22 October, 2017

Black July: Alle Gunawanse – A Missing Link?

By Rajan Hoole –

Rajan Hoole

Sri Lanka’s Black July – Part 32

While Ratnatunga is very silent on the ac- tions of ministers, he gives us a good deal of information about the actions of a particular Buddhist monk, Alle Gunawanse. It is clear that Ratnatunga highlights the role of Gunawanse (and Mathew) in the events of 1983 in order to diminish the culpability of the core UNP leadership. Gunawanse was known to be a maverick with a tendency to go out of control once he began to speak. There were several monks like Gunawanse, who began their careers by encroaching on state land and putting up a small structure. Their success depended on po- litical patronage. Gunawanse too encroached on crown land in Colombo 7 (Cinnamon Gardens) opposite the BMICH on Bullers Road.

It was well known to contemporaries that Gunawanse had strong links with Gamini Dissanayake and was a recipient of patronage from the Mahaveli Ministry. His humble struc- ture was replaced by an impressive one from state funds, and in honour of the Maheveli Project received the grand name of Maheveli Maha Seya. He also acquired a Pajero Jeep – the symbol of the new rich of the Jayewardene era. As an extremist he was very much in tune with Gamini Dissanayake’s politics of that period. Gunawanse was known to organise karate classes for his Buddhist Front and ministers had participated in black-belt awarding ceremonies. It is clear that in this (as in any other) opportunistic alliance between politician and monk, it was the politician who reaped the long-term advantages. Gunawanse came in a long line of monks who occupied such positions (e.g. Buddha Rakkitha Thero of the S.W.R.D Bandaranaike era who later featured in the latter’s murder trial). All of them eventually fell into obscurity.

Ratnatunga ascribes to Gunawanse an important role in the events of July 1983. He first appears (p.12) trying to whip up the emotions of the crowd at Kanatte cemetery. The monk, who was the leader of the Sinhala Mahajana Peramuna is presented on the evening of the 24th of July asking the Army funeral authorities to show the bodies of the dead soldiers before they are interred. There is an oblique reference to him (p.16) as the monk who had come uninvited to the cemetery, who, that same evening, led a mob down Cotta Road, Borella, with a list in hand. He was subsequently reported being seen at the Cinnamon Gardens Police station, having come in a jeep with a pistol tucked under his robes, demanding curfew passes.

The longest reference to Gunawanse’s activities appears on page 32 regarding the events following the late night cabinet meeting on 27th July. Here we find the President actually negotiating with Gunawanse. Although Ratnatunga’s account is very detailed, the main point and context are left out. The context was the telephone call from Indira Gandhi to President Jayewardene on the evening of the 27th. We will return to this in the sequel.

The Events at Kanatte on the Evening of 24th July 

In our account of the events at Kanatte, we reached certain conclusions. The Government had decided to make the funeral a rousing occasion to be splashed in the media (including television). Ratnatunga’s account points to a different conclusion. Ratnatunga argues that Jayewardene intended a quiet and discreet funeral, and did not intend to capitalise on the deaths of the soldiers. While it may be true that the Government was vacillating, in the end, they decided on a public funeral. The responsibility for this decision must lie with Jayewardene. Ratnatunga argues that the decision to hold a public funeral was taken for practical reasons over which Jayewardene had no control.

According to Ratnatunga, it had been planned that the bodies would be sent to a funeral parlour, where members of the Cabinet could pay their respects discreetly. It is then claimed that Jayewardene’s security officer, Neil Weerasinghe, made an objection to the funeral parlour for security reasons. However, it appears that it would have been easier to ensure secu- rity in the funeral parlour rather than in the presence of a large crowd at the cemetery. It seems unlikely, however, that such an important decision during an extremely sensitive time could have been made without considering Jayewardene’s political motives. It must be re- membered that after these soldiers had died, some soldiers had gone on the rampage in Jaffna, killing 51 civilians. Honouring the dead soldiers in such a public way in the heart of Colombo was a crucial gesture. At the same time, the Gov- ernment refused to acknowledge the enormity of the massacre in Jaffna.

According to Ratnatunga another reason for a public funeral was the fact that the bodies were badly mutilated, and it was difficult to distin- guish individuals or even body parts (i.e. ‘what [part] was what’) (pp.12,14). According to the uncle of one of the deceased soldiers, whose tes- timony was referred to in Sect.9.4, this was not the position. The head of the lieutenant was out of shape, but the others were readily recognisable and certainly not in pieces. The decision to hold a military funeral in Colombo with full honours was ultimately taken in a discussion headed by Jayewardene without consid- ering the natural wishes of the families. The rea- son given to the families for a military funeral in Colombo was that the bodies had been mangled out of recognition, something that was untrue. This decision to have a public funeral led to great anger, since it prevented the fami- lies taking the bodies home for the customary private funeral.

The reasons given by both Ratnatunga and T.D.S.A. Dissanayake for the delay in bringing the bodies to Colombo for the funeral sched- uled for 5.00 PM are unsatisfactory. Ratnatunga cites a police message from Jaffna at 5.00 PM to the effect that JMO Jaffna caused the delay by wanting to perform autopsies on at least two bodies before releasing them. As with the bodies of the Welikade victims, it had evidently become awkward to dispose of the bodies without a legal procedure under ER 15A once they had come to the mortuary. But it would not have taken more than an hour or so to com- plete autopsies on two bodies. The real reason for the delay therefore lies with confusion among the organisers.

Ratnatunga does, however, provide confir- mation that the leadership originally intended to attend the public funeral, even though they were ultimately prevented by the hostility of the crowd against the Government. Ranil Wickremesinghe and Gamini Jayasuriya, along with Mayor Sirisena Cooray encountered abuse from the crowd when they walked towards the site of the funeral about 7.00 PM. This discouraged Jayewardene and the others from attending. It was then that the public funeral was abandoned. About the same time the airborne Army Commander was sent back to Jaffna on Jayewardene’s instructions. In an hour or two, the UNP’s shock troops were imposing their order on the streets. We have argued that Jayewardene’s actions here are far from innocent.

To be continued..

Part one – Sri Lanka’s Black July: Borella, 24th Evening

Part two – Sri Lanka’s Black July: What Really Happened At Kanatte?

Part three – Black July: ‘Api Suddha Kara’ – JR’s Failure To Declare Curfew

Part four – Sri Lanka’s Black July: The Cover Up

Part five –  30th July 1983: The Second Naxalite Plot

Part six  – Black July: The Testimony Of Lionel Bopage, Then General Secretary Of The JVP

Part seven – Black July: Thondaman & Muttetuwegama

Part eight – What Was Behind Tiger Friday – 29th July? -The Significance Of The Pettah

Part nine – Tamil Merchants In The Pettah – Post July 1983

Part ten –  Sri Lanka’s Black July: A Family’s Tragedy In Colombo

Part eleven –  Sri Lanka’s Black July: The Question Of Numbers

Part twelve –  Welikade Prison Massacres: The First Massacre: 25th July 1983

Part thirteen –  Welikade Prison Massacres: Testimonies Given At The Magistrate’s Inquest

Part fourteen –  Circumstances Leading To The Magistrate’s Inquest

Part fifteen – Welikade Prison: The Second Massacre: 27th July 1983

Part sixteen – Welikade Prison Massacres: Chief Jailor Observed Army Commandos Coming In

Part seventeen – Welikade Prison Massacres: Postscript

Part eighteen – July 1983: Planned By The State Or Spontaneous Mob Action?

Part nineteen – July 1983: Ranil Wickremasinghe Followed Cyril Mathew

Part twenty – Events Of 24th July – The Eve Of The Holocaust: Who Wanted A Military Funeral?

Part twenty one –  Events Of 24th July: What Were The Army’s Orders?

Part twenty two – Black July: Further Evidence Of Advance Planning

Part twenty three – Black July: The JSS Goon Squad Regime

Part twenty four – Institutional Implications Of The JSS And Black July

Part twenty five – Black July: Ranil Wickremesinghe, Gonalwela Sunil And The Kelaniya University

Part twenty six – Black July: Army Hathurusinghe Prevented Police From Assisting Prison Victims Under Attack

Part twenty seven – Black July: Justice Of Peace Gonawela Sunil And The Killings In Prison

Part twenty eight – Prison Massacre And The Alitalia Hijacker Sepala Ekanayake

Part twenty nine –  Black July: Further Indirect Evidence Of State Involvement

Part thirty – Blak July: Remarks & Testimonies In Retrospect

Part thirty one – Black July: Some Missing Threads

*From Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power  – Myth, Decadence and Murder”. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To be continued..

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    Just curious Mr. Hoole,

    Your details are first hand, second hand or heresay.

    I appreciate the amount of details you have gone into, and that would not have been an easy task considering how many powerful people in Sri Lanka benefited from the prevailing status quo.

    I wish you provide references to your sourcing as you reveal these stories, so genuine readers like me can get a better sense.

    You refer to a Ranatunga in this story and I do not know if its the Army commander or some other catcher! See my point?

    Thank you

    • 0
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      The reference here is to the book by Sinha Ratnatunga’s book ‘POLITICS OF TERRORISM: THE SRI LANKAN EXPERIENCE”. Actually, Rajan did give the source in a previous section of his book. MF

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    Hoole,instead of wasting our time,why don’t you go to courts regarding the said matter.Of course you have no faith in SL courts.As there is no more Tamil terror tiger kangaroo courts,still you can contact the Johnny come lately,the so called respected retired judge Wingeswaran!

    • 0
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      ado max hoole is not writing this now ,this is an old book by him and CT is publishing it on their website to commemorate the 83 riots thats all

      dont get all excited like a fool maxie boy

      • 0
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        I don’t give a damn whether it’s a book or not.I just don’t have the time to go through crap.Best to donate those books to the “Kadala karayas” at Gall face green.

        • 0
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          then why are you commenting ? LOL

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    [Edited out]

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    From what I was told at the time Elle Gunawanse had the use of a Mercedes in addition to having use of office space within the Mahaveli ministry.
    A friend and I went around the housing estate located in a Colombo suburb where we lived and invited the elders in the area- mostly professionals- for a meeting in the hope of getting them to speak to the unruly elements who appeared in the area and to appeal to the them not to cause any harm to any person or property. Some of them came but they scotched the idea saying, “they are our boys, and they will not harm us.” In the end the mob did come and burn a Tamil house whose occupants had by then fled from the area.
    At the top of the road a mob rampaged a hardware shop owned by a Tamil businessman in broad daylight with a couple of armed policemen looking on and enjoying the spectacle.

    As for Migara, it was well known that he had access to and was promoted by JR. Anyone reading his column at the time would have known that JR was feeding him with information.

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

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    Whatever said and done Rajan Hoole does not deserve to call himself a journalist! It is unfair Ven. Elle Gunawansa, Buddhist monk who had done a tremendous service to the country simply calling ELLE GUNAWANSA! Hoole being a non-Buddhist should learn to respect clergies in other faiths.

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      ELLE GUNAWANSE NEED NOT BE REFERRED TO AS VENERABLE

      Venerable is usually used to refer to a religious figure whom deserves respect for his accomplishments. It can also refer to a non-religious, respected individual for his wisdom.

      WHAT ABOUT ALL THE VENERABLES WHO, COMPRISE CONGRESS OF RELIGIONS,WHO STRAIGHT AFTER PRESS CONFERENCE HAD THE “CASINO DANA” AND MILLIONS WORTH “ATAPIRIKARA” THE BISHOPS AND MUSLIM DID NOT GO FOR THE DANA.
      YOU BUDDHISTS BETTER SAVE BUDDHISM FROM YOUR VENERABLES.

      HOW ABOUT THE UKUWELA MONK,OWNING BENZ CAR HAVING A RITUAL BY KILLING
      CHICKEN TO GET OVER HIS BAD TIME.

      HOW ABOUT THE ORPHANAGE. MONK AND WHAT HAPPENED THERE?

      THE B.B.S. BETTER CLEAN UP THEIR CESS PIT INSTEAD OF MESSING AROUND WITH MUSLIMS AND CHRISTIANS.

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    Whatever said and done Rajan Hoole does not deserve to call himself a journalist! It is unfair Ven. Elle Gunawansa, Buddhist monk who had done a tremendous service to the country simply calling ELLE GUNAWANSA! Hoole being a non-Buddhist should learn to respect clergies in other faiths.

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      Champa aka Givantha I totally agree that Rajan Hoole should have paid better respect to Elle Gunawansaya. Afterall this Bugger is an illegitimate son of Buddha. Isn’t He?

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    If Tamils leave Sri Lanka they have Tamil Nadu or any other state in India or any other country in the West. But if anything happens to Sri Lanka, Sinhala people will have no other place and no country will accommodate Sinhala people! As such, Sinhalese will have two options: either to protect the country from invaders from Tamil Nadu or committing suicide by jumping into the sea!
    Portugeuse (1505), Dutch (1700) and English (1815) and now in the history! But our history goes back even before King Dutugemunu era the threats/invasio ns from the Tamil Nadu have been existed.
    So, its a continuous threat for the Sinhalese and a do or die battle situation to protect their only motherland, Sri Lanka! Some Tamils say Sinhalese have come from Orissa. When we asked them to show us proof they became silent. If any our relatives are in Orissa, we would love to see them and would prefer to go there rather than tolerating the never ending nuisance from separatist Tamils.

  • 0
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    If Tamils leave Sri Lanka they have Tamil Nadu or any other state in India or any other country in the West. But if anything happens to Sri Lanka, Sinhala people will have no other place and no country will accommodate Sinhala people! As such, Sinhalese will have two options: either to protect the country from invaders from Tamil Nadu or committing suicide by jumping into the sea! Portugeuse (1505), Dutch (1700) and English (1815) and now in the history! But our history goes back even before King Dutugemunu era the threats/invasio ns from the Tamil Nadu have been existed. So, its a continuous threat for the Sinhalese and a do or die battle situation to protect their only motherland, Sri Lanka! Some Tamils say Sinhalese have come from Orissa. When we asked them to show us proof they became silent. If any our relatives are in Orissa, we would love to see them and would prefer to go there rather than tolerating the never ending nuisance from separatist Tamils.

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