Tsunami relief — a tipping point for Sri Lanka’s right wing?

A fresh political crisis

In the context of India’s coalition politics, supporting the government from the ‘outside’ is the chosen way to destabilise it. In Sri Lanka’s case, the destablisation begins from within.

The Janata Vimukti Peramuna (JVP), a remarkable political animal that made the transition from the extreme left to the extreme right in less than a generation, has split with the Sri Lanka’s ruling coalition after a much publicised spat over cooperating with the Tamil Tigers over tsunami relief.

The JVP has positioned itself as a champion of the island’s Sinhala Buddhist majority and has used its presence in government to throw spanners into the peace process with the Tamil Tigers and take credit for populist development initiatives. The strategic intent, of course, was to make itself more saleable as an electable political party. All it needed was an emotive issue to rally its core constituency and an opportune time to break with President Kumaratunge’s ruling party.

It found that issue in tsunami relief — where the government found itself with the practical need to cooperate with the Tamil Tigers to deliver relief to people and places under rebel control. The JVP’s took its opposition to the streets, before finally pulling out of the ruling coalition.

The JVP is either counting on forming a government on its own, possibly by engineering defections; or is counting on riding to power on its own should new general elections be called.

In any case, the JVP’s decision to pull out of the coalition has thrown the country’s politics into a crisis. President Chandrika Kumaratunga (whose own husband was assassinated by the JVP) needs the support of the Ranil Wickremasinghe’s opposition to push through the so-called ‘Joint Mechanism’ for tsunami relief. Should the two bitter political rivals fail to come to an agreement, then the Joint Mechanism will be the first casualty of the JVP’s move. That could have rather unpleasant consequences as far as peace negotiations with the Tamil Tigers is concerned.

Related Link: Mörquendi’s political commentary on Sri Lanka at Nittewa

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