Posted on August 8th, 2022


JVP had two levels of activity, open and secret. They had two parallel political agendas, one for the public and another for the insiders in the party, said analysts. JVP functioned openly as an agitation group, whilst, at the same time recruiting combatants into a clandestine military organization, said Jayantha Somasunderam.

JVP‘s public agenda said the JVP wanted to create a socialist revolution which would benefit the masses.  This bogus agenda was put forward to win the popular support    JVP needed in order to capture political power.  The public were enticed into the movement by the idea of an instant, perfect, socialist society.

The Party evolved its own Marxist ideology which was a hybrid. It drew on Trotsky’s criticism of Stalinism and the ‘popular front.’ From Mao it asserted the primacy of the peasantry as the backbone of the revolution. And from Castro it learnt armed insurrection. The JVP training for its cadres emphasized neo-colonialism, attacked parliamentarianism and rejected the mainstream left parties, said Jayantha Somasunderam.

Former JVPer, Indrawansa de Silva recalls, the fifth of the now legendary five classes” was fully devoted to the game plan of Lankan revolution. That class was aptly titled The path Lankan revolution should take.” It summed up all the Marxist revolutions that had taken place since the Bolsheviks toppled the Czar in 1917 and convincingly argued to its ignorant audiences why none of these past revolutions suited the unique conditions” of the motherland. How original, we thought. So it was our Dear Leader who dreamed up what the Lankan revolution would be a simultaneous attack on the police stations and strategically selected army camps. The entire attack would take a single night”.

The secret agenda, which was the real one, was armed seizure of power by a trained cadre of young men. JVP while holding meetings for the public was secretly arming.  They were getting ready to kill. Emphasis was on weapons and training. It was to be a Fascist type putsch, said Wiswa Warnapala. The entire organization was conspiratorial, he observed. Whenever a party cadre showed any uncertainty over the dual strategy, the answer was eka upakramayak, sahodaraya”.

Had we succeeded it is more than likely that Sri Lanka would have ended up worse than Cambodia under Pol Pot, said Indrawansa de Silva. I am not being just speculative here. The JVP has shown time after time its violent and authoritarian tendencies whenever and wherever it got even a small taste of power.

Just take some early signs. If someone with an opposing view tried to sell a newspaper or distribute a pamphlet at our rallies they were promptly beaten up and kicked out. We did not hesitate to use power of the fist when met with opposition even within the organization. Honest and sincere questioning of ideas and theories we espoused in our classes and camps was seen as a threat to the movement and branded as reactionary, counter-revolutionary, or petit bourgeois tendencies.

Another account of how the JVP would have governed was given in Ranjith Hennayake Arachchi (Bertie) in his memoir, Bak Maha Kandulu. He described the way JVP ran Hammenheil Prison in Jaffna, where hundreds of JVP cadres were held in the 1971 insurgency. 

A revolutionary army” was established to safeguard the proletariat dictatorship” in Hammenheil. This army took care of the class-enemies” and traitors” in the only way known to JVP––physical force. Anyone who questioned anything the JVP was up to at Hammenheil was branded as the class enemy. Kangaroo courts were held in Hammenheil to try reactionaries” and counter-revolutionaries” that the JVP always found guilty. They were brutally beaten in broad daylight.

Everything that took place in Hammenheil had the blessings of Wijeweera himself as there was an effective line of communication between Hammenheil and Jaffna prison where he was held. ‘The Socialist Republic of Hammenheil’ was a microcosm of what the country would have become had the JVP ever grabbed power.

JVP was a hard headed cynical organization under a ruthless leadership, said critics. Noble sentiments were lacking. There was a lack of heroism and moral uprightness in the JVP, said Chandraprema. The JVP leaders were never idealistic.  Rank and file may have had idealistic views’but not the leadership.

JVP had boasted of their simple life style. Then in September 1989 Rupavahini showed the public the mansions, cars, and personal luxuries including foreign aphrodisiacs used by the top JVP leadership.

For the JVP high command, self protection came first. When they ordered villagers out on a demonstration, JVP got those they disliked to march first so they were the first to get killed. JVP leaders stayed in the rear, they never went in the front.  They were safe from fire. They had followed this from the time they started forced demonstrations, said Chandraprema. An enterprising officer had once got a helicopter to fire at the rear of the procession.

 In 1989 JVP did not display much bravery in captivity. Top leadership told all within 24 hours. They were captured within less than 24 hours of each other. JVP was only willing to kill for a cause but not to die for it.   Analysts noted that the junior cadres were much better, they did not sing even under torture.  I do not think this was due to courage and loyalty, they probably knew very little about the organization.

Wiswa Warnapala   heard Wijeweera address students at Peradeniya In 1971. Wijeweera was all revolutionary rhetoric, gestures, and gesticulations, said Wiswa. Wijeweera traversed the entire course of the history of revolution and referred to all revolutionary ideologies in the world. Wijeweera‘s own revolutionary ideology was a hotchpotch of all these ideologies without a clear cut strategy. His ideology was, in Marxian terms, not ideology at all, said Wiswa. My assessment was that this man, with neither ideology nor political strategy would put the youth of the country into serious trouble, concluded Wiswa.

Rohana Wijeweera was not the great leader he was made out to be. Wasantha Bandara   had maintained secret contact with Rohana Wijeweera in the 1984-1989 period. During regular secret meetings with Rohana Wijeweera, Bandara said he realized Wijeweera was not in full control of the operations undertaken by the JVP. Wijeweera was a puppet leader, carrying out orders. 

Godahewa said Wijeweera was ‘a person easy to control,’ though his speeches sounded fiery.   Facing the camera for a video statement when arrested, the expression on his face was one of disappointment and dismay, said Indradasa. He had spoken in a shattered voice, with emotion.

When he was captured in 1971, Wijeweera was very docile, unlike his public image, said Chandraprema. He had told everything about everybody while trying to hide his own liability for the insurgence. His 1971 statement went to 400 pages, in 1989 he was brief, said Chandraprema.

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