Has the JVP unequivocally ruled out an armed struggle to win government?

Violence begets violence and neither the JVP nor any other political party or combine should directly or indirectly encourage, aid or abet violence to achieve their political objectives.

6 mins read
Leader of the "Marxist" JVP, Anura Kumara Dissanayake met with British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Andrew Patrick, recently [ JVP Media]

In answer to a question posed by the interviewer Kelum Bandara from the Daily Mirror regarding a statement made by JVPs politburo member K.D. Lalkantha that the party is even ready for an armed struggle if the need arises, senior JVP member Dr Nalinda Jayatissa said, quote in the latest opinion poll, JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake is leading among all the prospective presidential candidates. Then, there is no need for us to take up arms once again. Are we mad to do it?  We believe in capturing power through electoral politics.  We need public support and international backing. If we win democratically, we can get support from both ends, unquote.

In the interview published in the Daily Mirror on the 14th of December 2023, Dr Jayatissa periodically mentions how interpretations are made of statements. If one were to take a cue from his statements, readers could interpret his answer to the question posed by Kelum Bandara (quote, in the latest opinion poll, JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake is leading among all the prospective presidential candidates. Then, there is no need for us to take up arms once again) as an admission that the JVP has not ruled out an armed struggle to achieve their end objective of gaining power, if the JVP leader was not leading the poll of all the prospective presidential candidates.

In responding to a follow up question “Then, are you denying what he (Mr Lalkantha) said? Dr Jayatissa responded by saying In his remarks, there is scope for one to interpret it in that way.  He said he was involved in the armed struggle in 1988/89.  He said he will not shy away from such action if the need arises in the future. This is interpreted in this manner. We completely rule out an armed struggle.  

Dr Jayatissa’s response to the questionIn your opinion is the 1988/89 struggle a past aberration? quote “Whether an armed uprising is good or bad depends on its end result. In China, the government was formed in 1949 through an armed struggle. The armed struggles resulted in power capture in Vietnam and the United States.  If the struggle is won, it is hailed. If it is defeated, it is bashed” unquote, appears to leave doors open for an armed uprising, if in the opinion of the JVP, conditions exist for one as they feel it did in China and Vietnam.

The JVP stance is ambiguous at best as they seem to be qualifying their policy on a possible third armed struggle should conditions present themselves for them to launch one. The question then arises as to what may constitute as conditions that justify an armed struggle. Could it be their failure to win the Presidency and/or government by the ballot? Could it be their failure to achieve their governance objectives should they win government?

Dr Jayatissa stated in the interview that the JVP has and is mobilising ex-military personnel politically. While this is the democratic right of the JVP and the right of the ex-military personnel to make their choices and decisions, the ambiguity regarding their stance on an armed struggle and the statement of Dr Jayatissa that they resolved internally that they should not make any statement that leaves scope for any interpretations, leaves behind some concern that the JVP is more concerned about interpretations than unambiguity when it comes to their policy on an armed struggle and violence. Any ambiguity could encourage some to resort to violence as they could easily interpret such ambiguity as an endorsement of violence. In an environment of hardships, and loss of hope, patience could wear thin, and violence could escalate. This is where the JVP, with their history of violence as a means to topple democratically elected governments, has to be totally unambiguous on their policy on an armed struggle. They cannot leave room for interpretations and misinterpretations. If they do not do this, they will be complicit in any violence that may occur in response to government policies that may be unpopular, but what may be necessary for the country.

JVP is yet to apologise for their violent uprisings of 1971 and 1988/89

In an article written by the author and published in the Sri Lanka Guardian in April 2022 titled “Lest we forget; JVP needs to apologise to the Nation for their two violent uprisings the following was stated “talking of the past, there are things that haunt many politicians and political parties.

The JVP too has some skeletons they have hidden in cupboards and what some people seem to have hidden from their minds as well. The country experienced two violent uprisings of the JVP in 1971 and in 1988/1989. In particular, the second uprising of the JVP in the late eighties was more violent and inhuman. Those who lived through that period knows how violent it was. No doubt, some measures taken by the then government to quell that uprising were equally inhuman. More than 40,000 people were reportedly killed during that uprising, killed by the JVP and/or by a State apparatus. Some politicians who were part of that administration are still around and some have risen to great heights in the political arena”. 

The article pointed out that the JVP needed to be remorseful and repentant about their violent campaigns to unseat the governments of the time and apologise to the Nation and the families of those killed during their two violent uprisings if they are to be treated with some regard and respect. The Sunday Observer of 1st June 2014 had reported that quote “for the first time in its history, the JVP had tendered an apology to the people over 6,000 deaths that occurred due to JVP activities during the 88-89 insurrection. Addressing a meeting in London recently, JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake had expressed ‘regret’ over the killings for which his party was responsible during the 1988-89. However, he had also said that “one had to understand that 1988-89 uprising was no coincidence and that there were developments that led to unfortunate incidents that occurred during the 88-89 period”. He added that the 88-89 uprising occurred due to oppressive behaviour of the then UNP government, led by the late President J.R. Jayewardene.

This feeble “regret” is not an apology, and it did not display any remorse for the violent activities of the JVP. The caveat that the uprising was a consequence of the oppressive behaviour of President J R Jayewardene cannot be taken as any kind of justification for the consequential wanton killing of thousands of innocent people.

The article went on to say that the public had to be more discerning and question whether there are Wolves in Sheep’s clothing, and whether those who attempted to seize power by violent means, would do that again. Some could interpret the statement by JVP politburo member Mr K D Lalkantha, and the response from Dr Jayatissa as a possibility that there may be Wolves in Sheep’s clothing amongst the JVP.

Violence begets violence and neither the JVP nor any other political party or combine should directly or indirectly encourage, aid or abet violence to achieve their political objectives. It is well to remember the apostle of nonviolence, Mahatma Gandhi and the political and social strategies he adopted and promoted, to free India from the might of British colonialism.

The JVP no doubt has increased their following amongst the public. Some would opine that this has happened partly on account of their ability to articulate well and bring home hardship messages to a large section of the general public who are heavily burdened by the rising cost of living, rather than by articulating specific policies to address what they are criticizing. However, a general feeling that a change is needed in the political arena is quite palatable.

The selective law and order enforcement where some are, and have been, more equal than others, the skyrocketing corruption levels in the country, the failure to investigate alleged corrupt deals of very high level politicians and senior government officials, the unconscionable acts of some politicians and high officials in permitting substandard drugs to be procured and distributed to unsuspecting patients, are among the many issues that needs highlighting and the JVP has to be credited for keeping these issues in the limelight. If the NPP/JVP aims to win the Presidency and government at the oncoming elections, they have enough and more ballot ammunition to do so. However, the public needs to know specificities as to what changes they will introduce to arrest the situations they have articulated with great success and how they will do so and when they will do so.

The voters of the country are far more sophisticated and informed than what some may be assuming. They will spot that criticism without solutions is the same wine (or Arrack) in different bottles unless specificities are presented to them, not just voluble rhetoric. While many probably understand the difficult decisions that the current government has made, the doubt created in their minds by critics without specific solutions, and the hardships faced by them, could lead them to vote one way or the other by default rather than through an informed choice. The public probably are ready to heed what Einstein said; “if the same thing is done repeatedly expecting different results, that is insanity”. The economic and social models of the past have not worked, and they have collectively landed the country in a state of bankruptcy. Continuing them and irresponsible pandering with short term populist measures will indeed be insanity.

Raj Gonsalkorale

Raj Gonsalkorale is an independent health supply chain management specialist with wide international experience. Writing is his passion.

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