Q: You are only able to set the groundwork? You cannot actually commandeer a general strike? Vasudeva Nanayakkara on Hot Seat last week said that the JVP did not have the power to command a general strike.
I think setting the groundwork for a general strike and organising the people are very important and we are engaged in these activities.
Q:Mr. Nanayakkara a veteran of the left-movement also said that the JVP can command only about 20 per cent of trade unions or the working class population of this country and therefore is incapable of any real political action.
He is someone who has betrayed the cause of the left, therefore if he says that we only have 20 per cent of trade unions, then I think that 20 per-cent is more than enough. In history there has not been any trade union action that has gone on with the support of 50 per cent or 100 percent of the support of all trade unions—therefore I would say that 20 per cent is more than enough.
Q: The Inter University Students’ Federation (IUSF) has been a group that has had the support of the JVP for many years, however today they have sought to align themselves with the JVP breakaway group, the Frontline Socialist Party.
The IUSF has never been a group that has been under our command. In the past, they have carried out a great task for the cause of free education in this country in a very efficient and shrewd manner. Therefore we have always given them our blessing and support; however, it was never a group that obtained any advice or instruction from us.
Q: There is a general perception that the campaign they are carrying out has now become excessively aggressive. What is your view on this?
I think the IUSF has always been accused of this; they are accused of not being aware of the real situation in society before carrying out their struggles. I think this perception has been created by the media and the media owners in this country.
Since 1978, education in this country has not been about increasing the human capital of the people. Rather it has been a tool that has been sold on the market to the highest bidder—therefore any semblance of integrity and freedom left in the education system is thanks to the student movements. Today, people enjoy the fruits of their labour; they have lost limbs, their studentship and even their lives for this cause. I believe that even today the IUSF is protecting the interests of our children and future generations.
Q:The strength of the JVP is quickly declining. If you take the recent Provincial Council Elections, the JVP performed poorly.
We did obtain one seat; however we do not think that our true strength and the ideals of our party are displayed through the elections. There may be people who vote for us and those who do not —however both groups are of the strong belief that the JVP needs to be a strong force in the political process.
The people of this country look at the JVP very positively and they want us to remain in politics. We have done a number of surveys on this matter; the results have been as follows. When we ask the people: which party does not steal? They reply that it is the JVP. When they are asked which party carries out the most politically astute campaign, their reply has been the JVP. However, when we ask them which party they will vote for, they name a different party.
They are believers in the principles and the integrity of the JVP and they accept us. They look at us with respect and try to look at our ideas with an open mind. However this has not translated into a vote, as yet. How do we get these individuals to vote for the JVP, at the polling station? But more importantly how do we make them a member of the JVP? Or an activist? This is something that we admit we need to do.
We need to look at the issues, which deceive people about the true nature of the political process in this country. For instance, look at the manner in which the government bribes the people to vote for them? Firstly they cripple the people economically, after that they offer free consumer products.
Secondly look at the media in this country; how many voters actually make their decision based on attending a political rally? They make their decisions based on watching the reports by the media. But the media is manipulated by big business, therefore those who have money are those who have power are able to convey their message far more effectively than those who do not, have money or power. Therefore the general population is duped by this media machine, and these victims of the media machine go to the polling booth and vote. Therefore should we consider this view to be the honest view of the public?
I will admit that we cannot justify our failures on the context alone, we have faced some obstacles and therefore we have had a considerable decline at the polls. This was due to two factors; the departure of Wimal Weerawansa and the breakaway, recently, of a radical extremist group—these factors have deteriorated the trust that people had in the party.
However I would say that the departure of Wimal Weerawansa is something that should strengthen the faith of the people in the party—because he is someone who has been in the pocket of the government and that is not what our party is about.
There was the radical group that was dragging the party in the wrong direction; however we defeated that threat as well.
In a context when this government is incapable of taking disciplinary action against Mervyn Silva, the JVP has been able to discipline itself.
Q:However, people would be led to assume that the internal struggles of the opposition parties have defeated them. Because in the present context where the cost of living is rising, education is deteriorating and corruption is rampant, it is not the political parties who are at the forefront. Instead academics and members of the judiciary are the ones taking the lead on any opposition to the government and the opposition parties are merely obtaining a free ticket on these campaigns.
We feel that we should fight, and there is a good context in which to fight the government. I think that we are doing something to act against corruption and the breakdown of law and order. We are doing what we can, however I admit that what we are doing is insufficient.
We are not a “contract” political party; we do not take on the contracts of other causes and shout for them. We believe in a social revolution, because the health sector, the education sector and the judiciary are in dire straits and need to be reformed—it is this political ideology that we hold.
Each person in this country must support the social revolution that we are attempting to bring about.
Q: When will we see the end result of this social revolution that you say you are working towards?
Social revolutions are not an incremental process; they take place due to one or two instances. Toppling a government is a very simple process; however creating a social revolution is more complex.
I can only tell you with certainty that this generation will see this change and it is the responsibility of this generation.