JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, MP, has struck back at his erstwhile comrades in the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP), who have claimed that the JVP, together with a government minister, has invested a large amount of funds overseas. A visibly peeved Dissanayake, speaking at a political rally in Gampaha, on Sunday, went ballistic, daring the FSP to prove its allegation and have him jailed, if it could. He declared that neither he nor anyone else in the JVP had committed any financial malpractices, and the FSP’s allegation was only a sinister attempt to tarnish the image of the JVP, which had become hugely popular.

The FSP has stood by its claim and said it is ready to furnish necessary information to the CID if a probe gets underway.

Perennially at war

Splits in political parties are not uncommon in this country as well as elsewhere. But the JVP and its breakaway groups never bury the hatchet, and resort to fierce propaganda battles against one another at the drop of a hat. They are perennially at war. There have also been instances of physical violence against the splinter groups.

It was widely thought that last year’s Aragalaya would bring the JVP and the FSP together, and, in fact, the two parties had several rounds of talks aimed at rapprochement, but they did not reach fruition.

The FSP’s damning allegation against the JVP is indicative of the beginning of another political turf war. Both parties are well versed in propaganda offensives, which are very effective and devastating. The next few weeks will see an escalation of their propaganda war.  


Mud slinging

Sri Lankan politicians, save a few, get down and dirty when they take on their opponents, and sling mud liberally in the hope that at least some of it will stick. Allegations they level against one another are so numerous that nobody can keep track of them, and are forgotten with the passage of time. Not many of those who are at the receiving end of such propaganda onslaughts care to take legal action against their opponents. Instead, they try to get even politically; they pay their political opponents back in the same coin. Allegations therefore abound in Sri Lankan politics.

The general consensus is that most Sri Lankan politicians are corrupt, but the corrupt get off scot-free because allegations against them go unsubstantiated; even if formal complaints are made, complaints are not properly investigated; cases drag on for years on end, and the accused walk free in most cases, especially after their parties return to power. Another reason why they do not move courts against their rivals for defamation is that they are wary of being cross-examined; they have skeletons in their cupboards.

Corruption and elections

Election campaigns in this country during the past several decades have been characterized by many promises to eliminate bribery and corruption. Even the political parties that have earned notoriety for corruption make such promises, and garner votes!

The SLFP-led People’s Alliance (PA) came to power in 1994 pledging to root out corruption. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, who led the PA’s election campaigns, and became the Prime Minister and President in quick succession in late 1994, and other PA leaders vowed to bring the corrupt politicians in the UNP to Galle Face Green and punish them; they also undertook to auction the latter’s ill-gotten assets and utilize the proceeds to grant economic relief to the public. They claimed that such revenue boosting measures would help bring down the price of bread from Rs. 5.00 to Rs. 3.50! But the PA government became corrupt to the core, and corruption thrived under all SLFP-led regimes thereafter.

The UNP-led alliance won the 2015 presidential and parliamentary elections by campaigning on an anti-corruption platform. Its presidential candidate, Maithripala Sirisena, made many damning allegations against his former political boss, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was the President at the time, and the latter’s family. But three years later, he closed ranks with the Rajapaksa family, and tried to oust then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who had enabled him to realize his presidential dream. So much for politicians, their allegations against their rivals and their pledges to eliminate corruption.

New anti-corruption laws

The FSP’s allegation against the JVP has come a few weeks after the passage by the parliament of new anti-corruption laws. The Anti-Corruption Bill, which has provision for action against money laundering, was passed without a vote in Parliament last month. Amendments proposed by Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe as well as the Opposition were incorporated into the Bill during the Committee Stage before being ratified. The Second Reading debate of the Bill, which was presented to the Parliament on 27th April 2023 by the Minister of Justice was held on 21 June and 6 July.

The new anti-corruption laws, introduced as part of the IMF bailout plan, are being flaunted in some quarters as a quick fix for the twin evils of bribery and corruption. But the proof of the pudding is said to be in the eating.

Taking part in an interview with a local television channel, on Monday, Minister Rajapakshe, in answer to a question, said it would take a few more weeks for the new Anti-Corruption Act to be implemented because the national anti-graft commission had to be appointed. He was having discussions with the Finance Ministry officials to secure required funding for the establishment of the commission, he said.  

Ruling alliance on cloud nine

The FSP’s allegations against the JVP have gladdened the hearts of the SLPP leaders who stand accused of having stolen public money and amassed a lot of wealth through corrupt deals. The SLPP has sought to amplify the issue and use it to discredit the JVP, which keeps accusing its politicians of bribery and corruption. But it is doubtful whether such propaganda will help the SLPP repair its image.

The UNP has not made any public statements about the FSP’s claim in question, but it, too, must be happy that the JVP is troubled by its erstwhile comrades’ adverse propaganda.

Whether the FSP leaders have evidence to substantiate its allegation against their former colleagues, one may not know, but they are obviously seeking to achieve a political objective. Why have they made such an allegation at this particular juncture? Is it because the JVP is receiving a lot of funds from expatriate Sri Lankans, who are disillusioned with the SLPP, the UNP, the SLFP and the SJB? The FSP has had to vie with the JVP for funds and votes. The two parties are also clashing for dominance over university student politics. It is said that two dogs at the same bone seldom agree.