By Basil Fernando –
The 13th of November (tomorrow) will be the 25th Death Anniversary of Rohana Wijeweera, the late leader of the JVP, Janatha Vimukthi Peramuana (The Peoples Liberation Front). It is perhaps an appropriate moment to recall the cruelty and the violence engaged in by the JVP as well as of the government security forces in during the so called ‘second uprising’. I propose to do so through a short reflection on a poem which I wrote, of an actual incident that took place during this time.
The poem talks about a good man, who happened to be a lawyer, and whom I knew very well. I have only disguised his name but the rest of the details are photographically true.
The poem depicts not merely the utter senselessness and the unabridged nature of the cruelty which the JVP rank and file proved that they were capable of. They were in fact acting under the overall guidance of the JVP leadership including that of Rohana Wijeweera.
The JVP was molded on the ideological foundation created by Joseph Stalin and believed in the use of terror as a progressive instrument for change. What this meant was that intimidation and fear were necessary components of success and all moral considerations should be abandoned in the pursuit of the objectives of the party.
The absurdity, to which such an ideology was lead to, became clearly manifested in over, literarily, thousands of incidents that took place throughout the country.
The security forces acted with even more cruelty and ferocity.
A sensitive citizen, such as my friend depicted in this poem, could see no purpose in adjusting to the social ethos created by this terror.
It was the government that took best advantage of this situation to achieve its own ends by creating conditions for suppression of each and every person, living at the time.
The impact, of this terror, still lives on.
How Gunadasa Died
Go, go, said he,
Smiling, his face radiating happiness.
He was a villager from Baddegama.
Though lawyer with a subtle mind
Capable of making clever arguments,
He had a rural soul
That had survived through centuries.
His name was Gunandasa Baddegama.
Yet one day
This man and his smile
Came to an end.
Having received a message
Of tragedy befalling
One of his brothers
On a day the insurgents
Had declared a curfew.
He hurriedly left for his village.
When he went there,
What he saw
On the road,
Covered with a cloth –
A body cut into pieces.
It was a different man
Never was there a smile
On his face again,
Thinner he got each day.
His body shrunk
Like a lizard.
Some said “it’s Cancer”
“ There’s no disease to be found,”
Said the doctors,
“There’s no medicine for this,
Except a miracle,”
Said a professor.
Thinner and thinner he wasted away,
In a final defiance against the inhumanity
This poem was originally published in Sinhalese and it was translated by me into English.
*About the author: Basil Fernando, Director Policy and Programme Development, AHRC/ALRC