Factions, Fictions and bids to Reformations.

[Earlier carried in the Lakbima News]

In the immediate aftermath of the “split” within the JVP, several newspapers highlighted an exchange among the Secretary of Defense Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapakshe, Minister Wimal Weerawansa and the Reverend Elle Gunawansa. This conversation had taken place at the late Joe Abeywickrama’s funeral. From what I read, the Defense Secretary had inquired after the split from Minister Weerawansa who had referred to the same with a degree of emotion. He had highlighted how the JVP, after all, had been a crucial driving force in Lankan politics of its post-independence setting. Mr. Rajapakshe is said to have noted that a key JVPer had requested special Police protection to its Party Headquarters – and that such protection will be guaranteed.

This exchange has several key implications. As things stand today, it is common knowledge that the government hegemony mechanisms have efficiently infiltrated almost all civil spaces; with growing conviction uncapping “alternation” and disarming “oppositions” of kinds. In a previous submission to this space, we discussed how the current Local Governmental elections, held in three clustered stages, too, is an instrument of maximizing this totalitarian mission. The split of the JVP – which paves way for this concerned chit chat between two bigwigs of the regime – comes in this locality. A newspaper had gone the extra yard to identify the state sympathy and support to be with the upset Somawansha Amarasinghe faction of the JVP: its current ineffective leadership.

Pubudu Jagoda speaks at one of the public lectures organized by the JVP "rebel" ticket

The chit chat ensuing at Joe’s funeral highlights hegemony and “over-encompassing authority” in itself is fragile and insecure. The hegemonizing agent – who, on stage, has written off the JVP as invalid and watery – gets anxious of subversive germs that operate within this “crippled” organ. This is very similar to the concern the same agent will have with regard to the welfare of the destabilized leader of the UNP, Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe. The “dilution” of the Oppositional political vigour – both the UNP and the JVP – and the factionisms within such organized bodies inject star quality fuel for the regimental tanks to run on. This, too, has been one of the present government’s often used trumps ever since they came to power in 2005.

The “renegade 17” of the UNP, the UNP crossovers at the 18th Amendment vote in 2010, the secession of Minister Weerawansa have been the cement on which the government bastion was strengthened. Pairing such enhancement follows the dilution and implosion of parties from which these resources are drained. What the agitation within the JVP signifies to the Ruler (who partially feeds on the disunion and inaction of his opponents) is that subversion / resistance is at hand. Its support of the Amarasinghe faction, therefore, is not a cruel pill to digest; for, in Amarasinghe’s party alone lies the promised vitamins to further hegemony.

Sajith Premadasa

Leave aside what the government’s fears at present are; and as to how they will overcome such anxieties. I have trust in the regime that the dismantling processes of whatever political opposition that may come in its way are already launched: that a subversive counter-hegemony has a greater chance of being attacked in its near infancy itself. But, what matters at a time as this is that the subversive forces do emerge – and this is the positive sign for a sustained democracy that we should look out for. The differences within the JVP – signs of internal incongruities – have finally come out. A few months ago, the same happened to the UNP, the so-called “Main Opposition”. What has to be acknowledged is the eruption through which alternatives / alternative groups garner a voice.

When such vibrations happen it invariably shakes the fabric of society and politics. And since the order of “things” are grappling with an insistent state infiltration – a regime that has mathematically and otherwise subtracted the nation to its own theorem – these vibes are needed to combat the unopposed hegemonic drive. What the UNP and the JVP, over the past five years or so failed in satisfying is this – to hold the fort of the “common man”, whose political representation is at mercy. With inaffectual leaderships and disunited politburos this has been denied and a circumstantial “towards the betel leaf” wave has been indirectly supported. The vibrancy of a democracy lies in representation and distribution. This could be in terms of opinion, ideas, dissent as well as resources and knowledge. How far can this spirit be extended when a lop-sided current pushes you – through the generation of consent, willing submission or coercion – to be a “part of its ideology”; or to be damned?

The UNP’s Kandy bastion faced much heat on the run up to the recent LG elections, which the UPFA topped by a nano margin of 3000 votes.  The “heating up” of Kandy was chiefly owed to the “divide and hold” election policy of the government. For those in Kandy, more and more governmental heavyweights were seen over the last two weeks of propaganda, being enrolled in election activities of all kinds. Among these were also “super heavyweights” – and when some of them say “box”, it is not only ballot boxes they are known to imply. With such impeding forces all around, a resurgent democratic wave is more than a timely outburst.

An ace in human resources management

The JVP “rebel” group (I do not say “reformist”, for reform does not come out as their object) is said to have extensive support and acceptance from within the wider JVP bodies. They, from what I gather, is on a positive stride to legitimize itself within the party. This process will necessitate an ousting or a compromising of the Tilvin Silva faction, which for many years has been at odds with Kumar Gunaratnam. In fact, the JVP’s crisis – in trajectory – is no different to the implosion within the UNP. The fact that these “on going” crises are surfacing at this point is a positive indicator for a sustained democratic activism. It remains to be seen how the relevant parties manage the disputes and how they work towards a solution that would not indirectly support their ideological opponents: the government.

To merit the Rajapakshe government, it has thus far manipulated with immaculate precision internal factionisms of its opponents. The ready response of the government, as hinted, is to indirectly defend / sympathize with the threatened party – in this case, the disfavoured present leadership of the JVP. Such expertise has, in the past, left many “once-vocal” representatives domesticated or sterilized. The victims of this suction includes Mr. Karu Jayasuriya and the “UNP 17” – whose “revolutionary potential”, in context, was used by the government for its own mileage. It is this form of appropriation all parties have to watch out for.

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