[In Focus] LIFE ABROAD – Jiggery-pokery associated with asylum applications
Posted on March 27th, 2015

Dr. Tilak Fernando

It was a period when the JVP (Peoples’ Liberation Front) had been quite active in Sri Lanka and its branch activities were beginning to take root fibrously from every corner of the island. ‘Sus’ (fictitious name) had been an undergraduate of University of Keleniya and a harmless youth. His father, an employee at the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, was an Administrative Officer who embraced and cherished left-wing viewpoints and radical social and economic changes in the direction of greater equality.

During weekends his father entertained a clique of his (father’s) friends. At times Sus could not help overhearing their conversation, which he found quite interesting and appetising because he too had been an avid reader of books on socialism, which his father had in his library at home. He had read some of the books titled, The Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital, and History of the Russian Revolution by Karl Marx etc. Sus soon became a fan of Karl Marx with the belief that ‘Marx was a philosopher who was primarily concerned with human freedom, rather than as an economist or a social scientist’.

 First encounter

One fine day a friend of his father called him to a corner and briefed him about a youth organisation that was getting organised to work for the upliftment of quality of life of the poor masses. He heard about this group’s intention to change the existed social fabric of the country and to proceed towards a change in the direction of equality.

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In 1964, the old leftist movements in Sri Lanka, the Lanka Samasamaja Party (LSSP) and the Communist Party of Lanka (CPSL) were showing major cracks in their joint activities while the conservative government in power at the time was caught up in a deep economic and political catastrophe which led the trade unions of the left parties to organise various ways and means to oust the government with the hope of helping a united left front to form a government.

During such a jittery situation the LSSP, followed by the CPSL, joined the middle class administration against the will of their trade unions. This was seen as a downright betrayal of the workers in particular, and the wishes of the people in general, that helped to open up a new leftist movement under the leadership of a young man of sixteen years of age named Rohana Wijeweera, who was a son of a CPSL member.

Confession

Rohana Wijeweera won a scholarship to study medicine at the Patrice Lumumba University in Russia, and studied Marxism-Leninism at the party school of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Once he became highly critical of the pragmatic line taken by the CPSU under Khrushchev and, when he visited Sri Lanka on vacation in 1964, his entry visa to re-enter the Soviet Union was cancelled consequently. This situation led him to unfold an operation with six others and launch a training programme of workers, farmers, students and the youth to carry out a clandestine operation with long-term mindsets.

Sus, in his statement to the Home Office in the UK to support his asylum application, had stated that within weeks of his father’s friend influenced him ‘just to go and listen to a meeting’ he entered the Sinharaja forest secretly and listened to oratory skills of the lieutenants of this association; naturally Sus too became a ‘victim’ in no time, while his parents were completely oblivious to what was happening behind the scenes.

He had further declared in his asylum application that within a very short period of time how he was appointed as a ‘section’ leader’ having fully integrated and committed to the group’s future ambitions of ‘working towards a better tomorrow’.

Recruitment

Soon he was ‘entrusted to recruit more members out of his university and other seats of learning’, which he quite successfully performed with the help of a student colleague, who happened to be a young revolutionary ‘Buddhist priest’. This, according to his submission, enabled him to carry out a smooth operation without allowing any eyebrows to raise; in this manner he became responsible for distributing hundreds of thousands of the rebel organisation’s leaflets with ease without the slightest suspicion from any one about the duo’s activities.

Ostensibly the group’s activities were beginning to come out of the Sinharaja forest to the outside world with their commitment based on V.I Lenin’s motto: “This struggle must be organised, according to ‘all the rules of the art’, by people who are professionally engaged in revolutionary activity.”

The Coalition government at the time seemingly intensified its repression and took steps to arrest activists of the young group who carried out poster campaigns, conducting educational discussions and camps, which were considered as ‘legal political activities under normal conditions’.

JVP arms struggle

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Sus had also mentioned how the JVP was compelled to take up arms on 5th April 1971 against the unlawful, unjust repression of the government. ‘The government had lost control in certain areas when nearly one hundred police stations were attacked and abandoned by police officers. A brutal repression launched by the Government in April against the uprising was totally suppressed within one month after killing nearly 10,000 members and sympathisers of the JVP. The people of Sri Lanka had never witnessed the slaughter of people in public before 1971. To quell the JVP, the government took in to custody further 20,000 JVPers’, he had continued

During this period ‘ Sus has had to hide for his life on a day-to-day basis by sleeping at various places from night to night as the JVP activists and all suspected youth were taken into custody and tortured while in police custody’. Congruent with exact dates and places of such incidents, Sus in his brief to the Home Office had meticulously stated in a convincing manner how Wijeweera and some sympathisers were taken into custody on 13th March 1971 and imprisoned in Jaffna prison.

When more than 500 members and sympathisers of the JVP were in prison camps, the leadership of the JVP met on the night of 1st April 1971 to take a serious decision against the annihilation of its members by the government with special powers assigned to the police and armed forces for the disposal of dead bodies without holding post-mortems. At this crucial moment the JVP leadership seriously considered to take up arms against the repressive measures of the government”.

 Naturally, this had provoked the armed forces, police, and the people against the JVP. In turn, ‘the JVP wanted to fight back and safeguard their dignity and the right to build their party under the law of the country and decided to arm itself for the purpose of self-defence’.

 Disagreement

In the asylum application Sus had mentioned how he ‘did not agree with the JVP decision to kill innocent people including the members of the armed forces and their families as retaliation’. He despised killing altogether, and this had been conveyed to the JVP hierarchy by letter officially. According to his statement, this was when he pressed the ignition button on his own life where be became trapped between both sides – government on the one hand hunting for youths indiscriminately to arrest and torture, while on the other hand, his own association, the JVP, beginning to track him down for disagreeing with their latest policy!

With the arrest of Rohana Wijeweera and the whole situation in the country becoming volatile and the security forces getting violent and aggressive in their campaign to wipe out the youth organisation, Sus has had to run for his dear life from town to town on a daily basis and sleep at different houses of relatives to escape being caught!

Ultimately he had reached a saturation point in his game of ‘hide and seek’. Finally he had made the decision to protect himself inside the shrubberies underneath Adam’s peak (Sri Pada Adaviya) at close range to the Seetha Gangula (the cold stream where pilgrims wash their face and feet before proceeding the climb hoping to wash their sins prior to the climb)!

Sus had described Adam’s peak as a sanctified rock which is worshipped by Buddhists, Christians as well Muslims, each faith claiming and worshipping the Foot Print on a stone at the peak that belongs to Adam (according to Christians), Prophet Mohamed (Muslims) and The Buddha (Buddhists).

Slip up

Sus after presenting a perfectly professional submission to the Home Office, incorporating actual incidents, places and dates during the turbulent times in Sri Lanka, supported by newspaper cuttings, had slipped up by mentioning at the end by saying:

For two weeks or so I had no food to eat in the jungle except green foliage; had no proper place or sleep, instead got fmercilessly bitten by heaps of mosquitos until one sunny morning the local postman brought a letter from my girl friend in Colombo giving the good news about my father getting a transfer to London through the Foreign Ministry’.

Elated Sus had jumped for joy and had ‘turned towards the Adam’s peak, worshipped god Saman (who is believed to be in charge of the area) and rushed back to Colombo. When his father left Sri Lanka with the family to take up his new appointment at the London Mission it had helped Sus as well to use as an escape route to freedom in a foreign land.

British officials were quite gullible in a sense, to say the least, for a long time, as they never had experienced to what extent immigrants could be up to monkey pranks! Its over the years through their own hard experience that has helped them to be smartened up to learn all kinds of jiggery-pokery the foreigners could get up to, especially when it came in immigration brouhahas. If not, how on earth could a postman find a guy hiding in a jungle hide out to deliver a letter? And to what address……….?

 Outcome of his case was not known, but the writer’s guess is that, like so many other asylum applicants, Sus also might have managed to hoodwink the British authorities and enjoy life in Britain fully settled!

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