Rohana Wijeweera

Patabendi Don Nandasiri Wijeweera or Rohana Wijeweera was a Sri Lankan Marxist politician and the founding leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna commonly known as JVP. Wijeweera led JVP during the two major armed campaigns happened in Sri Lanka, led by the JVP in the year 1971 and 1987-89.

Early life

He was born on July 14, 1943 (Bastille Day) to Patabendi Don Andris Wijeweera and Nasi Nona Wickrama Kulutota who lived in Kottegoda a coastal fishing village situated in southern Sri Lanka and belong to the Karava caste hierarchy.

He has a younger brother Ananda and a younger sister Chitranie also lived there.

Wijeweera had his primary education at Goda Uda government school in Kottegoda from 1947 to 1953. In 1954 he entered Goda Uda government senior school to obtain the secondary education and was there until mid 1959. He entered Ambalangoda Dharmashoka college in July 1959 to study GCE – Ordinary Level examination.

In September 1960 he went to USSR and entered into the Lumumba University to study medicine. He completed the Russian language examination within seven and a half months by obtaining a distinction and spent his holidays by travelling through the USSR and also worked as an agricultural worker at Moldavian Rupublic. He did the medical studies well up to third year and further has done the political economics by obtaining a distinction in 1963. In late 1963 he suffered from illnesses and received medical treatment from a hospital in Moscow but finally he requested a full academic term of medical leave and returned to Sri Lanka. At that time Communist Party of Sri Lanka was divided into two groups which were pro-Chinese and pro-Soviet. He did not get visa to return to USSR as he joined the pro-Chinese group.

His father was an active member of Communist Party of Sri Lanka (pro-Soviet wing) and very close to Dr. S.A. Wickramasinghe. He was disabled after an attack by the thugs believed to be the members of an opposing political party during the 1947 Parliamentary election campaign for the candidate Premalal Kumarasiri, and he died in 1965.

Political history and agendaWijeweera returned to Sri Lanka without completing the studies and managed to form a new Marxist political party Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna or JVP, on the May 14, 1965 after a discussion held in a house at Akmeemana of Galle district, southern Sri Lanka.

After forming the political movement JVP, Wijeweera conducted a series of political lectures for the purpose of educating the people according to their political doctrine. These lectures popularly known as JVP five classes, is one of the key factor in their political agenda.’

1. The crisis of the capitalist system in Sri Lanka – where the JVP contended that the capitalist system was in crisis and ripe for revolutionary change.

2. The betrayals of the left movement – where the JVP contended that the traditional left the LSSP and CP had betrayed the revolution.

3. The experiences of the international communist movement – where the revolutionary histories of the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and the communist bloc in general was discussed.

4. The history of the JVP – where new recruits were told that the loss of life in the 1971 insurgency was due to the adventuristic policies of a minority in the party led by Loku Athula and that Wijeweera had nothing to do with the decision to attack. No doubt in the post 1990 period, the JVP would have added to this the story that what happened in the late eighties was a case of the capitalist government unleashing an unprovoked ‘white terror’ on the JVP.

5. The revolutionary path that Sri Lanka should take – In this class the JVP emphasized that Sri Lanka could not usher in the revolution following the models in other countries, such as encircling the villages from the cities as in Russia, or encircling the cities from the villages as in China or through protracted guerilla warfare from a secure hideout as in Cuba. The JVP was at pains to point out that there were no inaccessible mountainous areas in Sri Lanka as in Cuba and that this model of revolution was not possible. It should be noted that this 5th lesson was about how power was seized through armed revolutions in other countries, and how Sri Lanka should do the same. Coming into power through the democratic process was never a part of the JVP philosophy, because it was deemed impossible to build socialism through the ballot – the most oft mentioned example being Chile where the democratically elected socialist government of Salvador Allende was overthrown by a military coup led by General Augusto Pinochet in 1973.

Capturing the state power for the purpose of implementing the JVP’s socio-economic policies in the country, is another key factor of Wijeweera’s political agenda. Period of the late 1960s Wijeweera and the JVP believed that the armed struggle is the most suitable way to capture the state power. In April 1971 JVP led armed campaign known as the 1971 April Rebellion a failed attempt to capture the state power from the Royal British Ceylon Government, happened according to the Wijeweera-led JVP’s political agenda.

Wijeweera was arrested by the Police before the armed attack would taken place iApril 1971, and after that he was produced into a trial called Criminal Justice Commission under the charges of aiding and abetting to overthrow the Royal British Ceylon Government. The trial sentenced him to life imprisonment and he made a historical speech at the end “We may be killed but our voice will never die” which was very similar to the speech delivered by Fidel Castro “History Will Absolve Me” by the end of Moncada Barracks trial in 1953.

An article about the JVP after Rohana by Prasad GUNEWARDENE

Gone are the days of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) of Rohana Wijeweera. So was the abrupt end of the JVP’s symphony of the melodius ‘Vimukthi Gee’. The JVP cadres of today are at crossroads. They ask for themselves whether they are in the real JVP or in a party described by the masses as ‘Janatha Vijja Peramuna’ (a party that jokes the masses).

But, the tragedy of the comedy is that leaders of today’s JVP yet think the JVP is a smart political entity. To them, all things look beautiful and rosy, when they measure issues from their own yardstick. They are smart in a way, the masses say.

They would look forward to enter into partnerships beneficial to them. They got into an Alliance many times…. Crept into two Governments…. Accepted top cabinet portfolios… the Provincial Councils which earlier looked poisonous, later became a medicine for good health.

The JVP feel real in reaping such benefits. When reaping such benefits, they are ignorant to the fact that they look like Clowns in the small town called the “Dead Man’s Creek” in Mississippi, United States.

The days of fooling the masses are now over. The JVP cannot anymore attempt to dupe the masses with their socialist talk. The literate society today understands that the present JVP is like a set of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Hence, the JVP is which blind to the reality cannot anymore sing its’ popular chorus to attract the masses.

Popular chorus
What was their popular chorus? Could you remember the lyrics? They were- “The JVP is coming…It’s a peoples party…The JVP is stable… The only party none could split… The JVP grows like a tree…It will soon capture power “. That was sung during the time they managed to get in sixteen Members into Parliament, thanks to the proportionate representation introduced by late President JR Jayewardene.

The section of the masses at village level were greatly encouraged by those lyrics at that time but, they never knew that it was being sung to the rhythm of the beat of ‘gun fire’ of 1988/89. Sadly, the conduct of today’s JVP does not require the masses to possess an excellent sense of humour to crack into great laughter, to talk about it.

The JVP was a party that originated with violence as its’ theme. They, then composed songs and music to the six eight beat of the ‘gun fire’, without any part musical harmony, as usually seen in beautiful music compositions of legendary musicians.

The message in those revolutionary songs was the armed struggle to gain power. It was in that backdrop the JVP’s musical show-”Vimukthi Gee” was born. From the audience at Ramakrishna Hall, witnessing the event in the 1970s, I fathomed that in thought, word and deed, the message delivered to the audience was to be impressed with the plan for an armed struggle to ensure equality.

But the colourful “Vimukthi Gee” died a natural death.

Though the present JVP attempted to revive it, the newcomers’ could not get that original quality of revolutionary songs and dance on stage.

During the days of that musical extravaganza, popular among the ‘Red Bethren” of the JVP titled, ‘Vimukthi Gee’, it was the Tamils who came to their rescue when they needed a venue to stage the show.

Where was it popularly staged in the early 1970s? How many of today’s JVPers are aware of that? The then JVP leaders ran to the Trustees of the Ramakrishna Hall at Wellawatte when they were deprived of getting the Navarangahala.

Jaffna prison
To be frank, the founder JVP leaders were never racist in their policies. Rohana Wijeweera who was imprisoned within the four walls of the Jaffna Prison was well looked after by his Tamil colleagues over there.

Then, who was the first to support the concept of a traditional Tamil homeland of the Tamils? Was it not Wijeweera and his original JVP? Who taught the armed struggle to the Tamil youth of that day? Did not the Tamil youth who took to arms confess that they learnt the way to fight from the JVP? These are a few recollections to refresh the memory of today’s JVP leaders and their cadres.

The JVP from its’ inception brought fear to the minds of the masses. Recalling the April 1971 insurgency, even the youth were in fear to grow the beard as the JVP made the beard a trade mark of their armed struggle. In that JVP, the beard was a tradition for the cadres to follow.

As a young schoolboy, I could recollect that my mother put me to sleep early saying that the JVP would come if I did not go to bed early. To me at that time, gave the feeling that barbarians were coming in search of people.

That was the fear psychosis that prevailed in the young minds at that time. I do not know how many of today’s JVP cadres are aware of that gruesome past of 1971 and again in 1988/89.

There has never been a political party in the annals of our history that always hid behind the truth and the reality like the JVP. Seeing a visible crack in the party to the visible eye, they pretend to be blind.

The JVP stands a cracked political party. Even a kindergarten child would endorse that point. But, JVP’s General Secretary, Tilvin Silva claims though some members have left, there’s no split in the JVP. Even the self proclaimed ‘firebrand’ (in the absence of Wimal Weerawansa) K.D. Lalkantha too stands by what Tilvin Silva says.

Tilvin claims that the JVP has enough members, with more to join on the waiting list. Whom is Tilvin trying to fool is the question. If there were more on the waiting list, he should first confess about the recent humiliating defeat at the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provinces.

The JVP was reduced to near ashes in politics in those two provinces. That is why I say, the JVP is blind to the truth and reality. Can it anymore hoodwink the masses? Knowing they cannot, now the JVP is fooling the JVP to keep the morale high.

For the JVP, it is difficult to bury the imposition of the foulest of dehumanizing crimes committed on the people in the past. The name JVP, was a frightening element to the mind, impressing the savagery of their true policy.

Embracing democracy for name sake, dressed in sheep’s clothing would never change the soul inside such clothes. As I said earlier, the wolf has a bad reputation. The JVP like the wolf must ask themselves the questions- ‘Who were we?’ and ‘What shall we be?’

Exodus continues
With the party experiencing cracks day by day as the exodus continues and Wimal Weerawansa benefits, Tilvin maintains that all things are under control. He claims that the true JVP membership cannot lead luxurious lives according to party policies.

Haven’t the JVP membership lived in luxury earlier? How did JVP leader, Somawansa Amarasinghe live for years in exile in London. Didn’t Amarasinghe taste the Western food and the Wine in Kingdom of the British Queen?

Is it the JVP policy that to live in luxury one must go into exile? How does the JVP Parliamentarians who go overseas with other Parliamentarians on Parliamentary Business live? Don’t they share the same five star hotels and the sumptious luxurious food in such hotels?

The JVP is a party that claims there’s no room for freedom of expression within other political parties. To view the truth, Tilvin Silva must stand before the mirror. Silva must eat his own words as those who have left the JVP claims there is lack of opportunity for dissenting voices within the party.

Did not Wimal Weerawansa make that claim? Aren’t the grassroot membership frustrated with the present JVP leadership, comrade Tilvin Silva? Don’t they question the value of your assets then and now? Has your assets decreased or increased during the past decade?

Have you declared your assets as a party General Secretary to the party? Aren’t these issues lead to the belief of a mote or mite in the eye? For the moment, let us forget the gold collected by your party leadership in 1988/89 through robbery, plunder and murder. Because you may not know who took control of such a large haul of gold robbed from rural banks and the people.

Tilvin Silva is a character known to insult other political parties, claiming such parties frequently experience internal squabbles, infighting and haggling. Being the JVP General Secretary, could Tilvin deny that all such ugly features are now being experienced by his party? Silva must give a direct answer and not run round the mulberry bush as he always does when a direct question is posed at him.

It is certain that Tilvin Silva will continue to run round the mulberry bush to avoid that question. Silva continues to boast of the pride of the falling JVP in a bid to prevent the exodus.

Having fooled the masses for years, now Somawansa, Tilvin and their JVP are trying to fool the cadres at grassroot level.

The masses know that the JVP is a party which will believe that the Lizard Monitor is the Iguana to fill their empty stomaches (Kanna ona wunama Kabaragoya Thalagoya wenawalu). That was the game they played with the Governments of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

Idi Amin
The JVP in a foolish manner believes of a one party system for governance in this changing world heading towards globalisation. Old fashioned politics have no place in the changing trend of a democracy.

Tilvin Silva and his so called Comrades must realise that the single party system does not represent the correct path towards the objective of a stable system of governance to meet the aspirations of a pluralistic society.

Sri Lanka is a country with her own identity and characteristics that call for the establishment of democratic Governments. The people enjoy the privilege and prerogative to determine their destiny.

The old fashioned policies of the JVP cannot dictate nor impose upon styles of governance on the people. Those who believe in such myths are Clowns.

The JVP is free to exercise such styles or practices within its’ fold like the Clowns in a Town in Mississippi. More the JVP fools the JVP, more the merrier, as its’ entertainment for the masses.

Clowns of the JVP breed are a species, blind to democracy. And they blindly dance to the rhythm of the beat of “gun fire” as the Clowns who performed in the Army of Idi Amin, and danced with arms in their hands nearly four decades ago, the time the JVP was born in Sri Lanka.

The rise and fall of Idi Amin, the biggest Clown of Uganda is a lesson for the JVP to learn.

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