A little incident that took place on May Day 2009 in Britain was not widely reported. The JVP is one of a few so-called Marxist organisations that do little throughout the year in terms of participating in, supporting, or leading struggles among working class and young people, but maintain their yearly ceremonial duty of turning up on 1 May.
Activists and many workers’ leaders in Britain were aware of the brutal genocidal slaughter taking place in Sri Lanka at that time. When the JVP turned up to May Day that year their political slogans and positons were widely rejected. They eventually packed their bags and went home. A similar embarrassing situation could have taken place for the JVP this year on 23 July – the day when many Tamils commemorate the Black July massacre.
Here is what Tamil Solidarity put forward in the protest:
• Right to Speech, Right to Protest and Stop Attacks Against All Democratic Rights.
• Immediately stop privatisation of education and health sectors.
• Immediately stop attacking the protesters.
• Cancel the false cases.
• Release all political prisoners.
• Let’s unite to overcome the self-determination demand to remove the army from Tamil regions immediately, recover the seized lands.
At first the JVP didn’t know anything about Black July. They organised a protest on the same day under their new front, “National People’s Power (NPP)”. Their sole demand was to “stop militarisation! Protect democracy in Sri Lanka”. They had invited a number of Tamils. Only when they turned up in front of the Sri Lanka High Commission and saw many Tamils protesting already did they realise that it was Black July day. It’s worth noting here that Tilwin Silva, JVP General Secretary had signed MOU(memorandum of understanding) with Rajapaksa to crush the Tamils struggle.
Undoubtedly a small minority of demonstrators had been supporters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the past. I intervened to avoid any possible clash and try to convince the JVP to protest alongside the Tamil Solidarity campaign, so that they would not face hostility. Few Tamils – who are turned up to JVP protest, also tried to explain to the JVP individuals that they can protest alongside Tamil Solidarity. What everyone got in return was chauvinism in words and in action. Not only did the JVP refuse to protest alongside Tamils but also campaigned for the Metropolitan Police to remove the protesters. If Tamil Solidarity was not present a clash among protesters could have taken place. If the police had used this as an excuse to make arrests among the protesters – it would have benefited the Sri Lankan government. Of course the JVP did not care about that as it stood with the Sri Lankan High Commission for most of its existence in Britain.
Luckily for them there was another protest organised outside Downing Street and protesters already had a plan to go to that one soon after. They left peacefully. But sadly this so-called “Marxist” organisation exposed to all Tamils (including to the few who turned up to their protest) what they really are – a nationalist, chauvinist organisation. The JVP told lies in their report of the event, showing an utter contempt for those who look to them for a lead for oppressed workers. Who benefits when they falsely claim the “LTTE attacked their protest”? In reality they were protected and a clash was avoided due to the presence of Tamil Solidarity. Are they trying to score a point with racist sections by claiming that they stood against the separatists.
The chauvinist behaviour of the JVP did not go unnoticed. Even a couple of members of the United National Party (UNP) who turned up had protested and shouted at the JVP as “racist”. They said they thought these days are over – but the JVP is helping to keep racism alive. One of the NSSP activists, Sashie Peiris was driven out of the protest for holding a Tamil Solidarity placard which read “End dictatorial regime”. Other Tamils and Sashie tried to explain to the JVP organisers. But the JVP claimed that ‘Tamil Solidarity” is “LTTE terrorists”. Even the hard-core supporters of Rajapaksa don’t make such accusations any more. When I confronted them one of the organisers said “they have political disagreement” but refused to explain what it is.
But everyone knows what part they don’t agree with. They are against the national rights of Tamils. It is well known that they oppose all Tamils who demand national rights. But what they revealed at the protest is that they have strong elements of “anti-Tamils” within their ranks. This incident has now created lots of antagonism against the JVP – even among the few who saw the need to link up with the JVP to create a platform against the Rajapaksa family state.
None of the left in Sri Lanka has any respect for the JVP. It had become an electoral party with a racist outlook. Their existence is harmful to those who seek to build a Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim united struggle. The JVP is aiming to provoke Tamil-Sinhala clashes. If it is not for the farsighted view of TS there could have been a clash in London between “Tamils and Sinhala”. The JVP has no idea of the danger that can bring. There is no revolutionary spirit left in the JVP. Its leadership has proved time and time again their inability – theoretical, political and organisational. Previously Colombo Telegraph reported what had happened during Anura’s visit to London (Dressing down for JVP Anura).
The JVP has no base in Britain. It was only a handful of people who still remain with them.
Those who seek to build a real struggle cannot remain in the JVP.
Video interview with Shshi