Neanderthal has come out of the Cave; from JVP to NPP..!

-By Virgil

(Lanka-e-News -23.Jan.2024, 9.15 PM) “When the rich wage war, it's the poor who die”
-Jean-Paul Sartre

The genesis of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) can be traced to the mid-nineteen sixties. Its history, as has been recorded, goes all the way back to 1965. Its founding leader Rohana Wijeweera, unlike the other left-wing political leaders at the time such as Dr N M Perera, Dr S A Wickremasinghe, Peter Keuneman, Dr Colvin R de Silva and Philip Goonawardana, was not puritanically clinging on to an ideology whose beginnings were founded on Marxian/Trotskyite political-economic theories. Wijeweera's conceptualization of a sociopolitical change in the country was somewhat closer to Mao Zedong's sociopolitical and economic principles and an approach to capture of power through a rural-based organization comprising of the distressed youth. Nor did he ignore Mao's approach to power through 'the barrel of the gun'.

Wijeweera was successful, at least to a moderate extent, to capture the imagination and dreams of  Lankan youth in the sixties and seventies who had been going through trying economic and sociopolitical conditions under Sirimavo Bandaranaike and her government which was filled with her immediate family members. That family-centered governance machination, which had its origins in the old feudalistic, Radala system, weighed heavily on the rural youth and the class and cultural differences that existed at the time paved the way for a total breakdown of trust and faith in the prevailing societal architecture. Unemployment, under-employment, shortage of essential food items, restrictions on purchase of day-to-day household goods that help to sustain simple lives of the rural and other underprivileged classes played a more than significant role in attracting the youth to a more magical and fresh sociopolitical 'Mantra'- socialism.

Wijeweera managed to exploit this grave sociopolitical condition. Ceylon at the time had a ceremonial military service and an under-armed police; preaching a one-day revolution to capture power by ousting a democratically elected government, the JVP launched its first insurrection in April 1971. The romanticism that was an intrinsic element, by itself, of the 'revolution' could not sustain a radical movement. Capture of political power could not be achieved through a mere attack on the police stations in the country. However much the Ceylon Police were ill-equipped and ill-prepared to quell an uprising of this nature, the advantage the Police had was that those who attacked them were equally if not more untrained and unprepared to sustain a protracted uprising. They too were ill-equipped and woefully unsophisticated in planning and under-trained in executing an armed insurrection. A violent movement of such nature needs, above all else, a disciplined army of soldiers whose focus cannot falter. Wijeweera's over-dependence on exhibitionistic politics was evident in his pursuit of holding mass rallies. But unlike today's NPP rallies, Wijeweera's rallies were attended by the same groups of young men and women who made it an adventure to go from one meeting to another.    

Yet, in spite of a certain layer of our rural youth being attracted to the concept of a left-oriented revolution, the rest of the population kept itself totally aloof of the uprising. Assistance of the masses is a sine qua non for such an uprising to succeed. An apathetic mass of men and women would not be an encouraging fellow-traveler for a journey that is bound to encounter violent suppression by the state power.

While the '71 insurrection failed miserably, the '87 – '89 revolution was never ever meant to achieve its desired results. As was shown during the spree of murder and mayhem in the late eighties, the  (MO) initiated by the JVP was closely akin to the forced indoctrination of the masses instigated by the infamous Cambodian dictator Pol Pot. When the young soldiers acquired a taste for murder and torture, it became a second nature for them and seeing many a headless human body at every other culvert or river bank was part of the background scenery of the day.

These memories are indeed bitter and utterly distressing, to reminisce them in itself is a torture to the mind, even now. This is the macabre pictorial that the JVP has to rid itself of. The current generation of youth may not remember this; in fact, they were not even born and that is the advantage AKD and the NPP, the current version of the JVP, seems to enjoy. Nevertheless, a political party that is aiming to achieve electoral success at the elections cannot be muted about its immediate past. Having inherited a forgettable history of a killing machine which the JVP was in the '87 – '89 period and after transforming itself into a member of the peaceful political mainstream, in order to justify its proper and due place in that sociopolitical dynamic, AKD and the NPP have still not publicly apologized nor made a clear statement of the principles of its MO.

Yet the country's cataclysmic economic failure in 2022 and the Aragalaya that ensued initially with Hirunika Premachandra demonstrating in front of the Gotabhaya's private residence in Mirihana and expanding into a full-scale island-wide series of protests conspired to clear the political landscape for many political judgments to be reached by the general masses. The very optics of the Aragalaya and the palpable authenticity of those who took leadership in the Aragalaya process and the seemingly classless, caste-less and being devoid of religious discrimination rendered validity and legitimacy to the movement. Furthermore, the helplessness of the current political leadership and failure of all political parties that were engaged in the enterprise of governance since Independence was brought before the eyes of the nation at large.

Classifying all political parties as an integral part of the status quo and branding them as a deplorable bunch of crooks and incompetent and self-centered charlatans helped the nation to define and redefine honesty, authenticity and empathy in the context of political leadership. The arena of Galle Face being the center for national agitation and protests, became a ordained ground. When Sajith Premadasa tried to visit the protesters, he was nearly manhandled; only Sarath Fonseka and AKD were tolerated by the protesters. Validity and relevance of the prevailing political leadership came into question when the participants had to choose who could be accommodated and who have to be denied a visit to the consecrated arena.

Lack of trust in the current set of leaders, their inauthentic engagement in governance, their blatant seeking after national limelight and alleged corruption were all put into one large basket; they collectively made up the status quo and none could get away from the accusations of failure. The NPP and its leadership along with Sarath Fonseka were spared the shame of being rejected by those who organized the Aragalaya.

In addition to being a catalyst for national distrust and outright denunciation of the politics practiced to date by the traditional leadership, Aragalaya also helped identify some of the new actors on stage. However, those who joined the Aragalaya for the most mundane reasons of experiencing difficulty in securing diesel and petrol supplies for their luxury and semi-luxury motor vehicles showed marked tiresomeness after their supplies were made available. They lacked an ideological or a spiritual context  for a real change.

With the discourteous departure of President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was the pinnacle of the movement. But for a movement to be totally successful, its fundamental objectives need to be met; ouster of one leader and replacing him with a more suppressive leader who has no mandate from the people is no solution. Advent of Ranil Wickremasinghe on the throne, instead of accelerating the process of change, managed to slow it down with the assistance of the IMF and the more eerie aspects of the Ranil-regime became a nuanced shade of the current polity.

But with due credit to the NPP, the halls of Parliament became a chamber for the ever so eloquent AKD who has been displaying his mastery in oratorical skills and fact-filled speechifying. Sajith Premadasa or any other parliamentarian could not match AKD's brilliance in delivery, pertinence of  subject and the language he spoke in.

Having arrived at a crucial juncture in Lanka's electoral politics, its nuanced variations and a mass of people who have become attuned to the credibility of those who clamor for power, do seem to be more analytical and discriminating in their choices. Buttressed by a well-oiled party machinery, the NPP is now engaged in a campaign whose tentacles have spread across the nation with varied and diverse objectives. Long before the traditional parties like the UNP and the SLFP whose essential offspring are SJB and Pohottuwa clans envisaged about affording equal place to the woman in society, the NPP made a strategic move in capturing the women into their fold. Not ignoring even the minutest segment of society, they have embarked on a political campaign of which the various components have been able to reach each and every corner of Lanka's society not only geographically, but in every demographic category and every stratum of of the surrounding landscape.

The Neanderthal has emerged from the cave. Having stepped outside the cocoonish cave, he beholds a wondrous world whose societal layers are as multiple and diverse as he has never imagined. He is mesmerized by the beauty of the meadows and the purity and freshness of sparkling water streams. He seems to have stripped himself of the outdated garb of Marxian economics and suppressive governance of Stalinism and Maoism. The Neanderthal seems to have embraced democracy as a reasonable mechanism of governance. Democracy may not be perfect, but as Winston Churchill on October 31, 1944, in the House of Commons, said: “At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into a little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper -no amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of that point-.”

By Virgil

The writer can be contacted at [email protected]

Virgil's Collection

by     (2024-01-29 16:20:47)

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