Posted on August 3rd, 2022


But there were criticisms as to how the darling JVP was treated. In 1971, Senator S Nadesan drew attention to the Emergency Regulations enacted at the time, particularly Regulations 19 and 20 which dealt with arrest, detention, cremation and burial. These Regulations say that any police officer may arrest without a warrant a person suspected of an offence under the Emergency Regulations.  The earlier safeguards that such a person must be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours and also that police must report to magistrate if they arrest a person without a warrant were removed. When the Parliament met, many MPs, mainly government MPs, brought in many allegations of abuse against the police.

This was Sri Lanka‘s first insurgency, and the country, naturally, had no laws to deal with it. A Sedition act had been prepared in March 1971, said Samaranayake   and this was to be used for arrest and trial of insurgents on charges of sedition.

Attorney-General stated that there were no provisions to prosecute JVP members who had been taken into custody without arms. The government therefore passed the Criminal Justice Commission Bill. The Criminal Justice Commission conducted investigation into the 1971 uprising. Critics said that the Act violated natural law.  It was intended to prosecute persons for an offence committed in the past. It was retrospective.

Senator Nadesan made a long speech in Parliament about the JVP insurgency. He took pains to project the insurgency as a home grown operation.   Senator Nadesan’s speech      was used as an appendix in the report made by Lord Avebury, who came   on behalf of Amnesty International, to report on the 15,000 people kept in detention without trial.

In his speech, Nadesan attributed the rise of the JVP to population growth, higher education and unemployment. The insurgents were mainly poor undergraduates who saw no future for themselves, said Nadesan. There were no jobs awaiting them.  They were studying because there was nothing else to do. Politics was the principal diet of the students.

Nadesan agreed that the   armed uprising had attacked a duly established, democratically elected, popular government. But he listed several weaknesses in the government, such as nepotism, favoritism when it came to jobs and compulsory retirement of those over 55. Very violent speeches were made by the sons of these dependants, observed Nadesan. Also said Nadesan, there was unemployment. People were thrown out of jobs.

MPs gave themselves pensions, enhanced allowances and wanted to import Peugeot cars for official travel. The Senators listening to Nadesan helpfully added at this point, ‘there were also objections to MPs foreign travel and safaris’. Nadesan said he   did not know of those and was speaking only of what he did know.

Nadesan listed a series of allegations regarding criminal behavior on the part of the armed forces dealing with the insurgency. Allegations have reached my ears from  reputable sources  whose names I will not disclose here, that insurgents who surrendered or were captured were shot in a large number on the ground that there was no way of keeping them in prison and there were no faculties for transporting them or for accommodating them. Whether this allegation is true or not is a different matter.

 Allegations have been made that in areas far away from the place of actual confrontation between security forces and insurgents, a number of youth were arrested on suspicion. Some were shot summarily, others assaulted, tortured, taken away and shot. Suspects were asked to run away from the police station and then shot when running.

Allegations have been made that in some police stations torture and sadisms have been indulged in by some police officers, they were deprived of their wrist watches and then sent off. Nadesan had been able to verify one such case.

Allegations have been made that the houses of parents of a large number of young persons who were suspected of being insurgents have had their houses burnt down. Allegations have been made that some members of the police force and army have in broad daylight gone to shops, markets and other places and helped themselves to goods and in some cases they have indulged in looting of shops and boutiques, taking away jewellery.

Allegations have been made that after curfew house in places close to Colombo like Nugegoda and in faraway places like Badulla members of security forces have gone into boutiques and shops and carried away jewellery and cash to the extent of Rs 5,000, 6000 and 7000. Allegations have been made that people’s residences, shops and boutiques with all valuables have been burnt down, concluded Nadesan.

Neville Jayaweera, then GA Vavuniya, said the JVP were not mean criminal types. They were decent and most respectful,  very young and idealistic. They were fighting for a new society. They were a couple of thousand starry eyed youth armed with shot guns and homemade bombs, with a charismatic leader. They had no idea what they were to do after capturing Vavuniya police station and Kachcheri, added Jayaweera.

My encounters with them in 1971 in Vavuniya had been wholesome ones, he said. Jayaweera had sent some money to his wife through a trusted bus driver.  JVP had stopped the driver, detained him, used the bus, and then sent him on to Colombo with the money intact.    Jayaweera was full of praise for their honesty.

Neville Jayaweera felt sorry for the dead JVP. They were misguided but they had caught a vision. The loss of their lives was no less tragic, their deeds no less heroic. For their dead no bugles, no volley in salute, only the indignity of tyres.  JVP leader attacking Vavuniya police station took over three hours to die, it was heartrending said Jayaweera.  I was left with a pang of conscience at the wanton killings of their cadres carried out by the security forces, said Jayaweera.

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