24 October, 2017

The 1982 Referendum & July 1983

By Rajan Hoole

Dr. Rajan Hoole

Dr. Rajan Hoole

Taming The Judiciary & The Legacy Of The 1982 Referendum – Part III

We pause here to describe the atmosphere of repression and insanity that prevailed during the run-up to the infamous Referendum which in many direct ways set the stage for July 1983 and for the JVP’s insurgency of 1987-90.

The 4th Amendment over extending the life of parliament was submitted to the Supreme Court by the Attorney General Shiva Pasupathy in early November 1982. The AG maintained that the Court had no jurisdiction over the Amendment if it had the backing of at least two-thirds in the House and was approved at a referendum.

Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon then asked why it was referred to the SC if the SC had no jurisdiction over it.

The Attorney General replied that such a ref- erence was mandatory under Article 122 of the constitution.

CJ asked: “What do you want me to do?”

AG : “…to say that you have no jurisdiction.”

When one comes across such an exchange in the highest court of the land over a major amendment to the Constitution, it was a sign that a black comedy was being played out in the affairs of the nation.

In challenging the 4th Amendment S. Kanagaratnam appeared for C.V. Vivekanandan and Felix Dias Bandaranaike (FDB) appeared for himself. A key point in FDB’s case was proviso (a) to Article 75 which said: “Parliament shall not make any law suspending the operation of the Constitution or any part thereof.” (Sun 4.11.82)

To an ordinary layman this was a clear pro- hibition against not holding elections and ex- tending the life of parliament, as ought to be the case in any decent constitution. However, the Supreme Court of the new era approved the Amendment by a majority of 4 against 3.

FDB then came back with a second challenge to the Amendment citing Article 123(3) of the Constitution: “If the Supreme Court entertains a doubt regarding an urgent bill, then it shall be deemed to have been determined that the bill is in- consistent with the Constitution.”

FDB argued that the narrow majority by which the Supreme Court gave its approval en- tailed a doubt. This turned out to be of no avail.

In presenting the 4th Amendment to Parliament on 4th November, Prime Minister Premadasa declared that “the Bill seeks to ensure a prosperous and righteous society!”

It would have been a comedy if not for the grave consequences for the nation. jr-jayewardene-and-rohana-wijeweera

On 3rd November 1982, the day before the 4th Amendment was presented to Parliament, the Communist Party paper Aththa, the only effective opposition daily, was sealed at 8:30 PM. The next issue had already been printed, and its editorial was titled, ‘The dictatorship of J.R. Jayewardene is already here’.

The sealing of the Aththa was raised in parliament by Sarath Muttetuwegama the next day. He pointed out that under the sealing order made by the Competent Authority Douglas Liyanage acting for the Ministry of State, no time limit had been given.

Anandatissa de Alwis, Minster of State, replied that he would not enter into an argument on this matter, but would merely point out that the Competent Authority has decided that this paper [Attha] violates security and causes public disorder. This reply made a mockery of accountability before Parliament, where ministers are answerable. It was as though Parliament had abdicated to shadowy officials. As to Competent Authority Liyanage’s democratic credentials, he was a leading figure in the coup attempt in 1962!

Prime Minister Premadasa added his own argument: The Aththa was sealed under Emergency Regulations, and since Muttetuwegama had voted for the emergency, he has consented to the sealing of the paper!

The sealing of the Aththa, the passing of the 4th Amendment, and the unprecedented repression that ensued and lasted until the end of the Referendum, were orchestrated by the UNP in the most unscrupulous manner. The pattern had a plan and organisation reminiscent of the man- ner in which the July 1983 violence was staged.

There is little doubt that Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe had a major role as a hatchet man in this conspiracy. The very first speech in parliament giving racy, but totally unsubstantiated, details about the alleged ‘Naxalite Plot’ was made by Wickremesinghe, minister of education, on 28th October 1982. Such being his position in Jayewardene’s regime, it raises an interesting question about what he was doing during the violence of July 1983.

The SLFP was then in disarray with Mrs. Bandaranaike, owing to her ‘legal’ disability, unable to be fully effective as leader. Being a party that was broadly Sinhalese nationalist, which had no clear principles, ideas or vision, it was set to crumble along personal differences. It appears to be the case that Ranil Wickremesinghe picked up some gossip in the form of wild conjectures from his classmate Anura Bandaranaike, who was evidently wary of his sister Chandrika and her husband Vijaya Kumaratunga, whose inclinations were towards the Left. VK was also potentially more enlightened on the Tamil issue. Anura’s faction were either unconvincing, lacklustre or pro-UNP during the presidential election campaign and then the crucial Referendum issue.

Speaking about the Naxalite Plot which sup- posedly was to have been hatched if Hector Kobbekaduwe had won the presidential stakes on 20th October, Wickremesinghe’s speech alleged the following: The pledge by Kobbekaduwe to restore Mrs. Bandaranaike’s civic rights and make her president was not be honoured. Vijaya Kumaratunga would have taken over as Prime Minister in place of Maitripala Senanayake whom he had backed for that post before the elections. There were to be no ministers, but only secretaries. Prasanna Dahanayake who was discharged from the Army for alleged subversive links was to be made defence secretary. Former Air Force chief Harry Gunatilleke was to become co-ordinating secretary defence, who had also submitted a report to Anuruddha Ratwatte about the need to remove many unreliable pilots. The Communist Party cadre it was said, were urging that arms be taken away from unreliable units in the security forces. A section of the SLFP, including Mrs. Bandaranaike, was to be eliminated.

On 3rd November, Jayewardene issued a slightly more restrained communiqué about the Naxalite Plot about which, he said, he had heard on 21st October. The plan he said was to assassinate him, a few ministers, Anura Bandaranaike and the service chiefs. Mrs. Bandaranaike was to be imprisoned. The danger in holding the general elections that were due, he said, was that a large number of political hooligans would enter parliament, wreck the democratic process, and strengthen themselves to form their Naxalite government at the next general election!

The plot was becoming more and more blood curdling. It was the same day that the Aththa was sealed and the next day the 4th Amendment went before parliament. To an objection raised by Lakshman Jayakody MP, that these allegations were absurd, Gamini Dissanayake, Minister of Mahaveli, Lands and Land Development, put on a good court room performance, naming some of the Naxalites: “…the leader of the Naxalites is Vijaya Kumaratunga, the husband of the leader’s daughter (Chandrika). His assistant is her daughter herself. Then there are other groups of people who conducted the last election campaign and who were plotting before the election results were out to assassinate the President. If you want to find out who the Naxalites are, look at your own house!”

The Sunday Times, then under direct government control, referred to the speeches in the Hansard above (4th November and 28th October) and published on 14th November a list of eight key Naxalites with their photographs. They were in order: 1. Vijaya Kumaratunga, 2. Chandrika Kumaratunga, 3. Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, 4. Hector Kobbekaduwa, 5. T.B. Illangaratne, 6. K.P. Silva (General Secretary, Communist Party), 7. G.S.P. Ranaweera (Editor, Aththa) and 8. Jinadasa Niyathapala.

Along with this drama, the most active SLFPers were detained to prevent their campaigning against the extension of parliament by the Referendum. According to the Sunday Ob- server of 14.11.82 the ‘Violence Plotters’ were arrested on the Attorney General’s advice. According to the Forward (CP paper), the SLFP General Secretary, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake was detained incommunicado at Rock House, Mutwal.

On 29th November, the Attorney General filed indictments at the High Court against Wickremanayake and 10 other SLFPers. They were accused of a ‘conspiracy to cause damage to public and private buildings and property, and engineer acts of violence.’ And when, according to the AG, did they intend doing such things? – Way back in October 1980 as a protest against the stripping of Mrs. Bandaranaike’s civic rights! Legal history was being made. You could be hauled up before court today if someone remembered that you had intended robbing a bank two years ago, which in fact you never did.

Vijaya Kumaratunga, who was then not well, was arrested on 19th November and held in army custody. It required an appeal court order for him to see a doctor of his choice.

There were protests against what the Government was doing, notably by the Civil Rights Movement, which questioned election abuses and then later, the Referendum result. An Island editorial for example questioned the need for an emergency (under which the opposition press was sealed) in the run up to the Referendum vote, considering that the investigation against alleged Naxalites was a routine police affair, and the suspects were moreover under detention or were readily accessible. The protest was mild and politely worded, in contrast to the brazen cynicism of government actions. Jayewardene simply ignored these. No clinching thoroughly documented case was presented in this country by any organisation of note that went beyond a few instances of abuse that may have been countered as aberrations.

On the other hand, the Government was going full-steam ahead on a McCarthyite binge. Its media were full of a Naxalite conspiracy and a Red menace. Even sadder still, an influential section of the so-called Independent Press, far from protesting at the repression, joined the McCarthyite chorus. Today they may be found among the prominent advocates of media freedom, who have conveniently forgotten their betrayal of the Aththa and the Saturday Review.

Among the more sophisticated operators was Migara of the Weekend (Sun). In his column of 24th October, he attributed the SLFP’s defeat at the presidential election to its disorganised campaign: ‘Hector Kobbekaduwe was a poor national figure who had not been in active politics since the party’s defeat in 1977. The more popular figure was Anura Bandaranaike who came late in the campaign and whose speeches were more favourable to the UNP than to the party he represented. The rest on whom Hector Kobbekaduwe relied, like Vijaya Kumaratunga, D.M. Jayaratne and Tennyson Edirisooriya were not persons who commanded respect at national level.”

He said that Kobbekaduwe put up a creditable performance getting 39% of the vote, adding that he lost due to Mrs. Bandaranaike not being in the campaign, Anura Bandaranaike and loyalists not being interested in campaigning and the defection of party stalwarts. Migara also added that Jayewardene had always stood for a national government [and even once for socialism!], and when the SLFP did not join him, he made sure that it stayed divided.

Migara wrote again on 14th November ’82 on the subject of Jayewardene always wanting a national government: “President Jayewardene has been given an overwhelming mandate to preside over the destiny of Sri Lanka for another seven years. Should this not be the time to bring all patriotic forces together?”

There is a shift from the earlier piece which implicitly admitted that Jayewardene had won obtaining 53% of the votes cast (43% of the registered vote) only by decimating the opposition and preventing it from coalescing around Mrs. Bandaranaike by unfair means. In the second quotation, it has been elevated to an ‘overwhelming mandate.’ The next shift was calculatedly mean. On 28th November ’82 Migara wrote about the role of the ‘Aththa’: “The Com- munist Party was openly anti-Mrs.Bandaranaike. They went flat out towards the latter stages of the [presidential] campaign to ensure a victory for the SLFP. They undoubtedly won the SLFP the bulk of their votes in the North and South…the orders from [the] Kremlin (Moscow) appear to be that the Communist Party should give all assistance to the SLFP sans Mrs.Bandaranaike to defeat Jayewardene at the polls.”

The title of the piece was ‘Foreign Powers Vie for Lanka.’ In one fell swoop Migara had tried to give substance to the ‘Naxalite Plot’ which he knew to be eyewash, and justified the sealing of the Aththa by associating it with, as it were, the Red Menace. The entire media and the resources of big business were at Jayewardene’s disposal to spew their vituperations either in polished Migara style or in a more unrestrained style as in the Sunday Times which was under government control.

Still Jayewardene did not take chances. During polling on 22nd December, the violence, intimidation and fraud were such that in Mrs. Bandaranaike’s family electorate of Attanagala, where family members were always returned with overwhelming majorities, the government won 67% of the votes polled and where two months earlier the SLFP presidential candidate had won 55%. Dr. Colvin R.de Silva of the LSSP called the Referendum, “a display of organised violence to cover organised mass impersonation.” The Government secured a continuation of its five-sixths majority in parliament through obtaining 54.7% of votes polled at the referendum (38% of the registered vote). The emergency continued to be in force until the poll ended.

The ease with which the UNP was allowed to get away with the fraud cost the country dearly. By its very success, the Government drove the small but effective opposition underground, outside the democratic process. In the Tamil areas the Government’s conduct during the emergency eroded hope of reaching a solution through the democratic process and the situation continued to deteriorate while the Government made threatening noises. The first media strike against the Gandhiyam was made on 28th November 1982 with very disturbing overtones, at the height of the McCarthyite putsch in the South. We will refer to this later (Sect. 8.2).

On 28th October, Jayewardene had obtained undated resignation letters from all his MPs on cyclostyled forms on which they had to sign, and the same day Ranil Wickremesinghe opened the Naxalite bash in Parliament. The party became so tightly controlled by a group around Jayewardene, that other aspirants had to wait and literally resort to threats, elimination or both to assert themselves after things moved into a flux in late 1987. The legacy of the Referendum exercise left impaired the institutions of the Judiciary and the Attorney General’s department, long beyond the UNP’s hold on power. The Army and Police, instead of being forces which upheld the law impartially, were made to function as private gangs of those in power, when they were called upon to detain and harass op- position figures on the basis of fiction concocted by the executive.

The Government in turn became a nervous and paranoid government unable to observe prudent limits in dealing with the Tamil problem, or with any show of opposition. Despite the police agencies being very busy, the actual and potential strength of an underground op- position was difficult to gauge. Such a government was set to make the miscalculations, which led to the July 1983 holocaust, and an intensification of the Tamil insurgency and then the JVP insurgency of 1987.

It was during this period that Kumaratunga made his mark as a political organiser, enabling Kobbekaduwe to obtain an unexpectedly high 39% of the vote despite inactivity and sabotage by prominent members of the SLFP. It is also notable that he was classified Naxalite No.1 by Gamini Dissanayake and eliminated from the Referendum campaign. Although he later left the SLFP and formed a new party, Kumaratunga was subsequently to play a role, that was far from being that of a minor political figure.

As a further irony, Naxalite No.2, Chandrika Kumaratunga, became President in 1994 while Ranil Wickremesinghe became opposition leader. Those who were looking for a Naxalite president were disappointed. The Press, however, kept blaming her for her ‘confrontational’ approach to Wickremesinghe! Another legacy, the Sri Lankan Press became perhaps the most chronically dishonest in any democratic country. They had to go on covering up for how they behaved in 1982 and 1983, and for the sequel of intense tragedy to all of which they lent their complicity.

*To be continued..

*From Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Power – Myth, Decadence and Murder” published in Jan. 2001. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To read earlier parts click here

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Latest comments

  • 2
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    “It was during this period that Kumaratunga made his mark as a political organiser, enabling Kobbekaduwe to obtain an unexpectedly high 39% of the vote despite inactivity and sabotage by prominent members of the SLFP.”

    With all due respect to Vijaya Kumaranatunge, I wonder on what basis the above claim is made. I fear that sweeping statements reflect sentiment than study.

    There were other factors to consider: The Tamil vote in the Jaffna Peninsula was significantly more supportive of Kobbekaduwa than JRJ, despite the candidacy of Kumar Ponnambaam and the ‘boycott’ by the embarrassed TULF.
    The decision of the two Trotskyite rivals (LSSP & NSSP) to contest, out of sheer bitterness, and the JVP fielding Wijeweera as candidate made a difference to the morale of opponents of JRJ.

    The “Naxalite” canard had a specific purpose and was dropped once the purpose was served. It had far-fetched links to the Janavegaya group which came into existence in 1973 but lost its momentum by late 1975. By 1977 there was hardly any reference to Janavegaya in political quarters. JRJ revived its memory to frighten the now far less left-inclined public about ‘the threat to democracy’ to conceal the real threat comprising his re-election and the notorious Referendum soon after.

    • 3
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      I think you may be underestimating Vijaya’s role during the 1982 Presidential election. Even with regard to the Tamil vote. After all he and Chandrika paid a visit to Jaffna — did they meet Prabakharan? I can’t remember — at a time no Southern politicians would go there. And they received a warm welcome.

      Also he addressed many meetings all over the country during that election campaign. He had tremendous energy and charisma and he (and Chandrika, one should not forget) did much to win support for Kobbekaduwa when other key SLFPers were less enthusiastic.

      JR himself was amazed at the election result considering Hector K was relatively unknown & Mrs B was prevented from campaigning. He lost confidence about winning a general election & decided on the fraudulent strategy of a referendum to yru to ensure a continued vital 2/3 of the seats in parliament. He or his advisors clearly identified Vijaya as a key element in in Kobbekaduwa’s relative success and so landed him in prison to prevent him campaigning in the referendum.

      • 2
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        I have not underestimated anything or anybody.
        I only asked for the basis of what seemed a rather sweeping statement.

        My understanding is that voting has for long been based on party loyalty: The SLFP polled 29.7% against UNP’s 50.9% in 1977, its worst performance since 1956 (owing to the much publicized bread queues and strong Tamil hostility among other factors).
        Its rise to 39.1% against 52.9% was close to (or even below) expectation as the JRJ regime had lost much of its shine by 1982. (JRJ was fast discovered by the electorate, firstly for cheating on his pledge to provide 8 kg of grain and then the use of brutal force against the strikers in 1980 among other repressive acts.)
        Besides:
        (1) The LSSP’s share dropped from 3.6% in 1977 to a combined less than 1.2% in 1982.
        (2) The SLFP picked up more Tamil votes than it had ever since 1956.
        These were favourable to the SLFP but the JVP was a spoiler with 4.2%.

        Also by the end of 1981 the SLFP was out of its post-1977 slumber and the shock of the ‘disabling’ of Mrs B.
        The feeling among SLFPers was one of anger than helplessness.

        My point is that there were several key factors while the claim in the article suggested almost predominant (if not sole) credit to Vijaya K.
        Vijaya K played an undeniable role. But claims should be in some proportion to reality.

        I am not convinced that JRJ was shivering in his boots at the thought of Vijaya’s campaigning for the SLFP.
        But he was not a man to take chances with anything that threatened his grip on power, which he longed for and was denied for several decades.

        I doubt if JRJ thought of the Naxalite theory spontaneously.
        The idea was very probably part of one of his pre-election game plans to keep himself in power. Even if he had won as convincingly as in 1977 (with 60 of the vote, a number based on the nature of the electorate) he was likely to have gone ahead with the referendum since his mighty parliamentary majority was not necessarily secure.

        • 2
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          “His mighty parliamentary majority was not necessarily secure.”

          That majority was obtained through “first-past-the-post”. When he changed that to “proportional” his intentions may not have been bad. He was already old. When, by 1982, he found that he was still in good health, and that his open economy had made people happy, he thought of this referendum.

          That was such a dishonest exercise that it shocked all thinking people, but such people are always a minority. Most people swallowed that strange “Naxalite” talk. I’m not going to research “Naxalite” (so easily done on the Internet – let somebody else do so!). They were some violent Marxists spreading terror in parts of India, weren’t they?

          The more vague the bogey, the better; and then they ceased to be part of common parlance as soon as the purpose was served. Poor Vijaya! Don’t grudge him praise. A man who meant so well, and had so much popular appeal. Of course you are right, “Sekera” about there being other factors, which you have analysed accurately.

          Wijeweera was “aesthetically unpleasing” – an ugly man who became the voice for many idealistic youth. Similar to Prabhakaran in far too many respects!

          I’m hoping for much, much more to come from Mano Ratwatte’s examination of Rajan Hoole’s earlier articles. He should go back to them, make comments, and then tell us that he’s done so. They will be invaluable; cold be an important complement to Rajan’s work. He strikes me as being such an honest man. I’m sad that he has made no attempt to contact me, but then, I (understandably!) have acquired this reputation for saying too much!

          • 2
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            JRJ introduced the district-based ‘proportional representation’ system to ensure that the opposition cannot turn tables on him.
            He soon realized his folly. That meant that his 2/3 majority could not be assured. Hence the referendum.

            Vijaya displayed his very best in the short period preceding his assassination. That was why he was assassinated.

    • 2
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      P. S. Here’s what JR said in an interview in Jan 1983 about why he called a referendum instead of a general election:

      “I found the SLFP polling 3 million WITHOUT Mrs Bandaranaike campaigning in the presidential election. So I thought I should tell the people, do you want us, or do you want 50 to 60 Communist-sponsored Naxalites in parliament? “

      He just trumped up this conspiracy because he was afraid of the organizational & campaigning ability of someone like the charismatic Vijaya K. V was kept in virtual solitary confinement until early January and nothing proved against him.

  • 5
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    Sir, the CID came to interview my father too. The UNP specialized in trying to frame people over the “naxalite canard”.

    Sadly, UNPers have amnesia now about this period in history.

    Anura B was a compulsive gullible good hearted man; yet he thought he was the anointed prince. He had an intense rivalry with his brother in law from lesser circumstances. Vijaya K was a charismatic man loved by many and was liberal and enlightened before his time on the Ethnic issue; so was CBK. So whatever Anura could do to undermine Vijaya and that rival faction he would do. That was how it was.

    I was part of that foolish family members mesmerized by the fraudulent Janaweygaya movement that Kumar Rupesinghe created with a dangerous Communist like idol worshipping philosophy. He parachuted into the insecure first family and led this flamboyant arrogant “I know more than you natives because I went to Oxford” attitude that many of us who were locals fell for. Even I used to go to the Janaweygaya office; even my mom and dad got carried away with that bullshit. Those were the sad unpopular days of the waning SLFP regime in 1973. You fail to mention Kumar R who was really a charlatan in my mind those days. He went around telling that GOSL should declare a “moratorium” on the loans it took from WB/IMF. As a mostly Sinhala speaker with lesser English skills, that was the first time I had heard that word. What a lucking bovine excrement hurler. He forced himself on the NYSC too because he was the PM’s son in law.

    I was always mesmerized by Vijaya K. He had a way with kids. Loving. He was from very simple Sinhala speaking circumstances. A lot of the internal SLFP squabbles and power grabs were because of the sibling rivalry. Gosh Anura was a handful when he went on his hysterical temper tantrums. But JR thought Mrs. B will beg for Vijaya K t o be released or that his other rival CBK who he distrusted would come begging to him. RW like JR suffered from hubris and this plot mentality. That is why RW destroyed LRRP because he was fed some bull puckey about imaginary plots against him. And like ALL SL’s politicians including my family members, they all fell for sycophants and time-serving crooks and this current UNP regime is no different.

    Sir, thank you for not glossing over a critical period in SL history. UNP kids pretend they do not even know about the mass murder JVP-Counter JVP killing period. 2 of my students at USJ disappeared. Yep JRJ did a lot of damage to democracy and people pretend otherwise. You Sir, are the ONLY one I see being blunt and honest about this comi-tragedy period in SL. I hope you cover the dooshana-beeshana period. CBK has many flaws but at that time, on the ethnic issue she and Vijaya K were a cut above the Sinhala nationalists of the SLFP. The JVP led by the aesthitically unpleasant Wijeweera hated Vijaya. That is why they shot him in his face to destroy him. CBK played politics with his death to try to frame the UNP; they should have investigated the torture chambers rather than trying to pin Vijaya K’s gruesome assassination on the UNP.

    Like I said that beautiful nation seems to be an amalagam of jealous little fiefdoms and miscalculations and hope that sort of tragi-comedy will end now. War ended; 7 years of non-violent progress; freedom of press(I would not have the balls to write here earlier) and perhaps economic progress for everyone?

    Thank you for being honest and educating the younger readers.

    • 1
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      Just a minor point, Mr Ratwatte, Kumar did not go to Oxford. But he was certainly a helluva ‘n operator…

    • 2
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      Dear Mr Mano Ratwatte,

      You say:

      “Sir, thank you for not glossing over a critical period in SL history.”

      May I suggest that you look at this review of Dr Hoole’s more recent book:

      https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-missed-foundations-of-reconciliation-rajan-hooles-palmyra-fallen/comment-page-1/#comment-2064419

      That book has been advertised so much by Colombo Telegraph that it’s become blasé. Let me hope that my providing the link may persuade many more to look at that review, and give Mr Ratwatte the chance to buy one of the last few copies of the book direct from the author. I find that it is no longer available in the Bookshops.

      If only somebody from the Jayawardena-Ranil Wickremasinghe family would explain to us why THEY did certain things at that time of turmoil!

  • 0
    0

    Sir, thank you for not glossing over a critical period in SL history. UNP kids pretend they do not even know about the mass murder JVP-Counter JVP killing period. 2 of my students at USJ disappeared. Yep JRJ did a lot of damage to democracy and people pretend otherwise. You Sir, are the ONLY one I see being blunt and honest about this comi-tragedy period in SL. I hope you cover the dooshana-beeshana period. CBK has many flaws but at that time, on the ethnic issue she and Vijaya K were a cut above the Sinhala nationalists of the SLFP. The JVP led by the aesthitically unpleasant Wijeweera hated Vijaya. That is why they shot him in his face to destroy him. CBK played politics with his death to try to frame the UNP; they should have investigated the torture chambers rather than trying to pin Vijaya K’s gruesome assassination on the UNP.

    Like I said that beautiful nation seems to be an amalagam of jealous little fiefdoms and miscalculations and hope that sort of tragi-comedy will end now. War ended; 7 years of non-violent progress; freedom of press(I would not have the balls to write here earlier) and perhaps economic progress for everyone?

    Thank you for being honest and educating the younger readers.

  • 4
    0

    Mano R:
    You should know better about what happened in the family circle. Whatever may be your understanding of communists, I can assure you that usually it takes much hard work, demonstration of ability and evidence of conviction to be respected in communist party circles. People there do not readily fall for doctorates and foreign qualifications. Some con-men have, however, succeeded to a degree: Sanmugathasan took Rohana W into trust because of his supposedly an anti-USSR credentials; but many party cadres had their doubts and were proven right just a few years later.

    You said: He [Kumar R] parachuted into the insecure first family and led this flamboyant arrogant “I know more than you natives because I went to Oxford” attitude that many of us who were locals fell for. (BTW, I am informed that he was no closer Oxford than Chandrika K was to Sorbonne.)
    Interestingly, there still are plenty of ‘learned’ people who fall for vainful boast.

    I am not sure how ‘aesthitically unpleasant’ Rohana W was; more than a few considered him charismatic.
    JVP hatred for Vijaya K was political. The JVP had its own agenda in 1987-89 and they targetted anyone of any significance who stood in the way. Vikramabahu Karunaratne too was a target.

    • 2
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      It is saddening to learn that Sanmugathasan naively believed that because Rohan’s W was anti USSR despite party cadres having doubts him that they could not influence him to be cautious.
      Why did they permit such a blunder to take shape and burgeon out of control in the form of the JVP to cause a calamity in the country which ultimately saw JRJ become PM in 1977?
      What forces corntrived and manufactured such a process for the JVP to become a catalyst in the subsequent upheavals the country went through is a matter for the people of this country to question and deal with the current uncertainties they are faced up with.
      Will the JVP in it’s New Democratic garb having shorn off it’s previous debilitating infantile tendencies show a way out of the present crises the country is in with a dithering government and a corrupt administration.

      • 1
        0

        Uthungan:
        It is easy for us to pass judgment in hindsight.
        I had oversimplified the story to avoid details.

        Mistakes occur, and there is no infallible leader.
        That was a time when the faction led by Sanmugathasan was targetted on communal lines by some key leaders of the pro-Soviet faction. Shan’s deputy Premlal Kumarasiri had left him, and there was need to encourage fresh Sinhalese leaders to emerge.
        Rohana W was an efficient and energetic young man who (superficially) spoke the same political language as Shan, and he was given responsibilities.
        But RW had other ideas. It was during the 1966 January communal demonstration organized by the SLFP that RW was fully exposed.

        The party led by Sanmugathasan paid a substantial price for the mistake.
        This is not the place to discuss Shan’s plus and minus points: in short, there were other strategic errors as well, some inevitable in the context, others avoidable.
        These were factors in the two splits that followed, one in 1974 and the other in 1978.

        No Party cannot blame it all on the leader. There was self criticism and people took collective responsibility for mistakes of earlier years even after leaving Sanmugathasan.

        The JVP had no Marxist programme of any description. Its sham of a 5-lecture short course bears ample evidence. It was a populist party all along. It pandered to chauvinism because that served its purpose of rapid growth. It suffered very badly twice by infantile insurrectionist strategies and once by parliamentary opportunism.

        I blame the parliamentary path for much that went wrong for the left. That was the weakness that strengthened communal politics in the 1960s and 70s. But there are faults on the side of the revolutionary left as well.
        There is need for the left to understand its political history.
        Life is a process of continuous learning, and the struggle goes on.

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          Sekara
          “There is a need for the left to understand it’s political history”.
          True, every thing has it’s learning process, The old “Left” which believed on a parliamentary path is now dead.
          But in the case of the young JVP which portrays itself as of the left and seen by some as such, is also in parliament and has not done or said anything realistic or objective to show that it has learnt lessons from it’s past errors when it comes to the “National Question” is still hedging on issue.

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          Uthungan
          True. The JVP never broke from its chauvinit past.
          I can only hope that the breakaway FLSP will try.

          Frankly, Sinhala chauvinism lost much of its steam after the end of the war and there is much willingness to talk about problems of minorities rather than harp on terrorism and separatism. The likes of BBS and JHU are not very relevant, but are used by the politically bankrupt.
          Let us steer clear.
          It takes initiative from all sides to move further.
          Let us wait while we do what little we can.

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            Sekara
            It may be that Sinhala chauvinism has lost isteam but it still has not lost traction to slide the muddy downhill slippery slope into oblivion.
            That could be many decades tiowards the end of this century.
            Me and you may not live that long to see it happen.
            It is difficult to know at this stage how Trump’s deglobalisaton project is going to have an overall impact on a country like SL which in fact is in the nature of a majority community elected oligarchy feigning democratic credentials.
            The present Yahapalana set up is just that a distorted mirror image of it’s predecessor, that’s all.
            As for your hopes about the FLSP why do you think people like Bahu of the NSSP who have a correct understanding about all that is taking place in the island see it as an irrelevance ?

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              I have been consistently critical of the FLSP for its poor understanding of Marxism and the consequent erroneous line on the national question, especially autonomy for nationalities, but I was never dismissive. They have some hangover from the JVP as well as a relatively soft line on MR, perhaps for tactical reasons.

              The FLSP was perhaps the best thing that happened for the left in the South in recent times, especially after the bulk of the LSSP tradition alignng with MR or RW.
              But that is not good enough. They have some way to go. On the positive side, they maintain a healthy dialogue with Tamil left parties.

              I cannot speak for VBK or my other friends in the LSSP tradition or the CP.

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    Young people today may wonder whether J.R. Jayawardena succeeded in hoodwinking us with arguments as foolish as those enumerated by Dr Hoole. The answer is “yes”.

    We did not oppose strongly enough. Why? Perhaps we remembered the economic difficulties of the period when Mrs Bandaranaike and the left were running the state. I know that I cannot philosophise, but I should like to confirm the accuracy of what seems so weird now that YOU read it.

    However, isn’t the country accepting excuses as absurd for the failure to keep promises made by those whom we elected exactly two years ago? And isn’t the country now as guilty as then when one considers how we tolerate the nonsense spouted by Members of Parliament? We are again accepting too many things as inevitable.

    No pontificating by me, just confirmation of the accuracy of the picture that is getting drawn for us. I feel that Mano Ratwatte’s discovery of how much truth Dr Rajan Hoole has told is both touching and promising. Please, Sir, now that you have discovered his writings, please go back to the earlier installments, but remember that what you are getting now is already stuff that is fifteen years old. I don’t know, myself, what to expect in the next installment, but please remember that it is not new writing.

    Very occasionally you get Rajan coming out with what he feels about current events. And he hardly ever intervenes in the discussion. When he does either, take it very seriously.

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