Whip crackers have arrived ...

The JVP is known for signalling left and turning right and making U-turns on the wrong way to utopia. It was only the other day that JVP Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe, in his typical melodramatic way, thundered at a press briefing that promoting war against terror was not his party’s raison d’etre. It would take up cudgels against the government over human rights violations, the high cost of living etc, he promised. He rightly faulted his blue-eyed boy turned bête noire Wimal Weerawansa for having failed to make a statement in the House condemning the abortive eviction of Tamils from lodges in Colombo last year.

The JVP’s respect for human rights is only too well known! In the late 1980s, its death squads wiped out families of its rivals and brutally slaughtered many other civilians including Buddhist monks, doctors, public officers, university dons et al. The present-day JVP leaders including Weerawansa have no qualms about those dastardly crimes! However, those who listened to Amarasinghe’s pronouncement may have thought at long last the JVP had realised the value of human rights.

But, within days of Amarasinghe’s solemn pledge to campaign for human rights, an activist of the Patriotic National Movement (PNM) has been assaulted by JVP goons as he is believed to have sided with the Weerawansa faction. The assault is also an indication that the Amarasinghe Faction is hell bent on consolidating its power in all the JVP front organisations, which came to be identified with Weerawansa because of his soapbox oratory. Some intellectuals involved with the PNM have urged the JVP to sort out its internal problems. But, the split that the JVP has suffered is permanent and no one is going to reconcile the two warring factions. For, the split has stemmed from the JVP’s ideological San Andreas, which runs through every organisation linked to that party. Factional violence is sure to have a domino effect and grip universities as well, for the rebel MPs have a considerable following among the JVP student union activists. Last February the pro-JVP student activists of the Peradeniya University demonstrated their potential to attack each other after a toddy drinking party. But for the timely intervention by the university authorities, some of them would have died in the violent clashes that ensued.

The PNM is of crucial import to the JVP as a front through which it markets its brand of patriotism to the people. Being a single issue party or more accurately an overgrown pressure group dedicated to the promotion of war, the JVP needs to project itself as being more patriotic than all other parties to retain its vote bank.

The PNM and the Manel Mal Movement have also given the JVP a platform to woo the military which it antagonised in the late 1980s by killing its members as well as their families. When the present phase of Eelam war broke out in 2006, the JVP made use of the opportunity to make amends by conducting a lecture series and singing hosannas for the security forces. The government suspecting a surreptitious move by the JVP to indoctrinate the ranks and file of the military brought that project to an abrupt end. That was one of the reasons why the JVP-SLFP relations turned sour.

The Somawansa faction may succeed in ousting Weerawansa from the PNM on technical grounds but it is doubtful whether the non-JVP intellectuals, without whose involvement the movement will lose its credibility, will want to toe Somawansa’s line. If they vote with their feet, the PNM will end up being a mere appendage of the JVP without any clout. It is the JVP’s public face represented by popular activists like Weerawansa and some of his rivals in the parliamentary group that attracted the intelligentsia, artistes and others to the PNM. Those learned men and women should have known better than to make common cause with the JVP’s popular interface which is deceptive. It is just like an Ambalangoda rukada (puppet) show where those who pull strings are hidden from the public eye. Puppets cannot dance on their own! Only the seasoned JVP watchers will know the existence of a ‘parallel JVP’ which has retained its revolutionary character and is given to violence. It is to the ‘other JVP’ that goon squads, responsible for the recent incidents of violence against dissidents and a police officer in the Parliamentary premises, belong.

The swashbuckling JVP PR boys with their trademark haircuts and beards may pretend to be the party’s decision makers. But, in reality, they are only a cat’s paw at the beck and call of the party old guard to remove chestnuts from the fire. After they have outlived their usefulness to the party, they are jettisoned unceremoniously. That has been the fate of Nandana Gunathikaka, Weerawansa and many others before them. There are many others in the JVP including parliamentarians who will be shown the door sooner or later. For, after the next electoral disaster the JVP is going to face either in 2010 or before, the party will have no need for them. At that stage, the party old guard will have to decide whether to continue to be in the mainstream and schlep towards political oblivion or do what Wijeweera did following his ignominious defeat in the 1982 Presidential Election. He went underground and reverted to violence.

The recent attacks on dissidents and a PNM activist may make one wonder if the JVP goon squads have begun their warm-up exercises. It is not for nothing that Weerawansa has got so frightened as to leave his home. Having been in the party for twenty years, he must be knowing what his colleagues are capable of! The monster has woken up and it is alleged that a handler has returned from abroad to undertake offensive operations.

Sporadic attacks being carried out by JVP goons are a portent of things to come. They are, as a popular saying goes, only a group of whip crackers, and perehera (procession) is on its way!

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