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.