The writing is on the wall, and it is in red
Daily Mirror - 13 April 2005
An outsider in Batticaloa would get the impression that the JVP
is the only organisation to build temporary houses for the people of
this district who lost their homes in the tsunami. Eye-catching JVP
posters announcing the public meeting to handover the houses to
tsunami victims in Palamunai, a not-so-wealthy Muslim hamlet near
Kattankudy, can still be seen in all the main towns and villages of
Batticaloa. One often finds a crowd at the JVP office in Kattankudy.
It is not uncommon these days for one to come across educated young
men in the main Muslim towns of the Amparai district who seem quite
impressed by the JVP's alacrity in helping people hit by the
tsunami. Some of them are not just impressed but are beginning to
learn the JVP's political philosophy.
Yet, the seriousness of the situation did not dawn on me until I ran
into a young Muslim acquaintance recently at a 'soup shop' in
Akkaraipattu. He, already a secret convert to the JVP's cause, told
me that many young men like him are disgusted by the crass
opportunism of Muslim politicians who use Islam to feather their own
nests and care not for the poor.
You hear the same story, somewhat louder, in Muslim areas like
Kinniya in Trincomalee.
The tsunami, no doubt, has created a political vacuum among the
Muslims in the east. The JVP is shrewdly filling this void. And no
mainstream political party can match the JVP's organizational skills
in these parts of the country. The Divisional Secretary for Manmunai
tells me that the JVP has appointed an MP to look after relief and
reconstruction work in the Batticaloa district. I am sure the party
is bound to make contact with Tamils here, sooner or later.
People cannot live by ethnic politics alone. There are many pressing
social issues which the average money making politician is not
intellectually or ideologically equipped to handle. The farmer is
more worried about getting a good price for his rice than splitting
hairs over Wahabi fundamentalism or Sufi mysticism. The JVP's
message of social emancipation strikes a chord with the poor and
marginalized classes. The party gets things done. It is not corrupt.
There is no nepotism in the ranks. JVP MPs are not moneyed thugs.
Its leaders are ordinary men and women. They can easily relate to
the sentiments of the man or woman in the street.
The number of people who think the JVP is the right political choice
is growing steadily. Wishful thinkers and armchair pundits in
Colombo can say a thousand things to support their belief that the
JVP is losing support. I certainly see it growing silently here in
the east, in the plantations and in many areas of the south.
I see many Tamil youth in the Central Province today who think they
should throw in their lot with the JVP to save the plantation
community from the clutches of its incorrigibly crooked political
and trade union leadership.
How is it possible that the JVP that is opposed tooth and nail to
devolving any power to the Tamils and the Muslims could make this
bold attempt in spreading its influence among them? Why is it
getting a response after all?
It is a fact that the JVP is determined to prevent President
Chandrika Kumaratunga from striking any sort of peace deal with the
Tigers. For they know that if she does, she would be able to
retrieve her party from the crisis in which it has been sinking
since the formation of the UPFA. We all know that they want to
cleave the SLFP until it is totally and irredeemably engulfed in a
terminal calamity. The JVP stands to gain by blocking any move by
Chandrika to talk peace with the Tigers.
The point here is that the JVP's staunch opposition to federalism is
not merely tactical - the spanner they keep throwing in the works.
It is deeply rooted in their political philosophy. It springs from
Rohana Wijeweera's rigidly Marxist Leninist interpretation of Sri
Lanka's history and society, enunciated in a long report to the JVP
central committee on April 15 1986. The JVP's opposition to
federalism does not automatically translate into a Sinhala hegemonic
position, as it normally does in the south.
This is what makes it attractive to the JVP's potential recruits
among the Muslims and the Tamils in the east and in the plantations.
Their social deprivation makes them eager to change the system. They
think the system is exploitative because it has been made servile to
US imperialism. Increasingly, as these youth gain greater insight
into the teachings of Marx, Lenin and Wijeweera, they come to
believe that only US imperialism stands to profit from the ethnic
conflict - that American capital is promoting the conflict to
perpetuate the system of neo-colonial exploitation here.
Wijeweera says that the national question should be resolved to stop
Sri Lanka from becoming "a slave camp of American Imperialism".
"The imperialist camp, led by American imperialism, has managed to
increasingly reinforce its base in Sri Lanka using the crisis
spawned by the national question. They have managed to greatly
tighten their grasp economically, politically and militarily".
Also, the JVP says that all nationalities in Sri Lanka are equal.
The JVP recognizes that there are Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim
nationalities in Sri Lanka and that no nationality should be
privileged over the other. This message sinks into the minds of the
Tamil and the Muslim youth who are disgruntled by the social
deprivation to which they have been subjected for many long years,
with no light at the end of the social tunnel.
Let me quote from Wijeweera's 1986 report to the JVP central
committee as it forms the basis of the party's current
"The social oppression of one nationality by another nationality and
the oppression of one caste by another caste will be done away with
and those who persist will be punished", declares Wijeweera in the
report which is the JVP's political bible today. The complete policy
framework of the solution of the national question is by bringing
about national unity and national trust by abolishing national
oppression, national inequality and doing away with the granting of
special privileges to one nationality by subordinating the rights of
another nationality. The present national question can be solved by
simply implementing these policies. Whether the Tamil nationalist
capitalist class agrees or disagrees with these points is not
"Whether the Tamil nationalist capitalist class and petty
bourgeoisie class which call for the granting of special privileges
for the Tamil nationality at the expense of the rights of the
Sinhala and Moslem nationalities or whether the Sinhala nationalist
capitalist class and the petty bourgeoisie class which calls on
granting of special privileges to the Sinhala nationality at the
expense of the Tamil and the Moslem nationalities agree with this or
not, the proletariat will unfailingly implement it".
"After that the national inequality the national oppression and the
national mistrust will be swept aside. This can only be achieved
when the proletariat comes to power and abolishes all privileges.
From this it should become clear why the national question cannot be
solved except by the leadership of the proletariat".
(At one point in the report, Wijeweera says "innocent Tamil people
were pushed towards Tamil Eelam by cruel repression")
The surprisingly forceful ideological arguments for supporting the
JVP that one hears in this part of the world nowadays can be traced
directly to Wijeweera's 1986 report.
This is not hearsay that one gathers from conversations with
disgruntled youth in Muslim soup shops in the east and in the
watering holes in Tamil towns in the hills. This is the reality
today. The writing is on the wall, and it is in red.