Ernesto Che Guevara’s 50th Death Anniversary – Revisiting Che After 50 years of His Death


Ernesto Che Guevara

Ernesto Che Guevara

Ernesto Che Guevara, the Argentine revolutionary (fondly named as Che) was a big inspiration to me while I was a teenager. Though I was born into a family of conventional socialist communist values, I also admired Che more than I did Lenin. My late father being a member of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka  from its inception, our home was full of Soviet communist literature translated into Sinhala that were directly sent from the former Soviet Union. I grew up reading Soviet fairy tales as a kid and then I had the capacity of reading and comprehending hardcore communist doctrines that were sent in huge volumes as I was an avid omnivorous reader ever since I could read the Sinhala alphabet. (I could not read a decent English book till I was 25.) I had the luck of reading much-loved Soviet revolutionary novels and short stories at a very young age. Oh, I cherish those good old days. Being an inexperienced and immature kid in 80’s, I believed that all those propaganda literatures was 100% true and the Soviet Union was the Heaven on Earth. But within the next decade (to be exact between 1990 – 1991) I saw the great Soviet Empire collapsing and reducing into rubbles and a cake baked into the real size and the shape of the Founding Father of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin was cut into slices and eaten by the Russians themselves.  My dad was lucky enough not to be alive to see such horrific scenes as he left the planet in 1989, a year before the great collapse of the Soviet Union started.

Coming back to Che, I read about him from some (mostly hidden) books my eldest brother Nayanasena Wanninayaka used to bring when he came home during his vacations from his higher studies. For me, Che was more attractive, charismatic and sexier than any of the other revolutionaries, be it Lenin, Mao or Fidel. But I did not find much to read about Che except for the few weekend newspapers articles published during his birth and death anniversaries. Che was not a welcome word in my village, Mahawilachchiya, where a big-time massacre of Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) cadres said to have taken place in 1971, a year before I was born. The dead bodies of the JVP cadres were dragged by police jeeps in ropes and put into public display during Rohana Wijeweera’s failed rebellion in 1971. The JVP cadres were commonly known as “Che Guevara guys” (චෙගුරා කාරයෝ) those days by the people. So, people were that scared of Che, whom Wijeweera (blindly) followed. The books about both the Argentine and the Sri Lankan revolutionaries (Che and Wijeweera) were usually burnt as soon as they were read since it could always invite troubles. To make things worse, late Rohana Wijeweera again attempted to topple the government during 1988-89 and the whole country came into a standstill when his then banned party, the JVP imposed “a curfew” in the country and Wijeweera was only a few steps away from overthrowing the government. So, me being a teenager during that time meant a lot of risks and I had to hide my admiration to Che, the revolutionary. Besides hundreds of both military and government sponsored paramilitary troops were haunting at night everywhere in the country and in the morning, one could see slaughtered young men and women by the roadside. Rohana Wijeweera was apprehended by the government security forces and killed and burnt -some say alive – in 1989. The then President Late Ranasinghe Premadasa brutally annihilated the rebels after the invitation for peace talks by the former was completely rejected and ignored by the latter.

I read Malini Govinnage’s Che Guevara (මාලිනී ගෝවින්නගේ – චේ ගුවේරා,) a Sinhala language biography of Che in 2006 which was short and sweet. Then I read Ernesto Che Guevara’s The Bolivian Diary in a year or two later which gave me more insight into this amazing man’s life. I also could watch the movie The Motorcycle Diaries during the same period which depicts as to how Che’s sympathy with the downtrodden people started. Much later, I watched the two-part 2008 biopic named “Che” by the director Steven Soderbergh. This gave me much insight into the man than any of the aforesaid publications I mentioned. I fell in love with this as it used both feature and documentary style that did not end with a “suckumentary” as it happens with most of the hero-worshipping genres.

I am yet to read the other books written by and about Che and hopefully I would get the chance within the next couple of months as I too am eagerly getting ready to go to volunteer in some South American countries during the next 5 years. No, I will not try to imitate him as I cannot make up my mind even to kill a venomous serpent creeps into my house and mostly, I would make it go peacefully.  So, killing is not my kind of revolution. It is more into educating the children and youth to make a difference in themselves and eventually, the rest of the world.

I am not in the right position to evaluate the place Che has been given in the history as I am not informed enough for getting into such a daunting task. All I can do as of now is to explore into the legacy the “Comrade Che” has left behind for me and the rest of the world.

Ernesto Che Guevara

Ernesto Che Guevara

Ernesto Che Guevara

Ernesto Che Guevara

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රෝහණ විජේවීර සහ ඔහුට ඉතිහාසයේ හිමිවිය යුතු තැන


rohana_wijeweera_1943-1989

බොහෝ දෙනෙක් රෝහණ විජේවීර දරුණු මිනීමරුවකු සහ තරුණ තරුණියන් දහස් ගණනක් අයාලේ ගෙන ගිය අපතයකු පමණක් බව ඔහුගේ පෙන්වන්නට මේ දිනවල ලොකු උත්සාහයක් ගනු පෙනෙන්නට තිබේ. (කුමක් හෝ හේතුවකට මෙයට වැඩියෙන්ම දායක වන්නේ විශ්‍රාම ගිය ජවිපෙ සාමාජිකත්වය සහ වැලේ වැල් නැති වාමාංශිකයන් වීම විශේෂයකි. අනෙක් අතට බලද්දී විජේවීරගේ අඩුපාඩු දකින්නට හැකි හොඳම අය ඔවුන් විය හැකිය.) වීජේවීරට ආයුධ සන්නද්ධ විප්ලවයක් කරන්නට (දෙවරක්ම) සිදුවුණේ පවතින තත්ත්වය යටතේ තිබුණ එකම සහ දුෂ්කරම මාර්ගය එය වූ නිසාය. ජරාජීර්ණ වූ පක්ෂ දේශපාලනය තුළින් තට්ටු මාරු ක්‍රමයට වලව්වේ හාමුලා සහ මැණිකෙලා තොග ගණනින් පත් කරගත් මෝඩ ජනතාවගේ ඡන්ද බලය ගැන කසිම විශ්වාසයක් විජේවීරට නොමැති වීම අහම්බයක් නොවේ. (අප කොතරම් පිළිගන්නට අකමැති වුවත් වේලුපිල්ලේ ප්‍රභාකරන්ට ගන්න තිබුණෙත් මේ මාර්ගයම පමණය. ඔහුගේ වැරැද්ද පීඩකයන්ට එරෙහිව සියලුම ජාතීන්ගේ සහය ලබාගන්නවා වෙනුවට දිගින් දිගටම පීඩනයට පත්වුණ සිංහල, මුස්ලිම් ජාතීන් මෙන්ම ඔවුන් විමුක්තිය උදාකර දෙනවායයි කියූ දෙමළ ජනතාවටත් එරෙහිව කළ අරගලයක් නිසාය.)

කෙසේ වුවත් අද අපි විජේවීර ගැන පමණක් කථා කරමු. ඔහු පරමාදර්ශී ආකර්ෂණීය නායකයකු නොවන බවත් ඉරිසියාකාර, කට ගඳ ගහන නායකයකු බවත් කිහිප තැනකම සඳහන් වී තිබිණ. මම 71 කැරැල්ලට පසු ඉපදුන කෙනෙක් නිසා ඒ ගැන දන්නේ පොත පත ඇසුරින් කියවූ දේවල් පමණය. 88-89 කැරැල්ල කාලයේදී සාමාන්‍ය පෙළ සිසුවකු වූ මට විජේවීර ආකර්ෂණීය නායකයකු සහ ඔහුගේ ව්‍යාපාරය බලාපොරොත්තු තබාගත හැකි යමක් ලෙස පෙනුණි. එහෙත් එයට සෘජුව සම්බන්ධ නොවීමට එකම හේතුව වූයේ සමාජවාදියකු වුවත් ඉතාම දැඩි මානව හිතවාදියකු වූ මගේ පියා අවිහිංසාවාදය ගැන මට කියාදුන් කරුණු නිසාය. මට තුවක්කුවක් නොගැලපෙන බවද මට හොඳින් වැටහෙන්නේ දැන්ය.

අද පරම්පරාව සහ ඔහුගේ සමකාලීනයන් විජේවීර අපතයකු ලෙස දකින්නේ ඔහුට දෙවරම විප්ලවය සාර්ථක කර ගැනීමට නොහැකි වූවා පමණක් නොව අමානුෂික ලෙස ඝාතනය වීමටද සිදුවූ නිසාය. ඉතිහාසය ලියන්නේ ජයග්‍රාහකයන්ය. චේට, ෆිදෙල්ට, ලෙනින්ට, මාවෝට ඉතිහාසයේ වීරාඛ්‍යානයන් බවට පත් වන්නට හැකියාව ලැබුණේ ඔවුන් ජයග්‍රාහකයන් වූ නිසාය. මේ බොහෝ දෙනකු, සුරා සොඬන්, ස්ත්‍රී දූර්ථයන්, ඝාතකයන්, සල්ලාලයන් (තේරෙන භාෂාවෙන් කියනවානම් බේබද්දන්, බඩු කාරයන්, මිනීමරුවන්, පාදඩයන්) බව අද කවුරුත් කියන්නේ නැත. විජේවීර දත් මදිද්දීත් කට ගඳ ගැසූ අතර මාවෝ ජීවිතේට දත් නොමැදීම නිසා කට ගඳ ගැසුවත් මවෝගේ කට ගඳ කාටවත් ප්‍රශ්නයක් නොවේ.

විජේවීරට වැරදුන් තැන් බොහෝය. සමහරවිට ඔහුට හරි ගියානම් සහ විප්ලවීය ශ්‍රී ලංකා ජනරජයේ යාවජීව නායකයා වුවා නම් අද ඔහුගේ කතාව පෙර සඳහන් කළ වීරාඛ්‍යානයන්ගේ අතර රන් අකුරෙන් ලියවීමට හෝ විජේවීරගෙන් පසු ඔහුගේ බිරිඳගේ සහ දුවරුන්ගේත් පුතුන්ගේත් පාලනයකට (උතුරු කොරියාවේ මෙන්) රාෂ්ට්‍ර පාලනය බාරදී විජේවීර අද විමල් වීරවංශ මෙන් පීචං චරිතයක් වීමටද ඉඩ තිබිණි.

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විජේවීරගේ ප්‍රබලතා මෙන්ම දුබලතා ගැන ඕනෑ තරම් මට වඩා සුදුසුකම් ඇති අයගෙන් ලියවී ඇත. මම දේශපාලන බ්ලොග්කරුවකු නොවෙමි. මට හිතෙන දේ මේ අයුරින් අකුරු කළේ ඔහුට මට හැකි පමණින් යම් තරමක හෝ සාධාරණයක් ඉටු කිරීමටය. ඔහු අනිත් අයට කලින් අවදිවීම හුදු අහම්බයක් පමණක් නොවන බවට ඔබට මතක් කර දීමටය.

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Bolivian Diary – Ernesto Che Guevara


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I finished reading Ernesto Che Guevara’s Bolivian Diary. It is an exciting book about the guerilla life and how Che enjoys the very hardships he comes across in the mountainous jungles of Bolivia. He admits once he had a bath after 6 months despite continuous presence of streams and rivers. Che and his guerilla cadres eat horsemeat by killing the very horses that helped them to take their stuff, kill birds, fish, cows, and what not! They steal corns from corn farms and take farmers hostages till they take their supplies. Though Che wants to maintain discipline in the team, there are instances of some cadres going against the rule and eat beyond the approved quota in secret. Che gets very angry in such instances. There are silly in fights among the cadres too. Suffering from asthma and running out of medicines, Che finds it extremely difficult to continue but never gives up the struggle.

Though most of the fights are limited to just setting ambushes and killing few soldiers, the team’s bravery in fighting the government army that was assisted by the Americans is unbelievable. But I feel that fighting a conventional government army with around 100 guerillas is a losing battle from the inception. Besides, the movement is not well trained and they are not committed enough to the goal. The revolution takes place before the time is ripe. Che must have been greatly inspired by the revolution against Batista in Cuba which he played a great part but his involvement in the Bolivian revolution is not an intelligent move. After reading his own accounts of the events in Bolivia what I feel is that Che is an adventurist more than a revolutionary in Bolivia and that very sentiment cost him his valuable life too. He should have been involved in a better revolution elsewhere and if there wasn’t one he should have remained in Cuba and helped develop it.

Hope many would be against my remarks in this post and I welcome the counter points. I wrote this just by reading the Bolivian Diary and I have not read in detail about Che or Cuban revolution. I have read only one Sinhala translation about Che before and that didn’t help me much to understand Che better.