Posted on July 26th, 2022


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.


Government of Sri Lanka eventually defeated the JVP. Intelligence cells set up in police stations  had good penetration and advance information was received on JVP activities. The government set up the Operation Combine, the Joint Operations of the armed forces (“Ops Combine”) . In  July 1989 Ops Combine underwent certain changes. The Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) was given specific tasks and a new intelligence service unit was formed. One of the concepts of the “Ops Combine” was the capture of special targets secretly. 

In 1988 a large section of the elite was willing to bend over backwards to accommodate the JVP, but in 1989 JVP’s excesses had upset them. The Government was therefore able to obtain help from a wide spectrum of society including the opposition parties and particularly the Left in crushing the JVP. The Government was thus able to deploy methods from the crudest to the highly sophisticated.  They used persons who knew to handle different groups of people accordingly, said Rajan Hoole.

In December 1987 the army  had started to break through JVP , and gain control of  Embilipitiya area. Embilipitiya area was  cleared  in 1988. This was not easy,  there were  vast jungle tracts. They found an underground armory there, 9 feet long. A JVP   member had led army to a hideout at Kakkangodella on Embilipitiya Middeniya road. Ruhuna ranahanda” had been issued from there.  JVPers also led the authorities to  another hideout at Bando Kokkayaya near Panamure. Sophisticated radio equipment was discovered in a concrete bunker near a  latrine.

By 1989 JVP Colombo had been successfully infiltrated  Intelligence  knew  a least some JVP  centers, such as one in Ratmalana. Intelligence  had even worked their way into   the Ratmalana outfit.  State Intelligence  had videoed the entire procession  at the Thrimavithane funeral. Informants with inside knowledge of the JVP were  brought in, given lists of names, shown the video and told to identify the people as faces appeared on the screen.

The government  attitude changed in 1989. The government decided not to give in. during the General strike in June 1989. Army   drove the buses and ensured there was public transport. And navy took charge of unloading food ships in port.

Around June 1989, media personnel resigned or kept away from work. Security forces took over the work and the media functioned. Newscasters were navy men.   When Thevis Guruge, head of SLBC was assassinated in 1989  for ignoring the threats of the JVP,  security forces took charge of the radio and television Stations . The news was read by armed service personnel.  

The  government under President Premadasa responded militarily in 1989. The army and police started shooting suspected JVPers and their families and burning their houses. In Kandy road barriers were put up at night time,   in places like Lewella  in Kandy. 

At mid-year,  1989 the Government began a massive crackdown on the JVP. It detained several thousand JVP suspects. By the end of the year, security forces had captured or killed much of the JVP’s top leadership. Anti JVP operations of government   after July 1989 were effective and sophisticated. Impact felt only after August 1989.  Most cadres  were caught   through information given by JVP activists in custody.

Intially there were five intelligence agencies working on JVP .They were National Intelligence Bureau, Counter Subversive Unit, Colombo Detective Bureau,  Military Intelligence,  and Operations Combine . They had not been able to function effectively because there were political barriers,   bureaucratic intervention, and operation  difficulties, said Gunaratna.

Secretary Defence, Joint Operations Command and the army  could give orders for Ops Combine. Army now asked for and obtained full  control of Ops Combine .   Ops combines was restructured. It was put under a single authority,  troops better deployed , a new intelligence unit set up and Rapid Deployment Force was given specialist tasks.  Ops combine was to capture special targets covertly. Ops combine  in Colombo was given a lot of security forces.

The operations were  carried out by platoon commanders and corporal s,  specially trained to work in small numbers Army detachments were sent into jungles and villages throughout Sri Lanka . Troops moved light, often out of tents in mini groups. Most of the time they were out on operations moved by foot, keeping enemy under pressure. They divided into three, guard group to guard camp,  reinforcement group, and deep penetrating group. JVP  was now deterred from using small number attacking patrols,  forces also operated in small  numbers

Troops checked vehicles day and night. There were cordon and search operations as well. Sudden road blocks were  set up,  every time at  a different  place . Troops  were positioned there and also undercover . Troops in civil  were also at bus stand, tea boutiques and eating houses. Trailing suspicious persons, keeping watch on houses.  They also engaged in ambushes, these were done mostly at night after 10 pm and would last till early hours of dawn.  Persons were picked up late in night or early morning. A lot of work was also done by police.

Operations teams isolated themselves from the rest and kept mum about their work. Army used code words and were vigilant about infiltration.   Army watched soldiers when they went on leave.

 The teams were also asked to obtain public support. To encourage information from public, ask them identify infiltrators  and to indicate land mines. The teams were told that  they should go out and patrol impressively with canopy removed from the truck. They should give the  public confidence.

From August 1989 reprisal killings against JVP became common. Bodies began to appear on road daily. 16 decapitated heads were placed around the pond in University of Peradeniya . JVP had killed three army families in Anuradhapura . In relation, decapitated heads appeared on stakes, all over Anuradhapura district. The  public now realized that state was getting the upper hand.

War against the JVP was a hit-job war. It was not superior weapons or training or numerical strength, it was accurate information and element of surprise. It was not difficult to kill off the JVP , observed Chandraprema.

A new element had   also come in. There was a new urban guerilla movement against the JVP  Private armed groups emerged to counter JVP terrorism. JVP were killed by private vigilante groups,  such as  Black Panthers, Yellow Scorpions and the Peoples Revolutionary Red Army, PRRA.

These persons  arrived at the most unexpected  times, and killed with cold blooded ruthlessness. They had accurate inside information, and had probably heavy infiltrated the   JVP. There was a  spate of killings of JVP .

When JVP issued death  threats,   these vigilante groups issued counter threats. Posters appeared which said ape ekata thope dolahak.”

The ‘Deshapremi Sinhala tharuna Peramuna’ circulated a letter to JVP.  This letter said  Dear father/ mother/ sister, your son, / brother/ husband has taken the lives of mothers like you, also sisters and innocent children.  They have killed the family members of heroic Sinhala soldiers who fought the Tamil tigers to protect the motherland.  Is it not justified  to put you also to death? Be  ready to die. May you attain Nirvana. Sgd Patriotic Youth Front. ( abridged )

Estates  employed private defence groups known as Green Tigers.  JVP had killed 17 estate superintendants. Lawyers who took up the causes of JVPers were also killed by these vigilantes. It was not possible for the security forces to  protect all threatened persons, so they encouraged the creation of these vigilance groups and provided them with shot guns.

By October, 1989  it became clear that although the JVP was still in a position to organize strikes and hit out at key state installations, its capacity to seize  state power had weakened considerably. It was running out of weapons and manpower. The fact that the JVP had been unable to kill more than 20 people from the ceasefire on 27th to the end of September, was an indication of their limited  strength. Most of the JVP cadres were liquidated in  October 1989.  The moment  an arrest was made the  victim was blindfolded  . Police did not give the bodies back.   

Death squads and Joint Operations did not hesitate to take away any youths from their homes and no complaint was accepted by the police or army posts regarding those youths. The authorities kept quiet about the abductions and investigations were closed after the abductions took place.  Strict censorship of the mass-media prevented any coverage of events. On the whole, the result was terror and near-anarchy in the country. 

From August 1989 onwards, reprisal killings against the JVP became a regular feature. Bodies began to appear on road sides. Bullet riddled and burnt bodies were a common sight in rivers, wells, pits and by the road sides. That was the only evidence about how many youths were abducted per night.

 Analysts had had much to say about the state operation against the JVP.  Certain analysts were more upset about the state killings than the JVP killings. This period, according to observers was as bad as the JVP offensive. Death squads were dominant and the government allowed them to function.

There seemed to be no difference between State armed forces and secret death squads. Both had only two objectives: eliminating subversives and injecting as much fear in the public mind as possible. As a result of this double violence the highest number of killings in Sri Lanka took place in August 1989.   The target list of the JVP had also expanded at this time.

There was the issue of the  abduction and disappearance of 31 students of Embilipitiya.  In 1994 Ravaya was told where the grave was, at Suriyakanda, Rakwana.  Information as a student of Moratuwa University employed as a technical officer in a private engineering company. They were going to build a road and this was going to cover the grave forever. The grave was in Sinharaja forest, there had been an artillery camp there and the abducted from neighboring areas were brought there and killed. And buried there. He gave a detailed map of the graves. They dug there and found remains of the bodies.

A section of the JVP cadres made use of the ceasefire declared by the government over a period of three weeks and surrendered to the armed forces. The government announced that over 7,200 were under detention for involvement with the JVP.

In October 1989, Raja Mahattaya, the Colombo district division number two leader, was arrested. From information the army received from Raja Mahattaya and from others, they were able to trace D M Ananda to the Ratnapura area. His arrest was a major breakthrough for the government.

D.M.Ananda was the functionary number 1 in the JVP . He was also the political cum military leader of the Colombo/Sabaragamuwa area, the leader of the bhikkhu, women’s and workers’ fronts and the leader of the Jathika Kmart Satan Madyathanaya. These  made him the single most powerful person in the organization.”

Ananda was held in the Mattegoda army camp, where he divulged that Araliya Estate in Galaha was the group’s headquarters in the region. A special operations team of the army arrested Piyadasa Ranasinghe and H B Herat in Galaha. They were JVP leaders who met Rohana Wijeweera frequently.

Under interrogation, they told army investigators the whereabouts of Wijeweera and a few hours later Wijeweera was arrested at Ulapane, Kandy, at the estate bungalow where he lived, masquerading as a planter under the name of Attanayake. The next day, Upatissa Gamananayake, who was the General Secretary of the JVP, was also captured. He was captured in Panadura, where he was running a small shop under the pseudonym of Dias.

By November  1989 Rohana Wijeweera  and  12 of  the 13 JVP Politbureau members  were arrested.  The only  Politbureau member to survive was Somawansa Amarasinghe who had fled the country as soon as the first arrest took place.

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