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JVP heading towards wilderness - Nandana

JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe and many others endorsed my view that the JVP should contest the local polls with the UPFA and accept ministerial portfolios in the Government, former JVP 'heavyweight' Nandana Gunathilake said.

In an interview with 'Sunday Observer' staffer Jayantha Sri Nissanka, Gunathilake said that if the JVP was not willing to address problems of people at this decisive juncture by joining the UPFA, the JVP will be isolated in the political scene.

Q: How do you analyze the present political situation in the country?

A: After 1994, the JVP became a dominant political party. As a result none of the two major parties were able to form a strong Government since the vote base was divided between the three parties.

This has badly affected the UNP and they had to go for an alliance to form a Government. However, the SLFP in its history never formed a single party Government. Then many unstable Governments were formed in 2000, 2001 and even the present UPFA Government. In the meantime, the LTTE made many attempts to destabilise the country. These are the reasons for the present political situation in the country.

To arrest this destabilisation, President Mahinda Rajapaksa called the JVP to the Government fold to establish a All Party Conference to reach consensus to arrive at a permanent solution to the North and East (N&E) problem.

Q: But JVP announced last week that they will not be a coalition party to the Government because the Government failed to accept four important demands put to them, such as to abrogate the Ceasefire Agreement, remove Norway from the facilitator role, demerge the N&E and downsize the Cabinet. Can the Government continue and get the Budget passed?

A: According to my knowledge, the JVP is a coalition party though it tries to maintain a distance from the Government. Because, we all got together and formed the UPFA. Therefore, the JVP cannot claim they are not in the Government just because they sit in the opposition or decline to accept portfolios.

This Government exists because of the JVP. The JVP criticised and supported the previous SLFP led Governments. We could have won all these demands if the JVP joined the Government last November. But now it is difficult to win any demand from out side.

Q: So are there JVP MPs in Parliament. Are you a JVP MP?

A: No. There are neither JVP MPs nor SLFP MPs or Communist Party MPs. We all are UPFA MPs.

Q: Does that mean even if the JVP sacks you from the party, you will not lose your MP post?

A: Yes. Because technically I am a UPFA MP and I am its President.

Q: We have seen many All Party Conferences in the past but non of those could finally reach consensus. Will President Rajapaksa's attempt refutile?

A: We must learn from past mistakes and find a point where we all can agree on a solution. We must forget the history of political activities of parties at this juncture.

Q: Major parties in the Conference, the JHU and JVP are for a unitary state. UNP is for a federal solution. SLFP for an undivided country. So, will the JVP and JHU compromise on the unitary state position?

A: The JVP is bit flexible now. But still the JVP wants to defeat the LTTE militarily. They are for power sharing administratively but not for political power sharing. I also don't agree with the JVP stance.

We cannot demand such things in this era according to the constantly changing political situation in the world. This is the reality and the JVP must realize it. We have to operate tactfully to achieve our goals. Perfect answer to the national crisis is only based on Socialism. But we can't go for socialism now because there is no socialist block now. What we have to do now is to forget the debate on federalism, unitary state or all other arguments and go for a power sharing deal.

Q: Except the JVP and JHU, all other parties have agreed for the devolution of power on different formulas. So, how can we convince the JVP and JHU for a power sharing?

A: Yes, even the UNP is for a confederation. However, we have to forget the word Unitary, federal or any other words to reach consensus.

Q: If the JVP Central Committee (CC) cannot agree on your two proposals such as contesting the past local Government election in an alliance and accepting portfolios, how could you expect them to compromise on unitary state position?

A: Yes, because of the CC decision, we were badly defeated at the last local Government election. We should have been more pragmatic. We could have at least captured power in 25 Councils. We could have improved those Councils like Tissamaharama. Slowly the JVP could have captured the power in villages.

If we took portfolios, we could have influenced the President on our demands because he came to power promising to address national issues unlike Chandrika. But what happened, JVP vote base reduced to 800,000. President Mahinda won.

Q: How did your leader Somawansa Amarasinghe respond at the CC meeting on your two proposals?

A: He too was holding my view. He tried his best to educate the CC members and eloquently talked for hours the benefits we are going to get from it. But we could not convince the majority members in the CC.

Unlike other parties, our leader is only a single voter in the CC. He can not take decisions. He is bound by the CC decision. That is the nature in our party. Since I could not agree with the CC decision, I gave up all the positions in the party.

Q: People thought that the JVP will capture at least 30 to 40 Local Councils according to their popularity. But finally they faced a humiliating defeat and had to be satisfied with Tissamaharamaya Council. So don't you think that those in the CC who put the party into jeopardy should resign and reconstitute the CC with members who can progressively and strategically think?

A: I perfectly agree with you. They should accept criticism and resign for the benefit of the party. Then only we can get the party on the correct path.

Q: If this trend continues, will the JVP have a political future?

A: The JVP should be determined to capture power. That is why my late leader Rohana Wijeweera formed the JVP. But not to be a support pillar for other parties. After 1994, the party improved rapidly.

There should be a strategy to win the hearts of people. JVP has a good future and only this party can put the country on the right track. We are the only party which can bring youth from any part of the country to Colombo.

Q: If you study the JVP history, most of the time they were over estimated. When Rohana Wijeweera proposed to be a party to the Patriotic United Front in 1988 to win the Presidential election, the CC members rejected his proposals. How would have been the JVP today if that mistake was not committed?

A: Yes, If a deal was struck with that Alliance, Wijeweera would be still alive with our senior members. The JVP repeat the same mistake again and again. I can't change the CC and its up to the party.

We demanded at that time that the UNP should send the Indian Army away. Instead, we could have demanded to relax the emergency regulations, release political prisoners, hold elections under a caretaker Government. If we formed that Alliance, it could have been a military democratic Government because SLFP never demanded us to lay down arms.

Q: How will the JVP perform if the Government goes for a snap poll end of this year?

A: Definitely they can not get the present number of seats. When we had 500,000 votes we got 10 seats. At the last local polls we got 800,000 votes. Accordingly we can get about 16 seats. If the President presents an election budget and with the recent military success, the SLFP can definitely muster the support of the people at any election now.

Q: You said there are many in the party who hold your view though they keep quiet. Will they follow you?

A: I have not created my group. I don't know what they will do.

Q: When marxist politicians clash on ideologies within the party or when they feel that socialism is unrealistic, they end their political career either in the UNP or SLFP. For an example Athula Nimalasiri Jayasinghe, Mahinda Wijesekara, S. B. Dissanayake, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Athauda Seneviratne are some of them. Are you the latest addition to that group?

A: Many will say that I have chosen the same path. But it is not applicable to me. I resigned from the party when the party is at its popularity unlike former General Secretary Lional Bopage.

If someone surreptitiously operates, he can be there till his death and get a Ministerial portfolios if he strikes a deal with an Alliance Government. I can even now obtain a Ministerial portfolio but I don't want.

But what I want is to bring the party on the correct path because the country has come to a decisive juncture. If we let this position remain, the country will be divided. So now I am trying to form a National Alliance with the support of JVP, UNP,SLFP, Muslim and Tamil political parties to show that we are genuinely interested to solve the national problem. Otherwise I don't have any personal agendas.

Let the future decide my fate. I will work hard to correct the party. Either I will give up politics or take a new move.

Q: Will the JVP cancel your party membership as you are trying to form a National Alliance without the approval from the party?

A: I am prepared to even sacrifice it for a noble objective because I am prepared to do anything to bring a settlement to the national question.

Q: But can you correct the party while being outside?

A: True, but now I can influence the party through the society by engaging in discussions with people and media to establish my view to correct the party. Even if the party sacks me, I can accept if there is a good reason. But they can not separate my attachment with the party.

The JVP is like my father and mother. I learnt a lot from the party and I am in this position because of the party. If I did my degree in agriculture, I may be doing something in that field today. On the other hand it is like my child. When seniors warn us in 1989 that it is useless to revive the party, despite death threats, we did.

Q: You have given various press statements condemning the action of the party CC for attempting to form a National Alliance. Don't you think that this it is a violation of the party disciplinary code?

A: Only authorised members from the CC and Politbureau can speak to the media. I have violated it and if they want they can remove me. But it is not important to me.

I can make that sacrifice to bring the party to the correct path. What I want to do is to make an ideological change on the party. Now the party is embroiled in a political storm as JVP refused to be a coalition party and contest the local polls separately. We can have false pride but what is the use of it to the country.

Q: Has any political party invited you to join with them?

A: Not yet. This is not a time to take few members from different parties and run the Government. What is important is that the JVP should join the Government.

Q: Your leader Somawansa Amarasinghe said that your statements should not be considered seriously. What is your comment?

A: That is why I opened my mouth. I kept quite since February. I even went abroad to avoid this situation. But his statement led me to speak to the media.

Q: Did Somawansa speak to you personally asking you to rejoin the CC and the Politbureau?

A: Yes, before I spoke to the Media about the ideological clash with the party. I don't have personal differences with him. He is the man behind all the success in the JVP today.

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