23 May, 2022


Good Bye Comrade Sarath Justin Fernando, Founder – MONLAR

By Lionel Bopage

Lionel Bopage

Lionel Bopage

Comrade Sarath Justin Fernando and I met as students of the Engineering Faculty in Peradeniya campus in the late 1960s. Justin as we came to know him was from a very well-known leftist family from Kegalle. Together we were involved in university students’ issues and activities both independently and through ‘Socialist Society’, which was a student’s association affiliated at the time with the Peking wing of the Communist Party headed by comrade Shanmugathasan.

With the uprising of April 1971, comrade Justin was taken into custody and his family property in Kegalle was set on fire by the security forces and their goons. When we were held in Magazine prison in Borella, we spend some time together in one of the prison wards. He had political differences with the JVP as he had his pro-Maoist ideological views, orientated more towards organising the peasantry of Sri Lanka, which was about 70 percent of its population. He was also devoted to his religious views with his compassionate attitude towards the people who are subjected to suppression and exploitation. It took a long time for me to convince him to join the activities organised by the 1969 Engineering Batch of the Peradeniya campus. I understand he was extremely happy in associating himself with those activities later on.

SarathWhile in prison our political journeys diverged. Despite this, we have remained friends and used to meet every now and then when I visited Sri Lanka. He had devoted his whole life for achieving socialism by organising the peasantry through the extremely good work done by the movement he founded ‘Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform’ (MONLAR). I personally know that through this organisation many progressive activities had been supported. The anti-capitalist and anti-neo-liberal policy platform presented by MONLAR under comrade Justin’s leadership had been widely discussed in global alternative gatherings such as World Economic Forum. Though he retired from his work as founder and leader of this movement, I know in heart and soul he was still involved with the progress of this organisation. Currently the organisation and till his untimely death Justin have been involved in agitating against perceived actions of the government to turn the country’s traditional agricultural practices to one more conducive of transnational agri-business.

I met him last in July this year when I was in Sri Lanka to attend my mother’s funeral, at a family and friends gathering organised in Rambukkana by our friend Dr Raja Wijetunga. It was a great and happy occasion where comrade Justin and his wife sang together for a while. Though he was unwell, he discussed his plans for future including publishing his memoirs. He wrote to me wishing me on my last birthday, but it was so sad to hear his passing away a short time afterwards.

I have really appreciated the positions he and his organisation took when the people of Sri Lanka were faced with crucial situations, be it the national question, neo-liberal exploitation, or destruction of natural environment. As a Sri Lankan left intellectual and activist what he did for the progress of the people of Sri Lanka will never be forgotten. The major lesson I take from his life is that there are many schools of socialist thought on addressing the socio-political and economic issues faced by the society and that all these schools need to work together in achieving our goals, rather than fighting and destroying each other and ultimately the socialist camp itself.

On a personal, he is also one of my brother in laws and I farewell comrade Justin both politically and personally. He will be missed both as a friend and a comrade whose life was devoted to making Sri Lanka a more democratic and egalitarian nation.

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Latest comments

  • 0

    This man Lionel Bopage went on to comment in his previous article how they were prompted to become Leftists, to act on behalf of the poor of this country who were neglected by the British and by the UNP that followed. So as a first step in the JVP they espoused the Youth to destroy Public property running in to billions of rupees that affected the poor more than serving them. They wantonly killed the bread winners of poor families for defying their orders.

    For this LB’s information Ceylon was one of the few Welfare States, where the poor in the country were provided Health and Education Free and Public transport at a very nominal cost. If not for these Humbugs destroying Public property and crippling the Economy of the country with endless strikes, I am sure the stock of the poor would have derived better benefits. Having led the masses up the garden path, where thousands of youth perished and the country set back by scores of years, today they pretend as the benefactors of the poor, while enjoying life as Bourgeois themselves. What Humbugs?

  • 0

    MONLAR worked in occupied Vanni for a short time and then pulled off its Website to hide its tracks.
    Then Sarath Fernando went even further by working via questionable NGOs War on Want and World Development Movement by working for the Britishers.
    Uva-Wellassa was betrayed.
    May Sarath Fernando attain nibbana.

  • 0


    What you say is one side of the coin.

    On the other side there is endemic poverty, corruption, nepotism, mismanagement, total disregard to the rule of law, accumulation of wealth by a vested few and no respite for the suffering masses.

    Such impossible situations drive people to rise up in arms.

    Mark my word, another one may not be too far off if the Rajapaksa brothers keep going in the same path that they have chosen.

    • 0

      BBS Rep,

      What you say about, endemic poverty, corruption, nepotism, mismanagement, total disregard to the rule of law, accumulation of wealth by a vested few and no respite for the suffering masses, all commenced after the present governing scum took to politics and the sabotage carried out by the so called Leftist Comrades, misleading the masses of the country. Up to the time of Independence or for a few years there after, there was no abject poverty in the country as seen today to denote a class of the ‘Dughi’ living in Shanties. Had there been such a class of Dughi then, Banda would have included them as well to call it a ‘Shad Maha Balavegaya’ and not a Pancha Maha Balavegaya representing the society by Sanga, Vedha, Guru, Govi and Kamkaru. Govi and Kamkaru represented the poor in the country and they were quality poor living may be in a wattle and daub house with a minimum of two rooms to preserve family decency unlike being huddled all together in a single shanty, giving rise to a new culture of indecency and the birth to an ‘Under World’. Besides, the poor then had decent meals and did not have to rummage dustbins for food after introducing measures of Socialism that was supposed to help the stock of the Poor, but in the end had only helped the poor who took to politics shouting, down with Capitalism to become ultra rich today.

      My contention is that if any wanted to help the poor in the country would never have got public property destroyed to heap more burden on the poor. When the early UNP distributed land free, through a Colony system, were for the poor of this country that stands as the backbone to the economy today. Now that is development which these Leftists never allowed a programme of work, but scuttled them by sabotaging. Today these Leftists who have been thrown out are patting each other on their back as if they have done a yeomen service to the country and the poor.

  • 0

    I last saw “Comrade” LB on the political stage in Galle in 1979. Now I understand that he has gone down under. What a loss to the Socialist Society of our country!!!

    In comparison, Comrade SJF lived in the country of his birth and fought for the down trodden peasantry without fear or favour till death. he continued with his Maoist socialist ideals unlike “those” who socialized when it was ideal after leaving the university.

    • 0

      The best definition that I have read of a Leftist Politician is one who will do anything on earth for the poor masses, except become one.

    • 0

      I forgot to add that I last saw Comrade SJF at the launch of Technology and Research Thrust Strategy for Economic Development at Water’s Edge on 7th July 2014. After the morning tea break, he was looking for the place where he kept his “travel bag”.

  • 0

    JVP’s origin of its growth anti-Tamil political out-fit, has connected to anarchist- politic Party by practice of Terrorist politics since 1965. See Five lessons Thought by Lionel Bopage under his dear Leader PND Wijiweera Or Rohan or Attnayake was the founder JVP terror outfit.

    What was Five lessons thought by Bopage to his cadres during 1968 to 1985? The fifth lesson of so-called Indian Expansionism advocated Wijeweera-Bopage alliance by targeting Poor Estate Tamil workers against Sri Lankan Revolution! How this type Anarchist-Terrorist become Revolutionaries in Sri Lanka?

    JVP was Soviet Revisionist out-fit; additional her Anarchist credential
    Mao said “…. In philosophy materialism and idealism form a unity of opposites and struggle with each other. the same is true another pair of opposites ,dialectics and metaphysics. Whenever one talks about philosophy one can do without these two parties of opposites. Now Soviet union they will have nothing to do with such ‘pair’ but are going for ‘single’ asserting that only fragrant flowers, but not poisonous weeds, grow there and denying the existence of idealism and metaphysics in a Socialist Country.
    As matter of fact idealism metaphysics and poisonous weeds are found in every countries. In Soviet union many of poisonous weeds appear in the name of flagrant flowers and many absurd statement bear the label of materialism or Socialist Realism. We openly recognized the struggle between materialism and idealism between dialectics and metaphysics and between fragrant flowers and poisonous weeds. The struggle will go on for ever and will move a step forward at every stage…”

    Ex-JVP leaders like Bopage has lean lesson from the past history, that they cannot escape from the punishment of history, committed by grave political crime against Working Class in Sri lanka.

    We respect Justin Sarath Fernando as person who work for Famers in county side.

  • 0

    Almost all those who have written comments under this article have spent much time to blame the writer, not about the honest leftist who has departed for good.They are typical Sri Lankans who never see any good in anything.

    I know the writer though he does not know me at all. To the best of my knowledge he is an honest person who believes in socialism.I know his dedication to build a socialist political party . But he had to leave the JVP because Wijeweera imposed his Sinhala socialism on the JVP.
    My strong belief is all those who believe in socialism are good people. They know that capitalist social system has failed to serve the poor.
    One may say socialism also has failed pointing what happened in the Soviet Union.It failed there due to hundreds of other reasons not because socialism is bad a or wrong.
    To explain what went wrong in the Soviet Union one has to write a book of hundreds of pages.
    When the socialist movement was powerful in the world there was no space for Muslim terrorism.The majority of Muslim militants believed in socialism Hence I honestly believe the best way to to curb the Muslims terrorism in the world is a united powerful global socialist movement.
    Those who insult socialists are only hirelings of capitalist political parties.In Sri Lankan context they are acolytes of Ranil , Mahinda,and Fonseka

  • 0

    The “honest leftist” departed for good was another misguided person who was manipulated by the Diaspora in Australia including Bopage who associates closely with Father Emmanuel of the LTTE. During the CFA the Tamil diaspora thought that Eelam was at hand, and wanted to get everything possible from the “Sinhala Govt.” before separating.

    Mr Sarath Fdo was expected to get an “agricultural University” setup in the North from “Sinhala Funds” Mr. Sarath Fdo also believed that the Tamils have a right to the North-East, and was willing to do all this as he believed that we need to do everything to appease the Tiger as he is invincible.

    Does anyone who is in his right senses believe that the Jaffna farmer, with his legendary abilities, needs amateurs like Sarath Fdo teaching them agriculture?

    These leftists got involved in “people movements” in the hope of using them as tools for their “revolution” which is just around the corner. “You cannot make an omelet without cracking eggs”, so Bopage and his comrades went about cracking peoples heads, and now wants to do the same with the help of the LTTE-rump in Australia.

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