Sri Lanka’s radical party heading for split

April 9th, 2008 - 10:25 pm ICT by admin  

By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, April 9 (IANS) Sri Lanka’s one-time political kingmaker, the Sinhalese nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), is headed for a split, just two and a half years after helping President Mahinda Rajapaksa to take power. The internal rift in the closely-knit JVP surfaced with its firebrand propaganda secretary Wimal Weerawansa and the party leadership trading charges publicly.

A day after Weerawansa, widely considered the JVP’s public face, told parliament that the JVP had decided to expel him after upcoming eastern provincial council elections, party leader Somawansa Amarasinghe rejected his allegations.

Charging that “anti-nationalistic forces” had infiltrated the JVP leadership, Weerawansa said in an emotional speech in parliament that he was not aware why he was being forced out despite 20 years of hard work for the party.

On Tuesday, 10 of the 37 JVP MPs expressed solidarity with Weerawansa. Using Marxist language, they too said that the party had become a pawn in the hands of “a few imperialist conspirators”.

Amarasinghe and three party seniors hit back Wednesday.

They told a press conference here that Weerawansa had failed to answer repeated calls to appear before the party’s central committee and politburo to explain his conduct.

The JVP chief said he was perplexed why Weerwansa refused to criticise the Rajapaksa government over charges of corruption, rights violations and high cost of living.

But Amarasinghe indirectly admitted that the JVP - one of Sri Lanka’s best-organised political parties - was faced with a serious internal crisis.

He said the JVP had withstood “many adversaries, conspiracies and intra-party standoffs” since its inception.

After ousting the United National Party (UNP) government of Ranil Wickremesinghe, the JVP formed an electoral alliance with then President Chandrika Kumaratunga in 2004. As a result it increased its membership in the 225-member parliament from 16 to 37.

It remains to see how President Rajapaksa, who was successful in breaking away 26 MPs from the UNP last year and accommodating them in his jumbo cabinet, would handle the crisis in the JVP.

The JVP has led two bloody insurrections in Sri Lanka - in 1971 and in 1989-90. Both violent uprisings were put down, causing thousands of deaths.

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