Posted on July 22nd, 2022


The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna   was created by Rohana Wijeweera, whose real name was Patabandige Don Nandasiri Wijeweera. He was a member of Sri Lanka’s Communist Party   (Moscow wing) led by S.A. Wickremasinghe and in 1962 was awarded a scholarship to Lumumba University in Moscow, to study medicine. Sunday Times carries biographical information on Wijeweera at https://www.sundaytimes.lk/010408/spec.html (See essay by Kumudini Hettiarachhci and Renuka Sadanandan.)

In Moscow, Wijeweera had apparently changed his loyalties from Moscow to China. When he came on a visit to Sri Lanka in 1964, Russia did not permit him to return. According to Wijeweera, the reason given was his new attachment to Communist China.

Unable to return to Moscow, Wijeweera had joined the Communist Party (Peking wing) in Colombo. Wijeweera was given the task of re-organizing its youth, but instead tried to promote his own ideas. He had apparently tried to oust the Shanmuganathan faction in the party as well.Wijeweera wasexpelled from the Communist Party (Peking wing) in 1966. It is clear that neither Moscow nor Peking wanted him.  He was not valuable to them. Also they did not trust him. Rohana Wijeweera, it is alleged, had been secretly recruited by USA when he was in Moscow.

Starting in 1965, Wijeweera set up a   well organized underground movement, initially labeled simply as’ Viyaparaya’.  The Viyaparaya had become Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna by May 1970. There was a political party called Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna led by KMP Rajaratne In the 1950’s. This party is forgotten today.

Wijeweera visited various parts of the country, to obtain support for his movement. The movement gained support in the rural areas   where there were many alienated youth.  He was able to build a base among the educated Sinhala youth there. The movement took no root in the towns, in the industrial coastal areas around Colombo, nor in the Tamil areas, reported Jayantha Somasunderam.

Wijeweera targeted O and A Level students and unemployed graduates. Only 19 per cent of the membership was poorly educated, concluded Gamini Samaranayake. 79% were from Maha Vidyalaya and 6.4% from Madhya Maya Vidyalaya.

The movement received strong support from University students. The Socialist League of the University of Peradeniya, the  Communist Party ( Moscow) breakaway faction  from the University of Vidyodaya led by M. Wijesekara  and the Communist Party ( Moscow) oriented  faction of the Student society of the University of Vidyalankara, headed by D. I. G. Dharmasekera joined the movement. Arasaratnam observed that there were definitely more University students in the JVP than the mere 156 given In Obeysekera’s sample.

Wijeweera was looking for followers, whom he could trust and who were dedicated. Recruitment of new members was therefore done at a personal level. ‘A’ brought in ‘B’ who had been a classmate and so on. Gathering new members into the fold was referred to as “koku gahanava”, to hook someone in. . The term is revealing. It indicates control.  A person was given a task, probably irregular, which thereafter committed him to the JVP.

Those seeking membership were initially exposed to a discussion on the prevailing political situation in Sri Lanka. Those who passed this’ test’ were then treated to a series of   ‘classes’, which were held in secret. Those who passed this hurdle were then admitted to the fifth lecture which dealt with the JVP strategy. The prospective members were thereafter placed under observation, to see whether they would be loyal to the movement and then admitted into the movement.

These five ‘classes’ were on five different subjects.  The first class dealt with the ‘economic crisis’, the problems facing the peasant farmer and the rural worker. The second was on ‘Independence’ giving a historical background into the ill-effects of colonial rule. The third on ‘Indian expansionism’ focused on how Indian capitalists were trying to spread their tentacles into smaller countries. The fourth was on the failure of the Left movement. The fifth class, which came later, was on ‘the path the Revolution should take’.  Classes were held in the night, in cemeteries for small groups of five or 10.

J. V. P.  Members were classified into two lists.List A consisted of full time members, trustworthy, loyal, and identified only by pseudonyms. There were 500 full-time members in 1970, said Samaranayake.  We had a sense of adventure and never felt the hardship. We would travel without any money for bus fare and walk into a boutique, eat and walk out without paying. “Polu thibba,” recalled a JVP member.

The B List consisted of part-time members, who were employed or studying, and were prepared to devoted their spare time to the activities of the group.These sympathizers were used mainly for propaganda activities, such as poster campaigns. There was also a C List” of those who could be approached for help. JVP established contacts in Buddhist temples. They   used them as hide outs   after the 1971 insurrection.

The strength of the JVP is not known. Gamini Samaranayake said that before 1970 the membership was 2,000, but by 1970 it had increased to about 3,000. 98 % were under 35 years of age. Cyril Ranatunge said the average age of JVP in 1971 was 20 years. The ages ranged from 16 years to 32.

The JVP   organization consisted of a Central committee and Politbureau at the top,  followed by district leaders,  district secretaries, village committees, police committees, grass roots units and full time volunteers. Cadres were organized according to police divisions and police districts.   The grass roots unit was a group of five, in each Police area, the ‘pahe’ committee. The police committees were charged with preparing an armed attack on the local police station. 

The Politbureau was not elected at a party congress. But was probably appointed by Wijeweera. There was even a doubt as to how many it contained. The leaders, when questioned could not agree on the number. Each gave a different figure.

The politbureau met every month in Colombo and the district secretaries would take the decisions back to their district and from there to the cadres. Couriers, the “mallis” who knew the hideouts would take the messages to the cadres. Communication was by code.

But decisions were not made by Central committee or Politbureau. All matters were decided by the Secretarial committee composed of Wijeweera, Sanath, Karunaratna and Loku Athula.Sanath” was Wijesena Vitharana, a teacher from Kalattawa, Karunaratna” was W.T. Karunaratne from the Inland Revenue Department, ‘Loku Athula’ was Nimalsiri Jayasinghe.

The high degree of security consciousness introduced into each of the JVP committees, is significant, said Indradasa Godahewa of Sri Lanka Intelligence, who had been assigned to investigate insurgent activities.  JVP conducted their political affairs in secret. The leaders used aliases to prevent identification.

Communication was by code. The Politburo met every two months in Colombo and the District Secretaries would take back the message to the districts. From the District Secretaries, couriers or “mallis” who knew the hideouts would take the messages to the cadres The JVP was organised on the lines of police divisions and police committees and this was a time when telephones were not freely available.

The ordinary members of the JVP did not know the structure of the organization. They were kept in the dark. It was only after I came to prison, that I came to know, that the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna had a politbureau, one JVPer told the police.

The JVP had four working divisions, propaganda, education, organization and arms, with each division headed by one of the four members of the Secretarial committee.JVP started a propaganda section to conduct meetings all over the country, except North and East. JVP impressed the public through its poster campaigns. The same poster appeared island wide overnight. 

Several ‘farms’ were established, not for farming but for conducting secret classes and storing weapons. The first were in Anuradhapura, Tissamaharama and Kirinda. The Kirinda one was a poultry farm. The first educational camp was held in Akmeemana in 1967 followed by one in Tanamalwila.    Education camps were thereafter held secretly in remote parts of the country. Camps were held in Kurunegala, Anuradhapura   Tissamaharama, Elpitiya, Akmeemana, Tanamalwila, Tambuttegama, Kataragama and Middeniya. Each camp taught about   25 to 100 cadres. Food was obtained from chenas. .

It was ‘roughing out time’. The members had to live off the land getting vegetables and other produce from nearby chena cultivators recalled Sunanda. “Every year, the Movement collected rice and money for a big dansala in Anuradhapura. Some of this rice was kept for the camps.”

The trainees had to be up by 4 a.m. for military-style drills and arms training by navy personnel who had been drafted in. The youth were told that armed struggle was necessary, and they must be prepared to fight. Instructions in the use of arms were done through diagrams.  A rudimentary form of military training was given at the camps, with sketches of guns on the blackboard, pictures of rifles being circulated and rifle drills and karate being taught. The inadequacy of the military training was clearly shown in their attack on the Polonnaruwa police station, said Samaranayake, where 39 JVP were killed and many were wounded compared to few government casualties.

The JVP also started making bombs. hand bomb making had become a cottage industry in Pindenyia, Dedigama and Morontota. Bombs were made using condensed milk tins. These were collected in large quantities and sent to remote areas. JVP cadres were   collecting fused bulbs and jam bottles, tins and similar-sized containers to make bombs and Molotov cocktails. The containers were filled with kerosene or petrol and had a fuse.

Bombs were also being made using cheena chatti, cast iron shells, dynamite and had an elementary mechanism to blow them up.  In September 1970, Rohana Wijeweera ordered the distribution of 1000 bombs and 1000 Molotov cocktails (petrol bombs) to each JVP police division unit.JVP did not have much knowledge of explosives, commented   General Cyril Ranatunge. They tied bomb to middle of the bridge, not the two ends, as trained people will.

Every member was asked to have a gun and 10 cartridges ready. Due to this, there was a spate of robberies of guns and cartridges in 1970. They were removed from houses, taking nothing else.  There was an unprecedented increase in the theft of guns in the country, said Indradasa Godahewa. 

Although the movement was supposed to be secretive and undercover, JVP openly conducted political debates, contested University student council elections, and organized University student strikes.

The JVP o published its own paper, the Janatha Vimukthi, which was widely read. There was a wide range of JVP news sheets and publications like Kamkarupuwath, Janaka Vimukthi,  Ginipupura, Rrathubalaya,  Rathulanka,  Tharuna satana,  Virodaya, Rrathu kekulu,  and a Tamil paper Tholilali Seydi., said Cyril Ranatunge.

 The JVP came into the open, in 1969, through public meetings, the first of which was held at Vidyodaya University. Police responded with widespread arrests amounting to about a thousand JVP activists.. Fearing all out repression, they established protected villages in remote rural areas, as logistical bases.

JVP held 16 public meetings between August 1970 and February 1971.Between July and December 1970, Wijeweera addressed some twenty public rallies in places like Kegalle, Wellawaya, Tangalle, Negombo, Moratuwa and Elpitiya.

Wijeweera was arrested at Hambantota on 12th May 1970. When he was released in July, Wijeweera launched a series of public meetings across the country, going as far north as Anuradhapura. There was a pause after October and then came a massive meeting in Colombo at Hyde Park on 27 February 1971, recalled Jayantha Somasunderam. In March 1971 Wijeweera travelled around the country, visiting Hambantota, Colombo, Kandy, Matale, Dambulla, Polonnaruwa and Batticaloa.

By early 1971, recruitment to the JVP was stopped and members were urged to collect as much money as possible, through whatever means to arm the movement. Several heists were carried out, such as the Okkampitiya bank robbery, the Badulla mail bag robbery, the Ambalangoda bank robbery and the York Street robbery to raise funds. There were robberies also at branches of Peoples Bank, Bank of Ceylon, a CTB depot, a Mail train and the Urubokka sub-post office  They got their money by robbery of rural banks, payrolls of teachers, industrial firms and plantations, said Cyril Ranatunge.

The Movement was now gathering momentum. Each member was instructed to collect his uniform and kit consisting of a gun, box of cartridges, boots, stockings, black trousers, blue shirt with pockets, an army belt, black running shorts, black vest, steel helmet, knife, torch, Lighter, haversack, first aid box, and canvas cloth.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



Copyright © 2023 LankaWeb.com. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress