WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka
A Lost Revolution: The JVP Insurrection 1971
Rohana Wijeweera was born in July 1943 in Tangalle, and grew up in Kottegoda, a small village in the Matara district. He was admitted to the Goda Uda government Primary Boy's School in the middle of 1947, where he received primary education until 1953. In 1954 he joined the Goda Uda government Senior English School and passed his General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level - equivalent to grade 10), public examination.
His father was said to be an ardent supported of the Ceylon Communist Party. It was reported that his father was severely injured in 1952 when a fight erupted between the supporters of the ruling UNP and the Communist Party. In 1960, Wijeweera, it is said, worked for the Communist Party candidate, Aelian Nanayakara, in Devundara. Subsequently, in 1960, Wijeweera received a scholarship to study medicine in Russia. In 1962, during the Chinese-Russian split, he took the side of China. In 1964, Wijeweera returned to Ceylon on vacation, but the Russian Embassy in Colombo, on instructions from Moscow, refused to grant him visa to go back to Moscow to continue his education.
Once it was confirmed that he could not continue his studies in Russia, due to his publicly known sympathy for China, he joined the newly formed Ceylon Communist Party led by N Shanmugathasan. By the end of 1964, he joined the party as a full-time functionary, receiving a monthly allowance of Rs150. While in the party, he slowly joined dissident groups within the party, who were dissatisfied with Shanmugathasan's leadership. Among them were Sanath, Piyatilaka, Karunaratne, Loku Athula, Premapala and Milton, who after their dismissal from the Communist Party worked closely with Wijeweera in his new organization. Rohana Wijeweera and others decided in mid-1966 to launch a revolutionary party, Janata Vimukthi Perumuna (People's Liberation Front),which they had to literally start from scratch.
Towards 1967, Wijeweera and his friends started a small poultry farm in Kirinde, to generate income for their livelihood. During these days they began to formulate the five lectures or five classes. The purpose behind the five lectures was to explain in simple and plain language the politics of social revolution. The leftist and the Marxists in Ceylon expressed their views in an abstract doctrinaire fashion, with lot of high-sounding phrases, which were alien to the ordinary common man in the country. Wijeweera and his men formulated lectures on such topics such as:
Crisis of the capitalist system in Ceylon;
The history of the left movement in Ceylon;
The history of the socialist revolutions;
Indian expansion, and;
The path of revolution in Ceylon
The classes, at the beginning, were conducted at the poultry farm in Kirinda, but when the villagers around the farm grew suspicious of the unusual movement of youths, they complained to the Grama Sevaka.
Immediately, the location was changed, and the educational camp was held at Karunaratne's house at Akmeemana in 1967. Thereafter, the five lectures were disseminated throughout the country by full-time party workers.
The government, meanwhile, was fully aware of the JVP's activities. A special CID unit was set up to probe the "Che Guevara" clique. The JVP first emerged publicly during the election campaign in early 1970. The UNP-led government claimed a plot. On March 16, 1970, at Julgama, in the Hambantota district, police arrested about 12 young people suspected of connections with the JVP, including Rohana Wijeweera. He had with him a revolver and there was evidence that he was the leader of an underground movement which had as it aim the overthrow of the government by force of arms. This led to Wijeweera being placed behind bars during the elections to the seventh parliament.
They were accused of being "Che Guverist" - a term they had never applied to themselves - and also being US agents. The JVP at this stage supported a SLFP-LSSP-CP common program, hence the opposition parties committed themselves to releasing the internees once they were elected to power. The leader of the opposition, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, had made a reference to this effect in her May Day speech in 1970.
The United Front (SLFP-LSSP-CP) won the election on May 27, 1970 and Srimavo Bandaranaike was elected prime minister for the second time.
By this time, the JVP was a force to be reckoned with. On its "A List" there were 10,000 full-time members, including some 200 women and a handful of Muslims. There was also a "B List" of sympathizers and a "C List" of those who could be approached for help.
Kegalle and Galle were the hotbeds, with over a thousand full-timers each, Badulla had around 500 members. Despite the lack of weaponry, the full-timers were equipped with blue uniforms, military boots, haversacks and were supposed to have a shotgun each.
Communication was by code. The politburo met every two months in Colombo and the district secretaries would take back message to the districts.
The JVP was organized on the lines of police divisions and police committees. From the district secretaries, couriers or "mallis" who knew the hideouts would take the messages to the cadres.
As part of the militarization of the movement, every member was asked to have a gun and 10 cartridges ready. Bombs were also made using cheena chatty, cast iron shells, dynamite and an elementary mechanism to blow them up. Empty condensed milk tins were ordered from factories and sent around the country to make crude bombs.
In July 1970, the United Front government released Rohana Wijeweera and the other JVP members arrested and jailed by the previous UNP government. After the release, JVPers enjoyed political freedom and were able to publish a paper called Vimukthi (Liberation), and hold public meetings. At this stage, the JVP continuously reminded the government of its election promises. They pressed the government to nationalize banks, plantations and implement the promised land reform and other true socialistic programs.
The first Issue of Vimukthi, that came out on August 1, 1970, declared in its editorial that the JVP was pledged to liberate the people of Ceylon from oppression and exploitation and to solve the problems of the unemployed youth of the country. "We certainly wish to destroy British and US imperialism and Indian expansionism and the capitalist anti-revolutionary plots. But we do not want to destroy any socialist program that the government wishes to out."
On August 10, 1970, Rohana Wijeweera was the main speaker at a rally in Colombo. He said, "We will continue to support the government if they progress towards socialism, then they will receive all our support, but if they fail to reach the goal, then we will do so."
Over a dozen well attended rallies were held at various locations in the country between August and October 1970. Those were held with the view to gaining the people's support for their future plan to take over the power. The JVP rapidly grew in popular strength. Vast crowd of thousands were drawn to its rallies all over the country.
The police began to watch the JVP activities very closely. Young Sinhala youths were being arrested in the rural areas. The police and army jointly set up a counter intelligence unit to monitor the activities of the JVP.
The movement was now gathering momentum. Between July 1970 and the end of the year, Wijeweera addressed some 20 public rallies in places such as Kegalle, Wellawaya, Tangalle, Entombed, Moratuwa and Elpitiya. The JVP also published its own paper, the Janatha Vimukthi, which was widely read.
Unemployment and economic inequalities played a major role for the JVP to gain support, but the political indoctrination classes they conducted reinforced the youths' anxieties and persuaded them to embark on the path of violence. The bulk of its support was drawn from students and unemployed youths under the age of 25 years.
In September 1970, two of workers involved in a strike at Keengalla estate were shot by police and the strike was broken down. While Rohana Wijeweera at the helm was making his final preparations to overthrow the government, in November 1970 the JVP, the LSSP-R and the YSF (Young Socialist Front) organized a mass rally at Keengalla estate to protest the killing of the two estate workers. The meeting was addressed by Rohana Wijeweera, Bala Tampoe of the LSSP-R and Illanchelyan of the YSF.
In September 1970, Wijeweera appointed Loku Athula to be in charge of the Arms Section of the JVP and directed him to collect 100,000 bombs immediately. Accordingly, shells were manufactured at a foundry in Pilapitiya and were stored at Kapila Motors, Kandana and at Weliveriya, close to Loku Athula's home.
In January 1971, Rohana Wijeweera made it known that he was the General-Secretary of the JVP when he replied to questions asked in a press conference. On February 27, 1971, the JVP held another mass rally in Colombo. It marked a big increase in the size of the audience.
Several heists were also carried out by JVP members, among them the Okkampitiya bank robbery, the Badulla mail bag robbery, the Ambalangoda bank robbery and the York Street robbery, to raise funds. Robberies were committed with the knowledge and approval of Wijeweera, Loku Athula, Karunaratne and Sanath. Some of the robberies as recounted by Justice Alles in his book are: (1) In June 1971, Loku Athula participated in the Weliweriya taxi-cab robbery where violence was used (2) In November 1970, with the assistance of Sunanda Deshapriya and two postal peons, Loku Athula robbed a sum of Rs. 10,000/= which was being transported in a mailbag by train from Badulla to Diyatalawa post-office. (3) Loku Athula took part in the robbery of a car at Kekirawa and the attempted robbery at the Kahatagasdigiliya People's Bank in December 1970, (4) In April 1971, over three lakhs of rupees was stolen from the Elpitiya People's Bank.
It is also in evidence that the monies thus robbed were given to Podi Athula ( a member of the Arms Section of the JVP) to purchase arms and ammunition. A sum of Rs. 18,000/= had been spent on the purchase of empty tins from Sigma Industries, Nugegoda for the manufacture of hand bombs. It transpired that Podi Athula had, for some time, before the general elections of 1970, been experimenting in the manufacture of hand bombs at a garage by the name of Kapila Motors, Kandana, run by Podi Athula's brother Sujeewa. On 16th December 1970, either in the course of experimenting with the bombs or in the course of demonstrating how bombs could be exploded, Podi Athula received a serious injury, necessitating the amputation of his hand at Sulaiman's Hospital, Colombo
By early 1971, recruitment to the JVP had been stopped and members were urged to collect as much money as possible, through whatever means (mortgaging lands and homes) to arm the movement. The promise was that once the JVP secured power, the members would be able to reap the fruits of their sacrifice.
At the JVP's last public rally before the uprising, held at Colombo's Hyde Park on February 27, 1971, Wijeweera made a stirring call. "Let the revolution of the workers, farmers and soldiers be triumphant." In that meeting held at Hyde Park he made provocative statements. He openly challenged the state by saying that the day of reckoning would be decided not by themselves, but by the capitalist class. He thundered that the date of the revolution will be the one on which the state decides to attack the JVP, and hence state repression is not a bad thing, but a good thing, and more on the same lines. In conclusion, he told the receptive crowd, amid applause, "Apa mara demuwada, apa nagana handa sada nomiyenu eta!" - "Though we may be killed, our cry will not be silenced."
In February 1971, a clear warning went to the authorities that something was brewing among university students. The JVP had hidden a large number of detonators in the ceiling of Peradeniya University's Mars Hall, but due to the heat they began exploding like firecrackers. The explosions went on for five days. Meanwhile, in March, a bomb explosion in Kegalle killed five JVP members. Activated, the police began raiding JVP hideouts. Within the movement, pressure was building up to launch the revolution.
On March 6, 1971, there was demonstration outside the embassy of the United States of America in Colombo by the Mao Youth Front, an ultra-left organization led by Dharmasekera, in the course of it, a policeman was killed. The JVP denied any involvement. Also, the JVP promptly denounced the incident.
Faced with incidents of violence, the cabinet met under the leadership of Srimavo Bandaranaike on March 16, 1971 and announced the JVP's plot to overthrow the government. The prime minister declared a state of emergency and a dust-to-dawn curfew was imposed in some areas and the army and the police were given full powers of arbitrary arrest and disposal of bodies without having to carry out inquests or inform the relatives of those killed. Srimavo Bandaranaike went on the radio to broadcast an appeal to the Ceylonese people for vigilance against terrorists groups. Srimavo Bandaranaike, the prime minister, explained to the nation the reason for the declaration of the emergency. The insurgency movement of the JVP came to be called popularly "Che Guvera Movement" The prime minister detailed some of atrocities arrtibuted to the Che Guverists, she appealed, "As a mother, I would like to ask all the parents, whether it is for a future such as this, that they have brought up their children with such love, care and sacrifice. I appeal to all parents to act with care and foresight, to be interested in, and to supervise the activities of their children so that they would not be misled by designing people into ways, which would only end up in disaster for both their parents and themselves." Srimavo Bandaranaike asserted that her government, "will not be intimidated or diverted from the firm course it has set itself in bringing economic growth, social advancement and a cultural resurgence within the framework of social democracy. In conclusion, she made an appeal to foreign governments to come to Ceylon's assistance in its hour of peril. These included the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, India and Pakistan.
Thereafter, in March, Wijeweera traveled around the country, visiting Hambantota, Colombo, Kandy, Matale, Dambulla, Polonnaruwa and Batticaloa. By mid-March 1971, there was clear and unmistakable evidence of preparations for a violent attack against the government. Caches of homemade grenades began to explode in their hiding places, often killing and maiming some of those engaged in the manufacture.
By March 26, 1971, the government announced that nearly 300 persons had been arrested for suspected involvement with the JVP, and the arrests included Rohana Wijeweera, who was captured on March 13. The announcement also included the recovery of arms and ammunition from JVP suspects. Rohana Wijeweera and 12 others were transferred to Fort Hammenheil, a temporary prison off the Karainagar Naval base.
On April 2, a crucial meeting was held at 2 pm. Nine members of the JVP inner circle met in secret at the Sangaramaya temple of the Vidyodaya University in Kelaniya. It was a meeting that would change the course of Sri Lanka's destiny. The inner circle decided that all police stations in the country would be attacked on the night of April 5. A coded telegram was sent on April 4, saying "JVP Appuhamy expired, funeral 5". Also, the signal for the attack was the pop song "Neela Kobeyya", played over the state owned radio - Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. The meeting was apparently convened in response to a message sent from Jaffna jail by Wijeweera, who requested that posters and leaflets should be published calling for his release and in the case of an attack, 500 comrades should be sent to Jaffna to secure his release.
On April 5, 1971 early morning, due to some confusion, the police stations at Wellawaya and Moneragala in Uva province were attacked. But later, the attack was launched as planned on the same day, but in the evening. Accordingly, police stations at Badulla, Kandy, Moneragala, Amparai and Nuwera Eliya were attacked. JVP cadres - in groups of 25 to 30 - assaulted police stations in those administrative districts, using home-made weapons. Nearly 93 of the total of 273 police stations in the country fell to the insurgents. The government also evacuated many more police stations located in the most vulnerable areas. Almost the entire area of the south and west of Ceylon fell into the hands of the JVP and it was rumored that a JVP garrison was on the move to capture Colombo, the capital city.
On April 5 during the night, Srimavo Bandaranaike had hid under her office table, as Temple Trees had received a false alarm that the JVP had managed to cross parliament building and were marching on the Galle Road, on their way to the Temple Trees, to arrest the prime minister. Felix Dias Bandaranaike had arrived at midnight and the prime minister and others left for Colombo harbor to spend the night on a ship anchored there.
The JVP had planned to take into custody Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike on the night of April 6th 1971. This task had been entrusted to JVP activist Piyasiri who was to have been assisted by Raja Nimal, an H. S. C. student of Sri Sangharajah Maha Vidyalaya, Maradana. Piyasiri's instructions to Nimal were that his group "should attack the residence of the Prime Minister, capture her and bring her dead or alive to Campbell Park that night". Fortunately, the Government received prior information of the plan and curfew was declared forthwith, thwarting the sinister plan of the JVP
On April 9th (Good Friday) Dr. Rex de Costa, a respected medical practitioner of Deniyaya was shot dead by JVP in the presence of his wife for treating injured constables and assisting them to carry out their duties in face of the JVP attacks.
Lawlessness reigned supreme in several districts of the country, notably Kegalle, Matara, Galle, Hambantota, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, Kurunagala, Vavuniya, Gampaha, Ratnapura. Administration of law and order had broken down and civil administration had come to a standstill. Many civilians and police officers had been killed. Roads were impassable owing to roadblocks imposed by the insurgents and damages to culverts. Telephone lines had been cut and telegraph posts pulled down. Public transport had been halted and a shortage of food as well as petrol and oil was prevalent owing to the interruption in transport services. Insurgents looted shops and terrorised the people who lived in constant fear of their lives.
Immediate counter-subversive measures were taken by the police and the armed forces to track down and arrest the terrorists. The Police called for information from the general public about the insurgents and their hideouts and the response was encouraging.
As violence spread, the military was called out and the situation worsened. Srimavo Bandaranaike sent a distress signal to Indira Gandhi, the prime minister of India. But as the telecommunication system in Ceylon by that time had been damaged, New Delhi managed only to receive a garbled cable from the Ceylon prime minister. As assistance was not forthcoming from India, K P S Menon, of the Indian High Commission, was sent to New Delhi, to personally convey the SOS (Si opus sit) nthe distress call of Ceylon.
The prime minister in her broadcast to the nation on April 24, 1971, admitted that the government was not prepared to face an armed insurrection from the youth to such dynamic proportions. She admitted that the government had not taken any military precautions to deal with the insurgents. She declared, "We found that we had inadequate weapons, ammunitions and aircrafts to meet a sustained threat over a long period of time by the terrorist insurgents."
Indira Gandhi, when she received the urgent message, hurriedly summoned her cabinet to discuss the desperate appeal. Subsequently, a decision was taken and the Southern Command of the Indian Army under Lieutenant-General G G Bevoor was alerted and within few hours crack paratroops and infantry regiments were airlifted from Bangalore and Madras (Chennai), to the Ceylon Air force base in Katunayake.
Several squadrons of Indian Air Force helicopters were dispatched to Katunayake with even greater haste. A flotilla from the Western Fleet of the Indian Navy went out of the Cochin harbor to patrol the Ceylon maritime areas to intercept, in cases of any foreign vessels entering to assist the insurgents.
At the same time, as there was conflict in East Pakistan, the military government of General Yahaya Khan was transporting military equipment and personnel from Karachi to Dacca, through Colombo as over-flying rights over India had been suspended following the hijacking of an Indian airlines Fokker friendship aircraft to Pakistan a few weeks earlier. As gratitude to Ceylon, Pakistan delivered two helicopters to Colombo for the Ceylon Air Force. England, America, Yugoslavia and Egypt rushed assistance to Ceylon.
On April 16, 1971, the North Korean Embassy was ordered to be closed down and the staff left the country for alleged complicity in the insurrection.
The Army Commander, Major General Sepala Attyagalle, sent detachments under Lieutinent-Colonel Cyril Ranatunge to Kegalle. Brigadier P D Ramanayake directed operations from Galle, up to Sinha Raja forest, which reportedly sheltered the rebel headquarters. Under Colonel E D T Z Abeysekera an armed detachment was sent to North Central Province.
At the Operation Room at Temple Trees, the newly appointed Additional Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defense and External Affairs, S A Dissanayaka was in control of the entire island-wide operation against the insurgents.
The armed forces struck back and within three weeks they broke the back of the insurgents, and by the end of the year some 18,000 insurgents and their sympathizers were in the prison camps in Senapura, Ridigama, Vidyodaya, Hammenheil in Jaffna and the Malwatte camp in Amaparai. From there, the majority of prisoners were moved to a prison cum rehabilitation center at Akkarayankulam, located off Kilinochi, in the Northern province.
The rebels were poorly armed and often badly led. Their major weapon was surprise attack, and once the initial attack was repulsed the government forces were able to regroup and make devastating counter attacks.
According to available official figures, at least 5,000, probably many more, died in the insurrection. According to unofficial figures nearly 25,000 Sinhalese youths could have been killed. Accounts from reliable sources indicate that many of suspected insurgents were summarily shot by a panic-stricken police and their bodies burnt on pyres consisting of old rubber tyres impregnated with diesel oil, thereby preventing any kind of identification.The police who had killed suspected or active insurgents, let the bodies float downstream in order to terrorise the people. Wijeweera in a statement from prison in 1972, had stated that 15,000 revolutionaries had been killed, but twice that number of innocent people had also died.
Throughout the months of June to October, the government was involved with the mopping-up operations. During those days it was reported that atrocities had been committed on a large scale. Summary executions were widely reported to have taken place, but the government denied all these allegations.
On July 20, 1971, Srimavo Bandaranaike told the parliament that a special investigation unit has been set up, "The task of this unit is to go into each of these [sic] 14,000 cases and to categorize them according to the degree of involvement of these persons and to release those, who in the opinion of the investigators need not be detained any longer."
Dr N M Purer, in presenting his 1971-72 budget on November 10, 1971, said, "The tragedy of this misguided adventure is the cost to the country. Hundreds of misguided young men and women were lost to the country. Many courageous police and service personnel had to sacrifice their lives that law and order might prevail. The material cost to the country has been considerable. The direct and indirect cost through loss of income and economic activity cannot be less than Rs400 million. A few thousand young men and young women cannot be allowed to hold this country to ransom. Those who wanted revolution in 24 hours, only succeeded in pushing back the revolutionary changes for a considerable time. Haste make waste both of time and money, is an old adage."
Similarly, the Marxist ministers in the United Front government were quick to justify the army's ruthlessness which lead to termination of so many lives. Dr Colvin R de Silva, the Minister of Plantation Industry and Constitutional Affairs, who entered politics as the leader of the Bolshevik-Leninist Party in the 1940s, described the JVP uprising as a putsch and gave the following rationale for crushing it ruthlessly, "The country was facing an unusual and unprecedented situation created by a group of narrow-minded people, conspiratorially organized, who had launched an effort by force of arms to displace the duly constituted government of the day in order to replace the entire system of parliamentary democracy." - Ceylon Daily News April 30, 1971.
However, the uprising failed because the people were against the insurrection and the UNP and UF supporters joined hands to capture and hand over the insurgents to the police. Secondly, the insurgents were equipped with nothing more than missionary zeal, crude weapons and they were no match to modern weapons of the armed forces.
"The insurrection failed because it had no support from the people. The insurgents presented no serious alternative political program to the people. They were not the spearhead of a popular outburst against an unpopular regime. Instead they were opposed by a popularly elected left-of-center government which had taken office only 10 months before the insurrections broke out. There were few areas in the country the insurgents controlled for brief period in April. And during their rule of these areas they demonstrated an amazing immaturity and naivete. They showed no imagination, no fresh thinking in the administrative structure they devised. Instead their administrative machinery was a grotesque parody of the very system they were pledged to destroy. Their outlook was archaic and not modern. Finally, while these youthful revolutionaries managed to control if not occupy some areas of the island and compelled government forces to confine their activities to the large towns and main trunk roads, they never showed any solid grasp of strategy. They diffused their energies in sporadic attacks spread over many parts of the country, when concentration on a few strategic points might have suited their purposes better." J R Jayewardene of Sri lanka - A Political Biography - Volume Two: from 1956 to His Retirement (1989) by K M de Silva & Howard Wriggins, page 213.
In April 1972, the government introduced the Criminal Justice Commission Act, which provided for special tribunals, called Criminal Justice Commissions, to be set up to try those alleged to be seriously involved with the insurgency. The bill was passed in the House of Representatives on April 6, 1972 by a two-thirds majority. The voting was 109 in favor and 24 against it.
Dr S A Wickremasinghe (Akuressa) Sarath Muttetuwagama (Kalawana) Aelian Nanayakara (Kamburupitya and M G Mendis (Agama), the four Communist Party Members of Parliament, voted against the Criminal Justice Commission Bill. Therefore, they were expelled from the United Front Coalition, while the Communist Party Member B Y Tudawe (Matara), the Deputy Minister of Education, voted with the government and retained his position. At the same time, Peter Keuneman (Colombo Central) one of the leaders of the Communist Party and the Minister of Housing and Construction, was away from the island when the voting took place and on his return he continued to hold his portfolio. In December 1972 the Communist Party was readmitted in the United Front Coalition until February 1977, when they finally resigned from the government.
The Criminal Justice Commission was established under the Criminal Justice Commission Act of 1972 in the face of vocal opposition from many politicians. The concept of the commission was introduced to try persons on criminal charges outside the established courts. The government felt that the procedures of the ordinary courts were unsuitable to meet the very special and unprecedented situation of an insurrection.
The Criminal Justice Commission was not only set up to investigate matters related to insurrection or rebellion, but also to deal with large scale currency offences and the widespread destruction of property. The act was effective for a period of eight years and had provisions to be renewed to a maximum period of another five years.
The striking feature of the act was that it allowed a confession to be admitted even if it were extracted by torture and the commission would be entitled to treat it with circumspection and be entitled to discount the evidence if it thought fit. Furthermore, a confession could not be used as evidence against a co-accused, but if the confessor went into the witness box to retract any part of his confession, and his retraction was disbelieved by the Commission, then this confession become evidence against a co-accused. This was seen as a kind of blackmail to discourage the withdrawal of confessions exacted under torture.
The Commission could enter a verdict of guilty or not guilty. If it found a person not guilty, it recorded an acquittal, but it had no power to discharge the accused, who could be kept in custody in spite of the verdict. If the Commission found a person guilty, the Commission had to sentence the person as if he had been tried and convicted by the Supreme Court of the country.
Some 18,000 Sinhala youths were taken into custody following the insurgency. Subsequently, 16,000 were released and 2,000 were held for trials as convicts or for further investigations. Subsequently, according to revised official figures, it became known that the government brought 2,919 youths before the Criminal Justice Commission, where they were formally charged with criminal offences - charges under section 115 of the Penal Code - Conspiracy to wage war, conspiracy to overthrow the government, Under Penal Code Section 114 - and waging war against the Queen.
Of those produced before the Commission, 2,506 pleaded guilty. In the vast majority of the cases, those who pleaded guilty were released with a two-year suspended sentence, provided their involvement in the insurrection was not considered serious.
The 1971 April insurrection trail began on June 12, 1972, at the Queen's Club, located at the Baudddhaloka Mawatha, before the Criminal Justice Commission comprising of Chief Justice H N G Fernando (Chairman) Justice A C A Alles, Justice V T Thamotheram, Justice H Dheragoda and Justice T W Rajaratnam.
Those pleading not guilty were brought in batches before the Commission. The main case consisted of 41 suspects. They were considered to be the main architects of the uprising and the youth rebellion. They were as follows:
Piyatilake; Lionel Bopage; James Uyanagoda; Anura Ranjit Kurukulasuriya; Piyasiri; Sunananda Deshapiriya; Loku Athula; Victor Ivan; Nimal Maharage, Somas Kumananayke; Wasantha Kanagaratne, Cecil Chandra, Rohana Wijeweera; Sunil Ratnasiri; Wijeyapala; Ananda Perera; Osmund Silva; Lakshman Mahaduwage; Mahinda Wijesekera; Kelly Senanayke; Batapola Athula; Aladin Subasinghe; Kalu Lucky; Lakshman Munasinghe; D A Gunasekera; T D Silva; S D Bandaranaike a nephew of Srimavo Bandaranaike and former member of parliament from Gampaha; Dhanapala; Meril Jayasiri; Chukki Premaratne; Sanath (killed in action); Susil Wickrema (killed in action); Sarath Wijesinghe (killed in action); Milton (killed in action); W T Karunaratne; Premapala; Wimalagune, Viraj Fernando; Susil Sriwardene and Nayananda Wijekulatilake.
Of those dealt with in the first protracted trial, four were found not guilty and 32 were found guilty. The leader of the insurgents, Rohana Wijeweera, who was the 13th accused, was sentenced to life imprisonment, but later amended by the Commission to 20 years' imprisonment.
The sixth (6th) suspect, Loku Athula, the 9th suspect, Kumanayake and the 12th suspect T. D. Silva pleaded guilty to the charges against them. Having pleaded guilty to the charges, Loku Athula disclosed details of the entire conspiracy and gave a complete account of his activities both before and after April 5th, 1971. He was sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment. The third suspect James Uyangoda was sentenced to twelve years rigorous imprisonment, which the 5th suspect Sunanda Deshpriya to seven years rigorous imprisonment, Lakshman Fernando alias Kalu Lucky (29th suspect) to five years rigorous imprisonment, Victor Ivan (7th suspect) to five years simple imprisonment and S. D. Bandaranaike (27th suspect) to a suspended sentence of two years
The statement by Rohana Wijeweera to the Ceylon Criminal Justice Commission, made on November 2, 1973, is given below:
Statement by Rohana Wijeweera to the Ceylon Criminal Justice Commission Made on November 2, 1973
Sources : K T Rajasingham: SRI LANKA: The Untold Story / Rohan Gunaratne: A Lost Revolution? / A. C. Alles: Insurgency 1971
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