Our responsibility is to turn people’s hopes into reality -Anura Dissanayake
[Commemoration speech made by Anura Dissanayake on the November Heroes Commemoration held by the JVP at Maharagama National Youth Service Council Auditorium on 13.11.2023.]
In the 34 years that have passed since the loss of November Heroes, our country has become a victim of vagabondism. A vagabondized political base has been created to enjoy the properties of the public. A wholly broken society has been created. This situation has not been created spontaneously. JR Jayawardene’s government, which came to power in 1977, was responsible for taking the strongest steps for political debasement, creating a society full of crimes and the country’s economic collapse.
All the social institutions that existed until then were completely destroyed, democracy was completely suppressed, writers were attacked, the trade union movement was completely suppressed, no elections were held, and they were put off through fraud. With JR Jayawardene’s actions at the top, the entire political authority at the ground level was handed over to hooligans. Villages began to come under the control of highly corrupt thugs. The Parliament began to be filled with thugs. The social respect of the people the ties between each other were strangled and destroyed. A man’s dignity as a human being was abolished. Many people started to live under this frenzied and thug rule of JR Jayawardene. Many people were tempted to accept it as a reality.
However, against this destructive journey, the JVP came forward for the freedom and dignity of the ordinary people. By the mid-1980s, society had moved towards an intense division, with evil and criminality representing JR Jayawardene’s party on one side and the JVP representing social dignity, social justice and democracy and a vast number of people who had formed an alliance with the JVP for the sake of human dignity and their freedom on the other.
This conflict eventually turned into an armed conflict instead of an ideological conflict or a conflict carried out on stage. Thousands of people in our country became victims of JR Jayawardene’s dictatorial frenzy. On November 13, 1989, and thereabouts, a large number of comrades, including the founder of our party, Comrade Rohana Wijeweera, who built the Janata Vimukti Peramuna and brought the spirit of the ordinary people to it, were killed. Today, we commemorate our comrades who sacrificed their lives for social justice, equity and freedom and against the tragedy of the vile journey taken by those who ruled and destroyed our country, society and economy.
Today, our society is demanding a significant transformation. This transformation can be done only by an organization with the desire, vision, honesty, endurance and discipline. A mere change of person or government cannot do this. How can honesty, courage, a new political vision, the necessary discipline, the mindset of social justice, and the spirit close to people’s hearts be brought to this movement? Building such a movement from books and literature alone is impossible. It can only be done through a proper study by people dedicated to social transformation in Sri Lanka and worldwide. I say this because some people ask why commemorate 88-89 when a social movement is being built in a big way. To transform these societies, we need people with that spirit. There are many people behind this movement, even those who are seen on television, including myself, those who are on this stage and also those who have recognition in the society. Even today, the success of this movement is the result of the dedication of the comrades in our movement.
It is not a coincidence that people who are ready to transform society through dedication and sacrifices come forward. Tens of thousands of our comrades, including the founder of our party, have given us that example. Reflecting on that past repeatedly, when we are ready for this specific social transformation, that spirit should accompany our movement more than ever. That’s why a government or a movement built from a heap of rubbish cannot achieve this transformation. This tremendous social transformation cannot be carried out if we deviate from the spiritual essence intertwined with history. The relevant quality transformation can only be done by strengthening and moving forward with that flowing spirit. We of the JVP are building a social movement with such a spirit. If we want to transform society profoundly, it can be done not by closing and fragmenting the spirit of the past. We are ready to accept the shortcomings of the past without fear. We have acknowledged the shortcomings of 88-89 many times. Also, the JVP is moving forward as an unfading movement to absorb its qualities a thousand times. Our party has gone through the most challenging times in the last two decades. We got some political tactics wrong. Those mistakes depend on more than just politics. They sink into the party. In 2004, some wrong political tactics seeped into our movement. Therefore, divisions were created in the movement. Again, by 2012, another division was formed, unable to understand the defeats, unable to withstand and not having confidence in the victories. In this way, two decades have passed since various crises and conflicts occurred within the party. Some comrades got caught in the tricks and made us accused. They also made us the accused in the decisions they took part in. Some of those who responded with us together to the enemy’s slanders when they were in the party hurled the enemy’s slanders at us when they went out.
These conditions began to manifest not only internally but also at the social level. The decrease of 3% from the last election caused insults and mockery. Who brought the courage to turn the small opportunities for victory while suffering massive pressures from inside and outside? The reason for building this movement with the belief in victory is the spirit of this movement. It is not the distinctiveness of individuals but the spirit of the movement that flows continuously. Today’s results were not achieved due to the fantastic ability of the current leadership team. The vision of the November Heroes regarding social justice and their spirit of not giving up the responsibility that has continuously flowed to our movement have strengthened the vision of our movement. They are not things that ordinary people can do. Such things can only be done by people who have such a movement.
In a country that changes sides and complains when there is not even a small victory, the essence of the movement has helped more than personal characteristics. That essence was formed from the day this party was created. It is impossible to move forward with a people’s movement, hypnotized by the great hopes in the social sphere. Society’s trust, respect, and the need to get together repeatedly force us to extract the essence contained here. We absorb that essence.
They organize society so that leaders are on top and society is enslaved. Their existence is the organization of social prejudices. However, it is our responsibility to organize our moves in such a way that it brings out social equity. We have to organize a community that works with collective responsibility, where everyone works to benefit fellow beings. We need a team that understands the responsibilities assigned to each other. However, our opponents organize racism. Even though it is a country that has suffered enough, they still organizes the same thing.
On the contrary, we organize national unity. By organizing with socially positive qualities, we make a positive transformation. For that, we need to build governance with positive qualities. We have not been able to attract the attention of the Tamil and Muslim communities to the extent that the people of the south have focused on us. Therefore, organizing the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims who reject racism quickly based on equal rights should be the most critical task. Otherwise, it is not worth forming governments. They organize society based on caste. Also, the business community is organized with highly corrupt people. They do not come forward to organize real industrialists and entrepreneurs. We have to organize the true industrialists and entrepreneurs. The core of the social transformation we aim at is to organize society with positive qualities. The qualities of making a collective social transformation can be gathered from the qualities of great heroes. The examples of those heroes are symbols in our souls. Forgetting these symbols means being a mere United National Party or Sri Lanka Freedom Party. We need that spirit more than ever. As we get closer and closer to power and the people, our members and our movement should absorb the most constructive spirits. This November Heroes commemoration is more important than ever because we expect to hold next November Heroes commemoration under our rule. It is necessary to take these qualities to the society under a new rule. This society formed governments for decades and expected a good social transformation. But they have been deceived for many decades and have fallen into poverty. People have been pushed to the bottom of despair. We have no right to deceive such people. If we want to build a government that fulfills the expectations of those people, we need the spirit of November Heroes. We should sincerely love them. We have to work sincerely to meet their expectations. Apart from that, we do not expect to get votes. We must be nourished by the honesty that comes from the bottom.
We must be confident that we have built a suitable movement for social transformation. We should not give mere dreams and mere words to a society. Those who ruled the country have said things like ‘Asia’s miracle’. They only say, but we do what we say. Therefore, more than ever before, this movement needs teamwork. The mentality that can be built to achieve our share in a political victory should be strengthened now. There is no personal stake in the victory anywhere. In all those places, there are collective parts of all of us. Achievements can be achieved not by recognizing our limitations but by absorbing those parts with the ability and talent to lead a more significant human society. We are having this magnanimous commemoration at a critical historical moment.
At a time when there is a great voice to transform our society, there are high hopes not only in our country but even among the Sri Lankans in the United States that there will be a transformation in the society. Although those Sri Lankans live a higher life, they have high expectations of us. Do we have the right to gamble with those hopes and trade them for power gambling? We have no right to bring those expectations to a place of bargaining with gambling for power.
Our responsibility is to make those hopes a reality. I emphasize again and again that it can be made a reality only if our movement is built correctly. We know that we have a movement capable of transforming this country. With that courage, one can remain steadfast in front of the enemy with the power of the political movement. It is our entity. Remember that. As the National People’s Power, we are doing much work to organize the ordinary people. As the JVP, we must accept the power of calling the spirit to that movement. For that, let us take November Heroes into our hearts more than ever. More than ever, let us absorb their essence into our disposition.”