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From Wijeweera to AKD - Changing Faces of the JVP

27 Jan 2024 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      

Election fever is in the air. Whether it be in the south with over 70 percent of the population or the Northern Province (which is home to the largest minority), elections are a hot topic. In the south, three political parties - namely the National People’s Power (an alliance of individuals and organisation centred around the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna - JVP), the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and the United National Party (UNP) have named their candidates for the upcoming Presidential election.
Anura Kumara Dissanayake popularly known as ‘AKD’ is the nominee of the NPP/JVP combine. The SJB nominee is Sajith Premadasa, and President Ranil Wickremasinghe is the nominee of the UNP 
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) have not put forward candidates of their own, and are expected to support either the UNP or SJB candidate.

In the Northern Province, the Tamil political groupings are divided as to whether they should boycott the elections or put forward a common candidate of their own. 
The SJB though a new political party is largely seen as being part of corrupt political groupings which alternatively ruled the country since independence.
The JVP/NPP, the leftist nexus, on the other hand has never been in power. It is therefore not tarnished with the brush of corruption. But the Wijeweera-led JVP was responsible for organising the armed insurrection of 1971. 
During that period, the JVP described the Tamil tea plantation workers – the only group of workers who could be described as the proletariat – as an “Indian fifth-column” and called for their repatriation.
Their solutions to the food shortages facing the country at the time were childish. Wijeweera’s JVP spoke of uprooting the tea estates in the hill country and replanting the same with potatoes as the means to overcoming food shortages.
In a likely manner their armed insurrection was doomed to end in failure. They attempted overthrowing state forces with locally manufactured guns (galkatas) and home-made hand bombs, whilst facing a much larger well trained military armed with semi automatic weapons. 
The organisation unfortunately learned no lessons from the failed up uprising which evolved into the barbaric uprising in 1988/89. The second uprising was brutal. It paid scant heed to the value of human life or the teachings of Marx and Lenin whose political leanings the group purported to follow. They also treated the ‘masses’ as their serfs and brutally killed any who opposed them.
The organisation also made little effort to link up or recognise the problems of the northern Tamils, referring to militant groups as ‘Tamil terrorists’! 
The result: death to large numbers of young men and women, the brutalisation of society and the introduction of repressive legislation like the Prevention of Terrorism Act which remains in force even today.
Since those gruesome days, the JVP/NPP combine of today has come a long way. The second JVP uprising launched in opposition to the setting up of the Provincial Council system has seemingly changed.
The present NPP leader, in a June 2022 interview with the ‘Daily Mirror’ said, ‘the Provincial Council system is now in the Constitutional system. The PC system is a failed system of administration, and it is a failure in the national crisis also. But if those people believe that it is their right, the PC system has to exist...”. 
However, in February 2023, JVP MP Handunnetti emphasised his party was not in agreement with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. He added the National People’s Power (NPP) does not accept the Amendment to any extent, adding that the JVP too is vehemently against the legislation.
Similarly, the JVP/NPP has been vacillating over its stance on the government’s structural adjustment programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 
Presently, surveys indicate the JVP nominee AKD as a front-runner in the Presidential poll. But, if survey predictions are to be turned into votes, the NPP/JVP will need to stop changing its positions from time to time. 

People have not forgotten the 2022 era of near anarchy. They also remember with thankfulness the man who brought goods back to the shop shelves, and calmed a near anarchic situation in the country.
They are unlikely to reject what they have in hand, in place of an untested, uncertain entity.