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JVP dissident female firebrand reveals it all

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JVP dissident female firebrand reveals it all
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Dharma Dimuthu Attigalle is a politburo member of the JVP. She was one of the three said to be sacked by the Somawansa Faction of the party for supporting the dissident group led by Kumar Gunaratnam alias Kumar Mahattaya, the so called underground leader of the party.  Better known by her alias name Krishanthi, she is one who survived the massive annihilation of JVPers by the UNP between 1987 and 90.

She says she is married to the revolution and dedicated to achieving the aim of socialism in Sri Lanka. Dimuthu, who is the leader of the women’s wing of the party, has not been seen in the frontline in the recent past.  In this interview, Dimuthu describes her past, the party’s split, the future of the dissident group and answers all the rumours that have been doing the rounds in the party circles.

Q: What was the role you played in the JVP?

A: I am a full time member of the party. At the moment I am in the party’s politburo. I joined the party when I was a student at the Bandarawela Central College in the eighties. I became a fulltime member in 1988. When the party retreated in the aftermath of the assassination of Comrade Rohana Wijeweera, I was instructed by the party to join the teaching service. I was trained at Peradeniya Teacher Training College and worked as an English teacher till 1994. When the party resumed work in 1994, I came back.

Q: Do you have any other family members with political background?

A: No. My parents were from Ratnapura but we were brought up in Bandarawela. My elder sister lives in Australia while the younger sister is in Bangladesh. I have one younger brother. None of them engage in politics.

Q: What made you to take up politics?

A: Since my school days I have seen social injustices and I read lot of socialist books almost freely available in the country then. Apart from that there were many full time members in our Advanced Level classes. It was during the late eighties and we enjoyed student struggles. With the state suppression rising, we became more determined to take up this path.

Q: How do you see yourself coming up to today’s position in the women’s wing of the party?

A: I did not join the women’s wing of the party first, but worked as an ordinary member. After 1994, there was a need to revive the party’s women’s wing. I was entrusted with this task. On March 08, 1996 we officially launched the Socialist Women’s Union. I was the National Organiser of the SWU until 2009. By that time second level leaders of the SWU had come up to be able to take up that position and I requested the party to task me with other duties at District level organizing. I was officially appointed to the politburo in 2010.

Q: How do you explain the current situation in the party?

A: We always had ideological differences and debates within the party. We believe it is right to have such differences and debates for any living political movement. We always argued for what we believed was right and correct. When the party engaged in alliance politics and its stance on the national question were examples where we fought hard within the party. What occurred at the end was exploding this ideological dispute exploded out of the party circle and some our leaders took the crisis to the national media.

Q: Was there any fight to topple the incumbent leadership?

A: If there was such a need then the party members could have done that at the national convention in 2010. Then there was no such need or demand.

Q: How did the crisis affect the women’s wing of the party?

A: All those who had worked at the orgnaisational structural body are with us. Samanmali Gunasinghe is the National Organiser of the SWU. She alone is there with the bureaucratic group. Apart from that we commenced a new body by the name Women’s Movement for Liberation. All those who worked at the SWU except for a handful are with this movement now. We did not come out of the party. It was the bureaucratic group that had been pushed out. All the fulltimers are with us. We are the party.

Q: How can you describe yourself as the party?

A: Ownership of the party registered with the Elections Commissioner is with them. They have the sign board. We have the members. The party is with us. Party means the membership. Majority of members, activists are with us. 

Q: You are not among the popular faces of the dissident group. Why?

A: It is not so. I did a lot of work after the split of the party. Only that I did not participate in the rounds of seminars and public lectures. The organization decides who should conduct them. That basically depends on the theme of the topic selected for seminars and lectures. I was holding district level meetings recently.

Q: The November Heroes Commemoration (Il Maha Viru Samaruwa) was one of the most important events for the dissidents. But you were not there. Why?

A: It was due to a personal obligation. I had to attend a family matter. I had obtained the party’s permission very much before they organized the Ill Maha Viru Samaruwa. I was abroad. I was in Bangladesh. My sister lives in Chittagong in Bangaldesh. Her husband works there. I returned on November 20.

Q: Is it only Bangladesh you visited during the recent visit. There were rumours that you were in Malaysia holding talks with members of the LTTE diaspora.

A: No. I left the country on November 3 on a Mihin Air flight. Its number was MJ 502. Anyone can make inquiries and check my itinerary.

Q: How do you still work under the JVP banner? You and the other dissidents have been charged with violating the party discipline and it seems that you all are not members of the party.

A: We believe that the JVP is a leftist party with the aim of bringing up socialism. We are dedicated to that aim. We work for that. Our dream is to realize the aim of establishing a leftist government. If the old JVP does not believe in this then somebody must take the lead and work for that. We struggle to achieve our aim of socialism. We would like to call this a new birth of a mass political movement rather than split or breakaway from the JVP. This would be discernible more clearly in the future. I would do my level best to achieve the aim of socialism in Sri Lanka.  We would create a wider left devoid of racism and opportunism. Anyone can join us.

Q: Former General Secretary of the JVP Lionel Bopage participated in the Ill Maha Viru Samaruwa of the dissident group held in Australia. Where are you going to accommodate people like Bopage in the new left you are talking about? Can those who left JVP and other leftist parties join with this new left movement?

A: Anyone who struggles for leftist ideals can join the movement which tries to achieve the common aim of socialism. Once we formed this movement anyone who accepts our policies can join us but they should be ready to abide by the party discipline. There is an accepted procedure common to any Bolshevik party organization. It is the organization which decides where he or she should be accommodated. This is common to all the communist movements in the world.

Q: Does it mean that those who were with the LTTE too can join you?

A: Our movement is open to all. It does not matter whether you are SLFP, UNP or JVP. Anyone who accept and abide by our policies can join us. Apart from that there could be many others who can support us from outside without obtaining the full party membership. It’s open to all.

Q: Some of those who heavily criticized the JVP in the recent past, especially those who called the JVP a Sinhala Buddhist chauvinistic party now attend events conducted by the dissident group. Some of them have appreciated your stance and they are welcoming the lines highlighted by the dissident group. How do you comment on this new tendency?

A: This is actually a transition period. We are still talking and discussing about the policies and guidelines for the new and true left. This leftist movement would be genuine and this had been felt by many of those who have been frustrated by the lines taken by the old JVP. That is why lots of people came to the Sugathadasa Stadium to attend the Ill Maha Viru Samaruwa. They want to know what changes we would introduce. This is dynamic in nature in any leftist oriented political movement. We believe that no leftist party could be racist. True leftists are not racists.

Q: Who funds you? Where do you find so much money for these works?

A: Basically its the people who fund us. The comrades at District level earn and collect funds from friends and sympathizers to our cause. It is from these funds the cost of our work is covered. Even I’m fed and looked after by the party funds like in the case of all the full timers. Apart from that friends abroad send us money.

Q: There were lots of rumours attached to your name.  It is said that one of the Central Committee members had made indecent proposals to you. There were reports that you had taken up this issue in the central committee level. What do you have to say of this?

A: We believe that there should be genuine political dhttp://www.island.lkebate without personal mud slinging. We should not engage in bankrupt politics. Politics is not mud slinging and gossip. For the spread of this story, it should have come from one of the insiders. One of the inside members should have given this story to the media. Politics should be based on policies.

Q: Did you not take up this matter either in the politburo or the central committee that there were indecent proposals?

A: I think I should not answer that question.

Q: It is also rumoured that you had a relationship with Kumar Mahattaya. It is also said that his wife had to summon him to Australia to break up this relationship and it was because of you he had to leave the country?

A:  We did not have any relationship apart from our political relationship. Our relationship is political. We are bound by camaraderie. There is nothing more. If somebody spreads such rumours with a low objective what can we do? The best answer I think is not to fall into such a situation.

Q: Is Kumar Mahattaya still in Sri Lanka? Some reports said he had left the country with the assistance of Pillaiyan?

A: There are lots of people in politics. There are lots of activists. If any member wants to leave the country, he or she should first obtain the permission of the movement. If somebody leaves the country without our permission then it is considered he has left the party. None can remain in the party by leaving the country without permission. He is in the party.

Q: Why did not you enter Parliament even if you had the chance to do so?

A: My name was there to go to Parliament in 2000, but the party decided to send a common member representing several sides. Therefore Sunil Handunnetti’s name was given priority with my consent. Anjan Umma was also selected to represent women and Muslim membership.

Q: Incumbent leader of the JVP Somawansa Amarasinghe made an open invitation for those who left the party to come back. In this come back call he said the party’s door is open to the dissidents. Did you not think of going back?

A: It is a tactic. In our party we are not giving invitations through the media. There is an organizational procedure.

Q: Is there anything else you have to tell our readers?

A: Yes. We are in a very decisive moment. The country’s politics have reached a very important turning point. Our women are little bit backward and do not come forward usually against oppression. Even when we struggle to bring forward a way out of this oppression, the women usually have no courage to take part in this owing to many reasons including social and cultural. My advice to them is to come forward and join us. We could march together and achieve our common dream of liberation against all forms of oppression.

~ ~ By Saman Indrajith


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