One day, a motorist was stranded as the headlights of his car had developed a fault. It was a dark rainy night. While he was thinking of ways and means of returning home, a solution flashed upon him: He could follow another vehicle up to the town and then be guided by street lamps. He saw a car go past him and put his plan into action. Thus, he began his homeward journey thanks to someone else`s light, thinking that everything was hunky dory. But after a while, all at once the car ahead of him came to a screeching halt?something least anticipated. He had no time to slam the brakes on and there was a nasty collision. Infuriated, he jumped out and demanded: `How dare you step on brakes like that?` `Do I need your permission,` the other one thundered, `to stop my car in my garage the way I want?` Moral of the story: You are in for shocks if you seek solutions to your problems by following others blindly!
That was exactly what happened to the UNP and the SLFP (M) on Dec. 14. Now, we have Mangala Samaraweera berating the JVP for making a U-turn, having voted against the budget on Nov. 19. Mangala has, as we reported yesterday, called the JVP`s abstention `the greatest political betrayal in recent history`. The outcome of the budget vote seems to have had a devastating impact on the JVP-SLFP (M) relationship. It was only the JVP that stood by Mangala when he left the government in a huff and gave him some moral support by opposing the entry of the UNP rebels into the government.
Mangala has also accused JVP Parliamentary Group Leader Wimal Weerawansa of having acted in violation of the party`s politburo decision. Anyone who is au fait with the command structure of the JVP knows that if Wimal had done so, by now he would have been thrown out of the party. The Parliamentary group is only the public face of the JVP. However, Mangala`s argument is not completely untenable. The JVP was in two minds whether to vote against the budget or abstain. A section of the politburo close to the SLFP (M) was for overthrowing the government, while the majority was for abstaining. The UNP, the SLFP (M), the SLMC and Minister Anura Bandaranaike went by the thinking of those JVPers who were close to them. The JVP parliamentary group, too, was divided on the question of the budget vote. But, the JVP being the JVP managed to sink its differences and make a unanimous decision.
The UNP and its allies, on the other hand, made it too embarrassing for the JVP to side with them. For, they turned the budget vote into a campaign to topple the government while the TNA gave it a pro-LTTE twist. So, in the end, the choice the JVP was given was between siding with the UNP-led forces to scuttle the war effort and backing the government to ensure the continuation of the military campaign against the LTTE. The JVP played its cards very adroitly by abstaining.
The only way the UNP could have trapped the JVP was to promise to continue with the war effort after toppling the government thus giving the outfit Hobson`s choice?voting against the budget. But, the UNP, being the darling of the international community, some of whose members are averse to the war and having the TNA as an ally, couldn`t take such a stand.
The government won the budget vote as paradoxically the budget vote had nothing to do with the budget. It could have been more appropriately called a vote on the war effort. It was only natural that the JVP couldn`t bring itself to shoot it down and forfeit its right to advocate military action against the LTTE thereafter.
Instead of castigating the JVP, the UNP and the SLFP (M) should be thankful to it for voting against the budget after the second reading. For, it is that vote which emboldened the SLMC and Minister Bandarnaike to cross over and reduce the government`s majority from 118 to 114 including three non-ruling party members. It was the JVP that enabled the Ranil-Mangala duo to invent the 111 theory?that the government actually has only 111 votes, meaning it is a minority regime. Ironically, the UNP, which blames the JVP for not helping defeat the budget 2008 recently refused to comply with the JVP`s request to scuttle the Western Provincial Council budget. The two parties also didn`t co-operate to oppose the budgets in the Southern Provincial Council and the Central Provincial Council.
He who depends on the JVP to succeed in politics is being as optimistic as a person who walks into a restaurant without a red cent and orders oysters for dinner hoping to settle the bill with pearls to be found on his plate. Mangala made a massive political miscalculation, perhaps misled by his contacts in the JVP and sought to settle his bills with pearls. In the end he was left with egg on his face.
The JVP is a strange political entity characterised by queer thinking. The only outfit that comes close to it in comparison, mutatis mutandis, is the LTTE known for unpredictability. The LTTE, it may be recalled, acted in a similar manner at the 2005 presidential election. Without either voting for or against anyone, it boycotted that election. The UNP which had been banking on it to win had a crude shock. Thus, the UNP has paid for its mistake of putting all its political eggs in others` baskets both in the South and the North.
So, it is high time the UNP realised that depending on either the JVP or the LTTE or someone`s raja yoga to come back to power is an exercise in futility. It ought to go among the people, win them over and wait till the time is opportune. It should learn to `make haste slowly` or festina lente!
More haste, they say, less speed.