The JVP is for socialism with modern Sri Lankan characteristics
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) General Secretary Tilvin Silva, in an interview with the Dailymirror , said his party opts for socialism with modern characteristics rather than deviating from the party’s original principles, policies and objectives. Excerpts of the interview:
The JVP, played a role in the 100-day government by participating in the deliberations of the National Executive Council (NEC). What would be the JVP role after the General Election?
At the January 8th Presidential Election, our focus was to defeat the authoritarian family rule of then President Mahinda Rajapaksa. A large force rallied behind the move to unseat him. We also made a contribution to it. More than Mr. Rajapaksa as an individual, we defeated his family rule. During the 100-day programme, we were instrumental in establishing certain things for establishing good governance and strengthening democracy.
Now our challenge lies is to make sure that the people’s aspirations are upheld. It can be done only by the increase of JVP’s parliamentary representation.
After been unseated, how do you see Mr. Rajapaksa’s re-entry into active politics?
It is not the mere question of Mr. Rajapaksa getting nomination. Along with him, his aides, charged with various allegations, have joined him The same forces that were rejected by people at the January 8th election, are now raising their heads.
But, the enactment of the 19th Amendment does not leave room for authoritarian rule in the country again. What are your views?
We are certain that Mr. Rajapaksa alone cannot form a government after the next election. His comeback [to politics] need not be feared because he is not with executive presidential powers but a person unseated from office. He has not only lost the party chairmanship, but contesting from a district which is not his home base. It is similar to an Inspector General of Police (IGP) trying to be an Officer-in- Charge (OIC) of a police station. We can contribute towards his defeat.
Do you regret supporting President [ Maithripala Sirisena] at the presidential election, at least indirectly?
We are satisfied with what we did. We asked for the defeat of the family rule and it happened. We also asked people not to shop at one place because we could not give quality assurance for what was available for sale at other places.
We defeated Mr. Rajapaksa’s regime, a step taken to strengthen democracy. If there are attempts to scuttle the process, we will intervene.
Is the enactment of the 19th Amendment the only gain of the 100- day government?
Along with it, there were some concessions given to people by way of reducing fuel prices and so on. But, many other promises were not kept. Some steps were taken in allegations of corruption and fraud. [On such issues], we made our own investigations and lodged complaints. Now, we see cases pending before court. Earlier, there was only political rhetoric about fraud and corruption.
In your view, what is the reason for that?
The UNP leaders and the President have second thought on taking action regarding certain cases. The President did not press for action on certain cases involving his own party men fearing it would be an obstacle to consolidate his position in the party. The UNP also ruined its name; the Central Bank bond scam and their interference with the Sri Lanka Customs.
In the event, the JVP gains parliamentary majority to form a government, what would be your priorities?
We will consolidate democracy and good governance in conformity with public aspirations. Immediate attention is needed to address them. We need to identify strategies in a manufacturing economy. Our natural resources should also be utilised and local entrepreneurs and those in agriculture given more opportunities.
In the education sector, a serious crisis is looming. Annually, 360,000 children are enrolled in secondary education schools, but 60,000 drop out before Grade 11. Only 25,000 students get the chance for university education. It means thousands of students do not have access to higher studies and our education system does not create opportunities for them. We have to create an education system with broadened opportunities for children and linked to the needs of economic development.
Unemployment is a serious problem in our country. Annually, 300,000 persons enter the job market. But, both the government and private sectors can accommodate only 65,000. The increase of unemployed youth leads to various social problems.. Housing is yet another problem.
Our transport sector is not up to the mark. People waste time on roads travelling. The issue has to be addressed.
An increase in crime is also visible in the country. Police reports say that instances of rape are reported every three hours. We have as many as 100,000 drug addicts. It means one drug addict (kudu karaya) for every 50 households. We have learned that 23 school children have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and that fourteen persons commit suicide every day. Depression and despondency prevail in society.
There is a wide perception that the JVP has deviated from its founding policies and principles, and instead, has chosen issue- based political approaches. What is your response?
Our political opponents, particularly those who defected from our party, raise this matter from time to time. But, none of them has gained by being engaged in politics different to ours. Politically, they have vanished into thin air. The JVP has not deviated from its founding idea of creating a ‘socialist society with modern characteristics’. But we cannot achieve that target without public support.
The JVP should evolve in the present context, but it does not mean a change of policies. A political system remaining static will get outdated with the passage of time. Today, the geo-political situation has changed.
In the past, armed struggles were launched to capture power. Today, it is not applicable and the JVP believes it should achieve political power through democratic means.
What do you mean by ‘socialist society with modern characteristics’?
To a great extent, we can learn about socialism from its adoption in Soviet Russia. Then, there is socialism of Cuba and China. Certain characteristics of socialism were based upon the degree of advancement in science and technology at a given time. So, we need a modern form of socialism conjoined with the latest advancements. Socialism does not advocate the replacement of tractors with buffaloes in agriculture. It advocates production growth through modernity in all sectors.
Does it mean you are for socialism with Sri Lankan characteristics?
Of course, we have to adapt it our culture. Ours is a country still battered by imperialism; but, we have patriotic feelings and sentiments . We have to preserve our cultural values, ethos and strengthen family and social links that had languished under capitalism.