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Monday, 3 September, 2001, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Analysis: Sworn enemy turned ally
JVP protest in Colombo
JVP protests have been violently crushed in the past
By Amal Jayasinghe in Colombo

A Marxist party which staged two armed rebellions in Sri Lanka has emerged as kingmaker by lending its support to the minority government of President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

JVP
Led two Marxist rebellions

1971 revolt crushed in a week

UNP put down second revolt in 1987

An estimated 80,000 people died

Accused in the murder of Kumaratunga's husband
Thirty years ago, the JVP or People's Liberation Front, tried to overthrow the government of President Kumaratunga's mother, Sirima Bandaranaike.

With just 10 seats in the present 225-member assembly, the leftists have gained more power than they enjoyed ever before.

They have sealed a deal with President Kumaratunga to save her government from a humiliating defeat in parliament.

Bloody crackdown

Sirima Bandaranaike
Ms Bandaranaike was the JVP's target in 1971
In a week-long crackdown in 1971, Ms Bandaranaike crushed a revolt by the JVP.

An estimated 20,000 suspected insurgents and JVP activists were killed.

In a second crackdown in 1987, the United National Party put down another JVP rebellion - this time an estimated 60,000 people died or went missing.

Now political expediency has forced President Kumaratunga not only to swallow her pride, but also to ally with a party that is accused of assassinating her actor-turned-politician husband Vijaya Kumaratunga in February 1988.

Her deep-seated mistrust of the leftists was made obvious when she publicly declared that she would cut a deal even with the devil to salvage her party from its predicament.

Socialist push

The JVP is also forcing Ms Kumaratunga to recall her socialist roots, by extracting a promise from her to stop her privatisation programme.

Colombo business district
The privatisation plan is being opposed
President Kumaratunga has often described herself as a reformed socialist in contrast to her parents, both former prime ministers.

She has undone a lot of the policies which her parents put in place in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Her parents kicked out foreign oil companies and nationalised the port, but Ms Kumaratunga invited the multinationals back and privatised part of the main Colombo harbour.

The Marxists will now have a bigger role in deciding the national agenda and pushing Ms Kumaratunga to embrace her socialist origins.

President Kumaratunga appears to have given in to save her tottering party, but she may not have completely sold out.

The president has constitutional power to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections by the middle of next month when the assembly completes one year in office.

With the threat of dissolving parliament, the president may still be able to give the JVP back as good as she gets.


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See also:

03 Sep 01 | South Asia
Kumaratunga pins hopes on Marxists
11 Jul 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka president 'undemocratic'
05 Jul 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka invokes terror laws
22 Jun 01 | South Asia
Confidence vote looms in Sri Lanka
20 Jun 01 | South Asia
Sri Lanka coalition in crisis
06 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Sri Lanka
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