The battle of katussas II

Tuesday’s big-bang in the JVP was a foregone conclusion. Ink on our editorial comment, The Battle of Katussas, predicting a disastrous split in the JVP, was still wet when Wimal Weerawansa told Parliament on Tuesday that his party had stabbed him in the back. A group of JVP MPs pledged solidarity with him later in the day. The JVP’s split is far worse than that in the UNP, which has so far lost 25 MPs to the government in that the JVP is an ideologically driven, centrally controlled and regimented outfit which derives strength mainly from its discipline. Rathu Sahodarayas’ disaster could, therefore, be equated only to the split in the LTTE, which resulted in Karuna’s breakaway.

The JVP has suffered divisions in the past, as we pointed out on Tuesday but they all occurred, while it was in the doldrums. This time round, its crisis has resulted from hubris and ineptitude of its bungling leadership which has steered the party aground. It was a supreme irony that Weerawansa happened to quote Mark Antony (in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar) in his parliamentary speech. His leaders failed to take the tide in their affairs at the flood and turned their success into failure in no time. Had they been wise, they would have utilised their links with the UPFA to leave a lasting impression on the public mind and expand their support base through programmes like the tank rehabilitation project. Had they done so, they would have been remembered for their achievements and not as a bunch of troublesome adventurists.

If the JVP politburo is capable of betraying a strongman like Weerawansa, who has rendered yeoman service to the party through thick and thin, the possibility of a JVP politburo member having betrayed Rohana Wijeweera in 1989 to save his skin cannot be ruled out. Betrayal is not something alien to the JVP. The well-known premature attack on the Wellawaya police station one day before the insurgency proper commenced in April 1971 has also been described as a treacherous act aimed at alerting the police and the armed forces. Wijeweera betrayed Loku Athula wholesale by washing his hands of the abortive revolt of 1971 and laying the blame for that suicidal misadventure at Loku Athula’s door. He used to grill this into the heads of new recruits after his release from prison.

Flowering of bamboos, reeds and banana trees, they say, precedes their end. The JVP blossomed in 2004 and its end as a democratic party is within sight. There have emerged three factions in the JVP. One consists of rebels sympathetic to the government. The second faction is aligned with the UNP-SLFP (M) combine, while the third one consists of the party old guard bent on revolutionary violence. At present, the second and the third factions are together as their immediate objective is to dislodge the government. Therefore, they remain united for the time being. But, they will certainly part company after achieving that objective, for the goal of the old guard is a socialist utopia and not playing second fiddle to any other party. These utopian dreamers are made of the same stuff as the LTTE and hence their intransigence and aversion to change and compromise.

The JVP old guard desisted from engineering the SLFP’s defeat at the last Presidential Election as they feared that under a UNP president they would have to face persecution from the word go. The UNP propagandists fuelled their fears with the much publicised threat that Somawansa Amarasignhe would be arrested as the first thing after winning the Presidential Election. It was also this fear that prevented them from defeating the government budget last December, though they cited patriotism as the reason. (Interestingly, until yesterday Weerawansa had been accused of taking an arbitrary decision to abstain at the final budget vote in support of the government, against a JVP politburo resolution. But, JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe admitted at yesterday’s press conference that the decision to abstain had been made by the party.) The JVPers who have gravitated to the UNP seem to have allayed their leaders’ fears of persecution as manifest in their decision to oust the pro-government elements within their ranks.

During his andonawa (lament) in Parliament, Weerawansa said his critics had found fault with his hair style, mobile phone, dress and beard. (Ironically, before him, the late President Premadasa had, in the aftermath of the abortive impeachment move, made a similar speech in the House, where he accused rivals within his own party of trying to stab him. Premadasa’s lament also harked back to Julius Caesar’s tragic end!)

It is strange that Weerawansa, who has been in the JVP for twenty long years, has failed to see that aversion to good hair, healthy teeth, or, in short, a pleasant mug, is something inherent in the party. That was why the assassin of Vijaya Kumaratunga had strict orders to target his handsome face, which was destroyed beyond recognition with eight bullets from an assault rifle. (Calilgula, the playboy Caesar with a balding pate, too, had a similar dislike for people with healthy locks and he always found some excuse to harm them.) Weerawansa with a dagger stuck in his back should realise that frustration is the JVP’s driving force. It is being consumed with hatred like the LTTE.

Weerawansa’s Parthian shot on Tuesday has startled his party rivals, who are making a frantic effort to control damage. They obviously did not anticipate that over ten of their MPs would side with him and take them on. Somawansa Amarasinghe has asked Weerawansa to soften his stand and help resolve the party’s crisis. But, if Weerawansa and other JVP rebels give in, they will have to toe the line they have spurned with contempt.

The process of the JVP’s disintegration is irreversible however hard Somawansa et al may try to bring the dissidents back. For, the split has resulted from a clash between two ideologically different camps within the party.

The JVP rebels may not join the government. But, the fact that they won’t subscribe to the JVP leaders’ alleged efforts to effect a regime change will stand the government in good stead at a crucial vote in Parliament.

The UNP will gain from the other JVP MPs’ desire for taking revenge from the dissidents at the expense of the government. But, their support won’t be sufficient for securing a parliamentary majority for the Opposition.

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