27th February 2000
JVP for supremacy of parliament
By Shelani de Silva
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna which is recognised as a third force by some political commentators has conspicuously been kept out of talks the government was holding with political parties on the proposed constitutional reforms. The party has, however, decided to continue its campaign for the abolition of the executive presidential system. It also opposes any move by the President to continue with the executive presidency while also functioning as Prime Minister during the transitional period under the new constitution.
Party General Secretary Tilvin Silva in an interview with The Sunday Times said the JVP would call for an executive fully responsible and accountable to parliament and equal rights to all communities if the party's views were sought for constitutional amendments.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: The government is holding talks with political parties on the proposed constitutional reforms. What is the stance your party which is against the executive presidency, taking?
A: We have not been invited for any talks with the government but if invited we will ask for a copy of the draft constitution. The JVP firmly believes that without studying the draft, there is no purpose in holding talks. At present, not much is known about the proposed constitution. Whatever it is, the JVP has not been called for talks. We will not ask for an appointment with the President. A responsible government should know that not only Tamil parties and the UNP but all political parties should be involved in constitution-making. Bringing in a new constitution is definitely a serious issue and the people's views too should be taken into consideration.
Q: But the JVP and the SLMC had talks on the proposed constitution. What was the outcome of this meeting?
A: It was the SLMC which requested a meeting with us. The meeting was not only on the constitutional reforms but other issues as well. We could not give our views on the reforms. Even the SLMC was not in a position to elaborate on the subject.
Q: Will your support be conditional on the continuation of the executive presidency during the transitional period?
A: We will continue to carry out our campaign for the abolition of the executive presidency. But if the government is planning to continue with the executive presidency in another form we are definitely against it. We hear reports to the effect that instead of abolishing the executive presidency, there are moves to amalgamate the powers of premiership with it.
We are against such moves and it is an anti-democratic act. What the Government should now do is to abolish the executive presidency and form a system to suit the country — not to amalgamate the executive presidency and the premiership. The focal point in democracy is the 'check and balance' system. There has to be a balance, but if excess power is going to be vested in one institution, it is not democratic.
Q: Your party supported Chandrika Kumaratunga at the 1994 presidential campaign on the promise that she will scrap the executive presidency. Did your party take that promise seriously?
A: The party took the promise very seriously. The president gave us a written and verbal assurance that by July 15, 1995 the executive presidency will be abolished. When it did not occur we were told by the Government it is because the constitution has to be changed and certain amendments have to be brought in if it was to be abolished. And now with the President re-elected for a second term she is trying to bring in a new constitution. We believe the government was in a position to abolish the executive presidency. Instead of doing it, the President is now trying to take all the powers and use it during her full term and then bring about changes. It is clear that there is a conspiracy in the sharing of power.
Q: What are the changes your party would like to see in the new constitution?
A: It is difficult to go into detail because we have not studied the constitution. But we have made our representations to the Parliamentary Select Committee. Our main emphasis will be on the abolition of the executive presidency. We will call for an executive responsible to Parliament. There will also be changes where equal rights would be given to all communities. Equality among communities and religions should be ensured. The constitution should recognise the basic rights of all.
Q: How do you see the constitutional reforms as a solution to the ethnic issue?
A: From what we have gathered the new constitution will not solve the ethnic issue. A government should have a genuine interest to give all people their basic rights but we understand that the new constitution, like the present one, speaks of powers being vested in one person. That's why we say that the government is not genuine in its efforts. The ethnic problem has come up because a group of people have not got their basic rights.
Q: Your comments on the Norwegian involvement in peace talks or acting as a facilitator?
A: The Norwegian Foreign Minister did not meet the JVP, so we cannot express our views on the stand taken by Norway.
Q: Did the JVP request a meeting with the Foreign Minister?
A: We did not ask for an appointment but the correct method would be that when a party is getting involved in a country's national issue it should hold discussions with the main political parties in the country.
Q: What is the JVP's stand on resuming peace talks with third party involvement?
A: If we examine the history of peace talks we can see whenever they took place the war was stopped for about two months and then fighting resumed. We see peace talks as an interval taken by both parties. Judging from past experiences we have our doubts whether the talks will be successful. Of course the JVP is for peace talks but the intentions have to be genuine. We have doubts. The important thing is not the country which comes as a facilitator. The Government should give a firm assurance.
Q: Do you feel that the people still link the present JVP with the terror period of the late 1980s?
A: Once again the state media are carrying out a campaign by trying to instil fear in the people that a terror period will once again erupt. We have to make it clear and with responsibility we say that the JVP is not involved in such undemocratic acts and we will not get involved in such things. No matter what difficulties the party will have to face in future we will not act outside the democratic path.
Q: How is the party building its image after the elections?
A: We are preparing for a general election. The party is conducting discussions with trade unions, farmer and women groups. We are also selecting the candidates for the elections. We hope to send at least 10 MPs and we will not join with any other party to contest the general elections.
Q: What is Somawansa Amarasinghe's involvement with the party?
A: He is the party leader and member of the politburo. He is in charge of the party activities abroad, but he is in touch with us and he closely follows political activities here. We have a good rapport with him.
Q: Have you any plans to get Chitrangani Wijeweera, the widow of party founder Rohana Wijeweera, into the party?
A: We have gone to see her not with the intention of getting her into the party but to inquire about her children's welfare. We have come forward to help the children. It should be noted that the JVP is not a party to replace the leader with his widow. Our party has come this far after much sacrifice and hard work by all members. We won't gain anything or even lose anything with or without her in the party. But the Government is trying to use her. It did this during the elections by giving out leaflets alleged to have been signed by Ms.Wijeweera.
Q: In the past few weeks the media indicated that the JVP and the UNP were planning to topple the Western and the Southern Provincial Councils. Has the party any such idea?
A: There is no truth in such statements. We have no intention of getting together with the UNP to topple the councils.
For us the UNP is a party just like the PA which contributed to ruin the country.
In the Baghavath Geetha, Arjuna while preparing for battle is addressed by Lord Krishna in the following manner, "Arjuna the duties and responsibilities of Kshastriya is to protect Varnadharma (the caste system) and Swardharma (Duty). It is necessary to find liberation from both good and bad Karma in Sansara. In this, your duty is to act without concern for result (Karma Yoga), to comprehend the true nature of the Atman which transcends both life and death (Ghnana Yoga), and all your actions should be devoted to God (Bakhti Yoga).
Krishna thereby convinced Arjuna to accept death as a consequence of battle. The question now arises as to whether Prabhakaran could use a similar argument to convince a suicide bomber. Some historical background is necessary to answer this question. With the brutal massacres of Indians and the capture of Delhi by the British in 1858, the Hindus responded with a spiritual movement. This spiritual movement continued into the twentieth century and was politicized by gandhi as a non-violent movement against British imperialism (Ahimsa).
There was a Hindu faction, which questioned as to whether a military road to independence (Swaraj) was possible. There was a Christian tradition through the likes of Tolstoy who brought to prominence the possibility of non-violent action. This followed his reading of the new testament tradition. Others accused gandhi of having borrowed these ideas from Buddhism and Jainism and thereby being unfaithful to the Hindu tradition. Since the explosion of a nuclear bomb, groups such as the RSS and VHS and Shivashena have raised these issues once again. Others have used this tract from the Geetha as a war cry of the Black Tiger movement (Suicide Bombers). One can however question as to whether this advice to the Shoobtriya could be used to justify the phenomena of Suicide Bombers. There is another argument that this is a growth from the popular romanticism in Tamil culture. The most propagated popular argument is that this results from the repression of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. The LTTE considers these suicide acts to be a hallmark of their determination to achieve liberation from the Sri Lankan State.
We need to examine a few statistics at this stage. The LTTE claims a total of 14,668 deaths in battle, of which 148 were Black Tigers. Further, between 1993 and 1999 there have been 1385 LTTE cadres who have surrendered with their cyanide capsules unused. The number 148 is a small minority compared to the total cadre, which were successfully brainwashed to do so. In recent times it is not only the LTTE who use this tactic, but other groups such as the Mujhideen, Hamas and Hizbollah and the Algerian FIS, the Kurdish PKK have suicide bombers. The technology of suicide however is probably most developed by the LTTE. There is an annual doubling of information on violence today. Sources like the Internet are full of such information. It is quite possible that the LTTE technology of suicide will be globalised.
There are cases of heroic sacrifice among the soldiers from the Sri Lankan Army. In Vietnam Nguyen giap used this tactic, against the American soldiers and Kampuchea's Pol-pot used this tactic as well as Han Semerin against Pol-pot. There were many extreme Nationalist groups and Racists who used this tactic such as the Zionist, the Nazis and the Japanese Kamikaze kids of the Imperial Army. The phenomena is therefore rather common and used by various extreme groups, and it can not simply be justified on the basis of injustice or oppression.
A mechanical causal theory, assumes that deep rooted underlying causal factors give rise to epi-phenomena. The epi-phenomena in this case is suicide bombing and the underlying causal reasons supposedly 'ethnic oppression'.
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