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JVP and the people of North East

JVP’s present tactic is “old wine in a new bottle”.

6 mins read
JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake [Credit: X/anuradisanayake]

Sir Anthony Weldon (1583-1648) once said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me again, shame on me as well.” This applies to all political parties in Sri Lanka and also to the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna – JVP. For a long time, I have maintained that Sri Lanka has become an international playground and presently the JVP has started to make their contribution to it.

Some researchers try to say that the birth of the JVP is equivalent to that of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam – LTTE. In fact, the JVP’s birth originated in a class struggle. It is a revolutionary organisation to capture power over the whole of Sri Lanka. However, the birth of the LTTE was caused by Sinhala-Buddhists governments and the failure of thirty years of non-violent struggle for recognition of the political aspirations of the people in the N&E.

Tamils and India are intolerable terms to the JVP. They have demonstrated their attitude and behaviour repeatedly on these affairs. Right from its beginning, the JVP had no policy regarding the Ethnic conflict, which existed before independence and ever since. From the start, the JVP always identified themselves as Sinhala Nationalists, opposed to any positive government proposals regarding the N&E or the upcountry Tamils.

Every government in power looks for a pretext to balk at a political solution to people in the N&E. After May 2009  Rajapaksas and their group said that “there is no ethnic conflict as such’ in Sri Lanka”.

In the early 1980s, when President J. R. Jayewardene introduced the District Council system, the JVP were the first to oppose it with propaganda stating that district councils would divide the country. Whether true or not, right or wrong – there were accusations of carrying out the horrible July ‘83 riots targeting only Tamils.

Indo-Lanka accord

The JVP were against the Indo-Lanka accord of July 1987, saying that the 13th amendment to the constitution would lead to separation and Indian expansionism would begin. Premadasa from the UNP and Mahinda Rajapaksa from the SLFP supported this opinion. This created a pathway for the second JVP uprising from 1987-1989.

During this period the JVP opposed imports from India and even changed the name of Mysoor Dhal and Bombay Onions to red dhal and big onions.

It’s believed that JVP Leader Rohana Wijeweera was arbitrarily killed on 12 November 1989. His wife Chinthrangani Wijeweera, filed a habeas corpus petition in the Court of Appeal for the government to produce her husband. Other JVP leaders did nothing. So, it is said, when they are not even worried about their founder and the leader, how can they be bothered about the Tamils?

The JVP joined President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s government in 2004. Also, they backed Rajapakse’s presidential campaign in 2005 on the condition that it ended the ceasefire with the LTTE. In other words, restart the war.

JVP’s legal actions

The JVP protested against humanitarian rehabilitation and resettlement for those affected by the 2004 tsunami in the North and the East: they resigned from President Chandrika’s government on 16 June 2005 taking legal action against the LTTE – Post-Tsunami Operational Mechanism – PTOM.

The JVP defended the executive presidency during the renewed conflict with the LTTE, declaring it necessary to prosecute the war.

In October 2006, the Northern-Eastern Provincial council was legally demerged by the JVP and the Chief Justice Silva. Here I reluctantly mention that Tamil lawyers and Tamil political parties have lacked the courage to challenge this decision, whereas they are ready to challenge their own members and party.

If the JVP is to be trusted or believed by the people of the N&E in the imminent presidential election, in the past they have shown no concern about the land-grabbing and disappearances in the N&E.

In May 2009 along with the Rajapaksas, the JVP defended the massacre of thousands of Tamil civilians, more than 300,000 civilians detained in army-controlled camps and the arbitrary detention of 12,000 cadres or more.

Keheliya Rambukwella

The then government spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella told the media that there were only fifty to sixty thousand civilians living within the Vanni area. So, we must believe Isaac Newton’s third law of motion, “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. Today where is Keheliya Rambukwella?

In June 2007, Keheliya Rambukwella and a few other ministers had a side event during the session of the UNHRC. In that meeting I asked them a few questions regarding the Ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. As they could not answer any of my questions, they wound up saying that I had disturbed their meeting. It is well documented.

During the uprising of the JVP in 1971, there was a public execution of Premawathi Manamperi, then beauty queen of Kataragama. She was arrested, tortured, raped and paraded naked through the streets and killed by army soldiers on 17 April 1971. Two soldiers, a Lieutenant and a Sergeant claimed that their orders were to “take no prisoners, bump them off and liquidate them.”

But, due to a huge outcry in the South, Premawathi’s body was exhumed. There was an inquest and the case was later referred to the Criminal Court and was heard by the Supreme Court.

Military act of section 100

In the Appeal Court of judgement, it was held that it was not a period of combat on 17 April 1971 – there was no justification for shooting a prisoner in custody. The military act of section 100 requires a person subject to military law to obey only the lawful commands given by his superior officers: not unlawful ones. Military officials holding custody of any detainees or prisoners are duty bound to ensure their safety.

Given the judgement in Premawathi’s case, what about the cases of rape, torture and killings of thousands of female and male civilians and cadres in custody, especially after they surrendered to the Army in May 2009?

There is enough video evidence of these killings. What was the reaction of the JVP in May 2009?

Regarding Premawathi’s case, during their second uprising, they killed one of the accused who returned after serving his prison sentence.

The comedian Vimal Weerawansa

Vimal Weerawansa, the present day comedian, a member of the JVP from 1987 – March 2008, contested some parliamentary elections as JVP candidate and won.

In October 2007 Weerawansa met with the US Ambassador and told him that “it is the US responsibility to help Sri Lanka to win the war”. A month later, in November 2007, he moaned to the government that the public will lose their patience, if any devolution package is offered to the N&E.

From March 2008 onwards, he became “Mahinda Rajapaksa’s voice”. On 8 July 2010, he began a so-called hunger strike outside the UN office in Colombo, protesting against the appointment of the Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka.

In December 2010, he voiced his support for the Rajapaksas for abolishing the Tamil version of the national anthem. In March 2012 he demanded that Sri Lankans should boycott every product from the US, for sponsoring a resolution against Sri Lanka in the UN HRC.

With this virulent hate agenda against the people of the N&E, the JVP are now posing as if they are the ones who are going to resolve the Ethnic conflict.

Since independence, the People in the N&E have seen the real attitude of Southern politicians and political parties – broken promises, accords, cease-fire agreement, MoU etc. Therefore the N&E voting for the JVP in the Presidential election is meaningless.

One cannot forget what Maithiripala Sirisena said in 2015, as soon as he won the Presidential election – ‘Tamils voted for me and I have an obligation to resolve their political issues’. Then after a few years, he did a U-turn. India has been cheated by every Sri Lankan head of state – now it is believed that it is the JVP’s turn.

Among the Southern politicians and parties, only Dr Vikramabahu Karunaratne seems to have a realistic policy towards the ethnic conflict. Tamils have learned enough from the LSSP and the Communists in 1972.

The latest sweet words by President Ranil Wickremasinghe are that “they are for a two states solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. Whereas, even the 13th amendment which is part of the constitution and which has been in existence for the last thirty-seven years is at a stalemate. Mr Wickremasinghe should know that ‘charity begins at home’.

Last week, there was an interview given by the JVP’s Women Front leader Sarojah to a Tamil diaspora ‘Inpa Thamil Radio’ in Australia. In that interview, Sarojah said that ‘what has happened and is happening to the Tamils is Genocide’. Even though there were many issues lacking in her interview to earn votes of the Tamils, her reference to ‘Genocide’ attracted some people in the North and East.

In conclusion, I don’t hesitate to say that the JVP’s present tactic is “old wine in a new bottle”.

S. V. Kirubaharan

S. V. Kirubaharan is the Founder General Secretary of the Tamil Centre for Human Rights - TCHR. It was established in 1990 in France.

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