Saturday, April 5, 2008

Fresh split in Sri Lanka Marxist-nationalist party

A split in Sri Lanka's Marxist-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is emerging with moves to oust its firebrand spokesman Wimal Weerawansa, party insiders said Friday.

But Weerawansa said he had not been informed of a decision to remove him, amid reports that the party's central committee has voted to replace him as its parliamentary group leader.

Weerawansa is a charismatic public speaker who helped popularize the concept of 'removing the plug' or insulating Sri Lanka from world market prices with government subsidies in 2004.

Though small, the JVP is an influential force in Sri Lanka's politics and has a much-respected ability to make popular its policies based on a large government, tax-free government jobs and subsidies, and opposing reforms in state enterprises.

It has had unbeatable success in persuading ordinary Sri Lankans that such policies are needed though they resulted in high budget deficits financed with central bank credit (printed money) which depreciated the rupee and created high inflation.

It is also opposed to devolving power to the island's minority Tamil people living in the north and east through a federal structure, and favours militarily defeating the separatist Tamil Tigers.

At one time a federal constitution had the support of both the island's ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the main opposition United National Party.

The JVP suffered its first split when lawmaker Nandana Gunatilleke aligned himself with the ruling coalition.

The JVP supports the government from outside and has had a successful run in blowing hot and cold over government policies and supporting the ruling coalition at crucial times such as the budget.

Party insiders say the current turmoil over Weerawansa was triggered by differences in the party's stance over a breakaway Tamil Tiger group in the East of the island and its treatment by the government.

Sri Lanka's main opposition is also in disarray. The party has been acknowledged to be one of the weakest oppositions in the country's post-independence history.

Its members have crossed over to the ruling coalition in several batches over differences with its somewhat sleepy leadership and its decision making process.

Courtesy: LBO