JVP in Japan

[TamilNet, Sunday, 22 May 2005, 11:52 GMT]
Leaders of the ultra-nationalist-cum Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) have arrived in Tokyo at the invitation of the Japanese government to study its economic and local governance policies, press reports said. It is the JVP’s first official visit abroad. But the party is expected to consolidate its support amongst the Sinhala community at the same time.

JVP rallyThe JVP’s leader, Mr. Somawansa Amarasinghe, its powerful propaganda secretary, Wimal Weerawansa, and General Secretary Tilvin Silva are part of the delegation that flew to Japan Friday night, the Sunday Times reported.

Nandana Gunathillake, JVP politburo member and also the Chairman of Sri Lanka’s ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) coalition, was also in the delegation.

The invitation to the JVP was officially extended by Japan’s Peace Envoy to Sri Lanka, Mr. Yasushi Akashi, the Sunday Times said.

“Weerawansa will return in five days, while the rest of the Marxists stay on to see the wonders of capitalist Japan,” the pro-market paper’s political columnist sardonically noted.

The JVP leaders “are expected to stay at the Imperial Palace during their stay and have been reportedly granted an allowance of Rs. 500,000,” The Sunday Leader newspaper added.

“Comrade Amarasinghe’s delegation will visit sectors of Japanese development useful for the [Sri Lankan] Ministries manned by the JVP. These would include fisheries, small and medium industries, agriculture and culture,” the JVP said in a statement published on its website.

“They hope to strengthen the cooperation between Japan and these four ministries,” the JVP said.

“The JVP delegation hopes to see for themselves how Japan has advanced in a short time to become a major economic power in the world. They hope to find lessons for Sri Lanka in Japan’s experience. In the field of culture they would also be visiting several Buddhist organizations and temples,” it said.

The Sunday Leader newspaper suggested “Japan is keen to get the JVP to agree to the joint mechanism proposal as well as the restructuring plan of the CEB [Ceylon Electricity Board, which the JBIC [Japan Bank For International Cooperation] is to co-finance with the ADB [Asian Development Bank].”

But political analysts wondered at the composition of the delegation and the JVP’s claimed purpose for the trip.

“Is this a Sri Lankan government visit or a JVP visit? If the purpose is to promote the ministries, why is Amarasinghe going,” a columnist with a Tamil daily asked. The JVP leader, who resides in London, is not part of the government.

JVP watchers said however that the Sinhala community was a hotbed of JVP support and speculated that the trip would also enable JVP leaders to meet local activists strengthen the party’s machinery in Japan.

“The Sinhala community in Japan is a very important source of funding for the JVP. Sympathisers [there] used to run the JVP website until it was moved to Sri Lanka,” they said.


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