April insurgency – a little known story
Posted on April 4th, 2019

Janaka Perera

April 5, 2019 marks the 48th Anniversary of the JVP insurgency of 1971 the first ever armed uprising against the Sri Lankan State since the British departed our shores.  It was one of two Southern insurgencies within a span of less than two decades. Both led two generations of youth and many others to their graves.

Following is a story of April ’71 which exposes how these so-called liberation struggles drove men to mercilessly kill even their friends and colleagues.

Towards the end of March, 1971, the Trincomalee Naval Base received a letter from the Peradeniya University requesting to arrange a football match between university students and navy personnel on the naval base grounds on April 5. The letter also requested the Navy to arrange for the university team to spend the night at the base, since it was difficult for them to return to Peradeniya the same day after the match. The university team was scheduled to arrive in Trincomalee by bus.

However since there were signs of trouble in the country the Naval Authorities were discussing whether they should accede to the request from the university. The Government had already declared an island-wide emergency following an armed attack on the American Embassy, Colombo, causing the death of a police officer. Naval personnel had also been deployed to guard the Trincomalee and Kantale police stations. Moreover the Peradeniya University at that time was suspected to be a hotbed of JVP activity.

Eventually the Navy decided it was not safe to allow a football match between the navy and university teams on April 5.  Accordingly the university authorities were informed that the naval base grounds could not be given for the match on the scheduled date.

If the match was held as planned one of the navy men who would have participated was Able Seaman H.M. Tillekeratne, one of the navy’s best football players. He had also been selected as an all-island hockey champion.  A strong well-built man, Tillekeratne was serving at the navy’s Elara Camp in Karainagar at the time.

He was in the habit of regularly travelling between the Elara Camp and the Trinco Naval Base.  The reason was that he was conducting political classes for some navy personnel.  Tillekeratne was the ‘Coordinating Officer’ between the Navy and the JVP which was planning to appoint him as North-East commander if they seized power.     

All this was happening before the Navy received the letter from the Peradeniya University.

On April 4, the date on which the Navy decided not to have the football match, Tillekeratne was on duty at the Elara Camp.  In the early hours of the following day, began the JVP insurrection with an attack on the Wellawaya Police Station, killing a policeman at his desk.  Fighting then commenced country-wide with attacks on 92 police stations, heralding the end of a phase in Sri Lankan politics.

By this time the CID had got wind of Tillekeratne’s strong connection with the rebels.

Within 48 hours of the JVP uprising and the government declaring an island-wide curfew the then Superintendent of Police Jaffna, Ramachandra Sunderalingam received a message from Colombo of a suspected  move by Tillekeratne to put sleeping tablets into the water filters at the Elara Camp’s officers mess.

Sunderalingam in turn confidentially informed the camp commander that Tillekeratne was wanted on ‘special duty’ (actually a CID interrogation) in Colombo.  Following this information Tillekeratne was ordered to take meals for the navy personnel guarding the Chunnakam power station and thereafter proceed to Palaly airport for the flight to Colombo.  He knew the game was up.  There was no question he would be arrested as soon as he arrived in Colombo.

He decided to act fast.

After spending a sleepless night Tillekeratne headed for Chunnakam in a navy jeep the following morning (April 7). He was unarmed since the naval authorities did not allow him to carry weapons after coming under a cloud of suspicion. The jeep was driven by another person.  

What happened next was like a scene from a gangster movie.

Upon reaching the power station Tillekeratne got off the jeep, instructing the driver to keep the engine running.  Tillekeratne then walked nonchalantly towards the power station which was guarded by a detachment from the Elara Camp. They knew him well.

When he entered the power station the naval guards who had completed their duty the previous night were relaxing. They had kept their submachine guns aside. Suddenly Tillekeratne picked up one of the guns ordered the other navy men to raise their hands.

All obeyed Tillekeratne, except Petty Officers Cecil Gunasekera, N.J.T. Costa and another. Since the three men were his close friends they thought he was joking. He then repeated his order. This is my last warning. Are you putting up your hands or not?”  But three men ignored him.

Then Tillekeratne opened fire, killing two of them – Gunasekera and Costa – on the spot.  Seriously injured were several others, among them a Navy PT instructor, T.M.N. Abdul who was crippled for life as a result.  He was the father of five children. His mother had fallen ill and died following the shock she had on hearing her son’s cruel fate.

According to Abdul, whom this writer met eight years later in 1979, Tillekeratne had shot him because he wanted to ‘settle’ a score. Abdul was the man earlier detailed to escort him to Colombo for the CID interrogation.

Following the shooting Tillekeratne, according to Abdul, had forced two other navy men at gun point to load the jeep with all the weapons and ammunition he had seized from his colleagues and accompany him in the vehicle.  Tillekeratne’s aim was to join the insurgents waging guerilla war against the State to usher in ‘socialism’.

At the time of the shooting Sunderalingam SP was at his office. It was just two days after the JVP’s failed attempt to rescue their leader Rohana Wijeweera from the Jaffna Prison. When the telephone rang at the SP’s office it was to inform him of the shooting incident at the Chunnakam Power Station. Sunderalingam realized that even a moment’s delay would give the wanted man the chance to escape.

Suspecting that he would try to flee Jaffna, the SP promptly telephoned ASP Mendis manning the Elephant Pass Police check point to be on the alert for the jeep carrying Tillekeratne.  As soon as the message was received the policemen at the check point along with army personnel waited for the vehicle to appear. A short while later they saw the jeep at a distance. They waited until it came close and then ordered the driver to stop. Their guns were aimed at the jeep.  At first it appeared the vehicle was going to slow down. Suddenly Tillekeratne tried to grab the submachine gun on his seat. But those manning the check point were faster. Their shots killed Tillekeratne and the driver on the spot. 

Everything happened within a matter of three minutes, according to Sunderalingam.

After Tillekeratne’s death, police searched his personal belongings and found secret documents and several bottles of sleeping tablets which were to be put into the water filters of the Elara Camp’s officers’ mess.  His plan was to seize all weapons and ammunition from camp’s magazine, before joining his JVP comrades after making naval officers unconscious.

Wars and insurrections bring out the best and worst in humans. Those ‘intellectuals’ who condemn only the State’s counter-terrorism should better keep in mind the saying: When you sow the wind you reap the whirl wind.”

2 Responses to “April insurgency – a little known story”

  1. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Here is another little secret still a lot of Sinhala modayas haven’t understood to this date.

    Patriotic Sirima B rounded up all the misled culprits within two weeks, rehabilitated and released back into the
    society, minimising loss of life. Rehabilitated: 1000s and 1000s.. Anti Buddhist, anti Sri Lanka, anti Sinhalese
    traitor UNPatriotic_rats saw the 89 BHEESHANA SAMAYA as a way to cull Sinhalese Buddhist population and
    brutally killed, killed and killed mercilessly with their catholic police top brass. The muderous lot took 6 long
    years to put down shot gun wielding insurgent outfit. Die hard catholic token Buddhist Batalande wa(n)dakay with
    its catholic police top brass were instrumental in the massacres. Punishment? What punishment? Sinhala modayas
    haven’t understood to this day thanks to traitor UNPatriotic_rats controlled media who made sure to paint a terrifying pic of the shot gun wielding outfit. It was kill, kill and kill. Criteria? Sinhalese Buddhists and needed a phone call or a nod from a goni billa. Rehabilitation? What? Are you mad or what? They are Buddhists! Rehabilitated: 000000000000. 60,000+ massacred.

    Contrast this with the real terras, catholic tigers of tamil drealam of their catholic buddy barrel man hitler mala
    paharan. Sri Maha Boddhi massacre, Sri Dalada Maligawa attack, Aranthalawa Bikkhu massacre etc. etc. etc.
    traitor anti Sinhalese, anti Buddhist, anti Sri Lanka UNPatriotic_rats turned a blind eye saying the terras were
    invincible. What’s more die hard catholic token Buddhist Batalande wa(n)dakaya with its catholic buddy ravi
    karunkaaya ridiculed the army. Batalande wa(n)dakaya even gave half the country on a plate to its catholic
    buddy hitler mala paharan to start a catholic tigers of tamil drealam. When the project still didn’t start Batalande
    wa(n)dakaya grassed all Millennium City intelligent officers to catholic tigers bullet to expedite the cause. MR
    came, so called invincible terras were running for their lives. That’s how the traitor UNPatrioitc_rats fought the
    reall terras. In the process it sacrificed 100,000+, mainly Buddhists, including men, women, children, Buddhist monks, tri forces personnel and police. Still all this is a secret since Sinhala modayas are easily fooled.

  2. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Please click on the following links to see traitor anti Sinhalese, anti Buddhist, anti Sri Lanka UNPatriotic_rats’
    treacheries, murders (Sinhalese Buddhists only since nobody gives a hoot, no AI, no UN, not even a Sinhalese
    deshapaluwa open its mouth to protest since hurting/murdering tamils, mussies, catholics is a war crime). You
    won’t see these in so called Buddhist (on paper) Sri Lanka where all the media are controlled by UNPatriotic_rats
    party henchmen.









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