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Why Mahinda jettisoned the JVP

The JVP saw in president's weakness great political opportunities for itself, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2007 15:37 IST

Till 2006, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) were inseparable.

Their notion of Sri Lankan nationalism and their views on the ethnic issue and economic matters were identical.

Both detested and distrusted Ranil Wickremesinghe, leader of the pro-West and "pro-LTTE" United National Party (UNP).

Their alliance saw Rajapaksa through in the December 2005 Presidential elections.

But the margin of victory was too slender for him to immediately implement the Mahinda Chintana, the joint manifesto of his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the JVP.

He could not meet his commitment to amend the flawed Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) entered into with the LTTE in 2002; review the Scandinavian-staffed monitoring mechanism; keep the international community at bay; and refuse to go for talks with the LTTE unless it renounced terrorism and laid down arms.

Though an electoral ally, the JVP saw in Rajapaksa's weakness great political opportunities for itself.

It felt that it could play the Sinhala nationalist line solo, and come to power on its own steam with the support of the majority Sinhala community.   

"In fact, the JVP had hoped that Rajapaksa would not take hard decisions," said Shamindra Ferdinando of The Island daily.

"This is the reason why it had refused to accept Rajapaksa's repeated invitation to join his government," he added.

"Wanting to seem more nationalistic than Rajapaksa, the JVP put forth ultra nationalistic demands," said Udaya Gammapilla, Deputy Secretary of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU).

The demands included the re-imposition of the ban on the LTTE; the abrogation of the CFA; and the ouster of the Norwegian peace brokers.

Since both depended on the same vote bank, Rajapaksa felt threatened by the JVP. He adopted a three-pronged strategy to finish it.

First, he stole the JVP's thunder by doing what it was touting on the war   front; Second, he stalled the privatisation process; and Third, he got key sections of the opposition, including the UNP, to join his government and give him a majority in parliament and reduce his dependence on the 38 member JVP.

Rajapaksa waited till March 2006, till the LTTE got a bad name internationally because of its intransigence and provocative actions, before ordering the armed forces to hit it hard.

To the surprise of the JVP, he succeeded in cornering the Tigers and driving them out of large parts of the East.

"Rajapaksa had found a way of doing what the JVP was clamouring for, without annoying the international community," observed Ferdinando.

"Followers of the JVP started supporting Rajapaksa because the President of the country was doing what they wanted done, both on the war front and the economic front," added Gammapilla.

Rajapaksa has now secured a majority in parliament with the support of 18 from the UNP, six from the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and 9 from the JHU, leaving the JVP high and dry.