A year ago, I had the privilege of reading “SRI LANKA – A LOST REVOLUTION? The Inside Story of the JVP” by Professor Rohan Gunaratna. This is about the second attempt to topple the government by the Rohana Wijeweera-lead Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) during late 80’s. It was an interesting read as I could remember most of the stories mentioned in the book as I was a teenager during the days of the insurrection. The JVP looked very attractive those days and I don’t know why I didn’t join the movement as it was so compelling to join them. Maybe due to the fact that my late father was against the violence though he was a leftist.
I have never seen Rohana Wijeweera except on TV. I listened to his speeches on TV during the 1982 Presidential Election and also listened to a recorded audio cassette which was then clandestine. He had the ability of mesmerizing people with his eloquent speeches. His posters were pasted everywhere during the election time and he became the third in the election by beating the old leftist candidates. It was this reason that lead to their proscription as a party by the then president late J. R. Jayawardene. Having cornered in the political arena like a wounded tiger, the JVP had to operate as an underground organization and resort to terror. Professor Gunaratna details these events extensively in the book.
The biggest turnaround of the rebellion happened after late Ranjan Wijeratne was assigned the Ministry of Defense. He meant business and took every action to quell the rebellion no matter how many were killed. Prof. Gunaratna says in the book “Indian Intervention” that Mr. Wijeratne had a chance of becoming the next president had he not been killed by the LTTE. Ultimately the hunter was hunted.
A detailed account is given about how Rohana Wijeweera was murdered and cremated in Borella cemetery. Some said that he was burnt alive. Recently a former soldier gave an interview to a weekend newspaper telling that what was reported earlier by many was wrong and Wijeweera was not burnt alive.
I can remember the day Wijeweera was killed. We were surprised by the news in the evening news bulletin over SLBC. People didn’t know whether to repent or to rejoice as everybody wanted a change but too much of killings from both sides had taken its toll on the general public and they wanted an end to this. I still lament that I missed the video clip which he made to television under threat of the army. It is not available in YouTube too.
The book includes a number of rare pictures of the bloody events and provides a list of people who were allegedly killed by Deshapremi Janatha Vyaparaya, the military wing of the JVP which the JVP distances itself from up to this date.
There is another book written about the same subject by veteran journalist C. A. Chandraprema but I didn’t feel like buying it as Prof. Gunaratna has given a full account of the failed rebellion of the JVP.