The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is apparently poised for a makeover. Recently, Leader of the Party, Somawansa Amarasinghe hinted that there will be a leadership change. On April Heroes’ Day, last week, Amarasinghe is said to have mentioned to the members of the politburo and its Central Committee members, to expect a change and that he intends moving away for a young leader to takeover.
Leader’s claim shot down
Amarasinghe’s claim is the leadership is not a lifelong contract and that no one can eat the lion’s share throughout one’s life. The JVP leader’s announcement is loud and clear. Yet, for some incomprehensible reason, the JVP politburo members do not want to accept the statement. When Ceylon Today contacted some of its prominent members, who could possibly hold the office of leadership in the future, they dismissed the news and said the statement has been misinterpreted by the media.
They claimed the news is not true and there will be no change of leadership in the near future. General Secretary, Tilvin Silva, said the media has got the information wrong and the JVP politburo has not discussed anything to that effect. “Our leader wants a change, but not immediately. Not right now,” he said. “When the time comes the change will take place,” he said.
JVP member and parliamentarian, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, commenting on the issue said he has no idea of the purported change and that even if it is happening, it would not be in the near future. JVP member K.D. Lalkantha, a former MP from the Anuradhapura District said, the JVP Central Committee has not discussed the issue. He said unlike other parties, the JVP leader has no ‘special powers’ to decide whether he will be in office or not. “The Central Committee has all the powers and decides who stays in office and who goes. “Appointing leaders, members, taking political decisions are all done at the Central Committee level,” he pointed out.
Central Committee to decide
Lalkantha said Amarasinghe was only replying to the media, which had speculated that there is going to be a change in the JVP leadership. He said if Amarasinghe wanted to resign he should have indicated his intention to the Central Committee, but so far the Committee has not received any such intimation. However, it is clearly apparent the JVP needs a change. Amarasinghe, the only surviving member of the politburo took up the leadership after its founder member Rohana Wijeweera was killed along with around 60,000 members in the uprising during the period 1987-1989 of the UNP regime. Under Amarasinghe’ leadership, the party has thrived.
In 1994 a favourable situation was created for the JVP to enter the legal political fray again. It contested the 1994 General Election and won a single seat out of 225 seats in Parliament. Its politburo member, Nihal Galappththi, took up position as the Member of Parliament representing the Hambantota District in the Southern Province. The JVP has ever since tried to expand its grip in Sri Lankan politics. It entered into agreements with the central governments in power to abolish the Executive Presidency. It was also against the re-colonization and the division of Sri Lanka.
The other issue it was protesting against was the privatization of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the LTTE on the Post Tsunami Operations Management Structure (PTOMS) in June 2005. However, with the advent of the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government, there have been many desertions. Its members left the Party or crossed over to the ruling Party. A key member, Wimal Weerawansa, who was the media personality in the JVP, left the Party and joined the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) for portfolios and perks.
In 2011 a major split in the party resulted in certain district organizers joining politburo member, Premakumar Gunaratnam’s group. Today the JVP remains a toothless party. Critics argue a change in the membership is paramount for the JVP as a Party that has the ability to forge ahead. They charge that Amarasinghe has lost the grip on the Party. Recently, Amarasinghe had to bring in certain changes in the policies of the central politburo to keep youth leaders from straying, and also challenging party policies.