Posted on July 30th, 2022


One of the tasks assigned to the JVP in 1987-89 was to    weaken the Sri Lanka army and divert military attention away from the Eelam war. The first targets of the JVP in 1987 were, therefore, armed forces and police.

JVP targeted the armed services and the police in both insurgencies. JVP infiltration of armed service in 1987-89 was more successful than in 1971 observed Chandraprema. From 1984 onwards JVP had infiltrated the armed forces.

Eventually JVP’s DJV had a registry with names of over 700 service personnel from police, army, navy and air force who held membership in JVP or supported it. The registry also showed how to contact them. 

JVP successfully infiltrated the lower rungs of the police and armed services. Three policemen attached to Kandana and Middeniya police     stations were JVP activists. A pro JVP  police officer had infiltrated the military police of the army. JVP also had a military officer in the Ops Combine   audio visual unit. He had given JVP the names and addresses of officers engaged in anti JVP operations. At Athurugiriya a soldier killed tenother soldiers in the night.

Infiltrating the army was not difficult as persons were recruited to army and police without full screening in 1984, said Godahewa. But the army soon realized that its lower rungs had been infiltrated. There were acts of indiscipline and appropriation of arms. The army suspended its training of one batch of recruits suspecting that they were JVPers. And the batch recruited in 1986 to the army was not sent for training until they were fully screened.

There was  another benefit from the infiltration. JVP infiltration helped to retard army attacks on the JVP. There was   at least a degree of hesitation, said Rohan Gunaratna. The government found that the army was not that eager to go after the JVP in March- April 1987 said Chandraprema. 

JVP asked the security forces to desert and join JVP.    The JVP was able to get some service men to desert, mainly from the lower and middle grades. There were over 150 desertions, between 1984-1987   and there were     250 desertions from 1987 onwards, said Chandraprema.  They were asked to bring a weapon with them but   most of the desertions took place without weapons.

These deserters were useful to the JVP .The JVP  military campaign in the south was started by three deserters from the army.  Another deserter, a ‘trained ex army man,’ led the operation at Pallekelle. Army deserters had trained JVP in three locations in Kandy district.

However, JVP was unable to infiltrate the armed forces in the number needed to generate large scale desertions.  In late June 1989 the JVP repeated its call to the armed forces to defect from the State by July 29, 1989, but large-scale desertions did not happen.

JVP had also hoped for a large scale mutiny of army. JVP were waiting for forces to mutiny and come to their side but this did not happen, though JVP waited a long time, said Chandraprema. JVP  even approached those who were suspended from the army.  

JVP  humiliated the armed services. In October 1988 an army detachment was attacked with stones by demonstrating school children in Ambalantota. Family members of security forces were made to walk at the head of JVP demonstrations, so that they would be the first to be killed if the force opened fire.

An Increasing number of youth were reported,   when arrested, in 1987, to have in their possession detailed maps of army camps, important government institutions, and residences of government politicians. One youth had several maps of the Panagoda army camp. It was obvious that JVP   was planning large scale strike against the state, noted Chandraprema.

Saman Piyasiri, head of the DJV, had plans of vital military installations, photographs and documents, in his house when he was taken into custody.  The photos included installation of the military police headquarters Sri Lanka.

JVP launched their attacks on military establishments at the height of the Eelam wars. The JVPs armed wing, the  Deshapremi Janatha Vyapaaraya had planned to attack 10 army camps simultaneously in April 15 1987 and seize weapons.

On 15 April 1987, JVP attacked the Pallekele Army Camp in Kandy. Lead by a former soldier, under the directions of Shantha Bandara, JVP successfully raided Pallekelle and took off with firearms and ammunition. JVP   seized 12 Type 56 assault rifles, seven sub-machine guns and ammunition.  The daring and ingenuity of the Pallekelle raid in early hours of New Year day showed the imprint of a well organized movement, said Godahewa. 

When the 1987 Vadamarachchi campaign was turning out well, three days after the Indian ‘parippu’ drop, JVP launched two armed attacks on the Katunayake air force base and Kotelawala Defence Academy,  removing a valuable haul of weapons from each.  They had support inside the Air force base    and were able to take away eleven T56 and 15 submachine guns.

In Oct 1987 JVP  attacked Kallar army camp in Trincomalee and  after a   20 minute gun battle, over ran the camp and took away a huge amount of  weapons, six T56, three LMG spare barrels,  This was the JVP ‘s Largest haul of weapons to date. The Kallar army camp was near Mahindapura in Serunuwara in the Kantalai police division.

In Jan 1988 JVP attacked the army training camp at Kumbukke in Horana. In April 1988 there was a second attack on Katunayake Air Base and JVP took away weapons and ammunition. In November 1988 JVP attacked the Pannala National Air Force training camp .The arms haul from Pannala was bigger than those from Kallar. At Pannala JVP was helped by an air force deserter.   There was also an unsuccessful attack on Panagoda army camp.

In the period 1987-1989, soldiers were killed not only by the LTTE but also by the JVP. JVP targeted and   killed members of the armed forces. In 1988, a soldier of Gemunu watch was beheaded when he was on leave at Weeraketiya. In 1989 two soldiers were knifed at Tyre Corporation,  two NIB officers were gunned down in Timbirigasyaya  and a soldier who came to celebrate New Year at Navagamuwa was killed on his way to see an Avurudu play and his severed head displayed. Many STF officers were killed when they came home on visit or on sick leave.

In 1988 JVP ambushed an army commando unit sent out on to track down JVP killers at Kirula in Hungama area. Three commandos died. In April 1989, there was a spate of landmine blasts in Embilipitiya, four soldiers were killed. There were    landmines in Hungama, Tissamaharama, Angunokolapelssa, Kamburupitiya, Urubokka, and Middeniya as well. Land mine in Medirigiriya killed four police officers.

JVP specially targeted the Counter Subversive Unit (CSU) set up to hunt them down. CSD operatives were handpicked as targets, their homes were burned and loved ones killed.  In 1987 PC Sapukotana of Matara police was stabbed and killed. This was the beginning of a series of attacks on CSU operatives, said Gunaratna.   Peliyagoda CSU sub inspector Wickremasinghe was   killed as he was driving. In December 1987 JVP shot dead the Director of the CSU, Terrence Perera. CSU  did not develop after his death.

JVP  activated land mines against army in 1989, in Aug 1989 6 soldiers lost  their lives due to a land mine explosion in Middeniya. Six army died in land mine blast at Wahacotte Matale district. 1989.

DJV   used the army. Soldiers who went on leave were used to attack security force installations.  Some were asked to desert and bring a weapon with them. DJV also roped in  those who were  suspended from the army.  The three who started the JVP  military campaign in south  were  deserters from the army in the north.

JVP threatened the armed forces and asked them to leave their jobs. Parents of servicemen were ordered to get their sons to desert under threat they will be killed if they do not obey. If the JVP hierarchy suspected anyone of being of assistance to the services, they were shot dead. Only a handful of persons could attend these funerals.

JVP killed a soldier who had come on leave to Matara. His head was severed and hung on the branch of a tree. Father refused a military   funeral indicating that he had been intimidated by the JVP. Also no villagers at funeral house. The village priest also no there, military had to bring a priest from elsewhere, also summoned villagers guaranteeing their safely.

JVP then decided on strong arm tactics. JVP issued threats to members of the armed services and police that they should resign or be killed. JVP threatened the families of service personnel who did not desert.  Police officers investigating JVP activity also got death threats. Letters were sent to OIC of police directing them to release suspects already taken into custody. Due to JVP threat many in the army retired or  left the service.

JVP radio repeatedly warned that August 1989 was the deadline for security forces personnel of all ranks to desert or face the consequences which was death.  In  the Ranabima bulletin of 21st April 1989, JVP specially threatened the families of those active in counter-insurgency operations, the  Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) and the Special Task Force (STF). Chandraprema observed that a similar threat had  been made in 1988 as well.

 In 1989 JVP carried out their threats. JVP already had the addresses of captains, lieutenants, and second lieutenants. Over hundred homes of military men were set on fire in south and northwest.   JVP killed 122 members of families of security forces and police in the most brutal fashion. Some were hacked to death, some were burned alive in their homes which were set on fire. JVP  made no   allowance for old people or children.

One such case was the murder of mother, brother, sister in law and two nephews of a DIG ( Udugampola) who was serving in the south. They were shot and whilst still alive, their residence was set on fire with them inside. The IGP had said he wanted to finish off the JVP.

No one in the JVP took responsibility for the decision to kill servicemen. They all denied it when  they were arrested. JVP’s deputy leader Gamanayake had said that this threat was not intended to be carried out, but only to neutralize active sections of the security forces.

JVP’s decision to kill family members of the security forces and to destroy their property was the main factor in changing the security forces’ approach towards the JVP. The security forces became very angry.  Among the public also, there was a wave of indignation against JVP. JVP had made an irrevocable and fatal mistake.

No sooner had they issued death threats to the families of the servicemen, posters appeared all over the country under the name of vigilante group, Deshapremi Sinhala Tharuna Peramuna, announcing, Ape ekata thope dolahak!”

Deshapremi Sinhala Tharuna Peramuna also circulated a note to the families of the JVPers, which read as follows:

“Dear father/Mother/Sister,

“We know that your son/brother/husband is engaged in a brutal murder under the pretence of patriotism. Your son/brother/husband, the so-called patriot, has cruelly taken the lives of mothers like you, of sisters, of innocent little children. In addition he has started killing the family members of the heroic Sinhalese soldiers who fought with the Tamil Tigers and sacrificed their lives, in order to protect the motherland.

“It is not amongst us, ourselves, the Sinhalese people, that your son/brother/husband has launched the conflict in the name of patriotism? Is it then right that you, the wife/mother/sister of this person who engages in human murder of children should be free to live? Is it not justified to put you to death? From this moment, you and all your family members must be ready to die. May you attain nirvana! Deshapremi Sinhala Tharuna Peramuna.”

Then came the counter attack. There were ruthless series of counter terrorist groups, PRRA, Black cats, Yellow cats, Rajaliya, Ukussa. They killed  JVPers and dismembered the bodies and hung placard round their necks warning similar fate to others.

‘In October 1989 after Capt T.E. Nagahawatte, the Assistant Registrar of the Peradeniya University, who was also a volunteer soldier was killed by two gunmen inside the University premises, eighteen heads were found the next day placed neatly around the University pond. The headless corpses had been placed in various postures in the vicinity. Bodies kept appearing by the dozen in the rest of the country, as well.’

The army in its turn, attacked the JVP. A Sri Lankan Army official said ‘we have learned too many lessons from Vietnam and Malaysia. We must destroy the insurgents completely. We have no choice. ‘  At Embilipitiya  Army intercepted JVP letters at the post office itself, so no extortion letters reached the public. The public appreciated the army effort. By December 1989 all members of the new JVP committee were taken in,  the last was  taken in January 1990. 

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