• Search 

Article




call for papers

Volume: I, Issue: I, July - December 2010


NON-VIOLENT SPOILING: THE JANATHA VIMUKTHI PERAMUNA AND THE PEACE PROCESS IN SRI LANKA







Abstract

The existing literature on spoiler problems in peace processes focuses mainly on violent spoiling. This paper examines non-violent spoiling using the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP)in Sri Lanka as a case study. Generally, types of spoilers are identified depending on their goals and commitment. This paper introduces a new spoiler type based on the methods used by and the commitment of the spoilers: (1) violent total spoilers, (2) violent partial spoilers, (3) non-violent total spoilers, and (4) non-violent partial spoilers. Filling a gap in the existing literature, this research explores the possible strategies that could be employed by non-violent spoilers, such as the JVP, including mass mobilization, collaboration with similar actors, use of political leverage, forming and activating front organizations, and seeking judicial intervention. While rejecting violence even against violent spoilers, this paper proposes that the responsibility of spoiler management could be shared among local political leadership, local civil society organizations, and international guarantors. The assumption is that the international actors or custodians neither have the power nor the capacity to make peace single-handedly, especially in strategically insignificant regions, nor should they be expected to address spoiler problems unaided.



Keywords Content

Introduction

When the end of the Cold War brought internal civil wars, or the so called small wars, to the forefront of international politics, interest in what is now called “spoiler problems” reached a peak as a large number of international as well as local attempts to make peace in conflict stricken societies faced hurdles, including obstacles and challenges from spoilers. However, until recently the spoiler problem did not attract adequate academic or intellectual attention as a distinct area of analysis. Stedman’s ground-breaking article entitled Spoiler Problems in Peace Processes was published in 1997, and since then attempts have been made to research, understand and theorize the issue in question. For instance, in 2006, a collection of articles on the spoiler problem was published under the caption Challenges to Peace-Building, Managing Spoilers during Conflict Resolution, from the United Nations University. Yet, the issue still remains inadequately researched and explored [Also see Greenhill & Major: 2006-07; Pearlman: 2008-09; Zahar: 2003].


The limited literature disproportionately focuses on the violent aspects of the issue, leaving non-violent spoiling relatively under-explored. This article seeks to add to the debate on spoiler problems by examining non-violent spoiling by an actor not involved directly in a peace process. A significant peace process was undertaken in Sri Lanka, lasting about three years from February 2002. Eventually, the process collapsed and the country drifted back into escalated violence from mid-2006. The Sri Lankan peace process collapsed at least partly due to the effects of spoiler problems. Although multiple spoilers who were in operation during the peace process could be identified, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna [JVP],1 one of the political parties, stands out as the group that extensively used democratic and non-violent spoiling methods to scuttle the process. More than thirty interviews were conducted in Sri Lanka with political party leaders, government officials and members of civil society groups from 2004 to 2006 on questions relating to the peace process. Moreover, the JVP’s behaviors and actions were ‘observed’ closely as the author, during the entire period in which the peace process was undertaken, lived in Sri Lanka. In addition, secondary information from published materials was used for the analysis.

 

Spoiling

The concept of “spoiler problems” remains rather vague and complicated. This is despite the fact that it is a dangerous label to use, as it inherently carries a negative connotation, which could potentially undermine sincere efforts to make peace. Newman  and Richmond [2006] point out that the use of the word indicates a particular agenda which promotes western liberal values such as democracy, human rights, free market and so on, and anybody who resists these values, or what is popularly called liberal peace-building, are labelled spoilers. From a non-Western point of view this characterization might seem unfair and even erroneous. It is imperative, however, to note that some elements of liberal peace, for instance democracy and human rights, especially in a globalized world, cannot be called Western values any more as they have evolved into an integral part of polity in many of the so- called traditional societies. The non-Western communities have so far failed to demonstrate a credible alternative to regimes of democracy, human rights and constitutionalism. Unless a system is actually primitive, many of the basic elements of liberal peace cannot be alien to societies that live in non-Western regions. Therefore, despite the complexities involved in the spoiler debate, this paper is written on the premise that the concept of “spoiler” or “spoiling” could be applied to peace processes that are undertaken in non-Western regions as well.


However, the real problem arises when the parties to a negotiation process engage in hard bargaining. Competitive negotiation is a “normal” aspect of any peace process. One cannot expect the parties to seriously compromise their goals simply because they have agreed to participate in a peace process or forced by interested, mostly international third parties to the negotiating table [Aggestam, 2006]. Parties in peace processes more often than not use sticks [punishment and threat of force], and/or carrots [rewards], to manipulate the opponents and extract the desired outcome [Aggestam, 2006]. The problem is that these threats or strategies that seem to undermine peace processes can be easily called spoiling, or the actor who undertakes those strategies, spoiler. One of the common strategies used by negotiators is the threat to withdraw from the peace process and revert back to war in the belief that the threat might force the other parties to concede what is demanded [Singer: 1963]. This strategy could also be called spoiling by the other party or an outsider with inadequate knowledge of negotiation strategies. Hence, at times the concept could be misleading.


Moreover, the label heavily depends on perceptions and the actors involved. What one party perceives as spoiling could be considered as a legitimate demand by the other. This is exactly why Newman & Richmond point out that “actions which may be construed as ‘spoiling’ may appear legitimate…according to an alternative rationality” [2005: 5]. Especially when peace processes fail, almost all the parties involved, including the international actors, face the danger of being called spoilers. It is also common that actors, who do not oppose the peace process but certain aspects of it, are also called spoilers. In practice however, these actors try to make the process meaningful from their point of view, some of which may be completely legitimate. The problem is further compounded when “those who are prepared to make a deal” [Darby: 2001] and “those who enter into superficial peace settlements” [Shain & Ariyasinha: 2006] are also called spoilers. This amply demonstrates that the idea of spoilers or spoiling is used rather loosely with potential for damaging meaningful steps aimed at peace building.


It is, however, imperative to note that the concept, when applied in a well defined manner, could assist those who strive to make peace to identify potential or actual spoilers, understand their strategies, and devise counter strategies. Clarity and clear definitions are crucial elements in this regard. Stedman defined spoilers as “leaders and parties who believe that peace emerging from negotiations threatens their power, worldview, and interests, and use violence to undermine attempts to achieve it” [1997: 5]. The primary issue with this definition is that it considers violence as the only method with which spoilers could undermine a peace process. But, peace processes could be spoiled with non-violent methods as well, which is the centerpiece of this paper. Unfortunately, even when he tried to refine his definition later on, Stedman did not consider non-violence as possible means for spoiling. In 2003, Stedman defined spoilers as “leaders and factions who view a particular peace as opposed to their interests and who are willing to use violence to undermine it” [Stedman, 2003: 103]. Taking in to account this and other much broader aspects of the phenomenon of spoiling Newman & Richmond have defined it as “activities of any actors who are opposed to peace-settlements for whatever reason, from within or [usually] outside the peace process, and who use violence or other means to disrupt the process in pursuit of their aims” [2006: 4]. Other means obviously could include non-violence. But non-violence as a spoiling method still remains under-explored. Some scholars believe that “after an agreement is reached, actors unwilling to accept it and undertaking policies and actions aimed at undermining its implementation are commonly called spoilers” [Stepanova, 2006: 78]. Spoiling, however, is not essentially a post-agreement phenomenon; it could be undertaken right from the beginning of a peace process and in many cases spoilers become active even during the pre-negotiation phase of the process. Hence, spoiling could be a parallel process to an attempt at conflict resolution.


The current theoretical debate on the spoiler problem fittingly stresses the importance of “action” in spoiling, albeit with excessive focus on violence [Stedman: 1997; Stepanova, 2006; Darby, 2001]. When peace processes are initiated several individuals and groups in a particular setting may have opinions or even emotionally charged feelings against the process. Some of these actors may not choose to involve themselves in actions aimed at disrupting the process. Hence, their opposition remains more of feeling or opinion, which would not make them spoilers. In other words, unless an individual or a group undertakes concrete measures to disrupt a peace process they could not be called spoilers. Moreover, it is also imperative to note that spoiling is not a static phenomenon [Stedman: 2003]. A spoiler may transform into a pro-peace actor and/or peace maker at a later stage and vice versa. Therefore, the label is essentially a provisional one and should have the flexibility to adapt to the changing behavioral patterns of the actors concerned. This paper, therefore, proceeds with the proposition that spoilers are actors who have a declared policy against a particular peace process and who are involved in a sustained violent or non-violent campaign to undermine it. Here we insist upon “sustained” campaign because a few isolated and minor actions by an actor could not effectively undermine a peace process and if it does, then the processes were inherently vulnerable, collapse of which could not be blamed on spoilers.


Two of the major aspects that have attracted the attention of researchers so far are: [1] typology, and [2] strategies, that could be employed to address issues created by spoilers. Depending on a spoiler’s goals and commitments Stedman [1997: 10] identifies three types of spoilers: [1] total spoilers, [2] limited spoilers, and [3] greedy spoilers. Total spoilers are those “who pursue total power and exclusive recognition of authority and held immutable preferences . As the label indicates limited spoilers are those have limited goals, which can be negotiable. The greedy spoilers are the ones whose goals “expand or contract based on calculations” [p.11]. Modifying Stedman’s original typology Darby [2001] proposes four types: [1] dealers, [2] zealots, [3] opportunists, and [4] mavericks. According to Darby those who are prepared to make deals are called dealers, those who use violence to bring the peace process down are called zealots, those who could alter their goals are opportunists, and mavericks are the ones who use violence for personal gains rather than political demands. Shain & Aryasinha [2006] added to the typology by proposing three new types of spoilers: [1] those who totally oppose the reasonable resolution of a conflict, [2] those who enter into superficial peace settlements for purposes of expediency disregarding the serious issues, and [3] those who object to a particular peace deal and/or procedural issues involved in the process.


Stedman’s typology is built on two factors; the goals and commitment of the actors concerned. Others have also to a large extent followed the same rationale to define their typology. This line of thinking, however, ignores a crucial element; method. Stedman’s attempt to classify the spoilers is justified on the basis that it is necessary for the “successful management of spoilers” [Stedman, 1997: 10]. Strategies to manage spoilers, which we call counter-strategies in this paper, are also dependent on the methods used by the spoilers themselves. One of the counter strategies suggested by Stedman is the use of coercion including violence. The problem, however, is that if the spoiler is a non-violent actor who operates within the democratic framework of a system as we would demonstrate in the case study, the use of violence would not be feasible or even desirable. Therefore, a typology would have added value if it also takes into account the methods used by the spoilers. Darby [2001] on the other hand over-emphasizes violent spoiling with little consideration for other methods that could be used. Also, his typology mirrors elements of negativity as he, for instance, calls those who could be persuaded to end violence as “opportunists.” Ending violence could be the first step towards peace-building. Hence, from a peace-building perspective making deals and ending violence could be essentially positive elements and they do not deserve negative terminologies such as opportunists and dealers.


Nevertheless, taking into consideration the commitment [Stedman: 1997] and the methods a spoiler could employ, this paper identifies four major elements which could help create a new spoiler type: [1] violence, [2] non-violence, [3] total commitment, and [4] partial commitment.

 


The above matrix provides us with four types of spoilers:

  1. Violent total spoilers – those who use violence to disrupt a peace process and are fully committed to their cause, whatever it is. Actions of violent total spoilers could be a major hurdle to any attempt at conflict resolution.

  2. Violent partial spoilers – those who use violence against a peace process, but are not fully committed to their cause. They may be persuaded to alter their methods fully or temporarily, and even be included in the peace process.

  3. Non-violent total spoiler – those who use non-violent methods, but are fully committed to their cause. They could be really tough customers to handle. Many of them may operate within the democratic frame work of the system. It is under this category we will be discussing the role of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna in the Sri Lankan peace process.

  4. Non-violent partial spoilers – those who use non-violent methods to disrupt a peace process but are not fully committed to their goal. With the right kind of strategy and incentives they could be handled.

 

How to manage spoilers is an important question from a peace-building point of view and, thus, it has received considerable attention so far. Stedman [1997] prescribes three major strategies to manage especially violent spoilers. Stedman argues that inducement [use of positive incentives], socialization [use of established acceptable rules and norms], and coercion [use of threats and punishments including violence] are generally used by international custodians to alter destructive behavior of spoilers. The coercion strategy also includes what he calls “departing train strategy” and “withdrawal” strategy. By departing train strategy Stedman proposes to proceed with the peace process with or without the participation of the spoiler concerned. The withdrawal strategy entails threat to withdraw from the peace process, assuming that the spoiler was interested in keeping the international actor in the peace process. Stedman [1997: 12] believes that the responsibility of “cultivation and protection of peace and the management of spoilers” lies primarily with “international custodians” who have been defined as “international actors whose task is to oversee the implementation of peace agreements”.


Darby [2001] on the other hand, believes that dealers could be handled with confidence-building measures such as releasing political prisoners belonging to the particular spoiler group, and the opportunists, if they are dependent on international elements, could be better handled with external pressure. Since isolating the zealots and mavericks is vital, a process of “criminalization” could be introduced to force them out of the process. Although not within a grand framework to manage spoilers, Zahar [2003] maintains that bringing parties that threaten attempts at conflict resolution into the process is important. In her view, preventing these groups from undermining the process especially during the post-agreement phase is also crucial and a set of incentives aimed at encouraging the spoilers to join the peace process could be of immense value. Zahar [2003] argues that these strategies would help handle both outside and inside spoilers. Emphasizing the public perception to sustain a peace process, Aggestam [2006] points out that the public should be mobilized in favor of the peace process and the political leadership has a particular responsibility in this regard. Along the same line of argument Newman & Richmond [2006] maintain that media must be encouraged to build and sustain public confidence in the peace process.


As indicated elsewhere, some of the analysts have assumed that the primary responsibility of managing spoilers lies with the international actors who are involved in the peace process. The Sri Lankan case study, however, demonstrates that the responsibility lies fundamentally with local communities and that international actors can only extend a helping hand [Goodhand & Klem, 2005]. It was shown in Sri Lanka that the international player neither had the power nor the capacity to build peace single-handedly. This paper will argue that counter strategies must be undertaken in collaboration among three major pro-peace actors: [1] local political leadership, [2] international actors, and [3] local civil society groups.


Finally, a crucial area almost completely ignored by existing research is the strategies used by the spoilers themselves to disrupt or undermine peace processes. This lack of concentration on spoiler strategies is a result of the excessive focus on violent spoiling. This paper, therefore, will explore strategies that can be employed by spoilers in terms of the actions of the JVP in Sri Lanka. The JVP experience in Sri Lanka indicates that non-violent spoilers could employ the following tactics against a peace process:  [1] mass mobilization, [2] collaboration with similar groups and individuals, [3] use of political leverage, [4] forming and activating front organizations, and [5] seeking judicial intervention.


Sri Lanka: Conflict and the Peace Process

It is not easy to define the conflict in Sri Lanka as analysts, observers and especially the people involved in the conflict prefer to see it through different lenses. Fundamental differences exist especially among the Sinhalese and the Tamils about the label. The Tamils to a large extent believe that it is an ethnic conflict as issues and groups involved in the conflict are defined by ethnicity. It is the Tamils who demanded first regional autonomy and then a separate state in the North-East provinces [de Silva: 1998]. The series of riots, which culminated in the 1983 riots for example, were unleashed based on ethnic considerations [Tambiah: 1996]. The predominant fighting formations involved in the battled for instance, the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE] were mono-ethnic. Therefore, the ethnic characteristics of the conflict are rather strong. On the other hand, a vast majority of the ethnic Sinhalese preferred to see the problem as terrorism [Ratnatunga: 1988]. Sinhalese leaders in the past have reputed the claim that there is an ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. This argument inherently, had the connotation that the problem should be handled through military means rather than political engagement [Mahindapala: 2005]. In line with the ethno-centric approach of the conflict Neil DeVotta for example pays particular attention to what is called “ethnic outbidding” [DeVotta: 2004]. Scholars like Jonathan Goodhand and Nick Lewer prefer to call it a “complex political emergency” [Goodhand & Lewer: 1999].


The Sinhalese and the minority Tamils have been fitted against each other, since the early 20th century, fundamentally over claims about territory and the right to self determination [Wickramasinghe: 1995]. The Tamils who form about 12% of the total population of the country were concentrated in the Northern and Eastern Provinces where they were in a majority [Shastri, 1990]. Although they no longer command absolute majority in the Eastern province, they have sustained their dominance in the Northern Province. These two provinces, on the presumption that there existed a Tamil kingdom encompassing the both, are considered the “homeland” of the Tamils [Vanniasingham: 1988]. Since the post colonial nation building process to a large extent excluded the minorities in general, and the Tamils in particular, from the state system, the Tamils began to agitate for greater regional autonomy in the North-East provinces [Richardson, 2005]. Initially the movement carried out a non-violent struggle in combination with political bargaining and deals; these attempts failed to yield the desired results and on occasion elicited state sponsored violence [Wilson: 1988]. Consequently, since the late 1970s the Tamil polity has increasingly used violence, transforming the demand for regional autonomy into a cry for a separate state called Tamil Eelam. The leading Tamil party of the day, the Tamil United Liberation Front [TULF], in 1976, in the now famous Vaddukoddai Resolution, declared that “restoration and reconstitution of the Free, Sovereign, Secular Socialist State of Tamil Eelam based on the right of self determination inherent to every nation has become inevitable” [TULF: 1976].


The Vaddukoddai Resolution and the increasing activities of the Tamil militants exasperated the tension between the two communities leading to a number of violent ethnic clashes culminating in the 1983 July riots, which exploded following the killing of 13 Sri Lanka army soldiers by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE]. The riots marked the beginning of a more intense violent conflict as the number of Tamil militant groups fighting the state mushroomed in the immediate aftermath of the riots [Gunaratna: 1994]. Yet, since the early 1990s the LTTE evolved into the sole fighting force pursuing a relentless struggle to create a separate state for the Tamils in the North-East provinces [Loganathan: 1996].


One of the salient features of the internal civil war that was being fought between the state armed forces and the LTTE is its parallel journey with attempts to resolve the conflict by peaceful means.2 The last such attempt was initiated with the signing of a Cease-Fire Agreement [CFA] between the Government of Sri Lanka headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the LTTE in February 2002. This peace process resulted from the domestic as well as international compulsions brought on the parties. The international war on terror that was ignited by the September 11 attack on the United States was a major setback for non-state actors struggling against recognized states including the LTTE. First, the Sri Lankan rebels were struggling to save their image as a liberation organization as the movement had been increasingly proscribed as a terrorist organization in various countries. Second, some members of the international coalition introduced diplomatic and financial offensives against the LTTE curbing, to a certain extent, its international fundraising and arms procurement activities [Lundstead: 2007]. Consequently, the LTTE found that it was impossible to continue with the same tactics, despite some of the very impressive battle-field victories against the armed forces in the late 1990s [Keethaponcalan: 2008]. On the other hand, the state could not sustain what it called the “war for peace” policy declared with the intention of wiping out the LTTE, as the national economy was suffering immensely due to the affects of the war. Moreover, morale of the armed forces was dented severely, largely due to lack of progress of military operations and the casualties suffered in the battle-field. Hence, in 2001 the stage was set firmly in favor of a new peace initiative, which the parties took advantage of and entered into the CFA and consequently, peace negotiations. The Norwegian government facilitated process led to six rounds of peace talks, which in the initial stages looked extremely promising. The process however collapsed in mid 2004 leading to resumption of high intensity violence since mid 2006. It is this peace process that facilitates the examination of the JVP as a non-violent spoiler.

 

JVP: Origin and Background

Marxism and socialist oriented ideologies were part and parcel of the long tradition of democracy in Sri Lanka as it was the leftists who, in the first half of the twentieth century, laid the foundation for a stable party system in the country [Jayawardene: 1972]. Two of the major characteristics of the leftist movement in Sri Lanka were lack of radicalism or revolutionary elements and constant and periodic splits within the movement. Rohana Wijeweera, the founder leader of the JVP who was a member of one of these factions called the Communist Party [China faction], was disheartened by the almost total absence of revolutionary tendencies within the left movement in Sri Lanka. He strongly believed in violent revolution to capture state power [Chandraperuma: 1991]. Hence, he founded the JVP, with the sole aim of capturing state power by force in the mid-1960s. The organization soon found resonance with mostly university-educated, unemployed, rural youth, who were to a large extent frustrated by the lack of power and opportunities [Moore: 1993]. The members were introduced to radical Marxist concepts combined with Wijeweera’s theories of global and local issues [Gunaratna: 1990]. Although the JVP has succeeded in moving into urban and semi-urban communities, especially the educated urban youth, since the mid-1980s, its core support base still remains the rural Sinhala-Buddhist.


The JVP, under the leadership of Wijeweera launched two insurgencies, in April 1971, and in late 1980s. The 1971 insurgency began with an assault on police stations in most parts of the country when Wijeweera was still in prison [Alles, 1990]. The under-prepared and hastily organized “revolution” was beaten back by equally under-trained and unsophisticated Sri Lankan armed forces with the assistance of brutal counter violence, in which a few thousand people including insurgents, members of the armed forces and civilians were killed [Kearney, 1997]. Following a prolonged legal process, those who were considered hardcore members of the movement were sentenced with various jail terms and Rohana Wijeweera was condemned to twenty years imprisonment [Kearney: 1997].


The J.R.Jayewardene government that came to power in 1977, in an attempt to counter the electoral strength of the main opposition party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party [SLFP], released the imprisoned JVP leaders and allowed them to operate within the democratic framework. President Jayewardene’s strategy was based on the premise that both the SLFP and the JVP had been deeply rooted on the same constituency, i.e. the “rural Sinhalese Buddhists” [Moore, 1993 : 608]. Consequently, the JVP contested some of the local elections leading to the 1982 presidential election where the JVP candidate, its founder leader Rohana Wijewera, received only 4% of the votes forcing JVP to reexamine its long term strategies to capture state power. It was against this backdrop that the government, following the 1983 July riots, proscribed the JVP along with a few other leftist parties [Matthews: 1989]. The government claimed that the leftists were behind the riots [Gunasekara: 1998]. The rebels, using the ban as an excuse, went underground and organized themselves to stage the second, more brutal insurgency from 1987 to 89. The rebellion, primarily opposed to Indian intervention in Sri Lanka, employed incredibly brutal methods including killing members of armed forces and their families, members of the major political parties, public servants who refused to comply with the orders of the JVP, and even those who consumed Indian produces [Kodikara: 1989].


Following a series of failed conciliatory moves to address the problems of the rebels, the government of President Premadasa unleashed an equally brutal and violent campaign against the insurgents killing tens of thousands of cadres and suspects, resulting in the effective termination of the second rebellion [Gunasekara: 1999]. In late 1989, most of the top level leaders of the JVP were killed by the state armed forces, except the present leader Somawansa Amarasinghe. Under the leadership of Amarasinghe, who was in exile in the United Kingdom, the JVP reentered the democratic mainstream in the mid 1990s wining an increasing number of parliamentary seats in each general election.3 In the December 2001 parliamentary election, which facilitated commencement of the peace process, the JVP won sixteen seats bestowing it the power to play politics with the peace process. The party secured 39 seats in the 2004 elected Parliament.

 

JVP as a Spoiler

Our definition of spoilers in this study entailed two major elements: [1] a declared policy against a peace process, and [2] a sustained campaign to undermine the process. The JVP satisfies both of these criteria. The group not only had a clearly declared policy again the peace process, but also carried out a powerful and unrelenting campaign to derail it. Hence, it could justifiably be called a spoiler from a peace-building perspective. President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s People’s Alliance party signed an electoral pact with the JVP in January 2004 setting up a new political alliance called the United People’s Freedom Alliance [UPFA]. Since the new alliance had the numbers to win a general election President Kumaratunga on February 8, 2004 dissolved Parliament, which in turn ended the UNF government that was spearheading the peace process. Collapse of the UNF government effectively sealed the fate of the peace process.


The JVP’s policy towards the peace process springs from its attitude towards ethnic relations and conflict in general, and the question of devolution of power in particular. Although founded on Marxist-Leninist philosophies, the JVP’s attitude towards the ethnic Tamils has been shaped by ethno-nationalist sentiments coupled with fear of India [Rampton & Welikala, 2005]. Partly due to its affiliations with the Chinese Communist Party and partly due to the ancient history of the country, the JVP also feared Indian expansionism and linked the Tamil community in Sri Lanka with what the Sinhalese believed was India’s expansionist agenda in Sri Lanka [Bastiampillai: 1992]. Hence the Tamil community in Sri Lanka was considered he agent of India or the “fifth column” [Rampton & Welikala: 2005]. This notion, combined with the fear that the Tamil movement for regional autonomy could lead to the division of the country, led to an intense anti-Tamil posture of the JVP. This is exactly why one commentator maintained that the political ideology of the JVP was “anarchic, nihilistic and anti-Tamil” [Matthews,1989: 627]. Moore [1993 : 599], who had undertaken an in depth analysis of JVP politics had this to say:


"The socialist or Marxist elements in the JVP’s doctrine and practice were increasingly neglected in favour of a programme, style and tactics which were increasingly Sinhalese chauvinist and indigenist, and directed against both Tamil ethnic groups within Sri Lanka and against the Indian armed forces which were occupying the Tamil areas of the North and East."


Consequently, the JVP opposed any form of devolution of power aimed at resolving the political problems of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. This has been its long standing position except for a brief period, where the group seemed to have supported the right to self-determination of the Tamils.4 The JVP’s opposition to devolution of power stems from two particular factors. First, the group does not believe that there is an ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka or even that there are issues specific to the Tamil community that do not affect other communities. Somawansa Amarasinghe, the current leader of the party, on more than one occasion reiterated that there is no ethnic question in Sri Lanka. Issues like poverty, corruption, under-development and so on are common to all under-privileged people in Sri Lanka.5 An extension of this argument is that what exists in Sri Lanka is nothing but terrorism, which requires a military solution. It is this notion which forms the basis of JVP’s stance vis-à-vis peace in Sri Lanka. Second the JVP believed that devolution of power to solve the ethnic conflict will lead to certain division of the country. Since recently, the JVP had assumed the role of guardians of sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, a role played by the Buddhist monks traditionally [Moore, 1993]. The party believed that it has a national duty to oppose any attempts to devolve power, hence the opposition to negotiated peace. Significantly, the JVP had no problems in declaring this policy openly and loudly. For example, in 1997, JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva maintained that “Sri Lanka is a small country that cannot be divided and sub-divided. We are totally against federalism and the merger of the North and East. We are also against Regional Councils” [Sunday Times: 1997].


It is, however, imperative to note that there is an element of political interest in the JVP opposition to peace processes. Racism was and is a “sure fire vote catcher” in Sri Lankan politics [Vanniasingham: 1988 : 13]. Since the mid 1950s, both in the North and South, politicians, Sinhala as well as the Tamil, extensively used racial slogans to win elections. The “Sinhala only” slogan that in a sense ignited the ethnic confrontations was motivated by electoral considerations [Boss: 1994]. Exploitation of racially motivated politics continued until the mid 1990s as both major parties in the South moved closer to accommodative policies in relation to the minorities in the post-1994 general election period. Unfortunately, however, smaller parties have moved in to fill the vacuum created by the policy shifts of the major parties; the JVP had been in intense competition to control the radical Sinhala Buddhist constituency, particularly with the Jathika Hela Urumaya [JHU], a political party formed and run by Buddhist monks with the aim of creating a Buddhist darmarajya [righteous state] in Sri Lanka [ Keethaponcalan: 2008]. It seems that the JVP strategy to win the radical Sinhala constituency paid off as the party managed to increase its parliamentary strength radically in the 2004 General Election that followed the collapse of the peace process. By forming an alliance6 with the ruling People’s Alliance, the JVP secured 39 seats in this election.


The JVP also carried out a “sustained campaign” against the peace process throughout the period, an element which qualifies the JVP as a spoiler. In fact, the group has a long history of resisting any attempt to negotiate peace. The second insurrection of the JVP was almost entirely based on opposition to the Indian intervention in Sri Lanka which, according to India, was undertaken with a desire to settle the conflict in Sri Lanka [Muni: 1993]. India intervened in Sri Lanka, especially after the July 83 Riots, and mediated between the parties an agreement culminating in the signing of the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987 which, among other factors, included provisions for resolution of the conflict. The Indian involvement and the provincial councils system that derived from the agreement were opposed by the JVP with an extensive use of violence. It is imperative to note, however, that some critics believe that JVP’s anti-Indianism was “only a convenient slogan” [Gunasekara, 1999: 70]. Politically, the slogan had the capacity to exploit the fears of Sinhala people and win their sympathies. The critics also point out that the JVP directed its violence only against the people who refused to obey their orders and not against any Indian interests, facilities or personnel [Gunasekara%3