Anura Kumara Dissanayaka is the current Leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) founded in 1965, when there were already four other leftist political parties were operating in the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), established in 1935 as the first leftist party in Sri Lanka; the Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CP), an offshoot of the LSSP; the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP); and the Ceylon Communist Party and at a time when economic crisis in the country was deepening. The JVP was formed because the entry of three left parties LSSP, CP and MEP into the government in 1964 was considered by them as a conscious betrayal of the aspirations of the people and the working class. Since the country’s independence the two main parties, the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) had governed the country to 1964 each for eight years; according to the founders of the JVP, neither party had been able to implement even a single measure to resolve the crisis faced by the people, a situation still not well addressed by UNP or SLFP. Today JVP could be considered a third force to rule the little nation.
At the 70th Anniversary of Parliament gathering Anura Kumara Dissanayake the leader of Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) as the Chief Opposition Whip in Parliament said that past rulers had enacted laws for their own existence than for the well-being of the people. These words of wisdom coming from the Leader of JVP once banned as a terror organisation does not surprise the citizens, when one considers all the political developments since 2015. Because laws of the country was messed around by then president to retain his own power, people opted to elect a new president and the unity government of UNP and SLFP was given the opportunity to rule. But with lot of hidden activities still occurring in the country, the new rulers over the past two years have not resolved any of the problems of the people and the situation is no different to what founders of the JVP found in 1964, where neither party had been able to implement even a single measure to resolve the crisis faced by the people.
Historically, in 1931 Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) recognized universal franchise for all above the age of 21, implemented before any political reforms were put in place and that is still unparalleled not only in demographic diversity, but also in inequality of social conditions. This ‘Equality of conditions’ had to be built and it is a far more complicated and often conflicting process than giving every man a vote. However, good attempt was made by the British, to ensure equality of conditions in the constitution adopted and replaced the Legislative Council of Ceylon with the State Council of Ceylon as the legislature of British Ceylon. With the British departure in 1948 the western oriented gentlemen (WOG) elite received the instrument of independence on behave of the people and the United National Party (UNP) came to power entered the fifties as a successful nation in the region. But due to its failure in democratization the newly independent former colony, observed political gaps cropping up due to the lag in the development of political institutions behind social and economic change. Then the entry of three left parties LSSP, CP and MEP into the government in 1964 was considered by JVP as a conscious betrayal of the aspirations of the people and the working class and today the same JVP’s leader has referred to many black marks in the parliamentary history in his talk, including the introduction of the citizenship act in 1949 which resulted in damaging national harmony, passing the 4th Amendment to the constitution to extend the term by another six years and of the removal of the Chief Justice. There were many other such instances as the 18th Amendment that enable the president to run for presidency for the third time and so on all passed by the parliament.
Sri Lanka’s gradual political decay since independence has much to do with that political gap, which became increasingly wide as the UNP itself split to form the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). With two main political parties vying for the majority Sinhalese vote, ethnic bidding became the political strategy. The upsurge of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism which was kicked into action by political calculations could not be abated once unleashed. Not surprisingly and quite predictably Ceylon and now Sri Lanka, became hostage of a many ethnic forces and the constitution was soon changed to remove the ‘Equality of Conditions’. The rule under the UNP or SLFP by their inaction left the emerging political institutions and politics in general at the mercy of ethnic conflicts, militant insurgents and were responsible for the insurgency in the south and later caused the civil war in the country.
Though the country was a Buddhist majority nation at the time of independence, with lack of compassion could not claim to have followed Buddha Dharma, for successive rulers failed to accommodate the full scope of the demographic diversity available in the island nation. In fact one Buddhist leader was assassinated by a monk in robes for trying to accommodate the minorities who as citizens of the country, were denied of their basic rights by the introduction of the language policy that favoured the majority community. Unfortunately, there have been plenty of leaders for their own political existence have bungled the affairs of the island nation to satisfy the majority community and not long ago in 2015 was considered one of the most failed states in the region. Almost seventy years after gaining the power to self-rule, today only success for pep talk is the name change of the country from ‘Ceylon’ to ‘Sri Lanka’, with a distressing pattern of events witnessed from the sixties by the southern insurgencies and the seventies by the northern insurgencies that led the country to a civil war by the eighties; at a time when the country was trying to define its own identity with an open economy policy. Only few leaders had managed to rise above competing ethnic interests in the past and after the change that took place in 2015; perhaps today have found few such leaders in the parliament, who appreciate this ‘Equality of conditions’ had to be built into the constitution and it is a far more complicated now than conditions that existed seventy years earlier and often conflicting process than giving every man a vote. As the result of these leaders the Unity Government has been able to release the interim reports on the proposed new constitution; a good effort to make ‘Equality of conditions’ acceptable to all and no doubt it will be fine-tuned in the months to come as an acceptable document to unite the Nation and to do that more dedicated legislators are needed like those representing the JVP in the parliament.
In the past two years JVP has been working hard from the opposition and have been successful in educating the people regarding the pitfalls and the cons in the corrupt system of governance of this country and has demonstrated maturity to govern the country. For all the candidates JVP fielded in 2015 were good, honest, hardworking people who loved this country and the people who had voted for the JVP are in fact actually committed to see a more vibrant society for the larger goal – the common good for the people and the country. Further their leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, considers that JVP would strive with its intellectual exercise to ensure that its politics go beyond how it is today, for what is required in this country was a change in the system of governance in itself, instead of a mere changing of governments. Therefore, if people pulling their intellectual ability make political decisions by voting for the JVP’s election manifestos, it would enable them to become the third force to take over the political leadership from both the SLFP and the UNP at the next elections due in 2020. Then the country could be salvaged with JVP leading the majority community; who will no doubt ensure equal status to all languages and faiths to accommodate all the minority communities as citizens of the country to save the nation from further disintegration.