“For every evil under the sun
There is a remedy or there is none;
If there be one, try and find out;
If there be none, never mind it.”
- An old English Rhyme
The JVP is now often criticized by the political parties like SLMC and TNA as a racial party that obstructs finding a solution to the ethnic problems of Sri Lanka and acts against the political aspirations of the minorities. This is the view inculcated in the minds of the Tamils by the LTTE. Unfortunately TNA has to unavoidably recite the edict of the LTTE, but this is not the case for the SLMC.
Why then does the SLMC take every opportunity to accuse the JVP as the party against the Muslims and Tamils? Does the SLMC fall under the same LTTE’s umbrella like the TNA or that of the UNF? The SLMC has not proved their case against the JVP, but joyfully plays to the tune of their coalition partners, in particular, to that of the LTTE’s ‘Tiger purring.’
The political history of JVP has two phases; pre and post Rohana Wijeweera. Wijeweera was reported to have been killed on the order of the late defence minister, Ranjan Wijeratna at Kanatte Cemetery, when he was in the police custody. He was shot dead to put an end to his armed revolution.
The terrorist organization transformed into a democratic organization slowly after the infamous killing of their powerful and charismatic leader of armed revolution.
Rohana Wijeweera also contested for Presidential election pitched against J.R. Jayewardene in 1982 Presidential election.
Subsequently, JR expressed surprise that “I can’t see the purpose of people in Sri Lanka taking to violence. I can understand to some extent the Tamil people. But the Sinhalese people they have their freedom. Wijeweera, the leader of the Sinhalese terrorist groups contested me in the Presidential elections. I can’t see what they want.” (Silverarrow Nov.1987).
JR’s gaffe did not prevent the JVP transforming into a powerful political party in the next decade. However the JVP has not shed their patriotism. They still advocate that Sri Lanka is the country belonging to all the Sri Lankans, whether they are Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims and every citizen is equal and no one should be discriminated on the ground of his race, religion and ethnicity etc.
This principle goes along well with the fundamental rights that are enshrined in the country’s Constitution and even in the UN Human Right Charter. It is also undeniable that they have always been described as anti-LTTE on the point of separation of state and democracy. The JVP has been consistently holding this view since the Tamils voiced separatism. During the Eighties the over zealous patriotic views of the JVP under Wijewwera irked the Tamils. Is the JVP actually a racist party? If not why then are the JVP’ers are labeled as racists by the parties or groups with vested interests. The truth of the matter is that the JVP has changed a lot now after their entry into the democratic mainstream, but their legacy of anti-Tamil image lingers in the hearts of the Tamils.
During the regime of the former president, the late Premadasa the JVP’ers were hunted down by his government during their second phase of the armed revolution. Premadasa was all out to “crush their balls” and the state violations of human rights of the innocent Sinhalese and Tamil youths were rampant from North to the South under the notorious emergency law. On the other hand, the JVP also killed their political opponents, members of armed forces and the high profile members of other leftist organization in the South.
It was even alleged that they were the killers of the actor turned politician Wijaya Kumaranatunga. Immediately after the death of Premadasa, the pro LTTE monthly “Tamil Nation” of UK (April 1993) predicted that the “JVP, the radical Sinhala nationalist group in the South is a violent force that could try to profit by the likely political confusion in the country”. This prediction never came true, but the JVP utilized the space for entering into the democratic politics and indeed profited thereby. The JVP was earlier unmistakably seen as a party of the terrorists under Rohana Wjeweera when they believed in the bullets.
Mr. Liyanarachi , Attorney-at-law was one of the prominent JVP members from down south. He was a practicing lawyer at Huldtsdorf in late 1980’s and in early 1990’s. Somehow Udugampola, a senior police officer rightly identified him as the member of the JVP hierarchy. The writer recalls of his association with Liyanarachi as a colleague at Huldsdorf. He was not known to many, including the writer, that he was a hard core member of the JVP. His death revealed the truth.
The writer along with Mr Samsudeen attorney-at-Law and Liyanarachi had dined together on several days at the Bar canteen and seriously discussed politics. He was all out a leftist and uncompromising with the Tamil separatist claim and he was always hard on Tamils. He had a very strong personality, but with very few he had a kind of friendship. I found him to be an eccentric. He was also vociferous during his time in the Law College. He was killed whilst in police custody and the Bar Association staged several protest against his disappearance. He was tortured and subsequently he died of torture. His funeral was attended by the members of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka and it was ‘a journey of fear’ as we went past the Boosa camp, the notorious army detention camp, to his native village.
Although JVP entered into the mainstream of democratic politics by their leader Wijeweera contesting the presidential election, but not many Tamil and Muslim youths joined the JVP around that time. The writer recalls that there were a few staunch JVP Muslim members in the East from Oddamavadi to Akkaraipattu. Some of them had lived in exile when there were threats on to their lives from the Premadasa government. In the late 1970’s a handful of upcountry Tamil youths joined the JVP in the Universities. In the East, the writer remembers that some of the Tamil leftists in the Batticaloa districts (N.Shanmugathasan faction) preferred voting for Wijeweera to all other candidates during the Presidential election of 1982.
The JVP has emerged now as a democratic political party that has given up armed struggle and believes in the “Ballots” instead of “Bullets” and this transformation has been approved by the masses and the public support grow in terms of their representations in the parliament and the local bodies. It is not correct to say that the Sinhalese support the JVP in the South for their anti-LTTE stance; rather they perceive them as an alternative political force to the SLFP and UNP and believe that they will lead them to a better life in terms of quality.
The JVP is no longer a party of the Sinhalese youths who were disgruntled with the other parties, including the other leftist parties. Some political analysts say that during the time of the Tsunami, JVP was the only political organization or party to rush to help the victims in the Tsunami affected areas and earned a reputation from the minority communities as a party they could trust than their own political parties or organizations. This was a feather in the cap of the JVP. The JVP may also have learned that they need a lot of changes to be a party to all the Sri Lankans like other major parties. This image setting has also created a fear among both the Tamil and Muslim major political parties, as they claim to be the sole representatives.
The JVP has crept through the space that was created by the tsunami and attracted a sizeable number of the Tamil and Muslim communities. In Maruthamunai some Muslim youths openly admitted that they were impressed by the JVP. This intrusion alerted the Muslim leaderships, irrespective of their party affiliations. They know well that the JVP has two Muslim MP’s in the parliament one as a national list MP and one Muslim elected from Kandy electoral district to look after the Eastern affairs.
The SLMC has made the presidential election a propaganda war against the JVP. They are bent to falsely propagate JVP as a Sinhalese chauvinist party. There was a time, in particular when Wijeweera contested for the Presidential election in 1982, the JVP was condemned by the Muslim members of the major political parties, as a party of communists, who were against religions, and they speculated that they would close all the mosques and no one would be allowed to profess their faiths. As far as the Muslims were concerned this has been proved wrong now by the fact that Anjan Umma is the only JVP Muslim lady MP, who is seen clad in her religious garb. This is even challenging the religious appearance of Mrs Ferial Ashroff who is the widow of the founder member of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.
When the P-Toms was signed between the LTTE and the government, JVP went to court and got suspended the P-Toms, as it conferred disproportionate power on the LTTE. This indeed gave rise to the claim that the JVP was against the Tamils. The JVP categorically denied that they were against the Tamils, but they admitted that they were opposed to the distribution of state power to a non democratic organization. The party which benefited by the court order is the SLMC, but it kept numb about it and joined their coalition partner UNF to condemn the JVP as a racist party. This condemnation goes on and on as the presidential election approaches.
The leader of the SLMC is a vocal opponent of the JVP and he even calls that Mahinda Rajapakse as the prisoner of the JVP. During the last general elections Rauff Hakeem boasted that the SLMC had fettered Ranil Wickramasigghe by getting him to sign their electoral pact. He virtually meant that Ranil was their “prisoner”. Although he claimed that his strategy was a “win-win” situation in finding a solution to the Tamil-Muslim questions. He has ultimately admitted that the TNA and the LTTE look them down as “jokers”.
He spoke in a recent Presidential propaganda meeting that “Our people's mandate to Ranil is for winning our right for self-determination and for getting self-autonomy. TNA parliamentarians are ridiculing our agreement with Ranil and they are not different from JVP leader Wimal Weerawansa on that matter.” (LankaMuslims 09 November 20050).
It is a coincidence that UNP stalwarts like Navin Dissanayake and Milinda Morogada have come out with stories of conspiracy in dealing with the LTTE. Mr.Hakeem has become a “laughing stock” in the eyes of the TNA and the LTTE, whilst becoming a “prisoner” of UNP in the eyes of the JVP.
The Tamils view of JVP in the past.
If we look at how some Tamil political pundits and their media looked at the JVP in the past, it may be interesting that the JVP was not alleged as a racist party as they call it now.
Then Seithy ( The South News) a Tamil news bulletin, published a news item in their issue of 01 September 1997 quoting a Hindu columnist that the JVP and LTTE would join hands to fight the government. This was a political forecast of a Hindu columnist, but the bottom-line is that the LTTE propagandists were exuberant to highlight the news in their bulletin. They made no comment of the news but apparently drew a parallel with the JVP. The bulletin was published by the “World Tamilar Organization” in Tamilnadu. The Tamils were once happy to be associated with the JVP in their fight against the Sri Lankan Government, the common enemy. Around the time, The World Tamilar Organization was actively involved in South India to remove the stains of the Rajiv’s blood from the hands of the LTTE. They teamed up with their henchmen like Pala Nedumaran, Suba Veerapandiyan , Arivumathy (Poet) Abdul Jabbar (Broadcaster- who even confirmed with the writer in an email that he wanted to be identified as a Tamil).He also wrote a preface to a biography of LTTE Supremo Prabakaran.
Unfortunately, in South India the LTTE’s struggle is still better known than the atrocities that the LTTE unleashed on the Muslims. This is tragic and poets like Metha (Mohamed Metha) , Inkulab (A non practicing Muslim) and Kavikko Abdurrahuman have written poems in praise of LTTE’s valour in the light of Purananuru A compilation of Tamil classical poems of the Sanga era that speaks of Tamils’ “ heroism”. This view even reflected in the speech of the Leader of Tamil Nadu Muslim League during his last visit to Sri Lanka early this year. The only prominent Muslim religionist group under the leadership of Mr.P.Jainulabdeen (Ulavi) condemns LTTE for the atrocities it committed on the Sri Lankan Muslims in their Unarvuhal bulletins.
In 1988, the Tamil perception of the JVP was quite clearly different. It was an incident where two bombs exploded at Kathiresan Temple Bambalapitiya during the Sivarathiry religious festival. The Tamil Times cited this as incident as follows:-
“ No one or group has so far claimed responsibility for this outrage, but suspicions have predictably fallen on the JVP. However, it must be observed that although the JVP had engaged itself in a variety of attack since July 1987, none have so far directed at members of the country’s Tamil community. (Tamil Times February 1988) Two bombs exploded at Kathiresan Hindu Temple on 16th Feb 1988.
After a decade, the Tamils had failed to correctly weigh down the JVP. In 1998, the Tamil Guardian was also glad to have news published concerning the JVP. The Guardian reported about the Warning of Wimal Weerawansa, a JVP leader, while addressing the party’s central committee meeting on October 14. (“JVP warns of anti-Tamil violence” (Tamil Guardian Saturday 07 November 1998). It was reported as Wimal Weerawansa has said that “While body bag of soldiers continues to arrive all over the country, “They approach those families who have lost their sons to promote their racist slogan- let us kill the Tamils.”
Panimalar ( ” July- August 1993) , a Tamil quarterly published in the UK also predicted that the JVP will rise again against the exploitation of the multinational companies that burden the shoulders of the masses and against the fascist obstruction.
Now the reality is that no lasting peace can be achieved in Sri Lanka without all the parties being involved. Mr. John Hume, the Noble Laureate and former leader of SDLP of Northern Ireland, shared his experience of peace with Sri Lankan peace makers. He put quite rightly that “the conditions of peace settlement must be discussed and decided on by the representatives of all political groups, so that there is a coconscious of opinion regarding the decision taken. All parties’ representatives must be included. This means the JVP too. He also categorically insisted that all other Tamil parties should take part in the peace process. He also made his point clearly on the wider Muslim interest. He said that the Muslim interest, especially those in the east cannot he suppressed or truncated by being represented only by SLMC.”
JVP is not a racist party as the TNA, the LTTE and the SLMC propagate for their own political mileage. It cannot be denied that the JVP needs changes to transform into a party to represent all Sri Lankans. But the fact remains that the propaganda that is waged against the JVP by the UNF, SLMC, LTTE and the TNA is purely cynical and political. It is inevitable that the JVP will become one of the major parties to be reckoned with, in the near future.
Asian Tribune 12/11/2005
Description: Whither JVP a racist party? – A perspective
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