“Political leaders still think things can be done through force, but that cannot solve terrorism. Backwardness is the breeding ground of terror, and that is what we have to fight” ~Mikhail Gorbachev
Rohana Wijeweera was a remarkable man. At the height of the cold war in the international arena, when the United States was in constant confrontation with the then Soviet Union in every possible global forum, Wijeweera played his logical role as the leader of the first revolutionary political party in post-Independence Sri Lanka. Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) which Wijeweera started as a cellish-organization driven by indoctrination-oriented transformation of the minds and political thinking of the rural youth in Sri Lanka within a very short time of three years (1968-1971), managed and succeeded in transforming the prevalent political landscape; it inspired a sizeable segment of our youth population, both educated and semi-educated, to such an extent, Wijeweera at the beginning, just on the eve of the 1971 Insurrection, was a real hero among these indoctrinated youth. As a mob-orator, Wijeweera had no match. R Premadasa was a close second, but lacked the flow and stamina of Wijeweera.
According to some close comrades-in-arms of Wijeweera, his dedication to the cause and the spirit of untiring commitment he displayed at the formative stage of the ‘movement’, alone was responsible for the graduation of the movement from a cellish organism to a well-funded, structured political entity in the late 1980s. Yet what began as a political think-organization in the late 1960s turned out to be a well-oiled killing machine in the late 1980s. The planned and plotted executions of leading political figures, mostly of the kind that had either associations or direct connections to the United National Party (UNP), except perhaps the killing of Vijaya Kumaratunga, assumed a macabre style with gruesome consequences to the victims. In 2017, after two score and six years, another April 5thdawned and paled gently into the night. Today Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna is a democratic political party with three parliamentarians. Although no match to Rohana Wijeweera, its present leader, Anura Kumara Dissanayake is undoubtedly the best orator in Sinhala among a very lackluster set of parliamentarians. The other two JVP members, Handunhetti and Vijitha Herath, too are outstanding speakers and this JVP-trio dominates the local political platform shoving other parliamentarians into insignificance and men of no consequence. Speechifying in the local vernacular seems to be the monopoly of the JVP.
Yet Wijeweera founded a political organization whose philosophy bordered on the murderous path which was taken by Pol Pot in Cambodia. Whilst Pol Pot resorted to the massacres of his opponents more so after assuming power, Wijeweera resorted to it as his raison d’être. The romanticist aura that the ’71 Insurrection radiated died with the crushing blow it received at the hands of the government security forces. Leaders of the then SLFP-led government were Sirimavo and Felix Dias Bandaranaike. The Victor Ivans, Lionel Bopages, Kelly Senanayakes, Sunanda Deshapriyas, heroes of the ’71 Insurrection, and the lot that was attached to the JVP philosophy of governance and economic principles are gone from the JVP. Their departure from the epic vision of communist takeover of government machinery and implementing people-friendly policies is all history. Rohana Wijeweera, although immediately in the wake of the ’71 Insurrection was portrayed as a dedicated revolutionary in the caliber of Ho Chi Ming and Che Guevara, with the 1982 Presidential Elections, his stature sank to an unrecoverable low in that his posture of a revolutionary driven by idealism and ideology was shattered; his prowess to represent the downtrodden masses diminished and his appeal to the English-speaking elite as a romantic radical began waning by the day. But his appeal to the rural educated and semi-educated youth remained intact.
Saman Piyasiri Fernando alias Keerthi Vijayabahu who was primarily responsible for the establishment of Raathri Aandua (government at night time) gained momentum when Wijeweera launched his so-called Second Revolution in the wake of the assassination of Daya Pathirana, leader of Independent Students Union, University of Colombo. Despite attracting a lot of unwanted rivalry and peer-revenge, Wijeweera managed to lead a clandestine movement whose rank and file consisted of disillusioned youth bent on extracting their pound of flesh from whoever was in power. A social imbalance that had been caused by failure on the part of successive governments since Independence was waiting to be tilted in favor of anarchy and disorder. At the same time Wijeweera’s cunning and political strategizing embraced the most fundamentally flawed but dangerous base instincts of the masses. With the arrival of the Indian Peace Keeping Force and the pervasive nationalist sentiments of large sections of the Sinhala people, the JVP began to terrorize the country to an unprecedented level, consequently the entire nation became hostage to Wijeweera’s mad and perilously perverted thinking. In other words, Wijeweera, while enjoying the luxuries of a planter’s laidback life on an estate in Ulapane, put into motion a killing machinery that killed many and terrorized hundreds of thousands of innocent Sri Lankans.