No ruler should be allowed to be at the helm for 18 years

(Interview JVP Leader had with ‘Daily Mirror’)

Q: Amidst allegations about widespread election violence, how is the JVP positioning itself for the Uva Provincial Council Election?

A special significance has been attached to the Uva Provincial Council Elections. It is something more than a provincial council election.  Early next year, the government seems to be planning a presidential election. Therefore, this election has virtually become a political experiment to assess the standing of each party   ahead of such a major election. Today, the Uva people have begun to feel the pinch of the exploitive approaches of this government.  The general public is rising against the government. Therefore, the government intends to use violence to suppress that emerging public surge and has done it. Today, one is  scared even to talk over the phone. That fear psychosis has gripped people in the Uva Province today.

Q: How do you get your message across to the general public against this violence?

The government might have been successful in restraining various political fronts, individuals and organisations through oppression. Yet, ours is a different political outfit. We will not shy away from such oppressive violent approaches. We will never turn back in the face of oppression and will continue with our campaign as planned, come what may. There are various forms of violence – intimidation, attacks on party supporters, and   the use of armed groups.

Q: Do you point your finger at any party or individual as responsible for this situation?

It is clear that the ruling party is behind such violence.

Q: Yet, Minister Susil Premajayantha charged that the JVP was also involved in violence. How do you refute this allegation?

Minister Premajayantha is responsible for the import of inferior quality petroleum, which damaged vehicles, and caused  major losses. That happened when he was the subject minister.  When he was the education minister, there were frauds in Grade I admissions. Now, he is the environmental and renewable energy Minister.  I am aware of his involvement in aiding and abetting in the unlawful felling of trees and running of illicit quarries.  Today, he is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

For his survival, he is supposed to make any    statement to please the Rajapakse administration.   The government, or the president for that matter, should declare whether they are going to conduct free and fair elections or elections plagued with violence. Normally, unleashing violent goons with firearms is not the way to conduct elections.  If the use of violence is the government’s policy, we challenge the government to announce it publicly. If they are for such a policy, we can work out alternative strategies to stand up to it. We need clarity now.

The Elections Commissioner should tell openly whether it is possible for him to ensure free and fair elections or not.   Only he has powers in terms of the acts passed in parliament to take action in this direction.   We also ask IGP N.K. Ilangakoon to announce in clear-cut terms whether it is possible for him to contain violence raging in the province. If he is unable to act, he should say it openly.

Q: Yet, the Elections Commissioner complains about the lack of powers to deal with some cases. What are your views?

We can discuss how he can legally be empowered more. Yet, he should be able to use powers already vested in him to arrest the current trend. First, we are asking him to act with powers already vested in him. If anyone is unable to act within the parameters of power already given, he or she cannot do a better job with more powers. On the nomination day, processions were prohibited. But, a ruling party candidate conducted a vehicular procession. An assistant elections commissioner who tried    to stop it was threatened with death by this candidate.  Video equipment that filmed the incident was dashed on the ground.  We know the present election law does not have enough teeth. However, the commissioner should properly use whatever powers he already has.

Q: What kind of election law violations can he stop with powers already vested in him?

He can stop voters being bribed through various ways. He can stop conducting unlawful processions, and running party offices.  The present law is strong enough to take action against all these things.

Q: What are the pressing problems you have identified in the Uva Province?

Poverty is the most serious issue. In interior rural villages, people do not have proper food, housing, and educational facilities for their children. They lack basic healthcare. Their nutritional intake is minimal.  The majority of expectant mothers suffer from anaemia.  Seventeen percent of children below five suffer from severe malnutrition. In the estate sector, people are deeply engulfed in poverty.

Everywhere in the province, 60 percent of children are unsuccessful at the G.C.E.  Ordinary Level Examination.

Only two percent of students qualify for university education after their Advanced Level Examination. The future of those dropping out from major exams is at stake.

Q: How is the JVP seeking to address these issues?

Our economic system needs a major overhaul. We need to have a manufacturing economy. Currently, 93 percent of the country’s sugar is imported.  The bulk of our chillie requirement is imported.

We import paper to meet almost the total requirement of the country. We import most of our essential items.  Today, we rely on a service economy. Instead, we should opt for a manufacturing economy which ensures employment for our youth at various categories, be it managers or security guards.

Also, there should be criteria for the equitable distribution of wealth generated through such an economy.

Q: To assess the public opinion ahead of  major elections. How is that theory applicable to your party?

We firmly believe that the present regime should be unseated at any cost. We cannot further tolerate the plundering of the country’s wealth, the deterioration of law and order, rampant corruption, drug trafficking and the international isolation of Sri Lanka.  No ruler should be allowed to be at the helm of affairs for 18 years at a stretch. The present President has held office for 12 years now. It is more than enough. Based on the public opinion reflected through the upcoming elections, we will work out our strategies for the next elections. Our main aim is to unseat this government.

Q: What is the nature of your political strategy?

We are in the process of negotiations with political parties and organisations. We should not announce anything unilaterally. We will consider it seriously only after the Uva Elections, and take any decision.

Q: There is a general belief that there will be a common political formation comprising all the parties in the opposition as happened at the 2010 Presidential Election. How true is it?

There is no need to rush into any decision. First, the President has no moral right to contest for the third time. The Constitution did not provide for that. The JVP will not hesitate to take a decision in favour of the country and the general public.  A two-thirds majority is required to amend certain Articles of our Constitution. For the amendment of some other constitutional provisions, a referendum is required in addition to the two-thirds majority in Parliament. It means a party should have a two-thirds majority in the House to amend the Constitution. It is a huge mandate. Yet, the present government enjoys a two-thirds in Parliament only through political manipulations. It did not get a majority at the elections. It lured some opposition MPs into its fold through the offer of various benefits. Legal actions initiated against some members were retracted after they joined hands with the government. Therefore, the enactment of the 18th Amendment through such a manipulated majority is morally unacceptable.  We cannot understand why there is a plan to declare an early presidential election. There are two more years for the completion of the current term.

We will push for the declaration of the presidential election only at the appropriate time. If the government declares it prematurely, we will face it anyhow.

Q: Former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva has also challenged the constitutionality of the president contesting for the third time. Do you subscribe to that stand?

We should not be taking what he said seriously these days.  More than giving legal interpretations, he seems to be giving political interpretations.

Q: Do you think there will be a common candidate this time?

We have not reached any finalisations  in this respect, but believe that we should rally the people of this country around a common programme for a phenomenal change in the entire system.

Q: What are the issues identified to be addressed through such a common front?

It is about ensuring equality, rule of law, good governance and equitable economic opportunities.

Q: It is said that the abolition of the executive presidency is the primary target of this common political formation being planned at the moment. How true is it?

It is true that the executive presidency has caused enormous problems in our society today. Yet, the abolition of it alone does not suffice in addressing these issues. We do not expect to replace one party with another in governance. We should look beyond that to bring about a phenomenal change in the country.

Q: Have you identified a specific person to be nominated as the common candidate?

We have not decided on anything yet.

Q: There are reports that JVP will not support any UNP stalwart coming as the presidential candidate.

Yes, it is true. Then, a UNP stalwart cannot be   a common candidate. Then, there cannot be a common political approach.

Q: Is there a change in JVP policy under your leadership?

Actually, we did not have any problem regarding our policies and approaches. Yet, there were concerns about relating these policies to the general public. There are certain areas where we need changes.   We are now striving to explain our political ideology to the general public.

Q: What is the outlook of your policy on international relations especially under the changing circumstances in the world?

Today a new world order is emerging.  In the 1990s, the communist bloc based in Soviet Russia and the capitalist bloc based in the United States held sway in world affairs.  In the 1980s, our neighbouring country was with Russia. Today, that country has close ties with the US.

China is emerging today as a new economic powerhouse.  India is making giant strides in that direction. The global powerbase is shifting in this way. In the Arab world, anti-US sentiments are rising high. Bearing all such developments in mind, we will opt for a foreign policy that ensures economic benefits.

We will pursue our foreign policy to get technology and capital required for the development of our country. We will deploy a set of diplomats armed with knowledge and skills to pursue our interests in the international arena.

Our only coalition will be with the people

(Daily Mirror)

Q: Can you give us a brief introduction about yourself and your politics?

I joined the JVP in 1987 and since then I have been a full-time member of the JVP. Following the insurrection in 1988 and 1989 and the suppression of the party, I gained entry into the Kelaniya University in 1991 and completed my Bachelors of Science. In 1995 I was appointed the National Organiser for the Socialist Youth Movement. In 1998 I was appointed to the Central Committee of the party. I functioned as a Parliamentarian having won the four successive elections held in 2000,2001, 2004 and 2010. In 2004 as a member of the then coalition I was appointed the Minister of Land, Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation.

Q: You joined the political fray during the insurrection of 88-89 or just before it; do you as the Party Leader now regret what took place during that period?

What took place during those years cannot be considered in isolation, nor was it created in isolation. Our party was banned in 1971 and our Leader Rohana Wijeweera was imprisoned for life. It was in 1978 that we as a party could begin politics in public and then again in 1983 J.R. Jayewardene banned our party. This was after the UNP created and oversaw what we now term ‘Black July’ in 1983.

We did everything possible, including filing action in the Supreme Courts of the country and urging international organisations to pressure the Government to lift the ban imposed on us, but the J.R.Government did not relent. In 1984 the UNP murdered one of our comrades and started suppressing our cadre and party. While this was going on, the Indian Army intervened in the country with the hope of taking control of all economic, political and other resources that we possessedas a country. The entire region was faced with Indian aggression and there was a need to rise up against it. It is in this context that the events unfolded.It was a civil war.

Mao Zedong once said that revolution is not a dinner party. Things that should not have happened occurred.On our part we had faulted, and there was a long introspection regarding these faults in 1998. We identified these faults and took measures to ensure that such situations would never occur again in the future.

I want you to look back and recall, after 1994 when under successive governments members of our party were murdered, did our members even take a single stone into their hands in retaliation? Not a single stone was hurled. Recently in Hambantota, an underworld figure close to this Governmentbrutally murdered three of ourmembers during a public meeting. Again, not even a stone was hurled.Therefore,no matter what challenges and modes of suppression the Government resorts to, the lessons of ’88-’89 have been learnt. Therefore we will always stick within the democratic framework and espouse our cause only within this framework.

Q: If you forget the ideology and base this only on the method of acquiring the final goal, what is the difference that you see between the LTTE and the then JVP?

The LTTE had a different goal.

Q: Devoid of goal, I’m talking of the methodology used towards achieving the goal?

But it is in the goal that the difference lies.

Q: But the methodology?

They were genocidal to the effect that they murdered people simply for being Sinhalese. They have ethnically cleansed regions in the hope of achieving a separate fascist Tamil state. The JVP during its fightdidnot commit a single crime against any person based on his race or ethnicity.We had to face the suppression unleashed by J.R. Jayewardene.

We had two options during that time. One was to stay or fight; the other was to wither away into political oblivion.The obvious choice was the former, isn’t it? JR hoped that we would choose the latter, but we chose the path that was against that suppression and against the aggression that the country was facing from India. Therefore, there are major differences in both methodology and ideology between us and the LTTE.

Q: I asked you this question because there is a cry in the North among politicians and many others to the effect that the LTTE should be permitted to commemorate the dead in the same manner in which the JVP is permitted to commemorate theirs. What are your views on this?

‘Il Maha Viruwo’(Heroes of November) is a commemoration of those who sacrificed their lives for the greater good of the country with no thought for personal betterment. I think anyone who sacrifices their lives for causes beyond what is personal should be a hero. Of course, their objective is of importance in defining as well, otherwise the underworld would also be hailed as heroes some day. However, we are of the belief that every citizen has the right to commemorate their dead. In whatever mode they want – be it religiously or otherwise – wehave to respect that right. It is only if we respect that right that we can move on as a country and live in peace and harmony.

Q: If we move in another direction, you recently said that socialism is the way forward. Are you not of the opinion that socialism has failed?

No I am not. What we see around the world is that capitalism has failed instead.Today Greece is on the verge of collapse, England which plundered the wealth of many nations is facing a crisis and so are Spain and the USA. We have to agree that there has been a-setback for socialism in today’s context, but the failure of capitalism is clear. Despite thesetbacks that socialism has experienced, we believe that the future of this country and the world at large could be best served through socialism.

When one says ‘socialism,’ there is this devil that is being perceived as a result of a picture painted by capitalist society. This perception is actually not a result of an in-depth study on socialism or its vices; rather it is based on books, literature and all other forms of capitalist propaganda that has sought to create a ‘devil’ to depict socialism.

We have provided this country with a comprehensive and clear vision. We have stated that this country should move forward based on the objectives and principles of modern socialism. In order to achieve this, we have chosen five spheres we could build on. The first is a people-friendly administration, the development of human resources for which education, health, Information Technology and sports would be given priority. The next would be modernisation and industrialisation of the country.

The next is the creation of a just society. The Government and the private sector, together with every individual, have a duty in fostering a just society. The final would be to create a free humanbeing.Today individuals fear the simple act of filing a complaint at a Police station. Otherwise they have to supplicate themselves to get what is rightfully theirs before politicians. People have been subjugatedand have lost their free will. We want to create a society in which the individual flourishes. That is what we are espousing; this is what our principles are based on – a modern society based on these principles.

Q: Do you believe that Sri Lankans would embrace this ideology?

Most certainly. Who would be against it? Would a professional or intellectual, an industry owner or worker be against what I have told you? But I agree with the tone of your question. A lot of people have not learnt about the JVP through the JVP. Instead it is through secondary sources, which are more often than not the capitalist parties. It is due to their voices, their media and their propaganda that many of the people perceive the JVP in a negative light. Therefore, what many of the people perceive as the JVPis actually fictitious and is continuously being created by the capitalist regimes.I am asking the people to learn about the JVP from one of us, to read about the JVP from the primary source itself instead of believing in the fiction that is being propagated.

We believe that the people should open their eyes to the reality which is in front of them: the rule of law has failed; the wealth of this country and everything in it is controlled by a one family and a few of their friends; the economic dividends are being enjoyed by those in the upper echelons of the economic ladder; education and the healthcare systems have faced severe setbacks; and the country is faced with a major debt crisis. Amidst all this, a fictitious tale of development is being narrated to the people. Wouldn’t the people understand this truth? They would, and if they aren’t realising it right not, I believe it is our duty to ensure that it is understood.

Q: Drawing from this answer and your insistence that a false impression is being created regarding the JVP, there is a notion among many that the JVP is not what it portrays itself as being and that sinister hands behind the JVP actually control it and not you. What is your stance on this?

It’s not about what is portrayed and what is not. All of us are members of the JVP and we all work with the people. As a part of our responsibility, one group is in Parliament; these members portray themselves in the media and indulgein propaganda. Similarly, there are many other groups involved in other worklike organising, conducting seminars, working with the grassroots. The party knows these people and so do those close to it. The JVP does not at any point hide these people. That’s not the way we engage in politics, but of course responsibilities that are entrusted among our members differ.

Q: Are you saying this in all honesty?

Yes, we don’t have any reason to lie.

Q: But whenthe recent split occurred in your party, both your then Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe and Vijitha Herath specifically told us that they did not even know the existence of Kumar Gunarathnam. Only later did your party even admit to any knowledge about him. How can you say that you don’t have people who have been hidden from the public?

Firstly, what we were asked was if he was a member of the Political Committee. Secondly, the powers that be actually tried to suppress him (during his time with us) – that’s the truth. So knowing that, how could we have sacrificed our members? We have to protect our members instead. Although those who left our party don’t bear that responsibility, we as a party bear that responsibility. Therefore until the end we did our duty and shouldered our responsibility.

Q: Again, building on the above answer, when the Rathupaswala water issue broke out, there was a direct allegation that it was the JVP who was playing a sinister role in fuelling the villagers’ wrath against the factory. Where do such notions come from?

It is the Government which wanted this notion portrayed through its media and other media that it directly or indirectly controls. Even during this interview I’m careful enough not to use the name ‘Rajapaksa’ because you will have to inevitably edit anything that comes with that name which ideally would have been a major part of this interview.

What you have to understand is that this Government is built on a falsehood and they are trying hard to prevent the real Rajapaksas being portrayed to the country. In order to prevent the real Rajapaksas being shown, they impede and intervene in anything that even attempts to do that. Many journalists have been murdered, to this day; not one suspect has been arrested. Is this because of the Police being ineffective? No; it is because it was all done by the Government. Many media houses were burnt down; was there a single arrest made? No; because it was the Government that was behind it. Poddala Jayantha was assaulted and two of his legs were broken, was there a single arrest made? No; because again it was the Government which did it. Many media houses were bought over by those close to the family.A section of journalists have been intimidated to the point that they could not withstand such and have left the country while another section has been bought over by providing them with benefits.

Therefore, everything that the people would know is distorted; the truth is essentially buried due to this. The Weliweriya incident is a good example of this distortion. In fact we regret that we were not there to lead that fight. It was the people who took to the streets when they could not provide their children with clean drinking water. That was all there was to it.

I know that we have also faltered by not being able to convey the truth to the people and instead permitted this distortion to reach them.

Q: Anura Kumara is known as a pragmatist, as a person who isn’t confined to theoretical nuances. How is Anura Kumara who insisted on the JVP either being a part of a coalition or going into the political wilderness previously now able to lead a party which wants to stand firm on its feet alone?

No, that is wrong. Everyone in the Central Committee knew my stance regarding a coalition since 2004. These same people knew my stance when it came to a similar situation in 2010, and that stance might have been different from the previous one. However, what is clear is that within our party any member can hold and voice their opinion and take a stand on any issue. I don’t think anyone within the party, not even those who have left us now, ever voicedan opinion or held a stance with the intention of defeating the JVP. That is not so. Everyone in the party makes their stance clear at any given time based on their political maturity, experience and how they foresee the future political landscape, their knowledge and the situation that the party was faced with at that given time. At that point the party makes a decision and we are bound to work towards it, whatever that decision may be. That’s the way we work.

Q: Will the JVP forge a coalition in the future?

Yes, but not with the UNP or the SLFP. Our coalition will be with the people of the country. We will work towards ensuring that the country’s strongest coalition is forged with us and the people and our objectives and methodologies of working to this end are clear.

Q: Are you willing to welcome these factions back into the JVP?

The doors of the JVP will not be opened to those who have committed treachery. The conspirators who gave information about our party to the enemy will never be welcome. However, those cadres who left on impulseor who were forced to believe in something that wasn’t true are welcome to join the JVP again. Discussions are already underway with many of them.

Q: So Kumar Gunarathnam would never be allowed back into the JVP?

He is a conspirator. The doors of the party will not be opened to him.  We didn’t have the amount of evidence we have now during the time the incidents took place, but now it is very clear that he was a conspirator.

Q: Today do you regret supporting the candidature of General Sarath Fonseka?

The turning point of our party was in 2004 when we agreed to form a coalition with Chandrika Kumaratunga’s Government in order to defeat the UNP. We were the most potent Opposition force at the time and we had to defeat the UNP’s unpatriotic and disastrous moves. The mode we chose to defeat the UNP was the coalition. At that time we should have explored other avenues to do so; instead we chose the easiest mode. That was the turning point and thereafter everything that followed in the party’s political journey was a direct result of that decision. The 2010 presidential election, DNA and everything else was based on that.  The beginning was not in 2010 but in 2004.

Q: You didn’t answer the question; do you regret that decision?

Yes. Everything that flowed from 2004 was combined. You can’t take anyone of those decisions in isolation from the other. That was the point at which the fortunes of the party changed.

Q: What do you intend on doing in order to reverse the party’s fortunes now?

The first thing is to build the party, strengthen the organising of the party, strengthen its propagandaand make it a mammoth political force that can serve this country and its people.

Anura Kumara Dissanayake says: JVP never a third force but alternative one

(Ceylontoday)

The new leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), Anura Kumara Dissanayake, said the JVP was never a third force in the country, but an alternative force. “It was the media which branded us as a third force but we never said that we were the third force,” he said.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: Somawansa Amarasinghe has handed over the leadership to you. You are the third leader of the Party. What are your plans to take party to a victory?

A: At the last JVP convention held on the 2 February, we approved many changes in the Party. We also have a new central working committee.

We have realised that there are many small scale protests in the country which start but soon fade away. Though these are good starting point, it will not bring victory to the people. Thus, we have decided to establish centres around the country to mobilise people into cohesive units, which can fight for the rights of the people.

The Rajapaksa government has in the guise of democracy cheated and won small scale elections, which have stabilized their power, but no longer is the peoples’ wishes expressed through elections. Thus, a committee called the ‘Election Front’ was established to help increase our voter base.

We have also worked on a manifesto which will help rebuild this country and we are working on a programme to take it to the people. The Central Working Committee will also be working on strengthening the Party’s organization capacity.

Q: Since1965, the JVP slogans have been ‘anti-imperialism’ and ‘nationalism’ ,but now the Rajapaksa government has taken away these slogans from you. As a result you have failed electorally and you no longer enjoy the same level of support you were once used to?

A: That is true. We do have a decrease in our voter base. In 1965, the Party was built on national unity, fairness and equality, but it could not work because of the capitalistic system which had ruled this country for so long. But what have we gained from it?

The world had a major revolution in technology, arts and culture but our country has not experienced any of that. The present government has brought us heroin, ethanol, and various other vices instead of technology and knowledge. Our country is also heavily in debt due to the government.The present situation is; a child hangs himself because he has no shoes to go to school, a mother and her children fall sick after eating bitter gourd continuously because they did not have food to eat and another mother commits suicide along with her children. This is what our current government has left us with.

Hence, we need a major societal change to move the country forward. As a party we have faced many challenges personally but when the the country broke down due to communal divisions, we made certain decisions which were unfortunate for the Party, but in the greater interest of the country.

Our voter base might have decreased but we still have the strongest Teachers’ Unions, Students’ Unions, Farmers’ Unions and we are working on strengthening our Youth Unions. We hope to nurture dedicated, courageous people who can look beyond the short term politics of this government and support us. This is what we are building.

Q: Following up on what you said, this country has an ageing population and if you only rely on the support of the youth alone, you will not be able to come to power. You need to come up with a strategy which would attract others too. From 1965-1988 the Party mainly depended on the youth, especially those who were attracted to the charisma of Rohana Wijeweera. WimalWeerawansa succeeded in attracting the youth to certain extent and now you too are trying to do that. But. if you continue alomg this path without a change in ideology even with a change in leadership, you might never be able to get any power?

A: I admit that we cannot bring about social change with just the youth. But we think that the youth in our society are an important component of change. When societal change is needed, the working class and the farmers are very important. We are turning our attention towards them to be able to win and our Party programmes are aimed at winning the support of all these people. I admit that our appeal has been stronger in certain classes while other classes have not accepted us as much. But now we are working on a unifying programme to bring all these classes together.

When it comes to modernizing the party, what do we possess currently? Our members are selfless. We don’t need to change that.

The manifesto we have come up with will touch five key areas:

1. How can a democracy function when so much power is vested in one man? Powers should be shared in a democracy so we planned to get rid of the executive presidency. Media, Public institutions, Elections Commission, Police and Courts should be governed independently. We will bring in a set of proposals to ensure that.

2. The human resource – How do we rebuild our country? We do not have a lot of natural resources like oil and metal so what is our best resource? It is our human resource. Our economic foundation thus should be programmes to develop the human resource of our people. Hence more resources have to be divested in improving education, health, sport and technology which will lead to more qualified and fit people.

3. A modern and industrialized nation – Our country has not benefitted from any of the technological advances in the world. So how do we include new technology into our industries? Fisheries, agriculture, small and medium scale industries, they have no new technology.

We import everything at present: the tractor used to plough the field, the pesticide, the fertilizer, the seed, the machines needed to harvest the grain and even the sack used to carry the grain. So what do we produce? We have to build more industrialized sectors.

4. A just society – The law has to apply to all and it should be applied equally.

5. A man with dignity – Today a man has to beg and degrade himself in front of politicians to get anything done. To admit his child to school, to lodge a complaint at the police station and it even extends to the cowardly manner in which he talks. We need to become those who are proud of themselves, those who can stand on their own two feet and are an example to their family and society.

These are the main areas we would be concentrating on. Thus, we do not represent the past but the future. Unfortunately, we have been portrayed as a people who are very traditional; as ones who want to wear a loin cloth and live in a cave. This is not what we have projected. It is our enemies who have portrayed us as such. We do not believe in that, we believe that we need to adapt with the times and move towards a modern and scientific future.

Q: Since the inception of the Party, Rohana Wijeweera led two revolutions but they failed. Thereafter the Party was resurrected by Somawansa Amarasinghe and you now have to rebuild the Party. Your manifesto however, which sounds great in theory, is not very practical. It has never been accepted by the majority of the people and neither has it gone through to them. The people have always stuck with the two main parties, the UNP and the SLFP. Your voter base is just 5%. Based on this, will the people accept your new manifesto?

A: A Party, ideologically, should never be at a place where the majority people are, it should be ahead of them. But traditionally the political parties in the country play to the gallery. That is why you get all sorts of candidates contesting the elections these days and you get thugs to drive the point. Such popular politics cannot take people forward. We are trying to bring in a political ideology which is ahead and is something to aspire to and that is why we have survived so long. In 1965 Rohana Wijeweera and seven others, who were little known at the time, met in a small room to discuss the creation of a political party. Wijeweera was 22 years then and was working at a time when the ruling party was all powerful and the greats of the leftist parties were more experienced than him, and yet he proposed starting a party. He suffered immensely to achieve this goal. They did not eat much, walked everywhere to campaign so that they could save the little money the Party had collected. That is how our Party was formed.

In 1971, the government feared this Party and they started persecuting its members. We were faced with the choice of fighting or the possibility of being destroyed. We chose to fight. We did not surrender. We lost and over 10,000 were killed and our leaders arrested. In 1983, J.R.Jayawardene’s government persecuted us and yet again we chose to fight. A whole generation was lost and the party was almost wiped out. But then we came back again in 1994 and contested the parliamentary elections. There have been small incidents since then but our Party has proved itself resilient despite all the challenges faced.

The challenge we face today is not a simple one. It is not about replacing one government with another. It is easy to replace something bad with another bad thing, or to give something bad instead of a good. But it is hard to replace a bad thing with something good. Thus, we have to change the whole fabric of society, not just the government.

Even today we are the voice of the people. When there is a problem in a government office, who do you think they approach? If there is a problem in the school, who do they go to? Who do you think the people accept as a Party of action? It is the JVP. We are in the hearts of the people though it has not turned into votes. The people do think we are relevant but we have to find a way to turn this into votes at an election. This is a challenge. We are working on this.

Q: You admitted that many preferences have not turned into votes and it is true that the JVP is approached when there is an issue but what is your strategy to turn them into votes? Is not your manifesto too theoretical?

A: No we practice politics in a practical manner. When a people are used to a certain way, they think everything else is impossible. A lot of people were surprised that a person who was once a leader of the Party had agreed to work in a committee under a person who he had trained himself. But our leader did that. That is the JVP. We are not a party which is confined to the traditional model of society, we think beyond that. Thus certain things certainly would be unbelievable and impractical until it is done.

Our problem at present is, how are we to build our own image in public beyond the various misconceptions which have been woven around us. They think we are unapproachable, and violent people, but these are all manufactured propaganda by our enemies.

Q: When Nanda Gunathilaka and Wimal Weerawansabroke away, they said that Somawansa is adaptable and young at heart but the weakness in the Party lies in its members’ inability to move beyond its conventional and outdated ideology. As a new leader, you have to be ahead of Somawansa and you need a plan of your own to take the Party forward. What are your plans?

A: In leftist parties there are different views within the party which are discussed unlike other parties. In other parties, it is the leader who decides all and he leads the people like cattle. That is not the case with leftist parties around the world.

In 2005, Nandana and Weerawansa suggested that the party could be revolutionised by joining hands with the Rajapaksa government and working in their ministries. But no leftist party has brought about societal change by joining hands with a capitalistic government. So, who is conventional and outmoded? They have settled for petty things like ministries which paint houses.

The main feature of a revolutionary party is renewing oneself and the party from time to time. Like a clay which can be moulded to fit the situation. We have changed as a party over time, from revolutionary politics to mainstream democracy as the political situation changed. Though people call us puritanical, we have changed and we are prepared to change.

Q: in 1994, you had one parliamentary seat, in 2001 you had 16, thereafter 38 and now you are limited to 7. But these victories were won through coalitions. Whatever you do, if you do not win power in government you will fade away just like the other leftist parties. It is your responsibility to change things around, what is your strategy to win the votes of the people?

A: We do not believe that the people’s wishes are portrayed through Rajapaksa’s election victories. At present there is a lot of resentment towards the government but at the polling station, votes are won through fear and corruption. But, you are right a political party’s strength is judged by how many seats they have in government thus we cannot leave the election field. The establishment of our Election Front will greatly help us boost our voter base. If you are asking me if it involves the UNP, the answer is definitely not.

Q: In the last Provincial Council elections, the JVP which was a third force was pushed to fourth place and Sarath Fonseka, who was with you at the start, managed to garner more votes? It is predicted that the same would happen at the next election to be held in March.

A: We never said we were the third force, it was the media who said that and now it is the media which is saying that we are no longer the third force. We are not the third force, we are the alternative force.

We accept that Fonseka fared better than us but the Fonseka phenomenon is short lived. There have been many like him before who have come and gone. They have no political ideology to survive for long.

In 1987 Chandrika too made a separate faction with many powerful characters in the SLFP, but two years later they disappeared and rejoined the party. Then the UNP had the Lalith-Gamini Peramuna, which too did not last very long, they rejoined the UNP. Then we had the JHU with all the monks, in two years they joined the government. Thus the Fonseka phenomenon too is a political bubble which will soon join either of the two main political parties. Fonseka is not a challenge to us.

Q: A lot of people who supported the UNP are disillusioned but do you think that if the UNP gets a new leader, this would be a major threat to the voter base you are trying to attract?

A: The crisis in the UNP is not a leadership crisis. It is what they as a Party that has been projected. The crisis really is that their policies are being implemented by the current government, so then why do we need the UNP? The UNP has no problem with the policies of the government, it is with their execution that they find fault. Even the UNP politicians in parliament say that the government is implementing their policies. Thus, just because the UNP changes its leader, it will not be able to revive the Party, the only thing left to do for them is to join the government, most UNPers are in the government anyway.

Q: Will you plan to take over the government during your time as leader?

A: Yes definitely, we will revive our voter base and gain control of the government. We are a Party and people who have a very positive outlook and we seek to win.

Q: The youth of today are not the same as that of 1988. The urban youth today are obsessed with other things apart from politics, even at the rural level, they are moving to the city for a brighter future. At the famers’ unions, you have ageing farmers, not young farmers. How will you deal with the youth of today?

A: You are right. The young man today may have changed his appearance, lifestyle and expectations but even today he is faced with the same problems as the young man of 1988. He has limited avenues to make an income, he cannot find a job which he is qualified for, his expectations and hopes have fallen short of reality, what he hopes for may have changed with time, but the result is the same. Young people today however have very little interest in politics, this is a consequence of the open economy started in 1977. So we need to take politics to them, our Youth Front with the leadership of Bimal Ratnayake is doing that now and he is working on programmes which will appeal to them.

Q: You launched the ‘Che Ride’ with the leadership of Bimal Ratnayake to attract the youth, but those who turned up for it were existing JVPers, and were supported by JVPers, you were not able to attract youth who have no political inclinations. The existing JVPer is very committed but what is your plan to attract the young middle class? Do you think that you can market iconic figure like Che to attract these people?

A: We were not marketing the symbol of Che. We wanted to promote his qualities: his dedication to the cause, his courage and heroism. Che is a symbol who can appeal to the youth in any country, we wanted to tell the people, come let us think like Che, let us act like Che and let us become him.

You are right though, we have not been able to attract this large youth fraction to us, but do not you think that we can only achieve that through our own youth? This is just a beginning but we hope to reach the youth of all classes. We need to work on attracting more youth to the Party.

Q: In countries like Greece and Scandinavia, old leftist parties have renewed themselves and managed to increase their voter base. Will you be learning from them?

A: Yes. We are in contact with them. Our youth front is also taking part in the World Youth Festival and we discuss and exchange ideas with leftist parties around the world.

Q: Human rights, media freedom, racial and religious discrimination, what are your plans to deal with all that?

A: This country is made up of all races, Sinhala, Muslim, Malay, Burgher and Tamil, who are all part of the country. It is irrelevant where anyone came from. All are born here, they live here, participate in the country’s economy and then die here. Where they came from only belongs to history not our present. We do not need a divided country so we need a Party which will unite all. The Sinhala nationalists think we promote Tamil nationalism and vice versa but we stand for the rights of all.

To have racial discrimination, one race must declare itself superior tor the other. Sinhala nationalism fuels Tamil nationalism and when a Tamil nationalist fights back, he provoke Sinhala nationalism. One cannot survive without the other. When Rajapaksa promotes Sinhala nationalism, the TNA replies with Tamil nationalism, neither are beneficial. We are working to move beyond these petty nuances.

Q: Will you join any coalition in future?

A: No. Our coalition is only with the people.

Q: People fear that the JVP will go back to its revolutionary ways as it is not doing so well democratically?

A: We never chose the revolutionary path. It was a reaction against the government’s policy to eradicate us. We have always tried to come to power democratically but we kept getting pushed into a revolution. We had to fight then.

Until the very last, we will be true to the democratic path and experience tells all that revolutions do not turn out well. The world too has changed, people have moved on, and I do not think at this juncture in Sri Lankan politics that we will ever go for a revolution.

Q: They say that though Ranil Wickramasinghe is the opposition leader, you are the one who carries out his job. But according to JVP policy, the leader or general secretary does not go to parliament. Will you be attending parliament now?

A: Our constitution says that only the general secretary will not attend parliament, but the Party has decided that I will be attending.

Q: When there was an announcement that a change is to be expected in the JVP, people thought that there will be sweeping changes everywhere, but only the leadership changed, why is that?

A: We discussed these changes three months ago but our members were disciplined enough not to reveal any decision. We have made quite a few changes, for example we brought Lalkantha to Colombo and we made many changes in the administration of the Party. Though it was the change in leadership which was publicized the most, there were other important changes. Many said that there were power struggles within the Party but we have no such problems, we are very united and we make decisions together.

‘Separate governance in North could have wider repercussions’

(Dailymirror) A member of Sri Lanka’s Marxist party that etched a radical era in the country’s political history, JVP MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake has always been a guileless politician. In his interview with Daily Mirror he speaks of the JVP’s completely unique approach to the contentious issue of  the 13 Amendment and of the policies that continue to  crush the country’s Tamil community. . .

Following are the excerpts:

Q: Right from its introduction in 1987, the JVP has opposed the provincial council system. It seems the stance has not changed almost two decades afterwards as evidenced by General Secretary Tilvin Silva’s recent description of the PC system as a ‘white elephant’. What are your conditions for opposing the PC system?

A: We are of the opinion that PCs are not a solution to the national issue since its structure would result in a further exacerbation of the ethnic crisis. Hence, we strongly believe that the 13A should be completely repealed.

The governments that were in power throughout the years as well as Sinhala and Tamil chauvinists created doubt and mistrust among the two communities that persists even at present. Under these circumstances, the creation of a separate provincial council for the Tamil community would only pave way for separatism.

Attempts were and are being made to convince the Tamil community that a separate zone of governance for themselves would be the sole solution to their crises. But the harsh reality is that it is a concept forcefully heaved upon the Sri Lankan Tamil community by India and certain NGOs that is not capable of bringing an effective solution to their issues.

We also believe that during the past four years since the end of the war, there are issues of grave concern that has impacted the Tamil community, which the government should have addressed promptly. The failure to do so has escalated the qualms concerning the government in the minds of those in the Tamil community. Therefore, we believe that the right course of action at present is not to scrap the PC system or hold the Northern Provincial Council elections, but to implement a combined effort where both short-term as well as long term solutions are offered to the aggrieved members of the Tamil community.

” The JHU and Wimal are only opposing and enacting drama because that is the agenda assigned to them by the Rajapaksa regime to remain in power. They are no different to a tick on a dog’s body; the tick wishes for the dog’s life to be prolonged because only then would their survival be safeguarded. ”

Q: What are these issues of ‘grave concern’ which you believe the government failed to address?

A: Firstly, it is important to understand the mentality of those residing in the North. Although military personnel are perceived upon as heroes in the South, for the majority of Northerners they are the slayers of their husbands, sons and loved ones. Ideally, the government should have taken steps to recoil military personnel into camps and replace liberated Northern areas under civil administration where the rule of law is overseen by the Police.

Instead, they increased the military presence; along the route between Omanthey and Jaffna, there are some 35 shops managed by the Army. What about those arrested under suspicion of involvement with the LTTE? If the government can free the top LTTE leaders under their custody including KP, Daya Master and Thamalini, why can’t they speed up the trials of the Tamil youth under arrest? What about the refugees in the North? Over 50% of them still reside in temporary homes and most of the permanent residences have been donated by voluntary organizations, not the government.

Another burning concern in the Northern Province is the land issue. It is a complex subject and over 6,000 acres of the land in the area have already been acquired by the military for high security zones. So the government should have given priority to conducting a swift land survey to identify the original owners and thereafter acquire the necessary lands for developmental purposes. Adding insult to injury, steps have been taken to resettle some 3,000 Sinhala families from the South while the crisis of lands and their ownership still persist.

The government has also not allowed the cultural and religious practices of the people living in the North to freely flourish. This year the largest pandol was constructed in Kilinochchi as part of a Vesak Zone. This might’ve seemed like an attempt to develop religious coexistence, but it is in fact a stark act of encroachment that reflected the governing body’s reluctance to allow the cultural and religious identity of the people from the North to rise.

It has also been made abundantly clear by the government that multi-party politics is unwelcome in the North. Following the end of the war when we attempted to initiate our political activities in the province, comrade Hadunnetti was assaulted, opposition leader Ranil Wickramasinghe was pelted with stones. All these facts point to one thing – that the government is treating the masses of the North with a colonial mentality similar to when the British invaded Sri Lanka and claimed ownership to every human and every other resource upon this soil.

Prabhakaran justified his agenda of attempting to create a separate state for Tamils, claiming that they could never expect fair treatment from the government in the South. Back then, there were some who sided with him and some who didn’t. But during the past four years, the majority of the Tamil community has reached the conclusion that they cannot expect any justice from the Sinhala government in the South.

Q: The JVP opposes 13 A, but members of your party contest for provincial council elections. Isn’t it a contradiction of the party’s stance regarding the PC system?

A: In 1987 we were a banned political movement but our actions to oppose the PC system were then at its peak. In 1994, we entered the democratic political arena almost forcefully and it presented us with a crucial challenge – making the most of our political activities within the scope permitted under the democratic system. That is why we decided to contest every election, including the provincial council polls.

However, even while we were part of the coalition government, we never accepted ministerial positions in local governing bodies because the acceptance would in turn have contributed to the prolonging of the PC system. During decision making processes and voting, our PC members always chose the course of action that would not aid to the strengthening of the PC system.

Q:  Earlier you accused various elements of heaving the concept of 13A upon the local Tamil community. As a community with a distinctly different culture and traditions, do you still believe it is unfair for them to have the right to choose their preferred form of governance?

A: I’m afraid things do not always work out in such simple sequences.  Sri Lanka is a centralized, multi-ethnic, multi-religious state.  Therefore, it is of paramount importance that all aspects of governance are carried out, based on that premise. The ideal course of action therefore, is to safeguard the rights of all communities. I accept that the past governments of Sri Lanka failed to safeguard equal rights to all communities, but that failure itself does not justify the creation of a separate governing structure for a particular community.

Some 51.8% of the Tamil community lives in areas outside the Northern Province. What is the message conveyed to those residing in other parts of Sri Lanka, by cementing the fact that the Northern Province is secluded to Tamils? In a country where extremist organizations such as the Bodhu Bala Sena (BBS) operates, a separate governing system would only lead to Tamil families in other parts of the country to be tracked and forced to resettle in the North.

Therefore, we believe that creating a separate governing zone for the Tamils in the North is in fact a grave injustice committed upon them because it will deprive others of that community, the right to live in any other part of the country.

The Tamils’ distinctly different culture, norms and traditions should be respected and preserved and ensured of equality. But dividing the country is not the answer. There is a clash between Tamils residing in the North and East. So when the Northern Tamils are provided a separate area for governance, are the Eastern province Tamils and Muslims to demand for a separate zone of governance too?

We accept the system of power devolution, but only under circumstances where conditions for divisions  among ethnicities are uprooted. Unfortunately such an enviornment doesn’t exist in Sri Lanka.

Q: It took almost 40 years for the Sri Lankan government to grant Tamil language, the status of a national language. Who do you think was responsible for this delay?

A: All governments that were in power are to be blamed. They prioritized power over the wellbeing of people and the future of the country. They fueled racist campaigns – both Sinhalese and Tamil, to gain political mileage and ensure that the power was passed down within families, from one generation to the other.

How is it possible for a multi-ethnic state to have a single national language? Tamils have faced great issues due to this language issue. For example, 95% of personnel in the Police force are Sinhalese. When we lodge a complaint at a police station, it is standard practice to get the complainant to sign the grievance attesting it was read and understood. How could a Tamil citizen read and understand Sinhala? In a multi-ethnic country, it is the prime duty of the government to ensure that state institutions and departments operate in both languages. Shouldn’t the people be ensured the right to follow any religion and speak any language they wish?

Instead, the Rajapaksa regime is fueling extremism through supporting organizations such as the BBS, because they are well aware that their survival lies only by acting upon the whims and fancies of Sinhala chauvinists. But it was not only the Sinhala politicians who cultivated and fueled racism to gain political advantages, as evidenced by TULF member Kasi Anandan’s statement at a rally during 1978 general elections, where he said that one day when the Tamil Eelam was realized, he would wear a rose that was nourished by the blood of the Sinhalese, on his coat pocket.

Q: What are your views on the recently presented draft constitution by the UNP?

A: The UNP is attempting to convince the masses that the constitution is to be blamed for the present societal degradation. What they have failed to accept is that the blame lies with the country’s economic system. Their draft constitution is a suppression of the real issue. It is possible that the UNP does not wish to accept the true facts since it was they who created the present economic structure.

Certain media and individuals believe that Sri Lanka needs a regime change but we do not believe it will bring about any change, because it is only a simple transference of power from one family to another. If history is any indication, ever since the introduction of the Soulbury constitution, it has been a continuing trend to create constitutions that underpin the capitalist economy, which in turn has not really brought effective, critical changes to the country’s system.

” Some 51.8% of the Tamil community lives in areas outside the Northern Province. What is the message we are conveying to those residing in other parts of Sri Lanka, by cementing the fact that the Northern Province is secluded to Tamils? ”

Q: Then in your opinion, what will bring about this ‘system change’?

A: It is the economic structure that should change; a positive development would be the creation of a constitution that would change the present economic structure into a product based economy. Sri Lanka is among the few countries in the world that imports almost all the commodities. It is only if the economy is transferred into a product based system that employment opportunities will emerge for the youth and eventually lead to the generation of national wealth.

Q: The JVP has announced that it would not participate in the Parliamentary Select Committee on the amendments to 13A and instead would present a set of proposals that would help solve the ethnic crisis. What would they entail? Do you think the public will accept them?

A: With the debate on the 13A emerging within the public and political arena, Sinhala chauvinist elements call for the repeal of the 13A while Tamil chauvinists call for its full implementation. We decided that as a party opposing to the PC system, we should draft our proposals and publicise them because we do not believe that either extremes would offer an effective solution.

Our proposals are not yet finalized, but they will include proposals on how we believe the masses should contribute to the governing system and a combined approach that would entail short-term and long-term solutions to issues faced by the Tamil community.

Whether the public accepts it or not, it is our duty as a political movement to educate the masses on our visions and views. We are confident that someday, our visions would be proven right.

Q: Tilvin silva had mentioned recently that this sudden debate on 13A is due to India’s pressures and had accused India of plundering Lankan resources. Don’t you think China too plunders our resources?

A: Both the economic and foreign policies adopted by Mahinda Rajapaksa are grossly flawed and it was well reflected during an interview he had with The Hindu where he has quite simply  indicated he is on a mission to divide the country’s resources between China and India.

The difference between the two interventions is that China only interferes in the economic process. They provide us with developmental project loans but concurrently, gain the project contracts and thereby extract large profits.  India on the other hand, not only interferes with the economy but also the internal politics of the country. Both countries are guilty of plundering the country’s resources, but our particular criticism of India is based on its role on the 13A.

Q: JVP seems to be undergoing a rejection by the public, with its MPs being reducing from 36 to a mere handful by now. Do you feel the cracks within the party resulted in this drawback?

A: We are not a political movement that measures our strength through elections alone. But they are an important facet of politics, and we admit we are experiencing a temporary fallback. But it is not a result of lying or plundering public wealth. We feel it is a short-term impact due to a change in the mindset of people following the end of the war etc.

But we know that even those who don’t vote in favour of the JVP wish for a JVP MP to be elected to Parliament and has faith in our members. It is this faith that will someday be converted into a powerful force.

We don’t believe cracks such as the Frontline Socialist Party impacted much on the party and neither did Wimal’s breakaway. But in the public eye, the manner in which he is making a mockery of himself has reduced the faith in the party even though he is no longer a JVP member. But we have embarked on a struggle to win it back.

Q: Do you think you will succeed?

A: Yes, we believe we will and because we believe this struggle has to be concluded within this generation.

Q: The hard-line parties such as JHU and NFF also call for the repeal of  the 13A. One might think the JVP is on a similar stand with them. What are your comments?

A: Our reasons for opposing this are very different. It was this government that fueled ethnic divisions during the past four years. None of these hard-line parties cried foul when this government harassed politicians of the opposition or murdered journalists or when Tamil youths were imprisoned while top LTTE leaders were freed.

The objections brought forward by the hard-line parties on the 13A have no basis or worth, because it was they who contributed towards the  division of the country in their roles as cabinet members. The JHU and Wimal are only opposing and enacting drama because that is the agenda assigned to them by the Rajapaksa regime to remain in power. They are no different to a tick on a dog’s body; the tick wishes for the dog’s life to be prolonged because only then would their survival be safeguarded.

Q: Since JVP opposes the 13A, is it likely that you and other JVP MPs would vote in favour of the government proposals to repeal powers of the 13A?

A: We have not yet made a decision but we are well aware that they are not presented to genuinely prevent the country from being divided. Some call the proposals as a riddance of the venomous teeth of the animal which is the 13A.  But for us, the whole animal is poisonous and should be done away with. We do not think that repealing police and land powers would make it a solution to the country’s ethnic crisis. We call for the 13A to be completely annulled.

Q: Will the JVP contest Northern Provincial Council elections ? Are you planning to align with a main political party?

A: Yes, we will be contesting because we have a message to be conveyed to the people of the North. It is during elections that people mostly pay attention to political activity and it will be a good opportunity for us to tell the real story.

Until 2004, we never supported any other party but due to certain incorrect political decisions made afterwards, we did enter a coalition with the SLFP but that would be the final coalition we entered into.

Q: Without aligning with a main party, do you think JVP will be able to come into power?

A: We are confident of our ability to come into power independently and that is one of the reasons for creating this party. We do not have any personal agendas, our purpose it so serve the public and their agendas. As a step towards serving the masses, we are currently having discussions with the country’s intellectuals, artistes and civil organization representatives to create a civil movement that would fight for people’s rights.

Q: Although this might be a too premature question, do you think the JVP will field a candidate during the upcoming Presidential election?

A: Yes, it is too early to tell and we still have not decided. But one thing is certain; we will not support any of the main party candidates.

PC System not a panacea for present problems – Comrade Tilvin Silva

Q: In the political circle, there is much talk of the 13th Amendment these days. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) was a party that was opposed to the Provincial Council (PC) system right from the beginning. What are your views on this renewed criticism on the PC system established under the 13th Amendment?

The JVP is opposed to the PC system on principle. That is the policy we have taken right from the beginning. However, there is renewed criticism by some elements on it at a time, ahead of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) elections.  Against this backdrop, we have to take serious note of this   political criticism against the 13th Amendment.  We see this diatribe against the PC system today despite President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s repeated assurances to the international community, particularly to India that these elections would be conducted. Therefore, any criticism of the 13th Amendment would be viewed negatively by the Tamil community in the north.  We, the JVP, do not believe that the PC system is the panacea for problems confronting the ethnic Tamils.

It is true that the Tamil people are enduring immense hardships. But, we should politically convince them that the PC system is not the way out for them. It has been proven unsuccessful.  The Eastern Provincial Council was constituted. But, the problems of the people remain unsolved or unattended.  Yet, instead of finding practical solutions to the genuine grievances of the Tamil people, the government has made way for a political harangue against the PC system. Therefore, Tamils will obviously view such criticism with suspicion.

Q: You mentioned that Tamil people are grappling with some serious problems. In your view, what are they?

At the moment, they have serious land problems. They were dispossessed of their lands during the war. There is no proper plan to give back such lands to their rightful owners. Likewise, there is the issue of Tamil prisoners.  The government has also failed to look into the incidents of disappearances.  The government has still been unable to dispense with legal cases involving disappearances or to pay compensation to the next-of-kin of the victims. Instead of resettling people with proper facilities, the government has literally left them in the street. The government should resettle them after restoring their means of livelihood. Also, there are circumstances that have compelled the Tamil people to consider themselves as second class citizens of this country. The language problem is one of them. It has to be addressed. There are a lot of administrative issues – lack of Tamil speaking police officers and Grama Niladharis.  After the war was over, a semi-military rule has been imposed on the Tamil people.  Democracy should be strengthened in the north along with the establishment of civil administration.   These matters warrant urgent attention. If these problems are solved, the Tamil people will begin to think differently.

Q:In your view, what will the political repercussions be if the elections are held in the north under these circumstances?

It is a serious situation.  The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is likely to win this election. Then, there may be attempts to reinforce the separatist ideology. Though the war is over, the separatist ideology remains intact. During the last four years of the post-war period, the government did not do anything to defeat separatism politically. Instead, the government’s actions only added force to this ideology.  Therefore, we can conclude that certain sections of the Tamil Diaspora and   the international forces including India and the United States may try to use this council as a base to push for further devolution of political power in conformity with their separatist agenda.   That is the imminent danger lying before us. But, the government has made repeated assurances before the international community that these elections would be conducted. The government can ward off the impending danger only by finding practical solutions to the problems of people in the north. They do not ask for power sharing or self-determination. They urge the government to address cases of disappearances, to release Tamil prisoners, to create economic opportunities and to restore civil administration.

In reality, the government should have acted to abolish this PC system a long time ago. Yet, the government conducted staggered PC elections in other parts of the country. All of a sudden, they talk against the system, ahead of the NPCE only. It creates suspicion in the minds of people. If it is applicable to other areas, why is it not for the north? That is the logical question arising in the minds of people. A complex situation has arisen today, and the government should be held   responsible.

Q:You mean the government is in a crisis situation?

Yes of course. The government is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.  The government was unwise. They only tried to find solutions to the country’s problems   on a daily piecemeal manner instead of making a holistic approach with a farsighted vision. It is the typical way of the government. It has resulted in the present mess.

Q:If the Northern Provincial Council elections are conducted, will the JVP participate in it?

Yes, we will do it as a party. We will make it an opportunity to engage in politics with people in the north.  The government failed to defeat the separatist political ideology during the past four years. Again, they did not allow any political activity that can attract Tamil people to the mainstream of national politics. We, the JVP, were not allowed to carry out political work in the north.  Our comrade MP Sunil Handunnetti was assaulted in Jaffna. They placed a lot of hurdles before us. Through such foolish and adamant behaviour, they blocked the path for Tamil people to embrace national politics without confining themselves to politics based on their regional and ethnic identity.

Q:Though you claim that Tamil people are not for power devolution or self-determination, the TNA which campaigns heavily on such demands won past elections in the north.  The TNA is on record that they repeatedly got mandates from their people to fight for such political rights.  How do you see it?

Tamil people naturally tend to vote for Tamil political parties, whichever are mentioned in manifestoes. The TNA has given its own political interpretation to this electoral behaviour of Tamil people.  Let’s take what happened in recent times. There were some demonstrations and protest rallies in Colombo by the Tamil people.   Once they held a demonstration holding aloft the posters and banners bearing the photos   of their disappeared relatives. They wanted to know what happened to those who went missing. In another demonstration, they urged the government to release Tamil prisoners.  The most recent one was against the land-grabbing in the north. Their main demands are linked with their normal lives.  Yet, the TNA did not play any role in any of these protest rallies or demonstrations.  They may have made a few statements. The TNA appears to be thriving on such concerns of the Tamil people for political gains.

Q:Will the demand for separatism be renewed in this context?

It can happen due to a few reasons.  The government has imposed its will on the Tamil people today. Its lies strengthen the ideological base for separatism to raise its head again. Though the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was defeated, their separatist ideology has not been dealt with politically. Therefore, there is a danger of Tamil politics in the north taking a separatist form once again.   The government should address the problems of Tamil people to avert separatism gaining its hold in northern politics.

Q:If you are against the Provincial Council system, what do you propose as an alternative?

There should be a public discourse on this. But, there is one principle. Equality is all the more important. People should have equal access to their rights such as education and employment opportunities, leaving aside their differences over language, ethnicity etc. There cannot be any discrimination. Besides, administrative power, people’s daily needs have to be given at grassroots level. Today, the most important administrative powers have not been decentralised. For example, the issuance of passports is done mainly in Colombo. It is a Colombo-centric activity. It should be changed. The issuance of National Identity Cards are done in Colombo. There is only one Eye Hospital in the country, and that too is in Colombo. Wherever we live, we have to come to Colombo for treatment. The Cancer Hospital is in Maharagama. The most essential services have not been decentralised. Instead, we talk about the 13th Amendment imposed on us by India.

Release Tamil political prisoners immediately – SYU

Socialist Youth Union (SYU) held an agitation opposite the Fort Railway Station yesterday (28th) with the participation of a large number of Sinhalese and Tamil youth demanding the government to immediately release Tamil political prisoners.

Yesterday’s agitation is one of the events of the programme organized by the SYU on behalf of the ‘Fraternal Day’ which was celebrated on the 23rd July. SUY organized several events to promote national unity.

The National Organizer of the SYU Comrade Bimal Ratnayake said Tamil political prisoners are being detained in many undisclosed places and their names too have not been released to their families. He said Tamil political prisoners should be released immediately and they should be allowed to lead normal lives.