By Rajan Hoole –
Sri Lanka’s Black July – Part 5 –
Addressing the nation over radio on the 29th, Prime Minister Premadasa attributed the violence to wild rumours. On the 30th Minister of State and Cabinet Spokesman de Alwis blamed the violence on three Left oriented parties, the JVP, the Communist Party and the Trotskyite NSSP. He announced a three-phase conspiracy by these groups. Its first phase was to induce violence between Sinhalese and Tamils, second between Sinhalese and Muslims, and third between Buddhists and Christians among the Sinhalese. They were banned and the detention of their activists and leaders was ordered. The confusion among the ministers on covering up their crimes was also reflected in the Sun editorials. On the 28th it was Sinhalese reaction to the loathsome Northern terrorists. On the 29th it was a mastermind who seemed to enjoy licence from the law enforcers. On 1st August the editorial was on de Alwis’s suggestion that Communists with money were behind the violence – a line that the ruling class was comfortable with, as witnessed from the press either promoting or not challenging the repression licensed under Jayewardene’s invention of the first Naxalite Plot in October 1982.
Addressing the government parliamentary group on 4th August, Jayewardene, now clearer about the line to take, elaborated on the second Naxalite Plot. He spoke of a four-phase plan which was to culminate in the Government being replaced by certain groups in the armed services. It is almost unnecessary to add that no such sections were identified, and no inquiry was ordered into such a grave allegation.
These shifts were no doubt clumsy attempts at a cover up as well as to stifle opposition. The conspiracy theory appeared, in Sinha Ratnatunga’s book and has been cited by Rohan Gunaratne in his Lost Revolution – his book on the JVP. According to Ratnatunga, Jayewardene was apprised of the four-phase master plan by ‘leftist elements’ who ‘anticipated food riots amidst chaos’.
Gunaratne adds: “The leaders of the leftist elements were identified as members of the JVP, and the next day the President proscribed most of the Left parties…” (See Sect. 12.7.)
Mr. Rudra Rajasingham when asked about the banning of the Left parties, replied that he was most surprised that the Government had banned them as they were definitely not involved. He was clear that the violence had been planned and about who was behind it. When asked about the report in Sinha Ratnatunga’s book about his and Ernest Perera’s meeting with Jayewardene to communicate details of the plot, he remembered the meeting, but could not remember what had transpired.
He said that he must check with Ernest Perera. Contacted another time, he said that he would not like to make any further observations.
Confirmation that the JVP was not named comes also from a senior police officer in charge of Jayewardene’s security, who also admired him. He noted that the Army were conniving with those indulging in communal attacks on Tamils, and that it was a ‘master stroke’ for Jayewardene to tell the Army the next morning (29th) that they were aiding the JVP by their connivance or inaction. It was only then, he added, that the Army started restoring order. Apart from any fear the Government may have entertained, the banning of the Left parties suppressed the only active opposition.
There was also another matter. Earlier in 1983 the JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera had challenged the 1982 Referendum result in the District Court alleging a number of serious abuses. These included the intimidation of voters, opposition supporters and polling agents by threats, violence, display of deadly weapons and confiscation of polling cards of those suspected of being against the 4th Amendment extending the term of parliament. A court order to preserve ‘packets and documents’ connected with the Referendum had been secured by Wijeweera.
Following the ban on the JVP on 30th July, Wijeweera had to go underground. Towards the end of the year the District Judge dismissed the action following the plaintiff’s failure to answer interrogatories served on him. Much later the Commissioner of Elections confirmed all the serious charges with expressions such as “surprising”, “shocking” and “serious doubts” as to the voters having “exercised the degree of freedom of voting stipulated by the law”. How short-sighted a gain for Jayewardene and at what heavy cost?
Part four – Sri Lanka’s Black July: The Cover Up
*From Chapter 9 of Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power – Myth, Decadence and Murder”. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To be continued tomorrow ..