Feature Article

Has Kumaratunga tamed the JVP?

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 18 May 2005, 23:30 GMT]
Piqued by President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s criticism of its vehement opposition to sharing aid with the Liberation Tigers, yet wary of being portrayed as the prime obstacle to desperately needed international assistance, the ultra-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) Wednesday put a brave face on its humiliation Monday. In a stark departure from its trademark fiery rhetoric, the Marxist party’s politburo was muted, conciliatory and almost philosophical.

Although the JVP is the main Parliamentary ally of Kumaratunga’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), for several months the third largest party in Sinhala politics has - along with other Sinhala ultra-nationalist forces, including Sri Lanka’s powerful Buddhist clergy - waged a vehement public campaign against the joint mechanism with the LTTE.

Sri Lankan Development Forum
(L-R) Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Mr Mahinda Rajapakshe, President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama.
Kumaratunga, whose cash-strapped government desperately needs international financial assistance, told donors Monday that she would strike a deal with the LTTE despite threats to her life from "within and outside" her government.

"A vociferous minority," Kumaratunga pointedly said, could not be allowed to "hinder the forward march of a nation towards economic peace and prosperity."

"On this issue [of a deal with the Tigers] we are fully aware that the lives of some of us are in extreme danger," Kumaratunga said, adding her commitment to create the joint mechanism with the LTTE was "steadfast" despite objections from her ultranationalist allies.

JVP leaders attending the conference remained silent after Kumaratunga’s comments, though the Parliamentary leader of the hardline monks party, the JHU, stood up and in an impromptu speech, appealed passionately against donor pressure for a joint mechanism with the LTTE.

In a carefully worded statement issued after the international conference concluded Tuesday, the JVP politburo responded with a reproachful statement a far cry from its firebrand rhetoric.

"The JVP does not oppose obtaining grants and loans without conditions. Therefore the JVP also participated at the meeting,” it said.

"The JVP is, however, constrained to make a public comment on the statement of President Chandrika Kumaratunga at the opening of the donor meeting,” it modestly put forward.

Rev. Athuraliye Rathana
Jathika Hela Urumaya parliament group leader Rev. Athuraliye Rathana speaking to journalists at the Sri Lank Development Forum.
“We feel that it is not in keeping both with accepted Sri Lankan and international norms to articulate [our] differences front of a formal international group and more so by the President of the country who should only express a position for the country as a whole.”

“Therefore we condemn the President's articulation of such differences in front of the international community.”

Responding to its sniggering opponents, particularly amongst the Sinhala left, the JVP defended its docility before the international community on Monday.

"Although we had the opportunity to react at the meeting itself to President's statement, we chose not to do so because the JVP did not wish to tarnish the good image of Sri Lanka and of the JVP as well in front of the international community by not following the accepted norms and traditions”.

“The JVP has its differences with the President's position as do other political parties and so have some other groups including some within the SLFP itself. But those are to be argued out among ourselves. Such political differences are only to be aired and argued internally, the JVP said

“We do not see the leaders of the US, India or any other country behaving in such a manner and airing the country's internal differences at international gatherings,” the JVP submitted.

Pleading that it was only " opposing legitimizing the undemocratic LTTE through any joint mechanism,” and arguing “we believe that it is our right to oppose the undemocratic LTTE,” the JVP statement, in contrast to its usual bravado, concluded in a notably conciliatory fashion:

“We, on our part, hope that leaders of the country would follow internationally accepted norms and decorum at international gatherings."

 

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