Posted on July 31st, 2022


JVP was given a new lease of life when the UNP came to power in 1977. Under the previous SLFP government JVPers were brought before the Criminal Justice Commission, (CJC) a special tribunal set up through a special Act of Parliament. JVPers were charged with waging war against the lawfully elected government, breaking the peace, loss of human life, possession of arms and explosives.

The CJC had been permitted to accept evidence that would otherwise have been inadmissible under the Evidence Ordinance. The UNP government of 1977 declared that this was a violation of justice. The UNP government repealed the Criminal Justice Commission Act and all the JVP convicts including Rohana Wijeweera, became free in 1978.

 Once they were freed, JVP started its usual activities, such as meetings. The police challenged the JVP at every possible turn.  When the police intervened at the Tissamaharama JVP mass rally in 1978 JVP complained to JR and Premadasa.  

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.

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.

JR 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.

JVP was crushed by the SLFP government of Ms Bandaranaike in the 1970s. JVP did not forget this.  W.A.Wiswa Warnapala was SLFP organizer for Kegalle in the 1980s. In 1987, party activity in Kegalle was done amidst JVP terror, he said. JVP threatened Wiswa with death and he was prevented from going to certain villages by blocking the road to these places.

JVP mounted a campaign of violence in Kegalle to prevent a free and fair election. They wanted to prevent the voters from voting     also from   participating in election activity. There was a large spate of political violence throughout the country at the time.    The SLFP organizers were provided with guns and were expected to arrange for their own security. 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 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.

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 Parliamentarians had 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 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. 

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.



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