‘Alternate’ politics in a nutshell | Sunday Observer

‘Alternate’ politics in a nutshell

23 January, 2022

The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna is playing escalation politics in a situation in which they see escalation as opportunity. Of course the JVP has been seeing opportunity in a peephole or for that matter every orifice that’s within sight. The entire nation knows where that has got them. It has got them to something like three seats — now a constant.

The only party that’s neither leftist or progressive in Sri Lanka — or right-wing or centrist – is the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna. The party is sui generis or one of its kind which would have been a compliment in a different context, but isn’t a badge of honour in the backdrop of what this writer seeks to present in the next few paragraphs.

The JVP is the quintessential party of the moment. It’s raison d’etre for being in the game of politics is to eschew ideology and be fluid as possible in the hope of fitting in somewhere in the general scheme of things, so that when the opportunity comes the party could pounce.

Well, the opportunity has never come. No doubt the party must be seeing this as unfortunate as there just wasn’t as far as they were concerned, the objective and subjective conditions to launch a political revolution. This the JVP would consider as the bad luck of the people.

In other words the people weren’t fortunate enough to be led by them, and therefore the onus of that will be on the people probably according to JVP ideologues.

Be that as it may, the JVP is misreading the current post -Covid set of circumstances as those that are rife for revolution, and its ideologues have decided for themselves that the objective and subjective conditions are present for the launch of a revolution, even though it would strictly have to be an upheaval through the agency of the ballot.


But no revolution even if it was there for the taking can succeed by sudden escalation, and the party ideologues should know it, but they do not. This is part of the party’s problem. There is nobody there that can contextualise issues and take lessons from history and put things in useful perspective.

The escalation politics of the JVP has disturbed, believe it or not, the conventional Opposition mostly, and by that it’s meant the main Opposition party of today the SJB, and others.

This is a curious situation because ideally if there were the objective and the subjective conditions that are rife for revolution, then it should have been the regime that is shivering in its boots.

But the regime curiously is almost making the case for the JVP today, because of course any regime would probably back what it sees as the lesser enemy, and that’s just instinctive as it is inconsequential. But the party that wants to stage the revolution finding itself being almost seen as a politically expedient ally by the regime it wants to topple, offers an insight into the ersatz revolutionary force that’s the JVP.

The even worse case for the JVP is that its escalation politics is causing the party to self-destruct at a very basic level. It’s undermining of various institutions over which it has some rudimentary hold due to long association — say labour in State owned institutions — is adding to the resentment of the party at the level of the grassroots.

The first demon the people are seeing when they want to get back to some semblance of normality after the pandemic, is in the ‘agent for the revolution’ i.e. the JVP, and this is not an outcome that any agent for social transformation would covet. This writer remembers speaking to former leader of the JVP, Somawansa Amarasinghe.

At a time when there were rumours of an impending election running the risk of being rigged, this writer asked Amarasinghe whether the JVP would respond to any attempted rigging with a campaign of civil disobedience.


Amarasinghe was visibly agitated. He kept saying that the JVP is‘ not a party like that any more’ and it was apparent to me that for him the issue at hand — that of possible rigged elections — was insignificant weighed against the fact that he thought the JVP needed to Iive-down its image as a scourge that the people despised — violent in nature, and basically counter-revolutionary in that it cut the grass from under the feet of progressives that wanted to support it, because of its violent and intransigently anti-people tendencies.

What Amarasinghe knew, the JVP leadership of today doesn’t know, or has forgotten.

The JVP also does not get any support from the grassroots SJB today because the former has proved to be a party that is so out on a limb that nobody could think of having any empathy towards its positions, leave alone forming an alliance with it.

This is pathetic — it’s as if the JVP is the equivalent of the Sokka Gakai in Japan which is so isolated in its zealotry that nobody in the mainstream wants anything to do with it.

But yet the party claims mainstream status and covets the mainstream status, maybe because they are admonished every day by the sage Amarasinghe who probably appears in their dreams to tell them that even if they cannot behave as mainstream, they should never abandon mainstream status.

But mainstream by name only is not a liability if a party is able to excite the base and not keep putting off part of the base vote by its sheer lack of ability to come across as remotely electable.

The party is amateurish — it sends almost childish political amateurs to Parliament as well, but that’s another story.

The party has an innate inability to project itself as serious because the party leader and others keep saying things about how the economy should be developed, which have no bearing on reality. It’s one thing to be pie in the sky, but to extolpie in the sky with every pubic pronouncement is a disaster.

In which case somebody — even somebody in the JVP – may ask why writers such as myself write about the party at all. The party leadership takes any reference to the JVP as a back handed compliment to mean that opinion makers and others are taking the party as a serious contender.


What if they were told that as a political phenomenon, the JVP is interesting for its failure? Writers are interested about failure as they are about success, and a serial failure such as the JVP definitely piques the interest of any political analyst worth his salt.

Analysing the JVP’s failures gives the other political players valuable lessons — those outside of the JVP are willing to learn because nobody in the JVP is self-effacing; it comes with the territory that they are not. It’s in the party’s DNA.

A Ranil Wickremesinghe associate — let’s just say hanger-on — once told this writer that Wickremesinghe’s policy was to desist from pointing to mistakes of any Government when such a regime is in power.

Wickremesinghe had told my friend that if the UNP allows any regime in power to make mistakes without correcting them or underscoring the missteps, it would ensure a rout for the regime at the polls. Cynical if you ask me, but may have worked partially for Wickremesinghe in 2015.

Could the same be said for the JVP though the party is not in power? That nobody should point to the party’s mistakes because the leadership may learn something from the criticism and correct themselves and who knows, chart a path to victory?

The point is, nobody needs entertain such a worry about the JVP. Any ‘regime’ may as Wickremesinghe told my friend, learn from its mistakes and learn to stay in power. However the JVP, it is guaranteed would never learn from its mistakes even if you rubbed the noses of the party leadership on their errors.

The party is utterly incapable of self-effacement. In that sense more than all, it’s quintessentially sui generis.