Unify country, a historic task
They stomached a lot of insults - they were once told they had no appointment with her. Once they were asked to come later, and they had to kick their heels at the Galle Face promenade until she deigned to meet the hierarchy.

But, eventually, the JVP got their job done - they got President Chandrika Kumaratunga to have her secretary sign on the dotted line - the second MoU between themselves in three years. The President too stomached a lot.

In 1971 they tried to topple her mother's government and in 1988, they killed her popular actor-turned-politician husband for his scathing criticism of the JVP at the time. But then, politics do make strange bedfellows, and the JVP clearly has turned a new chapter. They are keen to shift from their strictly Marxist posture to one of Marxist-Nationalism.

The once India bashing party, now say that Marxism is not permanent, and refers to India as a country to emulate, mixing socialism with market economics. Only this week President Vladimir Putin bestowed the President of the World Bank James Wolfensohn with a state Order of Friendship. at a ceremony in the Marxist fatherland in return for a 10 billion dollar loan.

It is difficult to deny the JVP a place in the sun and their belief that the Boomi-putras must be encouraged strikes a chord with the displaced and neglected thousands who have become the victims of globalisation.

Their clamour that local industries must be given its due place is a justifiable demand given the government's over-reliance on a western-dominated world economic order and a blatantly pro-US stance to bail this country out of its economic doldrums.

They also have an argument in complaining that the country, on the eve of its 56th anniversary of regaining Independence, is slowly being blocked out and sold free-hold to foreigners - the ramparted fort at Galle - a Unesco World Heritage site is a case in point. The selling Sri Lanka concept has probably been taken literally.

How realistic are these JVP demands is another matter given the stark reality that President Kumaratunga's last few months in 2001 with a JVP 'provisional government' overseeing it, saw the international lending agencies virtually close the foreign aid tap, and the country ending up - for the first time since Independence - with a zero growth rate.

Proponents of the alliance say that the JVP ought to be brought to the centre-stage of statecraft and made to carry the onerous duties of governance rather than being kept forever on the fringe, frustrated and fuming.

Some believe that the country is being propelled back to the 1980s when Sri Lanka broke a world record in having two parallel insurgencies. What we see now is, arguably, a positive sign - the LTTE and the JVP, the perpetrators of the unadulterated violence of the 1980s, signalling some commitment to mainstream politics.

Hence, greater the burden on President Kumaratunga and Prime Minister R. Wickremesinghe to bridge the divide and unify the country. This will be the historic task of our contemporary times on the eve of our 56 years of Independence.

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