The younger rises when the old doth retire and, like a fond father handing over the keys of his rickety but beloved jalopy that had exhausted its fuel tank and combusted its cylinders, Somawansa Amarasinghe passes the long burnt out torch to Anura Kumara Dissanayake who pipped the post in a one horse race to [...]


New chauffeur for JVP jalopy


The younger rises when the old doth retire and, like a fond father handing over the keys of his rickety but beloved jalopy that had exhausted its fuel tank and combusted its cylinders, Somawansa Amarasinghe passes the long burnt out torch to Anura Kumara Dissanayake who pipped the post in a one horse race to claim the purple poisoned chalice: the JVP crown of thorns.

Last Sunday at the 7th National Convention held in Colombo, in the backdrop of a red curtain adorning the sombre faces of Communism’s Holy Trinity, Marx, Engels and Lenin, JVP hot shot Anura Kumara Dissanayake was anointed with the secular hemlock of Marxist rhetoric by his comrades in arms to the babel of rousing cheers and hackneyed slogans in a well-orchestrated ritual that marked the end of an era and saw the birth of a new Prince of Darkness.

Anura Kumara Dissanayake

Stepping down in surrender was the grandpapa leader of the party that claims to be the party of Lanka’s youth, the geriatric Somawansa, the last of the JVP romantics still marking the roll call. The only surviving member of the Central Committee that launched the 1971 insurrection and unleashed the terror reign of the late eighties, he mysteriously managed to escape the mortal fate that befell his fellow committee members by fleeing to London and living the bourgeois life of the English country squire not in the rustic woodlands of rural England but in her middle class suburbia’s centrally heated cosy comfort.

The dancing buds of May bloomed for him when, in the summer of 1994, the remnants of the JVP, destitute of leadership and devoid of a guiding star to reverse their sinking fortunes, turned to the old faithful war horse to lead them on to the promised land as their mascot. At the party’s National Convention that year, he was appointed as the leader in absentia and continued to lead from exile until his return home in 2001 with a government bounty on his head as Lanka’s most wanted man.

Throughout the twenty years of his leadership he remained no more than a paddy field scarecrow firmly stuck in the mud to remind the flocking birds of the ominous presence of the JVP lurking in their midst; and with his role played and his force spent, the old dog had had his day and it was time to put him out of his misery. He had done his duty and kept his leader’s flame sputtering in the dark, faithfully carrying the cross of a nation’s opprobrium over the vile deeds orchestrated by his idol and executed by his followers.

But at last Sunday’s JVP convention, notably no large photograph of their once idolised leader Rohana Wijeweera, the Prabhakaran of the Sinhalese, who bred like a rabbit hiding in his Ulapane warren while the Sinhala youth he intoxicated with dreams of a Utopian state received the ‘necklace’ treatment and fried on tyres on the wayside, graced the stage.

He was the man who started the descent into the sewers of blood, who first brutalised a society long famed for its civilised culture, influenced by the Buddha’s tenet of ahimsa, The insurrection in 1971 left more than 15,000 dead, the 88-89 terror years claimed thousands more.

This orgy of senseless violence alone has indelibly branded the JVP with the proverbial mark of Cain and the abhorrence displayed by all reasonable right thinking people of Lanka at each election to the JVP’s repugnant acts reflect it.

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna having failed to live up to its promise of revolutionising Lankan society by extreme measures has repeatedly taken great pains to live down its alien culture of violence as a justifiable means of achieving its ends and has repeatedly failed.

No amount of repentance, the latest one eschewing violence made in its new manifesto ‘Our Vision’ has succeeded in exorcising from the collective conscience of the Sinhalese, the barbarism the party members demonstrated, the cruelty they inflicted and the untold suffering they perpetrated not against some invading foreign force in the defiant defence of the realm but against their own flesh and blood to propagate and foist upon this thrice blessed land a political philosophy born in Germany, articulated in England and practised briefly in Russia that condones violence as a justified means to an end, condemns religion as the masses’ opium and considers superiority of merit as being offensive to inferior minds.

So what of the new man at the top of the bottom rung political party now facing the danger of slipping from its position as the third force to a spent force? Without the common burden of domestic demands to distract him will the 45 year old bachelor boy Anura Dissanayake remain the confirmed paramour of his political mistress the party and take her on a new ride leaving the past behind.According to Anura, he will. He says, “We are not confined to the traditional model of society, we think beyond that. We do not represent the past but the future.”

Are we witnessing a metamorphosis? A leopard finally changingits spots? Or is it merely a serpent engaged in the ritual shedding of its skin where no matter how many times it shuffles off its scaly hide, the new skin is identical to the earlier one with the same grains firmly etched in the dermis? Is the recently released new JVP manifesto ‘Our Vision’ a radical exposition of enlightened policies or is it the same fermented hooch in a new bottle?

Anura Kumara Dissanayake was first elected to Parliament, along with 38 JVP comrades in 2004 when the JVP jumped on the UPFA juggernaut and rolled its way to victory. In 2010 though, with the JVP having broken away from the UPFA ranks and having to contest alone, and with the UPFA avalanche created by the elimination of Prabhakaran and the LTTE set to swallow whole all who stood in its path, he decided to play it safe and instead preferred to bear the ignominy of a back door entrance rather than dare meet the people’s judgment and lose his seat in Parliament.

To have taken the easy, orthodox, convenient path may seem rather unusual for a purveyor of revolution to market his message in the national arena without the stamp of approval as the people’s choice endorsing his product but, then again, when has the JVP, for all its highfaluting mumbo jumbo as a party of the downtrodden people ever waited for the self same people to elect them to office.?

To violence and violence alone have their steadfastly prayed for succour. It is violence that brought them to prominence. It is violence that has kept the JVP flame alive in the public conscience. They still exist not because of the empathy they evoke with the masses’ sufferings but because of the fear they provoke in the people’s psyche. Fear which they have instilled into the subliminal conscious of the nation by ruthlessly committing gruesome atrocities in the past without any qualms in the name of planting on this land a system of government the people have repeatedly rejected in no uncertain terms. Without the sinister but compelling aura of violence the JVP would have ceased to exist a long time ago. Without the brutal instrument of manifest power, they will be no more than a caricature of an idiosyncratic group of eccentrics parroting Marx’s Das Capital with each other.

So has the party which first practised the art of obtaining power through the barrel of a gun, and in the process showed the Tamil Tigers the quick and sure-fire way to fight for Eelam, forsaken their obsession with violence and armed struggles with the election of a nationalist MP as its leader.

Consider what Anura Kumara Dissanayake said last Sunday after his appointment as leader: “The party founded by Comrade Rohana Wijeweera confronted two armed uprisings. In the 1971 uprising the impotent capitalist class took the lives of nearly 20,000 comrades. During the 1988-89 period a large number of our leaders including Comrades Rohana Wijeweera, Upatissa Gamanayaka and Piyasiri Fernando, a large number of our members, sympathisers and also the mother who fed us were murdered.”

While he grieves for his fallen braves Wijeweera, Gamanayake and Piyasiri, better known as Keerthi Wijayabahu who closed businesses, brought the government machinery to a halt, closed schools and hospitals and disrupted civilian life by the dreaded chit system which carried the death penalty to those who dared disobey his fiat, not once does Dissanayake mention the innocent civilians his heroes butchered during their tenure of power through the bullet. He does not make a public apology for the civil servants, doctors, lawyers, artistes, politicians, trade unionists, academics, university dons, and others in every strata of society killed by the JVP. He does not express any remorse. Instead he, by his studied silence, conveys the impression that he actually gloats.

The JVP may have at various TV talk shows renounced violence but when the mask slips, it is manifestly clear that revolution is the heart and soul of the JVP and that it continues to unrepentantly embrace the only facet that bolsters its importance. In a newspaper interview published this week Dissanayake declared that his aim is to make every Lankan a Che Guevara. Borrowing the words of Fidel Castro’s speech in Havana on the iconic rebel’s death in 1965, Dissanayake said, “We wanted to promote his qualities: his dedication to the cause, his courage and heroism. Che is a symbol who can appeal to the youth in any country, we wanted to tell the people, come let us think like Che, let us act like Che and let us become him.

Would the leader of a party which has renounced violence want the Lankan people not only to act like a revolutionary but actually become one? Become another Che Guevera who, upon assuming power in Havana, systematically killed his enemies without trial and who explained in clinical detail how he killed a man by shooting him point blank near the right ear lobe. Is that the kind of hero Lankan youth are asked to emulate and for what purpose are they asked if not to launch another revolution?

Hopes glow even dimmer for the JVP to trek the democratic track with any prospect of electoral success when Dissanayake reveals his new strategy “to revive the voter base and gain control of the government.”

Claiming that the JVP is not a third force but the only alternative to the government, he states that the new manifesto will focus on the following five areas which are 1) abolishing the executive presidency 2) utilizing human resources 3) industrializing the economy 4) Creating a just society and 5) giving dignity to man.

It may come as a rude shock to him to be told that these five areas which he says make the JVP the true alternative to the present UPFA government, are the common objectives of almost all political parties in Lanka and constitute, apart from the possible exception of the executive presidency the policies of the UPFA government as well. So what can he do, what will he do? Go back to the drawing board once again and consult his Das Capital or go back to the violent roots of his party and emulating his folk hero Che, launch another bloody revolution that will truly make the JVP the radical alternative to the present democratic form of Government.

The night that fell on the JVP since its first abortive putsch still hangs and wraps the party’s futile hopes in desolate darkness. Trapped within its forlorn sphere, where the light of reason is imprisoned and freedom of thought is imperiled, struggle the demonic urgings of those miserable spirits in the sway of satanic influences. If the new leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake wishes to free his party and himself from the curses of the JVP”s innocent victims and their relatives, he should publicly atone for the party’s sins and make an irretrievable break with its gory past. Only then would even a glimmer of hope dawn to lift the JVP’s endless night of darkness.

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