Posted on September 23rd, 2020


Wiswa Warnapala declared that violence was first injected into the politics of Sri Lanka by the JVP. JVP was a violent murderous movement from the very beginning. They were guilty of gruesome killings.

Despite JVP ‘s attempts to identify itself with Fidel Castro and Ché Guevara,  JVP had more in common with the Peruvian Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), and Kampuchea’s Khmer Rouge, said Tisaranee Gunasekera. Its use of lethal violence is very similar to Shining Path. Like the Khmer Rouge it eliminated anyone who opposed them. JVP killed their accomplices so as not to leave any evidence. 

JVP indulged in political violence in order to destablise the state, said Wiswa Warnapala. The only threat to state authority which exceeded the JVP insurrection of 1971 is the JVP resurgence of 1987–89, observed analysts. The LTTE never threatened the state the way JVP did. JVP wished to break the will of the state and make it obey their demands. JVP had compiled information regarding vital institutions which affected the country security and economy, said Indradasa. 

Gamini Samaranayake made special mention of the JVP controlled Inter-University Student Federation, IUSF. This name is only a cover, he said. The IUSF is a ‘terrorist movement’.  Anybody who wants to study political violence and terrorism in Sri Lanka   must look at the IUSF    as well, he said. 

 One result of the JVP violence was that it changed the attitude of the army. Prior to 1971 Sri Lanka army was a small force. After the 1971 insurgency the government saw the need for a larger army. They increased the officer cadet cadre, they took in 30 trainees of which 17 graduated. The training which was 18 months was reduced to one year. Since JVP activity was in the jungle, special jungle training was given at Lahugala, said Kamal Gunaratne.

After the defeat of 1971 the JVP did not fade away, it simply got ready for the 1987 insurgency. JVP’s plans for the next insurgency was known to the authorities from July 1983, said Gunaratne.

Osmund   Jayaratne recalled that after the 1971 uprising ended, from time to time in different areas threatening notes were passed to shops and boutiques and anonymous telephone calls were given to them. Even bus drivers were threatened. As a result in several areas there were days when all shops and boutiques put up their shutters through fear and normal buses did not ply these routes.     .

Then in 1987 JVP started its second insurgency. JVP planned to get ‘pockets of resistance’ all over the country set up between July and August 1987 and use this as basis for war against the government.

The JVP provided a three year period of terror from 1987-1989. It was a relentless, daily round of killings, sabotage and strikes organized by the JVP and of counter-terror by Security forces. This period saw a huge number of ambushes, kidnapping, torture and assassinations.

In 1987 an estimated 40,000 died, mostly men, leaving women and children, said Nira Wickremasinghe. In January    1988 the JVP terror campaign was in full swing. By November 1988, Sri Lanka experienced near total anarchy. This continued at an increased level and the country witnessed unprecedented violence in 1989.

The peak was in 1989 when the JVP was effectively running a parallel government with a military power and, to some extent, popular support. The entire country experienced a terrible wave of violence and collapse of law and order in 1989, said Wiswa Warnapala. 

Individuals or organizations were warned or intimidated with messages dropped in the night to homes or posters or graffiti that appeared over night. Those that did not cooperate were brutally killed, with the repercussions extended to their family members. Executions were mostly carried out at night with armed groups coming to the homes of the victims and carrying them away to be tortured, executed and left as an example.

Sagarika Gomes was killed because she read the Rupavahini news when the JVP had forbidden it and many of the newscasters refused to present the evening news. She was kidnapped from her home on September 13 1989, by a group of armed men. She was then taken to the beach, raped and killed.

DJV murdered probably thousands of people and crippled the country with violently-enforced general strikes for two years said the media. Killings took place in both urban and rural areas. JVP killed 30 politicians, 23 academics, one clergy, two government officials, 89 civilians and 61service personnel, from July 1987 to January 1990. DJV killed more than seventy (70) members of parliament between July and November 1989. . In most cases the funerals of these victims were not allowed by the DJV, traditional final rights were not allowed and the caskets were to be carried below knee level as a mark of disrespect, concluded the media.

After Wijeweera and Gamanayake were killed Saman Piyasiri Fernando, head of DJV and Lalith Wijeratne, (Aravinda) had taken over leadership of JVP. There was an immediate escalation of violence.  UNP supporters were killed in Tangalle, Ahangama, Poddala, Ambalangoda Hikkaduwa, Akuressa and Baddegama. This violence fizzled out when Saman and Lalith were arrested.

JVP also committed murders for personal reasons and robberies for personal gain, added Chandraprema. They had long lists of persons to be eliminated. Prof  Patuwatavithana,  when Chairman of Plywood Corporation   had  refused to reinstate four officers and nine employees of Kosgama Complex   who had been dismissed for fraud. He was shot and killed. One JVPer said that after the 1971 insurgency he had carried out several murders of alleged informants, political opponents and vigilantes on his way from Kegalle to Wilpattu.

JVP had a good spy network which they used to extort money. In 1989 JVP came to home of garments exporter Ramya Weerakoon and demanded money. Come out you and your daughters, api deshapremi jatika sahodarayo, they said.  They mentioned a bank account to which Ramya had received a remittance for a shipment sent out earlier.   

 She said the payment was for raw material for the new shipment. We don’t care the sahodarayo said. Our leaders have ordered us to take Rs 50,000 from you. We will come here tomorrow. Have the money ready. The next day they came at 9.30 pm and took the money away. 

Up to 1987, no weapons were available for the JVP to train the youths, said analysts.  Collection of weapons started in early 1987    and weapons training began in mid 1987. The instructors were deserters from the army.

Weapons were purchased for Rs. 50,000 from Nimrods. Galkatas manufacture increased in Weeraketiya, Beliatte and Middeniya in 1987,  but this was not sufficient. Guns were got after breaking into houses Island wide. There was a set pattern in doing this. JVP collected pistols and shotguns from people who had gun licenses from the Government. They only took the guns and ammunition, nothing else.

A spate of gun thefts were reported from Hakmana, Deniyaya, Nochchiyagama, and Balangoda in 1987. There were reports in May 1987 that more and more youths were collecting such weapons from houses in the south. 600 weapons, mostly shot guns were taken by JVP in July 1987. An ASP reported that his pistol and ammunition had been   stolen from his car in May 1987. 24 shot guns were taken from   villagers in Kohombana area in August 1988. 

There was also increasing theft of firearms from police stations and military stations.  JVP took guns and ammunition from Bentota and Kurunegala police stations and from Kotelawala Defence Academy, Panagoda army camp and Modera army     camp.

JVP  also had a quantity of quick firing automatic rifles better than what the IPKF had. Peradeniya undergrads were  armed with lethal weapons, observed Wiswa. Where did they get these guns Peradeniya academics asked. The frequent use of landmines by the JVP indicated that JVP was receiving regular supplies of explosives from overseas, said Intelligence. The mystery surrounding the sources of arms supply to the JVP has not been resolved, said analysts.

In 1987, the JVP moved weapons to strategic locations in Colombo and other southern spots. JVP distributed arms to its loyalists in the villages as well. On the day of the signing of the Indo-Lankan accord, Upatissa Gamanayake, General Secretary, came to the safe house in Hokandara, where a large haul of weapons was in place. He met JVP activists and briefed them on the course of action to be taken. They were told to take positions in Colombo, Kaduwela, Welikada, Battaramulla Homagama and Maharagama. JVP was getting ready to carry out violence.

There are two specific instances of JVP violence which need special mention. First, the plan to assassinate Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, second the attack on the Dalada Maligawa.

Sirimavo Bandaranaike.

JVP was always against Sirimavo and out to kill her. Somawansa Amarasinghe was instructed to kill or abduct Sirima, said Gunaratna.  The interview data from JVP cadres said that the instruction was to abduct or kill Sirima. That cannot be correct. What can JVP do with the abducted Sirimavo? The instruction would have been to abduct and kill, that is, take away and kill where no one could see. Kamal Gunaratne also confirms that the JVP was planning to assassinate Sirimavo in 1971.

 The 1971 attack on Sirimavo was planned. Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike would be taken into custody from her Rosmead Place residence. The attack would be carried out by the JVP cadres in University of Sri Jayewardenepura. The attackers were given a plan of Rosmead Place, additional supply of ammunition was kept at Ritz cinema.  At the same time, the army cantonment at Panagoda would be attacked.  Navy personnel at Ragama and Air force personnel at Katunayake were to be immobilized by introducing a purgative to their food. 

This plan failed. The attackers were arrested by the police at Vihara Maha Devi park, said Kamal Gunaratne. JVP  tried to have another go at Sirimavo, in the 1987 insurgency. The JVP attacked the SLFP inaugural rally at Hingurakgoda in 1988 and Mrs. Bandaranaike barely escaped death.

Attack on Dalada Maligawa.

JVP attacked the Dalada Maligawa, Kandy on 8 February 1989. Eyewitness accounts, including a former JVP member who took part in the attack, describe the incident in detail. Former JVP member, Adhikari alias Kosala, had  participated in the attack. A fully-fledged member, Adhikari had received arms training, and participated in several operations on behalf of the party, including the 1987 Pallekelle Army camp attack, 1987 Bogambara prison attack and Digana bank heist.

According to Adhikari, the first meeting to plan the attack was held at the house of a JVP co-ordinator named Sunanda, in Kandy. In that meeting, Sunanda explained the motivation behind the attack.  He said that if they stole the Tooth Relic, which had been residing in the country for at least 1,700 years, would have made the people to rise up against the government which couldn’t even protect the sacred property.

Next week, another meeting was held at the same place, with the presence of D.M. Ananda alias Kalu Ajith, the JVP leader of Western and Sabaragamuwa provinces, and Somawansa Amarasinghe alias Sanath, In that meeting, Adhikari proposed a place in Medamahanuwara, to hide the relic after getting hold of it. He was asked to be present near the Queen’s Hotel, Kandy around 2.00 – 2.30 pm  the next day.

There Sarath, one of his colleagues in Digana bank heist,  introduced him to 4 boys and 2 girls. The girls, dressed in white lama saris were carrying two trays filled with flowers. Adhikari’s task was to bring the group to the entrance to the Maligawa. There he would meet two gentlemen, who would be carrying pens attached to their pockets. After that he was to proceed to  Kundasale where he would  receive the casket which contained the tooth relic.

But the plan went wrong. The two girls had gone past the checkpoint near the entrance, without being properly searched, and waited for the others to follow. A guard had become suspicious and had come forward towards the girls. The other members of the group  then arrived. They had snatched the guns hidden inside the flowers on the tray; and shot at the guards. Guards had returned fire. The following firefight left at least two attackers dead.

During the 2001 Parliamentary election,  JVP denied that the JVP was involved in the attack. The politburo of the party issued a statement denying that the attack ever took place. These statements were rejected by the Diyawadana Nilame and Mahanayake theros of Malwatte and Asgiriya chapters .Diyawadana Nilame said “There was blood-letting at the Sri Dalada Maligawa and five persons were killed in the JVP attack”.


The police stations and police officers were  a permanent target of the JVP , both in 1971 and 1987. They were an easy target. The police were not  trained in protecting themselves or detecting enemy activity. Kamal Gunaratne commented on the planning that would have gone into a simultaneous attack on 92 police stations  in 1971.

JVP  killed police in  1971 and then again in 1987. JVP killed many policemen in cold blood. A reserve constable was killed while drinking tea  at a Kegalle hotel.  Police on duty at Hingurakgoda town were  killed with knives.   At Pitakotte two constables were   stabbed.  Policeman on guard duty at CSU unit  at Uduwella , Galle was  shot dead. A reserve police constable was beheaded in Matara .

Police sergeant  Wijesooriya was  shot and killed in Hungama in 1987. In June 1988 JVP  stabbed policeman at  Minneriya. A policeman was shot and killed in Alawwa in 1988. JVP  also shot the administrative officer coordinating  the police HQ. He was on his way to church. At Kudagammana  in June 1988,JVP   fired at police patrol  and killed one PC. In 1989 police sergeant  was shot dead in Middeniya,   and one   PC was  killed in landmine blast in Embilipitiya. .

JVP also attacked police stations. The police stations attacked n 1988 and 1989, included, Gothatuwa, Moratumulla, Kirulapona, Mattakkuliya, Ragama , Bambalapitiya, Pitigala, Moratuwa.   In July 1988 fifty JVPers attacked Madulsima police station and took away a large  haul of arms. Padukka police station was  attacked in 1988  and weapons removed. Bentota police  station was raided  in 1989 . JVP had attacked Kahawatte police station and taken away much ammunition, also police uniforms, typewriters, gun powder, caps with insignia, explosives’. 

JVP   attacked police patrols and even resorted to killing unarmed constables on beat duty and traffic duty. JVP assassinated several servicemen and policemen in their homes or while on leave or off duty when they could not defend themselves. Director CID and Director, Counter subversive Drive were gunned down close to their homes while on their way to work.

Marxist parties.

The JVP always maintained that it was the only genuine Marxist-Leninist revolutionary movement in Sri Lanka.  JVP tried to make this a reality by killing all other  Marxists. Wijeweera   wanted leaders of all leftist parties destroyed before the revolution, reported Gunaratna.

The JVP is the only ‘Left’ party in Sri Lanka which  has  engaged in killing fellow Leftists. The  older Marxist parties in Sri Lanka did not kill each other, though they had deep  differences with each other. This indicates that JVP was not a true Leftist party at all, but a killer  organization .

Hundreds of leftist leaders, activists, sympathizers were killed in1988-89, said Chandraprema. PD Wimalasena, veteran  LSSP trade union activist and manager of Star Press was  shot inside the Press in May 1989.  In 1988  LW Panditha, Communist Party trade union stalwart  was killed in Dematagoda.  Gamini Medagedara , Communist Party , was  killed at Polonnaruwa .

KAD Saddhatissa,  a retired school principal living in Akuressa and supporter of Communist party  , was killed while he was sick and in bed. His son was also killed. JVP then  ordered the  perturbed villagers not to put up white flags. No flags went up. Six members of a NLSSP family were  killed at Pujapitya in Katugastota, in  1989.

JVP’s main target was not the old left but the so called ‘new left’ because only  they could have  functioned as  an alternative to the JVP. JVP launched a massive campaign against leftist activists who were seen to be rivals of JVP . JVP   shot and  killed a lot of student leftist leaders, such as Yapa Bandara of the University of Kelaniya.

The killing of Daya Pathirana signalled the beginning of a concerted campaign aimed at exterminating  all those leftists who were competitors, said Tisaranee Gunasekera. Daya Pathirana, was  the leader of the Independent Students Union (ISU) of the University of Colombo. He and the ISU led by him was the sole obstruction to the JVP’s domination of the university students’ movement. Taking over the universities was  vital. The Inter-University Students Federation (IUSF)  had an important role to play.  There were gang wars between ISU and Deshiya Sisya Viyaparaya of the JVP .

The Pathirana killing was a targeted assassination.  JVP did not have good hit squads at the time, and had developed links with the underworld for the purpose.  Pathirana was killed by hired killers from Piliyandala underworld.

 Pathirana, along with a colleague Somasiri, was abducted on 15th December 1986 and taken to a lonely spot off the Bolgoda Lake in Piliyandala. The JVP abductors then began to torture him and Somasiri, demanding information about other students and left activists. The intervention of a group of pilgrims – it was the full moon poya day – saved the life of Somasiri. Pathirana succumbed to his wounds.


SLFP thought JVP was going to support them in  1988 for the forthcoming election 247. SLFP was mistaken. JVP was anti SLFP. The intensity of JVP violence reached its peak after the announcement of Sirimavo as presidential candidate in 1988, said Wiswa Warnapala. 

There was a spate of killings of SLFP candidates between Presidential election   (1988) and Parliamentary elections (1989).  In 1988, there was a bomb attack on SLFP  rally at Matara  and another at the SLFP meeting at Badulla.  In 1989 SLFP Parliamentary candidates were  killed in droves and supporters too. SLFP member  for Dambagalla was shot dead in June 1988. JVP planned to take SLFP away from Bandaranaikes.  JVP liquidated thousands of  SLFP supporters. Most had a personal allegiance to Bandaranaikes.

JVP  was also anti-UNP. JVP assassinated UNP  activists.  UNP Chairman was  attacked in December 1987.  UNP branch meeting at Kotahena attacked in 1988. Senkadagala UNP office was bombed and six persons died.

 UNP officials were killed in Colonne, Embilipitiya, Suriyawansa, Panamure,  Balangoda and Kuttigala.  UNP Provincial councilor was  killed  in his house at Wanathamulla in 1989. At Pitipana, UNP candidate for PC elections, was killed together with wife,, daughter ,  supporters and home guards. A UNP supporter was taken away at midnight,  tied to a tree, tortured, and killed brutally, there were many such instances, said Evans Cooray.

JVP attempted to disrupt the Presidential election of 1988  and Parliamentary election of 1989. The JVP  killed voters  and candidates.   JVP declared an unofficial curfew and people had to remain indoors. When they went electioneering down south, they found electricity supply cut off, Kalutara streets deserted,  shops closed. Same at Alutgama and Galle, recalled Evans Cooray, who accompanied Premadasa on his election campaign. Even the friend where they ate was scared to host us,  he said.

During the 1988 election, JVP atrocities in south were increasing. People kept away from election rallies.    Hand bombs were exploding at the site of the meetings. At one meeting, probably Dodanduwa,  the audience was just one old female betel seller. She came near the stage and leaned against it listening. She was killed the next day, said Cooray.

However, the UNP knew to outwit the JVP .At Dodanduwa meeting Premadasa spoke  through loudspeakers and the people listened from behind closed doors. He did so at other meetings as  well. He spoke for hours to empty seats, knowing that they were listening to him behind closed doors, said Cooray.

How was the JVP  able to  exercise such power  when  the country had strong elected governments.   The answer is,  because the heads of  these governments pandered to the JVP  and did not allow the government or  armed  forces to crush  JVP .

When  Wijeweera  was arrested  in 1970 Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike  released him. Wijeweera thereafter  held a dozen spectacular, well attended     rallies all over the island  in August-October 1970.

JR Jayewardene (1977-1989) released JVPers  held in prison in three bouts.  65 university students were released by August 5, 1987. In October 1988 government had released fifty detainees as a good will measure .

The biggest release was in  March 1989,  About 1500 JVP detainees from Boossa and Moratuwa were released and the proscription against JVP was lifted. By April 1989  JVP was   a major force.  They had posters on all the walls possible and was starting hartals, said Gunaratna.

In November  1988 JR invited JVP for talks.  Gunaratna says JR had offered to dissolve Parliament and have an interim government if JVP stopped violence. In 1989  he invited the JVP  to the All Party Conference. JVP ignored both requests.

JVP knew it had the support of JR and knew when to use it.  When  the police intervened at the  Tissamaharama  JVP mass rally in 1978  JVP complained to JR and Prime Minister.   Shantha Bandara, was  captured  in 1988 but was released on intervention of JR.  JVP  had threatened to retaliate if Shantha Bandara was executed.  There was support of another sort too from the top..   Instead of using pepper gas, plastic bullets and other means of riot control, JR’s government used  live ammunition for the  school demonstrations  organized by the JVP .

JE had repeatedly told the forces  that Wijeweera was in Sinharaja and kept telling the army to search Sinharaja. Wijeweera was on an estate. Chandraprema commented that the JVP leadership did not go into the jungles.  If Wijeweera  had been in  the jungles he would never have got caught, JVP had watch posts on top of trees.

Ranasinghe Premadasa (1989-1993)  who succeeded JR as President was also supportive of the JVP . He had a secret meeting with JVP leaders on 1 August 1989. Premadasa asked JVP to come for talks, several times. Others opposed this.  One said it was futile to  release JVP and ask them to join democratic stream, their activities must be met with force. Premadasa gave JVP venues to address  meetings,  but those  who objected to JVP went and booked them beforehand. Clearly, the  administration was getting fed up with JVP .

While the President of Sri Lanka  danced attendance on the JVP , the army and police  had stayed alert. The security establishment knew all along what the JVP was  doing, but their hands were tied.

In the period 1983-1987    state Intelligence knew  that JVP  cells were being built at village level.  UNP government was told , it took no action , but the  police crackdown continued, said Gunaratna.  The Police also suspected  that an attack was being planned but the authorities and the Parliamentarianshad ignored the information given to them.

Government knew in 1986  from an arrested JVPer that there were plans to capture power through armed struggle,  also that there was  a secret programme of recruitment. But government took no action.   In 1987,   arrests were made after the after     Galgamuwa and Maradankadawala bank robberies and Kalebokka estate pay roll and this provided further concrete information on JVP.  Lastly, Ministry  of Defence was given a report in late 1988  predicting the creation  of an insurgent movement.

By this time, that is 1988, the villagers were fed up of the JVP, said Chandraprema.  In Meetiyagoda,   when the JVP  had arrived to kill a villager ,the  villagers had beaten to death the two hit men and arrested a third. But JVP issued death  threats and the village youth responsible for the killing,  had panicked and run away.

By August 1989  JVP started losing popularity., said Gunaratna. When President Premadasa held his first mobile ministry on November2, 1989, JVP could not prevent people from attending it, thousands turned up.

Finally, the armed forces moved in and the insurgency was crushed in late 1989 and early 1990, with almost the entire leadership being executed.But when they were caught the JVP  leadership had wanted to meet the President.[1]  (Continued)

[1] CA Chandraprema sri lanka the years of terror. P  308

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