Posted on July 31st, 2022


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, said Rohan Gunaratne.

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.

It is quite clear that we believed in violence from the outset, said former JVPer Indrawansa   de Silva. I was busy enlarging the maps of Colombo district, marking bridges to be blown up so we could immobilize the army, pinpointing where the counter revolutionaries, reactionaries and traitors reside so we could take care” of them when we gained power, Indrawansa said.

Our writings, classes, publications, posters and public speeches were very open about our belief in violence. Destruction must precede construction. And if we were to kill en masse to reach our goal so be it. We didn’t shy away from saying how brutal we could be. Had we succeeded it is more than likely that Sri Lanka would have ended up worse than Cambodia under Pol Pot, concluded Indrawansa.

JVP was from the beginning, trained for armed violence. 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. These camps were held in places like Kurunegala, Akmeemana, Tissamaharama, Elpitiya and Anuradhapura. As part of the militarisation of the Movement, every member was asked to have a gun and 10 cartridges ready.

On the night of the 5th of April, 1971 the J. V. P. was responsible for violence, on a scale which had never been experienced in Sri Lanka, observed Samaranayake. JVP attacked 92 police stations.   They were all in ‘Sinhala’ areas. JVP only killed in Sinhala areas.  Estate owners were killed. At Deniyaya, there was the high profile killing of the popular Dr Rex de Costa, who had openly helped the Deniyaya police during the insurgency. A friend told me that three of her husband’s cousins, who owned tea small holdings in Matara, were shot and killed. JVP also killed their accomplices so as not to leave any evidence. 

JVP killed during the 1971 insurgency and they also killed as they retreated when the insurgency failed. One JVPer said that after the 1971 insurgency failed and he was retreating, he had carried out several murders of alleged informants, political opponents and vigilantes on his way from Kegalle to Wilpattu.

Gamini Samaranayake said 200 guerrillas from the Kegalle and Kurunegala districts retreated to Wilpattu National Park in two lots under the cover of darkness and along unpopulated tracks. During the day they camped in isolated areas either on the mountains or in the jungles. This retreat was marked by murder, arson and looting. Only about 30 reached their destination.

JVP’s favorite method of murder was by slitting the throat. Their preferred way was not with a knife but with a blade, slowly, enjoying the agony of the victim. They then hanged the head of the murdered on a pole, gate, and fence or placed it on a wall. This was said in a letter to Island newspaper by ‘Old Soldier’. To kill one needed special expertise. When JVP needed large number of killers in 1987 they recruited professional killers. JVP had close links with Piliyandala mafia, said Chandraprema. DJV used common criminals and contract killers as well, said Rohan Gunaratne.

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,in 1987,  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.

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. 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 said Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri. 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 DJV 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, said Chandraprema.

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.

Indradasa Godahewa said that JVP killed 1342 government supporters, 353 government servants, 250 policemen, 284 policemen, 163 servicemen, and 80 home guards. 3 university dons, 2 education officers, 44 principals of schools, and 57 teachers. They destroyed 430 post offices, 78 DDC offices, 59 GA/AGA offices, and 59 agrarian centers, 17 Superintendants of estates were killed. JVP assassinated some senior monks as well. They included Pohaddaramulle Pemaloka, Thambugala Sumanasiri, Vellatota Pannadassi and Kotikawatte Sadhatissa, said Behra.

Many civilians including a cultivation officer in Anamaduwa, cooperative chairmen of Weuda and a CTB driver were killed   JVP also killed surrendering JVP cadres. They killed two families of surrendered cadres in Anuradhapura.

We had a small family estate at Mawaramandiya, near Kadawatha,    said Garvin Karunaratne. The community leader of the area was one Wijesinghe. He was the President of the Cooperative society and was helpful to anyone that wanted anything done. He happened to be close to the leaders of the United National Party but he helped everyone irrespective of political party affiliations. I too visited his home when anyone known to me in the area had to face a problem with the government.

 He was hacked to pieces one night. The JVP had held him guilty of attending the funeral of a victim of its violence. Wijesinghe had arranged for a proper funeral to take place. The JVP order was that no funeral be held and the body be carried below the knee level and buried incognito. Wijesinghe’s murder sent creeps through everyone in the area. His brothers too left the village and his death left a power vacuum never to be filled ever again.

The DJV carried out a large number of political murders. It killed more than 70 Members of Parliament between July 1989 and November 1989. The DJV murdered probably thousands of people, said analysts. Killings took place in both urban and rural areas. DJV targeted opponents. 

On December 15, 1986, the DJV abducted and murdered Daya Pathirana, the leader of the Independent Students’ Union (ISU) of the Colombo University, which was a rival students’ union. Analysts see this as the significant starting point of political assassinations.

JVP assassin Lionel Ranasinghe widely believed to be responsible for at least 41 targeted high-profile killings. Ranasinghe’s victims included Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya (SLMP) leader Vijaya Kumaratunga, Professor Stanley Wijesundera, Director, CID, Terrence Perera, UNP General Secretary Nandalal Fernando and UNP Colombo Municipal Council member Jayantha Mallimarachchi. Sub Inspector of Police T.C.D. Rajapaksa attached to the Counter Subversive Unit (CSU), Narahenpita police. Lionel Ranasinghe shot him at Ambagahapura, Maharagama on Sept 22, 1988.

There was also   a JVP Bhikkhu death squad called Kudahapola Balakaya, operating in the JVP insurrection in 1980s. These were Buddhist monks who were also terrorists.  At night they would done civilian clothes and go out and commit murders and as monks would do the last rights later on, said Chandraprema.

Here is a list of some persons killed in 1987-89


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 signaled 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.


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   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.

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