Posted on October 2nd, 2022


One result of the JVP violence was that it helped strengthen the army. Prior to 1971 Sri Lanka army was a small force.  After the 1971 insurgency the government saw the need for a larger army. They increased the officer cadet cadre. They took in 30 trainees of which 17 graduated. The training which was usually 18 months was reduced to one year. Since JVP activity was in the jungle, special jungle training was given at Lahugala, said Kamal Gunaratne.

The police stations and police officers were a permanent target of the JVP, despite the fact that police constables belonged, salary wise, to the social class that JVPers came from. The police were hit by the JVP in both insurgencies 1971 and 1987. They were an easy target. The police were not trained in protecting themselves or detecting enemy activity, observed Kamal Guneratne.

The police stations attacked n 1988 and 1989, included, Gothatuwa, Moratumulla, Kirulapona, Mattakkuliya, Ragama, Bambalapitiya, Pitigala, Moratuwa.   In July 1988 fifty JVPers attacked Madulsima police station and took away a large haul of arms. Padukka police station was attacked in 1988 and weapons removed. Bentota police station was raided in 1989. JVP had attacked Kahawatte police station and taken away much ammunition, also police uniforms, typewriters, gun powder, caps with insignia and explosives’. 

The public did not support JVP.  Well before the 1971 insurgency took place, police received reports by principals of schools and the grama sevaka about secret meetings. In 1971 JVP couldn’t hold on to the areas they had captured, such as parts of Kegalle, because they lacked popular support, said Government Agent Wijedasa. “The people did not like the violence. They were not happy about the destruction of public property, with buses and government buildings being set ablaze and the disruption of essential services.

The people at Morontota, in Kegalle, were happy to see the army arrive and readily fed them information. A retired school master on the outskirts of Mawanella when asked to hand over his gun, by two JVPers, had instead shot them dead. The schoolmaster and his family had thereafter taken their belongings, got into a lorry and immediately left the area.

At Batapola, in Galle district, the villagers helped the army to attack the JVP camp there and defeat the JVP.  In Hiniduma in Morawaka, villagers captured retreating rebels and either handed them over to the army or killed them.  Withana alias Sarath Boralukatiya     was captured at Hiniduma on his way to Sinharaja forest. Hiniduma villagers forced him to dig his own grave and then killed him.

When the government   crushed the insurgents in University of Peradeniya,  bus after bus transported students out of the campus in 1989. As they went past Meewatura, the  villagers hooted, some shouted don’t come back.” The Bheeshanaya was blamed on University students and the surrounding villages were relieved to see the student evicted from campus, said Sarath Edirisinghe.

JVP strongly opposed the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987. JVP launched a murderous attack on all those who supported the accord, particularly LSSP, CP, NLSSP, said Sarath Amunugama. The Communist Party was active in the south and was a rival to the JVP. It was decimated. These Marxist parties were ill prepared for   violence on this massive scale observed Amunugama.

JVP unleashed its killer squad on all who supported 13th Amendment. UNP party officials were killed en masse and also some UNP MPs such as de Silva of Habaraduwa and Tikiri Banda of Galagedara, said Amunugama. LW Pandita a much respected leftist labor leader was killed.  JVP also killed those who participated in the Provincial   Council elections, they killed both candidates and voters. 

Despite its murderous  tendencies, JVP was wooed by    the government. JR  Jayewardene had  negotiated with JVP in the 1980s and offered them three portfolios. JVP  asked for defense. Nothing came of this.

When the second   insurgency failed in 1989 ,  JVPers went underground to avoid being captured and killed by the state. Many JVP fled to Europe. Some JVPers,  including Somawansa Amarasinghe,  went to France . The  French branch  of the JVP was very active and supported the Sri Lanka  JVP with funds and propaganda, said Sarath Amunugama  Many JVPers found employment in Paris.  JVP had infiltrated the Buddhist temple in Paris and used it to smuggle their militant monks out of Sri Lanka. The monks were later dispersed to different countries. It was a quite effective ‘rat line’ said Amunugama.

JVP sees itself  as heroes, not killers. JVP celebrated the 50th anniversary of its 1971 insurrection in 2021.   JVP never fails to celebrate its first armed uprising, while keeping quiet about its second uprising in 1987, observed the media.

The 50th anniversary was commemorated at events in Hambantota, Gampaha, Polonnaruwa and Kurunegala. Many of our members who took part in the insurrection are still living in  these areas.

We honor and celebrate those who took part in the 71 insurrection for if they had succeeded then, we would have built a far more prosperous country than what we are today. We would have created a country where the people were more content and one where democracy and human rights were protected. This generation of our youths took up arms and fought for these ideals,JVP Leader Anura KumaraDissanayake said.

I’m not sure if today’s youth can fully grasp the enormity of the risks that the youths of 71 took. Dissanayake said. They cast aside their own selfish and narrow objectives and fought, risking their very lives with the aim of creating a better tomorrow for the wider society. How is such a feat anything but honorable, Dissanayake asked. Besides being the country’s first armed revolt, the 1971 insurrection was significant in that it was led by both rural youth and  urban youth, Dissanayake concluded.

JVP has its  memorials. This is not well known. Every year, the JVP holds a commemoration for fallen comrades”. 60 students at  Sri Jayewardenepura University,  including two female students were killedin the  1987-89 insurgency. An exhibition and a musical program were held to commemorate them in 1992 and in 2008. A memorial too was erected. The chief guest at the event was the mother of one of the victims, medical student Wenura Edirisinghe.  While the JVP are romanticized as heroes, no collective commemoration of JVP victims is held. Instead, their families mourn these victims in private grief, observed a critic.

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