Veteran journalist Dharman Wickremaratne released a book in December detailing the JVP’s second insurgency. This 880 page work of non-fiction is a testament to the terror that was rife during the period from 1986 to 1990, which ultimately claimed 60,000 lives.
The book includes detailed facts and photographs on JVP leaders and activists, the JVP’s role after its proscription in 1983, the events before and after the Indo-Lanka Accord, paramilitary groups and persons involved with them, trends of the Left movement in the 1980s, the SLFP, JVP attacks on the traditional Left, students’ struggles in schools, activities in the universities, academics and student leaders, military operations and other actions by insurgents and members of the clergy, lawyers, media personnel, artistes and others who were killed during the reign of terror.
A summary of the insurgency provided by the US State Department reads as follows:
“In 1989, the JVP stepped up its campaign against the Government and population at large. Likened by some observers to Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge and the Maoist Shining Path in Peru, the JVP sought to topple Sri Lanka’s elected Government through a campaign of murder, intimidation, and strikes designed to paralyse civil administration, cripple the economy and disrupt society. It did so despite repeated efforts by the Sri Lankan Government to bring the JVP into the political mainstream. In 1988, the Government had legalized the JVP and invited it to participate in the elections. The JVP responded by killing voters and candidates in an attempt to disrupt elections held in late 1988 and early 1989. In January 1989, in an effort to open a dialogue with the JVP, newly elected President Ranasinghe Premadasa released 1,800 JVP suspects and lifted the state of emergency. The JVP nonetheless continued its terror campaign of targeting hospitals, transportation, and other essential services, murdering union leaders who refused to participate in JVP-called strikes and killing the families of security force personnel. At mid-year, the Government began a massive crackdown on the JVP. It detained several thousand JVP suspects. By the end of the year, security forces had captured or killed many of the JVP’s top leadership.’’
The Daily Mirror was able to speak to Wickremaratne regarding his book “Javipe devani karalla”
How were you involved with the events?
During this time, I was working at a National Newspaper where I detailed many events of the insurrection. Through this position, I came into contact with many of the notable people that were involved in the events of that time.
Could you explain the process of the book?
For the book, I used many of the articles, diaries, pictures and details which I had accumulated over the years and kept with me safely. After 30 years, I continued to explore and research the events that took place, in order to uncover more facts for the book. For this, I conducted 376 interviews with people associated with the insurgency. These included Rohana Wijeweera’s daughter Chithrangani, members of the Central Committee, family members of the students and many others who were involved here and abroad.
What was the nature of the casualties of the insurgency?
Between 1986 and 1990, the number of people that were killed or disappeared was 41,813. However, human rights groups report the number to be a much higher 67,652. The majority of these were residents of Hambantota and the district with the highest casualties was Galle. Out of the victims to die at the hands of the insurgents, the first was the Principal of Gonadeniya College, H. Jayawickrama.
What are some of the key differences between the first and second insurgencies?
In the first insurgency, the Government killed close to 5000 insurgents, whereas during the second insurgency, a total number of 60,000 people were killed by both sides. In the second insurgency, by the latter half, all discipline and order had vanished and there was a situation of terror. Force was being used to win over the public.
Why did you feel there was a need for a book of this nature?
It has been almost 30 years since these incidents occurred. Although numerous articles have been written about it, it is rarely that current publications including the true stories come out. There was a need to publish a book illustrating the events that those below the age of 40 today would have only heard about. This was therefore an attempt to fill the existing gaps. There maybe more stories however, that should be added into this work. Furthermore most of the leaders and activists of the second insurrection were killed, which means that the information they had was buried with them. This was not the case with the first insurgency, where there are many works detailing the events that unfolded. In addition, due to the nature of the conflict, many of those who live in Sri Lanka and abroad are unwilling to reveal what information they have. Therefore, I was in a well-placed position to gather this knowledge due to the nature of my relationships with many of them. Sinhala books that have been published on the insurgency revolve around personal stories, therefore this book is vastly different from those, since it details the accounts from an objective point of view.
The book is the true story of a dark period which ended 27 years ago, memories of which will haunt all those who lived during that time and will stand testament to the Hobbesian definition of man which is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
The 880-page book contains 74 chapters and 1,289 photos and is priced at Rs. 1,500.