The JVP war chest (Interesting facts courtesy RTI)

Daily News Editorial

One could not imagine a greater contradiction than the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna. It has been declared the richest political party in the country, surpassing both the capitalist parties, the UNP and the SLFP, in terms of wealth and income generation. The release of financial records of eight political parties by the Elections Commission on a Right to Information (RIT) request by Transparency International has barred the incomes and their sources of the main political parties.

The JVP is on top of the pile, with the UNP, known to represent the capitalists and the elite, coming a distant second. How this information will sit on the JVP who chest thumbs itself as the party of the downtrodden will be interesting to see. The JVP has many things going for itself. It has the proven capacity to draw the largest crowds for its political rallies. Arguably, it also has the largest following of the country’s youth and its discipline as a political party can never be doubted. Now, on top of all this it has also been declared the richest party in the country. Yet, the rathu sahodarayas have been unable to savour the fruits of office thus far.

Theme Cartoon googled and added by TWImage result for party funds cartoons

Many reasons could be adduced for this predicament of the JVP. It’s ideology and Marxist rhetoric may be anathema to the larger population who are Sinhala Buddhist. It’s slogans and revolutionary bent could be another reason. The fact that it staged two bloody uprisings against elected governments could also have militated against the people entrusting the reins of power to the party. For all that, it could be proud of the fact that it has outdone the main political parties in terms of riches.

According to our lead story yesterday the JVP commands a total income of Rs. 87.2 million as at December 31, 2015.This is huge leap from the UNP war chest that stood at 36.3 million at the same date while the SLFP income was rather sketchy. The main source of the JVP’s income was said to be the accumulated salaries of MPs, Provincial Councillors and Pradeshiya Sabha members and also by the sale of MPs’ vehicles. It is not clear if the income raised through the sale of vehicles included that which was derived through the sale of Duty Free permits. But the JVP, whatever may be its shortcomings, always prided itself in being frugal with public funds and against swindling the state. Hence there can be no doubt that it was through the sale of their official vehicles that this money was raised. We say this because it is known that the few MPs the JVP had, always shared a single vehicle even when coming to parliament. This frugality with public funds was seen at the Tissamaharamaya Pradeshiya Sabha, which it controlled in 2002, for which it earned rich dividends at the 2004 General Election, where the party won over 40 seats in parliament, though contesting in alliance with the PA.

Be that as it may, the JVP may be far ahead on the pile where it’s income is concerned, but it is also a well known fact that the party had always been well heeled even in its leaner days when it did not have MPs, Provincial Councillors or Pradeshiya Sabha members to fill its party coffers. The posters that it used to come up with and splashed across the country, even during the Rohana Wijeweeera vintage could not have come from a party starved of funds. It is well known, how, during the 71 insurgency, a Colombo embassy of a hard line communist country was shut down based on its alleged links with the uprising. It is not known if the party is still receiving funds from outside but the revelation of the state of its financial health is certainly going to create a dent in its image as a party of the proletariat. The JVP will certainly have some explaining to do how it managed to surpass the two major parties in generating funds, because it is difficult to believe how the MPs, PC, and PS members survive by donating their salaries to the party coffers.

True, both the UNP and SLFP balance sheets are not what meets the eye and the figures quoted are dubious. We say this because both parties have their own financiers who support them directly, especially during election time, and the funds so obtained naturally don’t go through the party books. There are other ways in which businessmen support the two major parties, such as when buying over members from the rival camp.

The Right to Information Act has now made it possible to shed light on the income sources of political parties, which were hitherto a dark secret. It has also helped identify all those MPs who sold their duty free vehicle permits and deprived the state of a massive income. There is bound to be many more holy cows that will be unraveled, exposing those who masqueraded as Good Samaritans. In that sense the Yahapalanaya government should be commended for bringing this piece of legislation that will now ensure transparency in many spheres of governance.