New Alliance Set to Precipitate War

 by Taraki

The JVP-SLFP memorandum of understanding is a sure formula for precipitating another war with the LTTE. President Chandrika and her external backers might be able to cleverly postpone the war but they cannot stop it if the United People's Freedom Alliance were to stick to the policies enunciated in the MoU.

If the United People's Freedom Alliance comes to power it will start talks to find a solution to the ethnic conflict. But it won't talk only to the LTTE but also to all others who claim they too are parties to the conflict according to the JVP-SLFP MoU. What does one expect the Tiger to do in the circumstance? - Tuck its tail between its legs and meekly eat UPFA grass?

It was evident from Tilvin Silva's speech after the signing of the MoU that the alliance with the comparatively 'moderate' SLFP has not in anyway toned down the JVP's strident rhetoric on the ethnic issue.

He said the alliance was formed to defeat the plan to divide the country. How does he propose to defeat the so-called conspiracy, which according to the JVP, was hatched by the UNP in cahoots with the LTTE? War?

The JVP leader Somawansa Amarasingha gave an interview to the Asian Tribune before he took the flight to Sri Lanka on Monday. A sample of what he told the online publication would be enough to bury any hope that anyone may entertain about the UPFA continuing the peace process.

"Amerasinghe clearly indicated that despite the alliance JVP was totally against the SLFP policy of sharing power. He said JVP opposed the power sharing since it created more problems than it tried to solve.. Amerasinghe said the alliance between the JVP and the SLFP was necessitated by the urgent national need of the country, since both parties were found to be incapable single handedly of putting a stop to the Ranil Wickremesinghe's administration, which was trying to legitimize the already existing trend towards division in the country. Ranil Wickremesinghe for his own personal ambitions was giving up parts of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation, he charged".

Over the ten months of negotiations to forge the alliance, the JVP gained a lot of influence within the SLFP. The formation of the Patriotic National Movement, which is ideologically managed primarily by the JVP, enhanced that influence further. By any yardstick the UPFA does not bode well for peace.

But the JVP-SLFP alliance is also a solid formula for certain victory. The JVP has eventually entered into an alliance with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party to enhance its political power. Therefore it needs an election. For the JVP, the alliance with the SLFP is about gaining entry, for the first time in its history, into the inner sanctum of real power in Colombo.

The UNP would be pathetically deluding itself if it argues that it can fight this alliance and win. No way. UNP stalwarts and non UNPers who do not like the JVP translate their wishful thinking into untenable arguments such as "the Sinhala middle classes are scared that the alliance would mess up the open economy; that the Sinhala Christians are scared that it would lead to more calamities for them; that the Muslims and upcountry Tamils won't vote for the UPFA".

Simple arithmetic tells us that the UPFA will win when there is an election. The JVP has 16 seats of the 225 seats in Parliament. The PA has 77. The UNF has 114 (UNP -109; SLMC -5). The EPDP - 2; PLOTE-1 and TNA 15.

The JVP came third in terms of the votes it polled in all the Sinhala majority districts of the island. The UNP polled 45.62 percent of the total valid votes polled at the 2001 December general elections (4,086,026 votes).

The PA got 37.19 percent (3,330,815 votes) while the JVP garnered 9.10 percent (815,353) of the total votes polled at the 2001 elections to Sri Lanka's Parliament. Even if we assume that the UNP's popularity remains what it was on the eve of the last general elections, the combined votes of the JVP and PA would be quite adequate to rout Ranil's government.

Under our elections system, a party can win seats in Parliament according to the percentage of votes it polls in each electoral district it contests and the percentage of total votes it gets nationwide. In addition to this the party that gets the majority of the votes in an electoral district gets the bonus seat for that district.

There are 22 electoral districts in Sri Lanka. The UNP polled the majority of the votes in 17 districts at the 2001 December general elections. (The TNA got the bonus seat in Jaffna, Vanni and Batticaloa) The PA was able to get the bonus seat only in Monaragala.

The UNP got the majority of the votes in each district where it won by a slender margin over the PA (except in Nuwara Eliya). For example in the southern district of Matara the UNP got 171,661 votes in the 2001 polls. The PA got 171,141 and the JVP 55,476.

Therefore the JVP and PA combine will get the bonus seats in at least 18 electoral districts and the majority of the seats allocated according to the percentage of votes polled at the district and national levels.

In the event of such a victory, the PA-JVP coalition can form a government without having to depend on the support of Tamil or Muslim parties. The absence of a tangible peace dividend, the rising cost of living and moves by the UNF to privatise state enterprises have made heavy dents on Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's government.

Seeing the sure window of opportunity, the JVP was keen to craft the MOU with the PA carefully, with an eye on long term plans to overwhelm its partner and capture power on its own.

The JVP wants absolute power. It has always set its sights on that quite unequivocally. It failed to get it through insurrectionary methods in 1971 and 1989. This time the path has been well calculated., January 21, 2004


Posted January 20, 2004