In the past couple of weeks there have been divergent views expressed whether our brethren living in the North should be permitted to commemorate the deaths of their kith and kin and friends on the anniversary of the day that the LTTE was eliminated from our country. In this context, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna [ [...]

Sunday Times 2

Double standards in commemoration of fallen members


In the past couple of weeks there have been divergent views expressed whether our brethren living in the North should be permitted to commemorate the deaths of their kith and kin and friends on the anniversary of the day that the LTTE was eliminated from our country. In this context, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna [ JVP ]has been allowed to commemorate annually the demise of their leader Rohana Wijeweera and their comrades who were killed by the Services, Police and pro government unofficial troops.

File photo shows members of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) at a Commemoration ceremony for 'November Heroes'. Pic by Indika Handuwala

The justification for this double standard is that the aim of the LTTE was to separate the country and declare Eelam whilst the JVP was motivated to overthrow the Democratically elected Government and form a Revolutionary undivided dictatorial government under the leadership of Rohana Wijeweera and his politbureau. The atrocities and activities of the LTTE are well documented and several books authored by those who had to face the brunt of their attacks commencing 1980 up to 2009 have been published.

The JVP commenced their revolutionary ideology in 1971 This was rapidly thwarted by the services. They re emerged in 1987 until they were militarily destroyed in 1990. At this juncture, a parallel could be drawn between the LTTE and the JVP. The former were nurtured, trained and armed by our so called “big brother” whilst the JVP was supported by North Korea. Most of the present day JVP members may not be aware of this scenario as they may have been either toddlers or not born. In 1970 North Korea through its Embassy in Colombo was attempting to indoctrinate our population by carrying out a concerted advertising campaign through our printed media extolling the “virtues of their President Kim Il Sung” and his system of Government. This was further buttressed by their propaganda vans accessing particularly our rural areas screening films pertaining to the revolutionary concepts of this dictatorial country.

Their propaganda blitz reached a crescendo in April 1971 when it was considered opportune to launch their revolution. Unfortunately for them, owing to a communication blunder their revolutionaries in Wellawaya attacked the Wellawaya Police station 24 hours ahead of schedule [ H Hour].This alerted all service establishments and Police stations who initially activated their defense plans to nullify the thrust of the attacks thus compelling them to retreat into jungle terrain. To compound the woes of the JVP they were very poorly armed carrying only shot guns and locally made grenades most of which mal functioned. When the services got into an offensive “search and destroy” mode they were fairly easily obliterated.

There is no doubt that our National “intelligence arm” was not functioning up to an acceptable standard. Within a very short time the Government ordered the North Korean Embassy to close down and return to their country. In such a circumstance, it is logical to assume that our Government had very good reasons to adopt such a drastic move. Just as much as the Indians destabilized our country from 1980 onwards using the LTTE as pawns the North Koreans attempted a similar operation ten years prior to the adventure of “big brother” using the JVP as their pawns. Thus, it is crystal clear that both India and North Korea were intent on pillaging us by possibly “brain washing” some of our citizens to achieve their agendas.

When the JVP commenced its armed campaign their leader Rohana Wijeweera was relaxing in a remand jail in Jaffna. When their campaign faltered he broadcast an appeal to his minions to cease operations as they will steer a democratic path. All those who either surrendered or were captured were rehabilitated and released. As a matter of fact Rohana Wijeweera entered main stream politics and contested at an election.

However, the rehabilitated JVP even though on the surface were democrats were biding their time to launch a revolution. They were secretly conducting classes on this theme to our rural youth. Their concept was a “closed economy” both in imports and exports. They propounded that all tea plants should be uprooted and Ranavara planted instead! They realized that they could not come into power by democratic means. Hence, they were indoctrinating and recruiting particularly rural youth to launch their revolution

A spark had to be lit to embark on this adventure. The opportunity was grabbed when in 1987 the infamous accord was signed and the IPKF landed in Sri Lanka. The JVP who had learnt their lessons from the 1971 episode embarked on a terrorist trail of murder and mayhem. Almost all government establishments particularly South of the Bentota river were set ablaze. Buses and other government vehicles were destroyed, Electricity to almost all places in the South was totally disrupted by destroying the posts which were either cut down or uprooted. All shops were compelled to be closed using children [child soldiers?] to distribute chits, any shop keeper defying these orders was killed, Grama Sevaka Niladaries were ordered to resign from their posts under threat of death – some in fact were murdered. A nation wide “lights out” campaign handled by their “child soldiers” was activated.

Tea planters were ordered to cease operations. Those who defied were murdered. School principals were ordered to allow their students to go on the rampage. Anyone defying was threatened with death. Parents and siblings of any person remaining in the Tri services or Police were instructed to inform their sons to desert. If this was not complied with they were threatened with death and in fact some were murdered. In comparison to these atrocities the LTTE were far more humane.

The JVP murdered Rev Father Michael Rodrigo whilst he was saying Holy Mass at his parish at Wellawaya. The reason apparently was that he was much loved in the area and was considered an obstacle to their activities. They murdered the Member of Parliament for Tangalle Mr. Jinadasa Weerasigne and burnt to the ground the residence of the Member of Parliament for Ambalantota Dr. P M B Cyril. They attempted to murder the President His Excellency J R Jayawardene and the Prime Minister Hon R Premadasa by lobbing a hand grenade into a committee room of the Parliament when in session. Minister Lalith Athlathmudali was seriously injured whilst the Member for Deniyaya was killed.

The family members of the Minister of Trade Hon M S Amarasiri were killed. Similarly close relatives of serving Servicemen and Policemen were killed. As a matter of fact the families of persons under direct threat were accommodated under makeshift arrangements in military establishments e.g. Air Force Base Katunayaka. Democratic elections were anathema to them. They Disrupted Provincial Council elections in 1988 by threatening to murder those who went to cast their ballots. Some early voters were in fact killed.

During this period of mayhem the JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera and family were comfortably living in an up country tea planters bungalow until he was captured. On being captured the coward that he was came on National Television and advised all his cronies to give up arms and live in the main stream of life. It is beyond reason that such a despicable personality is to date hailed as a hero and virtually venerated. Perhaps the present day rank and file of the JVP are ignorant of the track record of their deceased “hero”.

I am well aware of the activities of both the LTTE and the JVP as I was the Director of Ground Operations of the Air Force in the decade of the 1980s. I was responsible for the security of all Air Force airfields in the North and the East. I was appointed Coordinating Officer of the Hambabtota District when the “bubble burst” in mid 1987. This area was 1010 square miles in extent and consisted of Tangalle, Beliatta, Walasmulla, Weeraketiya, Sooriyawewa, Ambalntota, Weerawila, Tissamaharama, Lunugamwehra upto Kataragama. A year later I was appointed Base Commander of the Katunayaka Air Base.

The reason for my penning this article is that, in my opinion the JVP and the LTTE were terrorist organizations. The objective of the JVP was to “tie up” with North Korea and launch a revolution to dislodge the Democratically elected government and establish a Dictatorship. The aim of the LTTE as is well known was to divide the country and establish Eelam in the North and the East. Fortunately for us both terrorist organizations failed in their attempts.

The government has clearly spelled out that its aim is to reconstruct and reconcile the North with the rest of the country. In my opinion the sincerity of this objective should not be confined to empty words. The yardstick is that both were failed terrorist organizations. Whilst a “velvet glove” is extended to the JVP an “iron hand” is shown to the next of kin and friends of the fallen LTTE members. It is reiterated that the facility extended to the twice failed JVP revolutionaries should be extended to the relatives and members of the now defunct LTTE to commemorate their fallen brethren. That which is “sauce for the Goose should be sauce for the Gander”

(The writer is a retired Air Vice Marshal)

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