The JVP has challenged President Mahinda Rajapaksa to either abolish the executive presidency or call a snap presidential election. Earlier, it was urging the President to honour his promise to scrap that institution during his first term. What does the JVP`s volte-face signify? It is pretending to be confident of defeating President Rajapaksa.
In 1970, the JVP clung on to Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike`s sari pota and turned its back on her the following year by launching its first abortive insurgency. In 1977, the JVP clutched at President J. R. Jayewardene`s sarong, got its leader Rohana Wijeweera released and betrayed the working class in 1980 in return by pulling out of a general strike held in July that year, when over 50,000 workers were thrown out of jobs. In 1982, Wijeweera entered the presidential fray and the only thing he managed to achieve was to cause a split in the Opposition vote and facilitate JRJ`s victory. Later, the JVP took on the JRJ government. In the late 1980s, the JVP hung on to Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa`s sarong and had nearly 1,500 of its activists released. Later, true to form, the outfit declared war on the Premadasa government and met its Waterloo.
In 1994, a headless JVP clutched at President Chandrika Kumaratunga`s sari pota entered into an electoral alliance with her in 2004 and took on her government in 2005. Thereafter, the JVP got hold of President Mahinda Rajapaksa`s saataka and has been trying to bring about his downfall for the past three years or so.
Now, the JVP is holding on to the boot laces of Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Sarath Fonseka!
Thus, it may be seen that the JVP has survived in politics thanks to its remarkable adeptness at political hitchhiking and changing partners. Having gunned down UNP trade unionists in their numbers in the late 1980s for not obeying the orders of JVP death squads to resign from the Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya (JSS) and display their resignation letters prominently in public places, Rathu Sahodarayas have been clever enough to rope in the JSS in a bid to plunge the country into anarchy through a general strike. Adversity, they say, makes strange bedfellows!
Gen. Fonseka has not, in fairness to him, so far expressed his willingness to contest the next presidential election. Moreover, whether he will be able to resign from the post of Chief of Defence Staff at will, or whether he will have to continue until the end of his term is not yet known.
The JVP has, in trying to lure Gen. Fonseka into the presidential contest and to throw in its lot with him, owned up to the impotence of its leadership. It has had to outsource the implementation of its political agenda to a third party the way it hired contract killers to carry out assassinations in the late 1980s. The slain leaders the JVP will be commemorating shortly must be spinning in their graves!
Never mind an outfit which is a Marxist anachronism in modern politics. Sadly, even the UNP, the so-called Grand Old Party, which was never short of leaders, today finds itself in the same predicament as the JVP. The fact that the UNP has been compelled to beseech a serving military officer to try to defeat President Rajapaksa is a damning indictment on its leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and his cabal. If he thinks he is not fit to come forward as the party`s presidential candidate, what moral right does he have to lead the party? Is the UNP without any other leader capable of that feat? Even Siddhalepa Vedamahattaya had the courage to contest a presidential election!
Regrettably, the Opposition has, due to the impotence of its leaders, brought the country to such a sorry pass that today we are without a political alternative to the incumbent government. By seeking deliverance from a serving military officer in a highly militarised society, the Opposition is only endangering Sri Lanka`s democracy.
The JVP tells us that it wants to punish President Rajapaksa because he has reneged on his promise to abolish the executive presidency. Fair enough! But, what guarantee does it have that its new found hero will carry out his promise to scrap the presidency in the event of his victory? The JVP has admitted that there is no such guarantee, as its Propaganda Secretary Vijitha Herath said at a press conference on Oct. 15 (See The Island of Oct. 16). He said nobody could be trusted! If so, what do Rathu Sahodarayas propose to do if they are taken for a right royal ride once again? Will they issue a call to arms to punish the General?
Mao Tse-Tung famously said, `If you are praised by your enemies, be careful!` Even some of the dyed-in-the-wool LTTE sympathisers have suddenly become well disposed towards Gen. Fonseka, who had been their bete noire until very recently!
Interestingly, People`s Democratic Front Leader Mano Ganeshan, who initially threatened to pull out of the United National Alliance (UNA), if it fielded Gen. Sarath Fonseka as the common presidential candidate, is now humming a different tune. He is reported to have spoken in favour of Gen. Fonseka`s candidature.
Ganeshan has been in the forefront of a campaign against human rights violations and alleged atrocities against civilians by the military. He protested vehemently against White Vans and abductions. And his offer to support CDS Gen. Fonseka as the Opposition s common presidential candidate is tantamount to an ignominious self-contradiction as well as a denial of the claim by the US and the EU that the armed forces committed war crimes. If an international award winning human rights campaigner like Ganeshan had an iota of doubt about Gen. Fonseka`s human rights track record as well as that of the armed forces under him, would he ever want the latter to be the Head of State?
Meanwhile, Gen. Fonseka`s problem is that though what he has been invited to undertake is the abolition of the executive presidency, if his handlers succeeded in achieving their goal of using him to form a government, they would be in a position to do much more. It was only last Friday that UNP strongman Lakshman Seneviratne demanded in Parliament that the country dispose of its fighter aircraft and armaments, including artillery pieces and multi barrel rocket launchers posthaste. The UNP`s position on the post-war military situation is in stark contrast to Gen. Fonseka`s strategy which requires more recruitment and strengthening of the armed forces.
Gen. Fonseka`s dilemma, in case of a desire on his part to be the Opposition`s common presidential candidate, would be whether he should make himself a cat`s paw for those who shamelessly appeased the LTTE, tried to scuttle the war and ridiculed the military, especially the army, and its achievements and create a situation in the process for them to capture power and put their hidden agendas into action.
It behoves Gen. Fonseka to remember Mao`s advice!