“Ours is a country battered by imperialism” – Tilvin Silva

tilvin_silva_1The JVP is for socialism with modern Sri Lankan characteristics

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) General Secretary Tilvin Silva, in an interview with the Dailymirror , said his party opts for socialism with modern characteristics rather than deviating from the party’s original principles, policies and objectives.  Excerpts of the interview:

The JVP, played a role in the 100-day government by participating in the deliberations of the National Executive Council (NEC). What would be the JVP role after the General Election?

At the January 8th Presidential Election, our focus was to defeat the authoritarian family rule of then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.  A large force rallied behind the move to unseat him. We also made a contribution to it. More than Mr. Rajapaksa as an individual, we defeated his family rule. During the 100-day programme, we were instrumental in establishing certain things for establishing good governance and strengthening democracy.  Now our challenge lies is to make sure that the people’s aspirations are upheld. It can be done only by the increase of JVP’s parliamentary representation.

After been unseated, how do you see Mr. Rajapaksa’s  re-entry into active politics?

It is not the mere question of Mr. Rajapaksa getting nomination. Along with him, his aides, charged with various allegations, have joined him  The same forces that were rejected by people at the January 8th election, are now raising their heads.

But, the enactment of the 19th Amendment does not leave room for authoritarian rule in the country again. What are your views?

We are certain that Mr. Rajapaksa alone cannot form a government after the next election. His comeback [to politics] need not be feared because he is not with executive presidential powers but a person unseated from office. He has not only lost the party chairmanship, but  contesting from a district which is not his home base. It is similar to an Inspector General of Police (IGP) trying to be an Officer-in- Charge (OIC) of a police station.  We can contribute towards his defeat.

Do you regret supporting President [ Maithripala Sirisena] at the presidential election, at least indirectly?

We are satisfied with what we did. We asked for the defeat of the family rule and it happened. We also asked people not to  shop at   one place because we could not give quality assurance for what was available for sale at other places. We defeated Mr. Rajapaksa’s regime, a step taken to strengthen democracy. If there are attempts to scuttle the process, we will intervene.

Is the enactment of the 19th Amendment the only gain of the 100- day government?

Along with it, there were some concessions given to people by way of reducing fuel prices and so on. But, many other promises were not kept. Some steps were taken in allegations of corruption and fraud.   [On such issues], we made our own investigations and lodged complaints. Now, we see cases pending before court. Earlier, there was only political rhetoric about fraud and corruption.

In your view, what is the reason for that?

The UNP leaders and the President have second thought on taking action regarding certain cases. The President did not press for action on certain cases involving his own party men fearing it would be an obstacle to consolidate his position in the party.  The UNP also ruined its name; the Central Bank bond scam and their interference with the Sri Lanka Customs.

In the event, the JVP gains parliamentary majority to form a government, what would be your priorities?

We will consolidate democracy and good governance in conformity with public aspirations. Immediate attention is needed to address them. We need to identify strategies in a  manufacturing economy.   Our natural resources should also be utilised and local entrepreneurs and those in agriculture given more opportunities.

In the education sector, a serious crisis is looming. Annually, 360,000 children are enrolled in secondary education schools, but 60,000 drop out before Grade 11. Only 25,000 students get the chance for university education. It means thousands of students do not have access to higher studies and our education system does not create opportunities for them. We have to create an education system with broadened opportunities for children and linked to the needs of economic development.  Unemployment is a serious problem in our country. Annually, 300,000 persons enter the job market. But, both the government and private sectors can accommodate only 65,000. The increase of unemployed youth leads to various social problems..   Housing is yet another problem.   Our transport sector is not up to the mark. People waste time on roads travelling. The issue has to be addressed. An increase in crime is also visible in the country. Police reports say that instances of rape are reported every three hours. We have as many as 100,000 drug addicts. It means one drug addict (kudu karaya) for every 50 households.  We have learned that 23 school children have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and that fourteen persons commit suicide every day.  Depression and despondency prevail in society.

There is a wide perception that the JVP has deviated from its founding policies and principles, and instead, has chosen issue- based political approaches. What is your response?

Our political opponents, particularly those who defected from our party, raise this matter from time to time. But, none of them has gained by being engaged in politics different to ours.  Politically, they have vanished into thin air. The JVP has not deviated from its founding idea of creating a ‘socialist society with modern characteristics’. But we cannot achieve that target without public support.  The JVP should evolve in the present context, but it does not mean a change of policies.   A political system remaining   static will get outdated with the passage of time. Today, the geo-political situation has changed.  In the past, armed struggles were launched to capture power. Today, it is not applicable and the JVP believes it should achieve political power through democratic means.

What do you mean by ‘socialist society with modern characteristics’?

To a great extent, we can learn about socialism from its adoption in Soviet Russia. Then, there is socialism of Cuba and China.  Certain characteristics of socialism were based upon the degree of advancement in science and technology at a given time. So, we need a modern form of socialism conjoined with the latest advancements. Socialism does not advocate the replacement of tractors with buffaloes in agriculture. It advocates production growth through modernity in all sectors.

Does it mean you are for socialism with Sri Lankan characteristics?

Of course, we have to adapt it our culture. Ours is a country still battered by imperialism; but, we have patriotic feelings and sentiments . We have to preserve our cultural values, ethos and strengthen family and social links that had languished  under capitalism

Listen to your conscience – Comrade Anura Dissanayake

anura-dissanayake-img_8582_fmtThe JVP supported the election of the current president with hopes of a great change in the country. What are your thoughts on the progress so far? Have the promises been fulfilled?

Our primary aim was to topple the Rajapaksa regime. At that time we explained to the people that the Rajapaksa regime should be removed from power, but we cannot guarantee whether the new government will fulfill their promises. We wanted the people to organise themselves to safeguard their rights. The current government is a temporary one, because what usually happens is that soon after a presidential election is held, there is a general election. This time the agreement was that within 100 days of the presidential election, the general election was to be held. That was because there were major areas to sort out before holding the elections; that is constitutional amendments, legal amendments, punish those who had committed fraud and corruption as well as crimes, and relief for the people in terms of reduction in prices. Those were the main responsibilities that this government had to perform. But when we look at the progress of this government since January 8, they have failed to fulfill the promises that they made to the people.

If you look at the current cabinet, there are more ministers than promised and most of them are those who worked against President Sirisena, what are your thoughts on this?

On January 8, the people defeated not President Mahinda Rajapaksa, actually more than him, the people were disappointed with his Cabinet ministers and MPs. Usually the people are more displeased with the leader and less with the government, however, this time it was the other way around. The mandate that President Sirisena received on January 8, was not against President Mahinda Rajapaksa alone, but also against his Cabinet ministers, deputies and MPs, especially their actions and involvement in crimes, corruption and fraud. They were involved in illegal alcohol and ethanol businesses as well as treasure hunting. It was against all of this that the people gave their mandate to President Sirisena.

President Sirisena should understand why the people elected him as the leader of this country, their hopes and aspirations. What we see today is the same old game as before, nothing has changed. President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his time created a culture of providing incentives and benefits to individuals to maintain his power. The best example is that even close to the presidential elections he took the general secretary of the UNP and gave him a ministerial post just for 20 days. It was against all of this that President Sirisena was elected. But the incumbent president too, in order to maintain his power is doing the same thing as there is a power struggle within the SLFP between two sections-Mahinda group and Maithripala group. In order to strengthen the Maithripala group he has used his presidential powers. That is why we find more and more ministers being sworn in. We have seen that he does not hesitate to give ministerial posts to whoever supports him in Parliament.

He has bestowed Senior Advisor positions to former Prime Ministers D M Jayaratne and Ratnasiri Wickramanayake of the previous regime. Former Prime Minister D M Jayaratne has been accused of helping those involved in the drug business. We can see that Maithripala Sirisena is following in the footsteps of Mahinda Rajapaksa where he is granting positions, ministerial posts and other benefits in order to maintain his power. This is totally against the mandate that the people gave him on January 8.

During the presidential elections there was a lot of talk about mega deals and corruption, however nothing has been proven either in Sri Lanka or abroad. What are your thoughts?

It takes time to investigate assets and funds that may be abroad. However, there are many misdeeds that we can see right in front of us, even investigations into those activities have been halted. There are many reasons for this, from one side Maithripala Sirisena is thinking that those he has to investigate and punish are members of the SLFP central committee, SLFP district leaders and also his ministers. Due to the division and struggles he faces within his party, he thinks that if he punishes these people then he will lose his power. Everyone knows that Maithripala Sirisena is hindering the investigations.

Then on the other hand Ranil Wickremesinghe is thinking that a division has to be created within the SLFP. For that division to happen, the Mahinda Rajapaksa camp should be strong. Therefore, if he goes to punish anyone, the Mahinda Rajapaksa camp will be weakened. Even Ranil Wickremesinghe is thinking in order to break the SLFP, the people who are supporting Mahinda Rajapaksa should not be punished.

Mahinda Rajapaksa too is hindering the investigation to safeguard his family, those who are close to him and himself. They have been able to disrupt the activities of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption. The previous government appointed all three commissioners and with one of the commissioners submitting his resignation, the Commission is now rendered inactive.

The Financial Crimes Investigations Division was formed to investigate financial fraud. The primary aim of Mahinda Rajapaksa now is to destroy that division. His supporters have threatened everyone that is from the DIG to the police constable in that division, and then they have also filed cases in the Supreme Courts to stop the investigations. In this manner they have done many things to hinder the continuation of the investigations.

The main reason for this is that many of the allegations are made against the Rajapaksa family. If you conduct investigations into the numerous deals such as the purchase of MIGs, the filling of land to build a museum that is dedicated to his parents and the money spent by certain institutions, you will find that the person responsible is Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Investigations into Divi Neguma will lead you to Basil Rajapaksa. The forcible use of the transmitting towers of state television and other resources by CSN and securing exclusive rights to broadcast cricket matches from cricket authorities as well as the murder of a leading rugby player will lead you to Yoshitha Rajapaksa. Then the Securities and Exchange Commission has provided large sums of money to Tharunyata Hetak to educate the youth on the stock exchange, but those funds have been used for other purposes. The special lights from Kettaramaya have been removed and taken for the Kandy Night Races and have not been returned. Investigations into all of this will lead to Namal Rajapaksa. Investigations into who gave money to the LTTE will lead to Mahinda Rajapaksa. Shiranthi Rajapaksa is responsible for the misuse of funds of the Siriliya Foundation and also for the purchase of a number of houses in Colombo. Investigations into the deals of SriLankan Airlines will lead you to Shiranthi Rajapaksa’s brother, Nishantha Wickremasinghe. Investigations on to who provided arms to the rebels in Ukraine will lead you to one of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cousins. In this manner the entire family is under investigations for various crimes.

There are also investigations against his officials such as his Secretary Lalith Weeratunga for the misuse of 600 million rupees of the TRCSL. Then, Gamini Senarath, his Chief of Staff, Central Bank Governor as well as the Secretary to the Treasury are all under investigation. The Road Development Authority was under the direct purview of the former President, its Chairman R W R Premasiri is also under investigation. Chairmen of the various public institutions such as the Sri Lanka Ports Authority who were very close to the former President are all under investigation. Many investigations are being held into the actions of his ministers as well.

There is now a push to halt these investigations. This is due to the fact that with the knowledge of Mahinda Rajapaksa, this process is being hindered and Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe are not doing anything in order to secure their power.

After this government came into power the people are actually feeling that it is more about revenge and vengeance than actually doing anything else. The economy is not moving, the prices of essential items have gone up and there is no relief to the people. When you look at it there is no benefit to the people. What are your thoughts on this?

This government has no right to engage in economic planning or direct any economic activity. Ranil Wickremesinghe does not have the mandate to be the prime minister of the country. This cabinet does not have a mandate to govern the country. The opposition leader has no right to hold that post. There has been no announcement in Parliament as to who the opposition leader is. As such this government has neither a mandate nor a right to govern this country. This transitory period that was assigned to this government was for a very short time.

The UNP has always been seen as experts on the economy, where their policies drive the economy forward. They are now proving in this very short period of time that they have not been able to direct the economy in a new direction. I saw Ranil Wickremesinghe saying on stage that everyone’s pockets are filled with money. But no ones pockets are filled with money. The rupee has depreciated greatly against the dollar, to a level that has never been seen before.

The controversial bond issue by the Central Bank has created a massive instability in the country.Therefore, within this short period of time the Maithri-Ranil coalition has proven that they do not have any direction in terms of the economy. We also feel that they do not have the right to continue with governing the country.

What is the stance of the JVP?

There is a form of anarchy in our country where no one answers or is responsible to anyone. Currently in parliament we cannot pass an important resolution or even discuss anything important. The Parliament has become a place to deliver the sympathy notice of members who have passed away. The Parliament met four days last month and the only matters that were discussed were the passing away of a member. To overcome this sad state, the people need to be given the opportunity to select a new parliament.

According to the mandate given on January 8, President Sirisena swore-in his new cabinet only for 100 days. Even the prime minister said he has oxygen only till April 23. At the numerous discussions we had with the president, we stressed that this government has no right to continue any further. Due to the power struggle within the SLFP, President Maithripala is thinking in order to secure his position and also the leadership of the SLFP, he needs to weaken the Mahinda Rajapaksa group. There is no other reason for this parliament to be dragged on in this manner. That is the reason for the state of this country right now. The general election should be held immediately so that people have a chance to elect a new government. We are not the only ones who are saying this, even the Speaker was compelled to state that this parliament cannot continue in this manner.

Currently the government is UNP and SLFP and the opposition is SLFP, there is no difference between the two. What is the alternative JVP or Mahinda Rajapaksa?

Mahinda Rajapaksa will never be an alternative for the people. Why should he be the alternative? Mahinda Rajapaksa wants to come back not to take action against those who have committed crimes, but to protect them. Why should the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime that has been accused of murder come back? The Rajapaksa regime isolated this country internationally. How can Rajapaksa be an alternative when he funded those who created problems before the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people? All democratic institutions were crippled. All power was centralised within his family and supporters. Then how can such a person be an alternative to our country? If Mahinda Rajapaksa comes back it will result in a government that commits crimes, fraud, international isolation, disharmony between communities and the end of democracy, so then why should such a person be an alternative? Therefore, Rajapaksa will never be an alternative in Sri Lankan politics and he should not be brought back into politics, ever.

The situation within the parliament is ridiculous. According to the traditions of the parliament there is the party in power and the opposition. Parliament is the centre of democracy. There is a government and an opposition. And whatever proposals the government brings forth, the opposition has to critically analyse it and debate it so that these can be brought forward to the people. But what has happened today?

The Central Committee of the SLFP has decided that a certain number of people should sit on the government side and the others in the opposition. The treasurer of the SLFP is a minister of the government, the deputy chairman of the SLFP is a minister in the government, then another deputy chairman of the SLFP, Rajitha Senaratne is a minister in the government. The senior deputy chairman of the SLFP Nimal Siripala De Silva is the leader of the opposition. This is like the playhouse we had during our childhood where we decide who is the police and who are the thieves, who should hide and who should not. Today, parliament has also become like that. The SLFP Central Committee has decided that some of its members sit in the government and the others will be in the opposition. Then when one side proposes, the other side will question. So it is a ridiculous situation. What this country needs is not this ridiculous governance. What is Mahinda Rajapaksa’s political stance? What is Ranil Wickremesinghe’s position?

This country has to completely move away from this immoral and detrimental political journey. The country needs something completely new. We need not just the change of parties or people, but a complete policy change. A complete change in the political culture and a change in the economy, international relations, strengthen ties between Sinhala, Tamil, Muslims and all communities in the country where the rights of the people are protected, a change where basic values and morals are respected. That is the type of change that we need. There needs to be an alternative not only in parliament, but also outside and that is the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna. The JVP provides an alternative to bring forth a new system and complete change for the country.

The people were seeking for a great change. But do the people have a better life now?

First and foremost bringing down the Rajapaksa regime was a great achievement in Sri Lankan politics. There was a time that people were scared to speak to each other over the phone. People were scared to discuss their thoughts out in the open. If it were a businessman, they would be scared to speak to another person from a different political party Rajapaksa had the entire country enveloped in a culture of fear because the only way to survive was by instilling fear. Therefore, the fall of the Rajapaksa regime in Sri Lanka is seen as the advent of a period of freedom for everyone where there is a space to express ones thoughts freely. That space is very important, but the aspirations of the people of this country was not only to have that space, they also wanted employment, housing, access to good health services, education, efficient transport system and hope for their lives. What has happened now is that this government has failed to bring that hope to the people. We should never regret that the Rajapaksa regime was removed. That was extremely necessary, because now we have the true sense of freedom. The responsibility to take the country forward is not in the hands of Maithripala Sirisena or Ranil Wickremesinghe, but the forward thinking political forces that understand the aspirations of the people, civil society organisations should get together because that is what the people really want.

Maithripala Sirisena or Ranil Wickremesinghe cannot fulfill the wishes of the people. It is not only a matter of the individual though they have made this problem even greater. By removing Mahinda Rajapaksa if we put Ranil Wickremesinghe or Maithripala Sirisena it will be the same. In the past how many times have we played this game? The entire system has to change; it is not enough to merely change only the individual. Without changing the system we cannot seek a solution.

Within a very short period of time, this Ranil-Maithri coalition has proven that they too journey on the same path as of Mahinda Rajapaksa. It is for this reason that the people have become disappointed with them. Look at the way they are behaving with an election approaching. If they are behaving in this manner now, then how will they behave if they are in power for a longer time frame? In this short period of time the deals that they have made, appointments given to relations and friends as well as political appointments to state institutions are considerable.

The past few months should be a litmus test for the rule of Ranil and Maithri and they have failed that test. We should not allow them to govern this country any further.

We invite the people to move away from these traditional and old-style political parties and governing methods because the country needs a new and modern thinking political force. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna is ready to be that force. But we cannot do this alone. We invite artistes,  industrialists, businessmen, entrepreneurs, trade union representatives, farmers, fishermen, professionals and members of the media and everyone to join us and form this people’s force. Without this kind of force coming together, we will not be able to find a solution or stop the continuous destruction. Our thinking is that there has to be a total change in the system.

You are also a member of the National Executive Council?

The JVP proposed the National Executive Council as the thinking was to hold the general elections after 100 days of the presidential elections. There were many resolutions that had to be passed during this 100-day period; constitutional amendments, legal amendments, punishing those who have committed fraud and corruption, and relief for people with the reduction of prices. Those are the four main areas that were the responsibility of the National Executive Council. The objectives, responsibilities and even the name for the council were proposed by the JVP. It was never part of the government machinery. The government consists of the president, prime minister, Cabinet ministers and the party in power. The Council was completely out of the government machinery. The responsibilities assigned to it were clearly defined, it had a clear time-frame.

The National Executive Council has fulfilled its duties within the specified time-frame therefore, it is no longer functioning. After April 19, the Council has not met. We feel that it is no longer necessary to have the National Executive Council because the 19th Amendment has been passed, the responsibility of reforming the electoral system has been taken over by the president, investigations into fraud and corruption are taking place, the formulation of the right for information act has been completed by the Council and passing that is now the responsibility of the parliament. The National Executive Council has completed its functions and has been inactive for about one month now.

What are your thoughts on the 19th and 20th Amendments?

The 19th Amendment could have become a greater amendment than it is now. However, we were unable to make this an amendment that would increase the democratic right of the people as expected by them. There are some reasons for that; in our country the main reason for the decline in politics is the crossovers by individuals for personal gain, MPs and ministers can be bought for favours, money and portfolios. They have become similar to items that you purchase at the shops. To prevent this we proposed a very important amendment where if a person crosses over they cannot keep their ministerial post. This proposal was submitted to parliament, but we were not able to proceed any further. Why? Because the proposal has to be passed by the people who are doing the exact same thing. They will not pass an amendment that will punish them. As such this was removed from the 19th Amendment. We were able to clip the powers of the executive presidency. With a 2/3 majority our proposal was to remove all the powers of the executive presidency. But, for Maithripala Sirisena only, they kept certain powers intact. Due to the intentions of Maithripala Sirisena, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mahinda Rajapaksa the 19th Amendment to the constitution could not reach its full potential.

If we look at the 20th Amendment, no one has a clear idea as to what it is. There was a discussion on the change in the election system. But what was approved at the cabinet meeting was not what we had discussed. Then something completely different has been gazetted. The electoral system is not the one that we discussed and it does not include any of our proposals. What is this 20th Amendment? Maithripala Sirisena is thinking that through this amendment he can weaken Mahinda Rajapaksa. By basing this system on electorates, if a current SLFP organiser resigns and contest from the Mahinda group he will have a very slim chance of winning. As such Maithripala Sirisena is thinking that through the electoral system he can minimise the number of people leaving the SLFP. That is the real intention behind this.

Maithripala Sirisena has not been very vocal regarding the changes in the 19th Amendment, because it is with this amendment that his powers are reduced. He has not yet said a word regarding the various bills that need to be passed. He is not interested in taking any action against those who murdered Lasantha Wickrematunga, those who assaulted Poddala Jayantha, kidnappers, those who killed people during protests at Rathupaswala, Chilaw and Katunayake, the murderers of Raviraj and Joseph Pararajasingham, Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kuhan Muruganathan, the perpetrators are walking freely. Maithripala Sirisena has no interest in taking any action. He has formulated an electoral system that goes beyond all of that. This is for nothing else, but to strengthen his position within the SLFP because there is a division in the party. There is an ulterior motive to bring in this new electoral system.

Currently we have a multi party political culture in Sri Lanka, but through this new amendment it will become a bi-party political situation. Through this new electoral system all those who are supporting other political parties will be forced to support one of the two main parties only. We ask the question, don’t we have the right to enter the parliament? What does real democracy mean? It means that there is more space for people who have different views to express themselves.

We have Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities in our country, we are yet to build good relationships between the two communities. Is it right to take away their opportunity for representation? The proposed electoral system has been designed to destroy this country. We have discussed with many parties and our stance is that the 20th Amendment that has been gazetted should be withdrawn immediately. Discussions should be initiated to implement a proper electoral system.

It seems like at the end of the day due to personal interests of politicians, it is the people that are to suffer. As a politician what can you say about this?

The people of this country should not feel disheartened. According to the political traditions of this country, the people vote for their representative and then the people merely become spectators. The people of this country have to stop being spectators. You too have to become an active member of this process. Without that, there is no sense of being disheartened or sad by the prevailing situation. The people have to be a partner in this process. If the people do not become active, then they will continue to be part of a culture where voters are bought with roof sheets, meals, alcohol or bribes. To change this situation the people have to become partners and they have to be active members of the process that will lead to a new political culture. Do not be disheartened, be active partners of this process.

The JVP has asked for suggestions from the people. What will be the position of the JVP for the general elections?

We have made many plans. In order to take our vision and thinking to the people, we have formulated a strong propaganda campaign. Many experts in this field have volunteered to help us. Even your organisation helped us in 2004. We have strengthened our propaganda machinery. Our ability to organise has always been our strength. We don’t have as much resources as other parties, but we have always had our organisational strength. We have completed the formulation of our election campaign. We are in the process of preparing a strong candidate list. Without telling the people what is happening now or complaining, we are talking about where we should take the country in the future, the direction and what frameworks and activities that need to be formulated in order to take the country forward. We are developing a national plan. The people have provided us with many ideas and suggestions. Therefore, we hope to present a strong candidate list and provide a clear vision and national plan for the country, for the forthcoming elections.

The JVP will contest on its own.

The JVP was at one time a very strong party. However in the past few years the party was in the background. How are you going to regain that strength again?

Soon after the end of the war when the victory was centralised around the Rajapaksas, all other political parties got caught to a massive tsunami. This affected not only the JVP, but other parties too. We should never underestimate or belittle the end of the war because it gave the much desired peace and freedom to the people of this country, both mentally and physically. This gave the Rajapaksas great strength, but in turn the other political parties faced a time of uncertainty.

Additionally there were incidents within the party that resulted in our supporters becoming disheartened with the JVP. But we believe that we have faced all these challenges, because any political movement never journeys on a straight line like an arrow. There will always be difficult times and differences in opinions. We are hopeful and optimistic that the JVP will become a strong movement of the people and we will be able to win. The strength of the JVP can never be diminished or underestimated. We may not have crowned ourselves with various accolades during the Rajapaksa regime, but we took the first step to remove them from power. We believe that we have to come into power through a broad people’s front and we are taking the first step in the upcoming general election. The JVP can be likened to an iceberg submerged in the ocean, more than what you see on the surface the hidden part is much more larger and greater. The JVP is not a movement that will be fazed by small winds or storms.

What are your thoughts for the business community as well as on international relations?

We believe that the prevailing mechanisms have to change. In Business Studies we learn about custom duties, but in the country we see evasion of custom duties. Then we learn about giving a pay slip for the salary to employees. But what is happening is that with the salary slip we give another payment in an envelope. We also learn about maintaining a cashbook, but today we maintain a second cashbook as well. The businesses we have today are not those that we learn about in our studies. Every business has been compelled to get involved in black activities to ensure their survival. No one can sustain their businesses by paying taxes or paying their staff in the proper manner.

We have to change this situation. We have a vision and a target and we are discussing this with the private sector of this country. We are talking with the construction industry on the target that we want to achieve in this industry by 2025. We tell them to invest in construction and engage in  construction activities without any fear. Then, to the dairy industry too we have explained our target for 2025. In this manner we have communicated our target for a 10-15 year period. We are telling investors that they can invest without any fear or doubt. Today no one knows the direction or target of the government and the economy is floating in one place. We are proposing an economy with a clear direction.

Currently a businessman will engage in a business after making a vow in Kataragama, they will smash a coconut and also look at the auspicious time because they want to ensure that their venture will be a success. We will create an environment that is secure and stable for investors. That is the responsibility of the government.

Sri Lanka is not a country with a large source of natural resources. Our main resource is our land and the population density per one square kilometre is 343. Even in China, the country with the world’s largest population, the population density is 244 and in Australia it is three. But in Sri Lanka within a very small land mass there is a large population density. Our greatest resource is our people, we are not a country that has minerals or oil. We have a civilization that spans more than 2,600 years and especially with the introduction of Buddhism we had a good education system that was linked to the temples. We have to develop our human resources because they will then actively participate in the economy and thereby increase the production capacity of this country.

In 1978 Sri Lanka’s share in the global market was 0.5 today our share is 0.045. Our global market share has fallen by tenfolds. To import our requirements we need 20 billion dollars, what we receive from our exports is ten billion dollars. From where are we going to find that remaining ten billion dollars? We cannot continue in this manner. We have to regain our market share in the world economy. We have to decide what is the share we want in production, services, industry, agriculture and other sectors. We have to have a target and direction. We aim to bring down the trade balance to zero within a period of ten years. We have to find a new sector where we can earn the additional ten billion dollars. It is within that ten billion dollars that we will find new investment and the creation of new jobs. 100,000 graduates come out every year to join the government service. We have a clear-cut plan and vision to increase the market share of Sri Lanka in the world market.We had extensive discussions on this. We have taken into account and studied the many strategies used by countries all over the world. We have developed a very modern and practical economic policy that will ensure Sri Lanka’s participation in the global economy where we will be able to increase our global market share. We are ready to do that.

Many people think that the JVP is a very traditional political party. We are not traditional. It is the current rulers who are traditional. They are not interested in developing new ideas or concepts or even looking at new ways of driving the economy. We have an economic policy that will take this country forward with the rest of the world.

If we look at international relations, we know that in the world there is a power struggle. In 1990, before the socialist movement fell there were two opposing sides-the soviet led bloc and the US led bloc. After the 1990s, everyone started gravitating towards the USA and it became a US centralized global order. Today again there is a change where there are discussions to expel Russia from WTO as well as to impose sanctions on them. In Asia, China is seen as the new economic force. The thinking is that China will become the global economic leader by 2020. Our neighbour India is a strong player in the service sector of the global economy.

There are new camps in the global environment, as such as a political movement if we do not join hands with the rest of the world, we will have to live in isolation, but we cannot do so. This is not the Stone Age. We are proposing that Sri Lanka has to have good relations with all countries. We are in need of a good foreign policy. It should not be a policy of bribes, for example what happened was China was given Norochcholai to build, in the same manner in fear of India getting angry we gave them Sampur to build, then Hambantota Port was given to China and to India, KKS port; to China we gave the Matara-Beliatta railway to build, to India the Omanthai-KKS railway. This is not the kind of foreign relations that we want.

As a sovereign nation we need a policy that will safeguard our identity and where we can have pride in ourselves as a country. The JVP has a vision in that direction. We have a vision and to make it a success we need the support of the experts in this field. Some people think that the politician has to do everything. No, the politician has a vision, but to make it a reality he needs the assistance of the professionals of the respective fields.

Final thoughts?

The SLFP governs the country in one way and the UNP in another. The SLFP takes members of the UNP and governs the country. Then the UNP takes SLFPers and governs the country. Today both are governing the country together. During the past 67 years these two parties have governed this country in every possible manner. But what is the result? 0.5 percent of the country are drug addicts, that is for every 50 families there is a family member who is a drug addict. 0.5 percent of the population is in jail; that is for every 50 families there is a family member in jail. There are eight rapes  recorded per day in this country. That is every three hours there is a woman being raped somewhere in the country. And they say there are more than what is reported. 108 people die each day due to heart disease. During the past 161 days 1,200 people have been killed due to road accidents. That is about eight people are killed per day due to motor vehicle accidents. Every year 300,000 people join the employment queue, the government sector recruits only 30,000, then last year in the private sector only 35,000 jobs were created. Our economy can only absorb 65,000 from the 300,000 who seek employment.

In our country there are 500 marriages per day in the same manner there are 200 divorces per day. In a year 72,000 marriages fail. Our country is an Asian country where husbands protect the wives and the wives are loyal to their husbands. What has happened to this country?

When there are 180,000 marriages per year they all need housing as well. But only 60,000 will inherit houses, the remainder need new houses. What is the policy? 320,000 enter Grade 1, but eventually only 25,000 go through for tertiary education. Then what happens to the remaining children? In our country, five million people enter the local hospitals from a population for 20 million. About 1,000 people enter the hospital due to animal bites. The past 67 years of rule by these two political parties have left us with this balance sheet. This shows that they are incapable and do not love the people. Their rule is all centered around their families and their supporters.

We want the people to think deeply about the economic and social situation in the country where a new economic direction that will bring benefits to everyone will be implemented and a new system has to be implemented. Listen to your conscience.

We guarantee that we will be able to bring the quality of life that everyone needs by bringing in a new thinking and direction. Macau has the longest life expectancy of 89 years. In Sri Lanka it is 76, we guarantee that if we are given the chance to rule this country for ten years then we will increase life expectancy by five years. We want to increase the years that a person will lives. We will work towards a better future for Sri Lanka.

Anusha David speaks to Anura Kumara Dissanayake

(www.life.lk) Anusha David spotlights the hottest styles and statements in and around Sri Lanka – from political leaders to celebrity CEOs, masters of the game to fashion icons and stars of the silver screen and stage. Here are society’s leaders talking about the determination, vision, smarts, competence and professionalism. Today, she speaks to Anura Kumara Dissanayake.

“The JVP totally rejects violence. Twice we took up arms, however in the future we assure the people of Sri Lanka that this will never ever reoccur. We assure the people that the only way we will come into power is by winning the trust of the people. We assure the people of Sri Lanka that we will never ever take to arms again. During the last 25 years, the JVP was subjected to violence on numerous occasions, however we never resorted to violence and I assure the public that they need not have any fear, the JVP has rejected violence forever”!

This is the assurance given by the JVP’s leader Dissanayaka Mudiyanselage Anura Kumara Dissanayaka, one of the most charismatic and unusual politicians ever to enter the local political arena. Dissanayake was named the leader of JVP at the 7th national convention of the party held on 2 February 2014.

Born in Thambuthegama, in the Anuradhapura district, his father was a labourer, his mother a housewife. He has one sister. Today he is married and is the proud father of two children. His involvement with the JVP began during his school days. He was the first student from the college to be chosen for admission into university. He made his entry into politics with his participation in student political activities associated with the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in 1988 at the Peradeniya University at a time of great ferment in student politics. He later moved to the University of Kelaniya where he graduated with a B.Sc degree in physics. Subsequent to the violent period of 1988-89 when student activists were under great threat, his involvement in youth politics intensified following the changes that took place in 1994, and the defeat of the UNP Government after 17 years.

“Looking back, I was never interested in getting a job and settling down. Politics was my passion. To be honest, I’ve always wanted to transform and improve our society”.

Here are some excerpts off the interview with him.

Tell us about your childhood.

I was born in Thambuthegama, Anuradhapura district. My father was a labourer. My mother was a housewife. As a child, I faced the same problems that many people in our country continue to face today. My involvement with the JVP began during my school days. I went to Thambuthegama Gamini Maha Vidyalaya. I sat for my ‘O’ Levels here. Afterwards, I sat for my ‘A’ levels at Thambuthegama Central College. I was the first student from the college to be chosen for admission into university. I first attended Peradeniya University but I – along with many other students – left after three months due to threats. After a year, I was able to secure a transfer to Kelaniya University.

Looking back, I was never interested in getting a job and settling down. Politics was my passion. To be honest, I’ve always wanted to transform and improve our society.

Tell us about your parents.

My parents were never happy about my involvement in politics. But they always allowed me to make my own decisions. However, after joining politics, my decisions were in line with the interests of the party.

What is the JVP’s position on the 20th Amendment?

I think the electoral system of this country needs to be changed, but the 20th Amendment is not the solution. The manner in which the 20th Amendment was broached with the other parties was wrong. Why I say this is wrong is because what was discussed with us was one thing, what was proposed to the Cabinet was something else, and finally what was gazetted was yet again different. Therefore, I say the 20th Amendment was not discussed with us. Secondly, the new system too has a lot of technical flaws; some of the candidates themselves don’t have the vote, yet they are coming forward as nominees. There are also independent candidates who if they win can become Ministers, however there is a problem as to what District he or she represents. These are just some of the technical problems that will arise through this new system. From a political angle, as per the new system, it is designed in such a manner that only the two main parties have power. The other parties don’t stand a chance unless they align themselves to these two main parties. In short, we still have the two-party scenario. There are several minorities and minority parties in this country and they too have to be represented in parliament, however the new system does not allow this. Because of this, the JVP does not agree with the 20th Amendment.

How will the JVP approach the issue of the missing and disappeared during the Bheeshanaya period and the war?

The 1988 / 89 period was a tremendous shock to us, and we can’t imagine how this happened. We admit that that several atrocities took place, things which should never have happened, happened. We admit that. However, the UNP, which was in power at that time, postponed parliamentary elections by way of a referendum. Had elections been held, a fair number of JVP’ers would have entered parliament legitimately and the 88 / 89 disaster would not have occurred. The UNP proscribed the JVP saying that we were responsible for Black July in ‘83. However that was 100 percent wrong as the perpetrators of Black July were J.R Jayawardene and his cronies and their thugs. We were operating as a democratic party until then, however after being proscribed we were compelled to take to arms to fight for our rights. Certain mistakes were committed by the JVP during that period while we were fighting for the rights of the people. For this we are truly sorry. It is now 25 years since this disastrous period, we have learnt several bitter lessons from it and we pledge that such incidents will never take place at the hands of the JVP.

What do you think of the Police inaction that has prevailed in this country?

Unfortunately we had reached a state where law and order had virtually ceased in this country. People had no recourse to justice. The formulation of fiscal policies, enactment of law and order is in the hands of parliament, the duties enacted by Kachcheris no longer take place, places of religious worship which were sacred and upheld basic human dignity and the correct norms of behaviour have failed in their duties. In such a scenario, we cannot only hold the forces to account, it’s the fault of the system. Marx said that people’s good qualities have been put into iced water and destroyed. That is the state our country is in today. Even if you try to put your child into a school, you can’t do it without bribing the officials. It is no use making laws, if you cannot enforce them. During elections, and at other times, the police behaved as per the norms set down according to the government in power at the time.

What do you think of President Maithripala Sirisena and his performance thus far?

The elections held on 8th January 2015, which saw the downfall of MR and his government, gave rise to a lot of hope amongst the public. However, these hopes and aspirations of the public have not been fulfilled by President Sirisena and his government. Both President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have purposely delayed to bring the wrong doers to account. The 19th Amendment where the Presidential powers were going to be curtailed also has not happened. The economic burdens laid on the people by the Rajapakse government have not been alleviated, despite promises made. The promised Right to Information Act still has not been enforced; the promised Audit Commission and the law to regulate the behaviour of Ministers have yet to be tabled. None of the people’s hopes have been fulfilled by the President Sirisena – Ranil Wickremasinghe government. The fact that the Rajapakse regime came to an end is good and President Sirisena and his government did the people a service by bringing this about, however that was the beginning and the end of it – they have failed thereafter! Their biggest achievement was defeating MR. Thereafter they have failed in their election promises.

Despite assurances, favouritism and cronyism that goes on – what do you have to say about this?

The sad fact about our country is that the mere changing of leaders does not bring about real change. At the 8th January election, what the JVP said was ‘defeat the Rajapaksa government, however we cannot give any assurances or guarantees regarding the new government’. The people must unite to ensure that election promises and pledges are fulfilled. The problems that prevailed in the country were not solely due to the Rajapaksas and you cannot resolve the problem merely by removing the Rajapaksas; you have to change the system. For 67 years all we have done is change the party and the leader, we haven’t changed the system. When President Chandrika Bandaranayake was first elected the people were hopeful about her, however soon the people realised that she could effect no real change and they got tired of her. Thereafter MR came into power and the same disappointments set in. Similarly, the same hopes were brought into play for the Sirisena – Wickremesinghe regime, but those hopes too were very soon dashed. Why is this repeatedly happening? The reason is that though governments change and leaders change, it is the same system that prevails.

What were President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s biggest mistakes during his second term?

He did not see to or fulfill the needs of the people. He did not try to change the system. Subsequent to the end of the war, MR had the golden opportunity of uniting all of the people of this country, be they Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslims, Burghers and Malays, but he let that opportunity go! All Rajapaksa thought about and spoke about was the fact that he won the war and destroyed the LTTE. He did not look to the future or try to win the peace, in fact even now his thought process is the same – that he won the war, but he has not considered what needs to be done thereafter to keep the peace. His major mistake was that subsequent to May 19th 2009, he failed to change and bring about the change that was required.

Has the JVP definitively renounced armed struggle?

Twice we took up arms. However in the future we assure the people of Sri Lanka that this will never ever reoccur, not just here in Sri Lanka but in the world, as with the technology available now, as well as the expertise acquired by today’s armies, people all over the world reject violence. The JVP totally rejects violence. We assure the people that the only way we will come into power is by winning the trust of the people. We assure the people of Sri Lanka that we will never ever take to arms again. During the last 25 years, the JVP was subjected to violence on numerous occasions, however we never resorted to violence and I assure the public that they need not have any fear, the JVP has rejected violence forever! Since 88 / 89, the JVP has conducted themselves without resorting to violence of any form and we assure the people of Sri Lanka that we never will resort to violence again.

You stated that Sri Lanka needs “a new economic order”. Could you elaborate further?

Sri Lanka needs a new economic policy. The economic policies that have been followed so far have failed the people. There are five million families in our country of which there are 100,000 in jail, which means out of every 50 families, one family has a person in prison. We have over 100,000 heroin addicts in this country, which means one person in every 50 families is a heroin addict. For a day, 14 suicides take place. In fact Sri Lanka has the 4th highest suicide rate in the world. Eight rape cases take place a day in Sri Lanka, which means every three hours a woman or girl is raped in our country. For a day, 500 marriages take place, however 200 divorces also take place on a daily basis. For the past 67 years, we have been promised that our country will be another Singapore, however it has been proven that both the economic policies of the UNP and the SLFP have not benefitted the people of Sri Lanka. What we need is not just an economic policy but a whole new plan for this country, which encompasses everything; the economy is just a part of it. We need to develop our education system and modernize it.

Sri Lanka does not have a lot of natural resources, we don’t have gas, oil and mineral reserves; our greatest asset is our people. If we are to develop our country and bring it on par with other developed countries, we first have to invest in and develop our people. Today we have a total of 360,000 children entering Grade 1. When they get to Grade 10, over 60,000 drop out. That means one in every six children drop out when they reach Grade 10. At the Grade 11 stage – ‘O’ levels, though 300,000 students sit the exam, 140,000 students fail. At the ‘A’ levels, though 160,000 sit the exam, 135,000 fail, which leaves us with a mere 25,000 qualifying to enter university. What is this education system of ours? Today, education lies in the hands of parents. Our intention is to make it the responsibility of the government and to create an educated and enlightened public. In 1978, Sri Lanka’s worth in the World Market was 0.5% . Now our value stands at 0.045 %, which means our value has dropped by ten! We need to improve our standing in the World Market, if not we cannot proceed into the future.

Our former leaders lacked the vision to secure Sri Lanka a place in the World Market. All we have been doing so far is carrying on the legacy left to us by our conquerors, namely exporting tea, rubber and coconut. Subsequently, several replacements for tea have come into the market, thus devaluing tea. Today, we have artificial rubber. As for coconuts, even people in Sri Lanka have an insufficient supply. Our intention is to create a place for Sri Lanka in the World Market for Human Resources and Services. As far as production and manufacturing go, we need to identify specific areas and develop them with the help of the private sector. The government needs to have a vision and set a target and together with the private sector achieve this with the help of foreign investment. The targets have to be set by the government. In the field of construction, where does Sri Lanka want to be in the year 2025? In the field of industry, where do we want to be in the year 2025? Where do we want our milk production to be in the year 2025?

The government sets the targets and we work with the private sector to achieve it. All this time have any of our leaders set the private sector a target to achieve? Today the private sector has no set direction. They proceed without any proper direction from government. Today’s businesses operate outside the law. EPF, ETF is not paid, instead under the table payments are made to get out of paying statutory dues. They don’t pay taxes and false invoices are presented. In fact most businesses today operate with two sets of invoices and two sets of cashbooks. Whether you like to admit it or not, every business today operates in a ‘black’ or dishonest environment. We promise the people that we will clean up local business and bring about an environment that is conducive to good governance and honest business practices – that is of prime importance. For businesses to develop, people have to have money in hand, every person has to be able to earn a living wage honestly without resorting to dishonest practices. Housing, education and health are of prime importance and must be available to all.

For a year, over 50 million persons visit government hospital OPDs; this has to be rectified. If we come into power, I promise that within five years we will bring the number of sick persons down to 25 million. Public health has to be developed and improved. With the present resources – i.e. doctors, nurses and hospitals – the health service provided to the people can be doubled. The nation with the highest life expectancy is Macau with an average life span of 89 years. In Sri Lanka, it is 76. Give us the mandate and we will increase this in five years. The JVP’s economic policies and vision are not castles in the sky, but founded on reality. Our policies are connected to the people; they are based on education, jobs, housing and health. In order to make this a reality we will seek the assistance of the private sector.

Are you happy with the investigation of the Bond issue?

There is no way anyone can be satisfied. When Arjuna Mahendran’s case was brought up in Parliament, all what the Prime Minister did was talk of the past Central Bank Governor, Ajith Cabraal. What he tried to do was talk of Cabraal’s faults and thereby cover-up Mahendran’s. Bonds were issued for 1 billion, but 10 billion was taken. A company owned by Mahendran’s son-in-law was involved in this issue, which was a conflict of interest. This makes it apparent that this was a shady deal. As a result of this investigation, it is apparent that Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government does not punish wrongdoers, instead they protect them.

Over the last decade, the JVP has strengthened its position as a third force in politics. How do you expect the party to perform at the upcoming parliamentary election?

We are not a third party, we are instead an alternate party. The SLFP and UNP have the same policies. Our policies are completely different. In the past, the JVP had a number of seats in parliament, however this fluctuated. We are confident that soon we can increase our seats in parliament as we can see that the public is behind us and that they are tired of the two-party system, which has not benefitted the country at all. There are people amongst the voters who like to see the JVP having a presence in parliament, however they will not vote for us. I urge these people to please give the JVP their vote. To the people who are already giving us their vote, I urge each of them to get us 5 votes more from amongst their friends and relations. We are confident that we will increase our voter base significantly, and we are planning our campaign accordingly. We are formulating a set of new policies for the forthcoming elections and we are not doing that by ourselves, instead we are obtaining ideas and input from the public as well. We have in place our list of candidates for the election, which includes several powerful, educated, honest and credible citizens and we are confident of getting the people’s mandate.

What are your views on Tamil nationalism and the demand for a political solution in a post-war context?

Subsequent to the war, Sri Lanka had a phenomenal opportunity to unite all peoples living here – Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Hindus, Burghers – but Rajapakse destroyed that opportunity. All civil services in the North and East were controlled by the Army; subsequent to the end of the war Rajapakse should have done away with this. Even a small eatery was run by the Army. The people’s land issues were not resolved, the question of missing persons, both children and adults, has not been investigated. The people’s day-to-day issues such as education and earning a livelihood have not been resolved. The North in particular, which was ravaged by a 30-year war, should have a separate policy and plan in place to develop the area, but as yet this has not taken place. Over 45,000 families have lost their bread winners/husbands during the course of the war. This is a burning issue, yet the problem as to how these families are to survive has not been resolved. There are 5000 children who have been orphaned as a result of the war; however, there is no plan in place as to what is to become of these children. Subsequent to the end of the war, so much needed to be planned and implemented in the North, however to date there is no such plan in place, let alone being implemented. However, subsequent to the war, all Rajapakse did was to fan racial animosity to strengthen his power base. Now, Mangala Samaraweera is travelling to Europe to meet with the Tamil diaspora.

But how many times has he visited Jaffna? Not once! The problems are right here, not in Europe. What needs to be done is right here at our doorstep, not across the ocean. The problems of language, culture and earning a living wage should be resolved, whilst winning their trust and making them feel that the government sitting in Colombo is their government as well. However, to date that is not the case; therefore, those people whose basic needs have not been attended to will definitely seek to form their own government. The only way to resolve this is by ensuring the restoration of the full democratic rights of the people in the North and East and giving them the same privileges available to the Sinhalese people. However, all today’s leaders are capable of doing is to bring about a situation where ethnic warfare is inevitable! As far as the Muslims are concerned, all the government is trying to do is resolve Hakeem’s problems, not those of the Muslims. Similarly instead of resolving the problems of the up-country Tamils, all the government is doing is resolving Thondaman’s problems, because that is the easier path! The Tamils up in the North are being ignored, instead the government is concentrating on the TNA’s problems. Recent governments are of the opinion that by giving vehicles and ministerial positions to the leaders, they are resolving the problems of the people. What has happened to date is that the people have been trampled on, their votes have been obtained, but all the benefits and perks have gone to the leaders of the respective parties and not to the people. The only way to resolve the problems of the people of the North and East is to physically go there, open a dialogue with them and see to their issues.

What do you think of the late Rohana Wijeweera and the way he led the JVP?

We feel that Comrade Rohana Wijeweera did a lot of good, he accomplished a lot and he adapted Marx’s principles to suit Sri Lanka. He established a party for those who had no party and who had no representation. Until then, parties and governments were formed by landed proprietors and people who lived in walauwas. Comrade Wijeweera came from a village and gave the voiceless a voice.

The gap between the rich and poor is bigger than ever – worldwide and in Sri Lanka. What is your idea of a just society?

The richest 20 % of people in this country possess 55.1 % of the income of this country. The poorest 20% possess a mere 3.6%. To make this clearer, the richest 10% possess 36% of the wealth of this country, the poorest 10% possess 1.1% of the country’s wealth. The manner in which the country’s wealth is distributed is grossly unjust. As per government records, the income of 42% of the country is less than 2 US Dollars a day. What is their life? How can they provide for their families? The JVP’s policy is NOT to take from the rich and give to the poor. It is common sense to realize that for those who have to live a safe and secure life, the other strata of society have to be able to live a decent life. If not, all that happens is that criminal and underworld activities thrive. The only way to ensure a law abiding society is to ensure that all segments of society earn a decent wage and are able to cater to the needs of their families. Today, the poor of this country have been marginalized. They have been reduced to dust! They have been removed from the economy of this country. 51 % of Sri Lanka’s economy resides in the Western province; 4 % in the North Central province and 9 % in the North Western province. It is not only amongst the people that there is a disparity but the contribution from different regions of the country also differs. The economic policies of the country have to match the lifestyle of the people. We are determined to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. When the gap between the rich and the poor is wide, law and order cannot prevail. The wealthy people in this country need to reinvest their money in order to create jobs and develop livelihoods for people who need it the most.

Does the JVP have a strategy to combat youth unemployment?

We need to create 300,000 jobs every year. The state sector can only accommodate 30,000 new employees, since 30,000 state employees retire every year. According to EPF forms, the private sector created 35,000 new jobs last year. So taken together, the private and public sector only provided 65,000 jobs, which means 235,000 people were left without employment last year. This year, it is even worse. According to EPF forms, 70,000 people lost their jobs in the private sector. Prime Minister Wickramasinghe promised to create jobs, but we can’t simply rub a magic lamp and create jobs, can we? Job creation has to be an integral part of our plan for the development of the economy. The previous government provided 100,000 jobs to university graduates. Some were given jobs in kachcheris without seats and in libraries without books. Other graduates were employed as agriculture officers and asked to distribute plants to the farming community. This is a waste.

There are two sections we need to look at in order to create jobs. The first is our service sector, which needs to be expanded across the country, and the second is production. No matter how many shops and market places open up around the country, only 3 million people visit these places daily. This is in stark contrast to India, where 38 billion people visit shops and market places daily. I see an opportunity here. We need to understand what we can sell in India, carry out research, develop products and enter their market. Similarly, we need to study the European market, understand how consumer needs will shift in twenty or thirty years and develop products to suit that shift. This requires a great deal of research and development. The government’s expenditure on research is about 0.01% of the national budget. Other countries allocate a significant proportion of their national budgets to research. So I have to ask: How exactly does Ranil plan to create 1 million jobs? Sajith Premadasa wants to build 100,000 new houses. He probably wants to build the houses out of sand. You can’t give houses to people who don’t have an income. What you need to do is give people an income so that they can build their own houses. Instead of individual ministers coming up with their own solutions, what we actually need is a holistic plan that addresses job creation, health, education and housing.

Who has influenced you the most?

My party. As a man who was born in a distant village, who went to a normal school and who came from a normal family, the opportunities I have today did not arise because of my skills and talents but because of my party. The JVP has been a constant source of strength and a pillar of support in my life.

Name the books that shaped your life and your politics.

There are many books that changed my life. I was deeply inspired by the literature of Soviet Russia – War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, The Mother by Maxim Gorky and a number of short stories. The literature of that period had a great impact on our lives. I have read Senkottan by Mahinda Prasad Masimbula. Quite recently, I read ‘Adaraneeya Victoria’ by Mohan Raj Madawala. I’ve read Professor Abraham Kovoor’s work while at school. I enjoy reading autobiographies and biographies. I’ve read about the life of Marx, Engels, Mandela, Castro, Gandhi, Lenin and Clinton. I also enjoyed reading the story of Yugoslavia’s Marshal Tito.

What does the leader of the JVP do during his free time?

I love to swim. I can swim the entire length of the Nuwara Lake in Anuradhapura. On average, I swim about two kilometers. So a swimming pool isn’t enough for me. To be honest, I don’t like swimming pools.

What are your views on religion?

We think religion assists in an individual’s mental development. But we don’t believe religion can solve the wider problems faced by society. For example, we don’t think religion can solve unemployment and health issues. In addition, we believe religion needs to be separated from politics. Places of religious worship should not be used for political meetings. If all of this is corrected, it will allow us to preserve the symbolic meaning of all religions. We visit temples, churches, mosques and kovils, but we don’t take the media with us and create a spectacle.

Who are your heroes?

Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Friedrich Engels, Rohana Wijeweera, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

If you could select a different path in life, what would it be?

I honestly can’t think of an alternative. I’m dedicated to improving our society.

Do you have a message for the citizens of this country?

We need to change our society. For 67 years, we have endured one system. It hasn’t benefitted our country. If there is anyone who thinks we haven’t suffered, he/she makes up only 1% of the country. The other 99% are suffering. We need to think about the other 99%. We need to build a society that allows everyone to prosper. This is what the JVP stands for today and what it hopes to accomplish in the future. It doesn’t matter who you are and what you do, we need to work together.

www.life.lk (Interviewed by Anusha David)