickremesinghe’s UNP when President Sirisena and the SLPP tried to dislodge the UNF government in October 2018. Now, it is inveighing against President Wickremesinghe!
Thus, politically speaking, the JVP has shared a bed with every political party/leader since 1970, and the question is whether it can absolve itself of the blame for what successive governments have done to the country.