Posted on August 30th, 2020


First person accounts of the second JVP insurgency have been given in autobiographies of Drs B.J.C.  Perera, Sarath Weerasinghe and W.A. Wiswa Warnapala. They have spoken of their experiences with the JVP in their places of work.

 B.J.C. Perera was Consultant Pediatrician in Kurunegala in 1988.  In Kurunegala there was a lot of public support for JVP and people in the area were openly sympathetic to the cause said BJC. JVP   were in almost total control.  Hospital had JVP sympathizers on the staff. Two of his House officers were also JVP.  They tried to disrupt the working of the hospital. ‘’But I did not allow them to disrupt ward activities,’ Said BJC.  

The hospital was not closed for even one day. Kurunegala was one of the few hospitals which functioned normally, he said. Kurunegala child Immunization clinic was over loaded, with about 300 children brought from outstation in lorries and cars, since the other clinics were not working. ‘We managed to immunize them all,’ said BJC.  This  service was provided for several weeks.

JVP was watching him and liked his concern for his patients. They sent him a message that since he had a baby at home, he could use the electric lights in the house. JVP   had ordered the public not to put on electric lights. BJC refused, saying he would be labeled a JVP sympathizer, so they told him to use thick curtains and only a couple of lights.

 Towards the end of the insurgency, both army and JVP were active in Kurunegala. An army officer came to the hospital, said BJC. He spoke separately to doctors, and asked them to continue the good work, told nurses, separately that any saboteurs would be treated like insurgents, told laborers that he knewexactly who JVP were. He will kill the two of them and hang them for all to see at the entrance to the hospital. He will personally shoot them through the heads, said the army officer.

In 1988 JVP made final error in Kurunegala, said BJC. They had dragged out a supporter of the government His children had come running and hugged the father. JVP killed the children as well. This disgusted the public who went to the police and army and told them details of JVP activity in the entire Kurunegala region. The force and police came out at night, rounded up the JVP.  Nothing was heard of them after that. They were    apparently eliminated and burnt in the jungles and forest areas of Kurunegala. The insurgency collapsed virtually overnight in 1989 in Kurunegala, concluded BJC Perera.

Dr.  Sarath Edirisinghe, who taught at the Medical Faculty, Peradeniya, spoke of his encounters with the JVP in the University in the Bheeshanaya period. One day a group of medical students who were JVP informed us lecturers that they were going to have a meeting in Physiology Theater and all the staff must attend. We all trooped in there, a medical student activist spoke, and scolded us for not being receptive to the vast changes taking place. We must respond to the youth uprising. They said, among other things, , that they had to     right to stop and check any vehicle passing Wijewardana. We were not allowed to voice our views, said Sarath.

On one occasion Sarath watched the captive medical staff of Peradeniya Teaching Hospital, carrying placards against the IPKF, herded along toward Peradeniya   road junction. A consultant had told him later that they had been taken to Peradeniya Bo tree bus stop, given paste and told to paste posters on the buses that stopped there.

Once there was a huge commotion at the turn off to Wijewardana Hall. There was a huge crowd and  much chaos. Sarath saw a man tied to a tree. Someone started beating  him.  He was later taken away.  We heard later that he was the driver of a passing vehicle owned by a UNP MP. He was found murdered in a nearby quarry.

The Meewatura University house complex, where Sarath lived, had been visited by JVP and identity cards confiscated. Electric transformers in the area had been bombed or vandalized. On dark days” the residents did not switch on the lights. Sarath was pulled up for putting on lights when all round it was dark.  These JVP were definitely University students, said Sarath.  

JVP said they were going to send him a set of instructions to be conveyed to the rest of the houses. Sarath had said how to read instructions when there are no lights. He was told that around 3 am, instructions would be pushed through the door and to comply. Use torch to read it. However, since they had a baby, he was told to have a 15 or 25 watt bulb in a back room.

The document arrived. They were told to display a large placard saying that IPKF must leave Sri Lanka, also hang a black flag. Their activities would-be closely watched throughout the day. At dawn  Sarath saw a row of University houses with black flags. Some had torn umbrellas to get the black cloth.

Then the army came. Sarath and others were warned in time,  they  pulled the black flags down. An army jeep came, with two rows of  unsmiling soldiers scrutinizing the houses, When the army left the academics put back the placard and flag. Throughout the day, there were young men on motorcycles checking our houses.

Then JVP bombed the Water Purification plant, nearby, which meant no water for the houses.  The Vice Chancellor appealed to JVP by poster   to get the plant working. JVP complied.    The    ‘Reply’ poster came, saying plant will be repaired and water will be issued for two hours a   day.

 It was well known that these University campaigns were carried out by IUSF and the Deshapremi Sishya Viyapraya.   The leading activists were hardcore JVP members, and they included final year students and university staff.  There was also a group of third-liners,  who were clearly followers not leaders. Sarath met a few of them.

One day, Sarath found that there was no one in the Medical Faculty and he went  along to the Dean’s room, where he found Dean and the Senior Assistant Registrar, Miss Jayasuriya. While he was there,  the door opened with a bang and a well dressed, bearded young man came in and wanted to know why the Faculty was open, it was a hartal day. Miss Jayasuriya had shouted back and said the man had no business entering the Dean’s office and ordered him to leave immediately. The man said something threatening but left the office. The man was a technical officer in the Medical Faculty, said Miss Jayasuriya.

After several murders had taken place at Peradeniya campus, a dozen senior academics, from the Medical Faculty, led by Prof Ralph Panabokke had gone to see Vice Chancellor Arjuna Aluwihare, by appointment. There were three student activists there, recalled Sarath. We were introduced to the students.

 Prof. Panabokke said his say which was translated to the students, who said very eloquently in Sinhala that there was a liberation movement taking place and we should recognize the fact and as academics we should extend our support. Panabokke said that murders by University students should be stopped.  The students looked agitated, they had a short discussion among themselves and the leader blurted out that they had no control over these activities.

Sarath and his family then went to Nugegoda, where again they met the JVP.  Sarath’s wife, Jayanthi visited an uncle who was a retired army man. when she knocked on the door,     a young man holding a gun pulled her into the house. Jayanthi, who was a lecturer in the University, guessed that these were probably University students.  She shouted at the gang telling them she was a University don. She asked them to leave the house immediately. They had a whispered conversation and left, warning her not to leave for one hour and not to get the police. They had cut the telephone wires beforehand. They had vanished into thin air, there was no sound of a motor cycle.

Sarath and his family   returned to Peradeniya . A Senior Assistant Registrar had been killed near Senate House. In retaliation, around ten youths  were killed and  their severed heads placed round the Alwis pond. ‘One can imagine how brutal the government backed counter terrorist activities were at the time.’ said Sarath.

Towards the end, there was fear, panic and danger everywhere. Militant students patrolled the area on wheels and on foot. They were checking vehicles. They expected a showdown with the government and counter preparation were being readied by them.

The showdown came soon after. In the biting pre-dawn, Sarath and other academics  living in Meewatura heard  students in Hilda Obeyesekera Hall, ( then a male student hall) calling out  names of lecturers and begging those lecturers to come  and rescue them as they were surrounded by the army.

Instead of running to the rescue, the lecturers in the Meewatura houses were all in their back gardens watching. We did not see any army activity until a helicopter came by. The cries of students rounded up by the armed forces could be heard, then there was silence, said Sarath.

Helicopters kept swooping down on  the Halls of residence till mid day. There was also bus after bus transporting students out of the campus. As they went past Meewatura to Gampola  villagers hooted, some shouted don’t come back.” The Bheeshanaya was blamed on University students and  the  surrounding villages were relieved to see the student evicted from campus. The  Campus was closed,  concluded Sarath.

W.A.Wiswa Warnapala, was SLFP organizer for Kegalle in the 1980s. In 1987, party activity in Kegalle was done amidst JVP terror, he said. JVP mounted a campaign of violence in Kegalle  to prevent a free and fair election. They wanted to prevent the voters from voting     also from   participating in election activity.

The SLFP  organizers were provided with guns and were expected to arrange for their own security. JVP  threatened Wiswa with death and  he was prevented from going to certain villages by blocking the road to these places. There was a large spate of political violence throughout the country  at the time.   

Wiswa was  teaching political science  at University of  Peradeniya , during the Bheeshanaya  period. The    violence inside the University  particularly University of   Peradeniya   was such that the University could not control it,  said Wiswa. No one was safe inside the campus. The Inter University  Student  Federation  formed Action Committees and  these committees were behind the violence.

The frightened University authorities gave recognition to the Action Committee, in order to avoid open confrontation and prevent destruction of life and property. The Action Committee   turned itself into a parallel administration  making use of the University administration and issuing orders to University officials.  There was  sporadic stoppage and boycott of lectures. No Department could function steadily. Academic progammes came  to a standstill, said Wiswa. ‘Palamuwa mawbima devenuva upadhiya’ said the slogan.    

Wiswa observed that the  JVP leaders in the University  came  not from Arts faculty, but from science, engineering and medicine. This was  strange  because they  were sure of getting jobs and rising in life,  but these   students, unlike in the past, came from different social backgrounds. The undergrad community of the 80s was entirely different to that of the 50s, they were more militant and aggressive.  Wiswa was a strong critic of the JVP. He got a threat on his life.

Violence, threats and killings were the order of the day inside  Peradeniya  campus. Nobody  was safe inside. Any trivial matter was enough for the students to indulge in violence and they were armed with lethal weapons, said Wiswa.

A Senior Assistant Registrar was shot at the entrance to Senate House at 12 noon by a JVP who came on a push bike. Victim died leaning on a car. Culprit escaped and no attempt was made to apprehend him. .

On another occasion, there were ten bodies in front of the arts theatre.   it was rumored that this was done by the state, which shot them one by one as a message to the JVP. this murderous act  was a part of the reprisals of the state. Those responsible for this terrible event blocked the roads so they could commit the crime with impunity . This act devastated the academic community, said Wiswa.

One activity of these students was to watch the comings and goings of the academics. When Wiswa’s brother in law, a Brigadier in the army  visited Wiswa,  the JVP ‘had the audacity  to come and question me as to why there was an army visit,’  said Wiswa.  When  B.S. Wijeweera, one of his post graduate students had visited Wiswa at home, JVP  thought that Rohana Wijeweera had visited .

 Osmund Jayaratne, a lecturer in Physics said in his autobiography, that he was informed, after he left Peradeniya that the academics living in Mahakanda had put up a notice saying ‘Osmund Jayaratne no longer lives in this housing scheme’. ( continued)

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