It is always interesting to see Rathu
Sahodarayas having bandy words with their opponents, whom they
confuse with their Newspeak replete with fustian and sabre-rattling.
Masters of subterfuge and prevarication, they wriggle out of
difficult situations like eels in a murky stream. Unless one
listens to them carefully with reflective detachment/purposeful
alienation (as in Brecht’s theatre), one tends to get carried
away by their fascinating rhetoric.
JVP Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe launched into a
diatribe against the government in an interview with Derana
TV on Sunday. He fared, one would say, not so badly, retaining
as he did his right to remain silent vis-à-vis difficult
questions such as how he had fled the country in the late 1980s.
He also tried to take the advantage of his age over the
interviewer and went to the extent of issuing a veiled threat to
sue a viewer who phoned in to ask him why he was allegedly
keeping JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti ‘under house arrest’.
Somawansa failed to pull the wool over the eyes
of the discerning viewers but managed to get his message across
articulately. The sting of his message track was in the tail. He
said, in his book, the Rajapaksa government was an utter flop.
He took exception to the government’s claim the war was being
prosecuted properly and blamed the Rajapaksa administration for
making no sacrifices and indulging in waste and corruption. He
was exasperated that the government had not honoured its
promises in the Mahinda Chinthanaya. He threatened to
make the government fall in line by economic, political and
legal means. It looks as if the JVP were contemplating legal
action, strikes and using its numbers in Parliament as a
bludgeon to coerce the government into capitulating to its
demands as spelled out in the Mahinda Chinthanaya policy
(The JVP is behaving like a man, who after a
hasty marriage, begins to see his bride for what she really is.
Now, Somawansa sees his SLFP bride’s xerosis, bandy legs,
squint, acne, buck teeth, and grey streaks—too late in the day
The JVP, according to Somawansa, has no regrets
about the political project it embarked on with the SLFP. He
likened its outcome to a dagoba with a warped pinnacle! The fact
that the pinnacle was out of shape, he said, did not mean the
dagoba had to be done away with. Earlier on in the interview, he
had said, the JVP was intent on forming a future government. An
observant political analyst will not fail to see a paradigm
shift. What the JVP aspires to is a ‘pinnacle change’ with the
dagoba intact. In other words, it is toying with the idea of
giving leadership to the forces that have rallied round the UPFA.
(Somawansa’s analogy which implies that the JVP was responsible
for building the ‘dagoba’ he is talking about, reminds one of
King Nissanka Malala, who had the bad habit of claiming credit
for edifices built by others.)
This strategy of the JVP is in stark contrast to
its abortive yet disastrous projects of yore. In 1971, it was
not just the pinnacle that it targeted but the entire structure.
In the late 1980s, it was in a state of confusion, not knowing
whether it was the dagoba or the pinnacle it had to target. In
the end, it tried to demolish both only to have itself beheaded
in the process. Experience, it is said, teaches the art of
living. The outfit seems to have realised at long last that an
attempt to destroy the State is not a feasible endeavour. Its
strategy of ‘swallowing up’ the SLFP through an electoral
alliance also came a cropper. Instead, it began to be dissolved
in the SLFP as evident from the defection of its MP Nandana
Gunathilake. Therefore, it seems to have settled for effecting a
‘pinnacle change’ from a safe distance without losing any more
members to the SLFP!
It was not for nothing that the JVP plunged the
government into war and supported its military campaign to the
hilt to the point of making the President’s inner circle suspect
that the outfit was trying to hijack it. Patriotism is the last
resort of any failed revolutionary outfit. The JVP sent the best
of its orators on a lecture tour to the North and the East in a
bid to impress on the electorate that the government was not
capable of preparing the troops psychologically for war without
its help. Gnawed by a sense of being eclipsed by the JVP, the
government unceremoniously stopped Rathu Sahodarayas from
lecturing to the military personnel.
The JVP is in the same predicament as a man who
has fallen into a well. It has only one escape route. That is
why it is wary of disturbing the present alignment of political
forces and stopped short of causing the government to lose the
budget vote last December. An election is a frightening
proposition for the JVP which has withdrawn from the UPFA, for
its parliamentary strength is likely to be drastically reduced
in such an eventuality, if the number of seats it secured at the
last Local Government elections, which it contested on its own,
is any indication. It is only wishful thinking that it can win a
future election or at least retain the present number of seats.
It is going places today thanks to the SLFP-JVP combination that
clicked at the last election. To the hoi polloi, the SLFP and
the JVP are like hoppers and katta sambol. They may like
to have hoppers with a little bit of katta sambol but
never the other way round—not even in their wildest dreams. It
is evidently too early for the JVP to wean itself from the UPFA
and go it alone at a general election.
What the future holds for the JVP in mainstream
politics is not clear. We only hope that it will continue to
tread the beaten path, which is the safest though not much game
could be expected on it. Somawansa said in Sunday’s interview,
revolution, as he saw it, didn’t mean an armed uprising. If that
is really the core of the Somawansa Chinthanya, then the
people can heave a sigh of relief.