23 February, 2024


41 Years After 1971 JVP: Where Have The Decision Makers Gone?

By Kamal Nissanka

Kamal Nissanka

The April Insurrection was commemorated by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and 71 Sahodara Sansadaya  in Colombo on the 5th of April 2012. Peratugami Samajwadi Pakshaya had also given prominence to the event through social media. All were in agreement that the comrades who died are martyrs. Then there are members who involved in the actual uprising taken into custody or surrendered as requested by the then Sirima administration. They were initially locked up in almost all the prisons throughout Sri Lanka and surrendered were detained at Vidyalankara and Vidyodaya Universities.

Though various groups commemorate the event the general feeling among the people is that Rohana Wijeweera , founder leader of the JVP had given leadership to the 1971 April uprising which for me is an erroneous judgment.  Rohana with five others were taken into custody at Ampara on the 13th of March 1971. Others arrested by the police with Rohana were Kelly Senanayake, Premarathne, Nissanka, Lal Somasiri and Premathilaka. However Rohana, Premarathna and Lal Somasiri were then taken to  Mgazine  prison  in Colombo on the 14th of March 1971.On the 16th morning they detained in  Jaffna prison. On the 22nd of March Lal Somasiri and Premarathna were produced before the Kalmunai magistrate and they were bailed out or released.

During the few days at Jaffna prison Rohana was in extensive consultation with Premarathna and had given him lot of instructions regarding future activities. On release Premarathna had met Piyathilaka on the 24th of March at Vidyodaya university and conveyed him the messages given to by  Rohana Wijeweera.

Piyathilaka in his statement to police had admitted that Premarathna met him on the 24th of March at Vidyodaya after his release from Kalmunai magistrate courts

According to the evidence Rohana had given instructions that if the things got worsened to attack police stations and security centers and to send a team of 5oo from student wing to Jaffna to rescue him. In fact a large team was sent to Jaffna on the 5th of April.

However Rohana denied at that he had instructed the committee to launch the insurrection but maintained view that it was a design and conspiracy of Loku Athula and his group.

The decision to attack police stations was taken by a committee comprising 9 members said to be politbureau.  They were S.V.A.Piyathilaka, Lionel Bopage, J.Uyangoda,Sunanda Deshpriya, Nimalasiri Jayasinha alias Loku Athula , W.T. Karunarathne, Susi l Wickrama,  Wijesena Vidanage alias Sanath ,Somasiri Kumanayake, and  Anura Ranjith Kurukulasooriya.

Out of these decision makers members Sanath and Susil died during the insurrection. Loku Athula  and Kumanayake became crown witnesses and  were granted amnesty from Sirima administration .S.V.A. Piyathilaka became a big businessman after the release in 1977 but was killed by somebody on a personal grudge. Lionel Bopage involved in JVP politics after release in 1977 but severed connection with JVP by 1984.Uyangoda is an academic without any serious commitment to politics. Sunanda lived with NGO’s and now a controversial character. I have no idea about where about of Karunarathna.

Out of nine decision makers I think Sanath(Galle)  and Susil (Matara)involved in the uprising . Loku Athula later joined with the fighting group at Kegalle. Other decision makers were not directly involved with the insurrection.

My personal view is that these decision makers were not armed with the deep understanding of Marxism – Leninism at that time. Regarding war or revolution their knowledge was very very limited. I still believe that not a single member of this committee had read “Mao Tse Tung’s “On Protracted War” or serious book on war. Even though the Cuban Revolution was not a working class revolution it took 6 years to win the protracted struggle launched after Monkada attack.

However April Uprising that is commemorated by us is the direct result of the decision of 9 committee members who gathered at the Sangaramaya of Vidyodaya University on the 2nd of April 1971.

The decision was given to Police area leaders on the 4th. Members rallied round area leaders without a proper training, arms and ammunitions. They went to attack the police stations thinking that the leadership would stand by them till the final breath. On the 6th of April it was clearly understood that all the police stations were not attacked and most of the leaders of the respective districts and police stations had not done their part of job. By 7th and 8th it felt that that there was no coordination among the few fighting units. The main fighting units were visible in Kegalle, Kurunegala,Laggala, Medirigiriya, Anuradapura(Oththpppuwa), Kataragama,Deniyaya and Elpitiya. So by radio news it was understood that the revolution was a failure. Two groups attempted to retreat to Wilpattu and Sinharaja areas. They felt that they are leaderless. After a week they felt major countries including the socialist countries   and Non aligned countries came to rescue the government. With air attacks directing at the rebels and people rallying round the government everything was going against the rebels. Fighting units had no option but to listen to surrender call by the government. Though there was a surrender period during the whole month April security forces tortured and killed many of JVP members. In fact lots of persons without any link to JVP also scarified their lives owing to personal grudges with security persons or local politicians.

Out of nine committee members who took the decision to send their members before police stations to face bloodshed only six are among living. These petty decision makers are not visible in any of the meetings held on behalf of the April martyrs.  These opportunists are now sought asylum (economic not political) in western countries or working hard for their personal gains.

*Kamal Nissanka is the Secretary of the Sri Lanka Liberal Party

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