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Recollections of 1971 insurrection

5 April 2019 02:39 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • Analysts say Tamil youth in N-E inspired by uprising of their Southern counterparts
  • CBK was trapped by JVP to bring in 17A which bridled Executive PreSIDENT through independent commissions
  • JVP pressed CBK to dissolve UNF Govt. and thereby prevented Govt.-LTTE talks on ISGA

 

April 5 is an important day in Sri Lankan history. It was on this day in 1942 – during World War II – that the Japanese Air Force bombed ColomboHarbour. It was Easter Sunday and the bombardment was called ‘Japanese Easter Air Raid of 1942.’


It was also on April 5 that the first insurrection of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) broke out against the newly-elected government of the world’s first woman Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike. 
One of the significant facts of the 1971 JVP insurrection or the first JVP insurrection was that it was the first-ever armed rise up by a group of ordinary people against the government in power, after the famous Matale rebellion against the British rule in the country in 1848. 
Interestingly, the JVP insurrection of 1971 too was officially considered a rebellion against the Queen of Great  Britain. The suspects arrested in connection with the insurgency had been indicted before the specially instituted Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) in 1972, for conspiring and rebelling against the Queen’s government, in spite of the fact that Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then called) had been considered to have gained independence from Britain as far back as 1948. 


The JVP and its insurrection of 1971 are unique in many ways in Sri Lankan history. At a gathering of those involved in the insurrection (but dissociated with the JVP now), held on April 5 two years ago in Colombo, Saminathan Wimal, a lecturer of the Jaffna University who had been invited as the guest speaker told the 1971 insurrection had been the cradle of violent uprisings against the establishment and brutal suppression of such uprisings in the recent history. 
Many analysts have stated that Tamil youth in the North and the East, who took up arms against the State in a few years following the 1971 insurrection, had been inspired mainly by the uprising of their Southern counterparts. It also had been an inspiration to another rebellion of Southern youth led by the same group, the JVP in 1988/89 which claimed nearly a hundred thousand lives. However, unlike the Southern rebellions which were brutally crushed by the armed forces within months, the Northern uprising lasted for more than thirty years claiming another hundred thousand lives. 

 

"Although the JVP had been brutal, the brutality of other parties  during the two Southern rebellions had been no different"


Despite the JVP surviving two bloody crackdowns by the armed forces which claimed a huge number of lives and still active in politics making daily headlines in the media, the possibility of the party coming to power in the country is remote. Yet, it has thus far made a tremendous impact on Sri Lankan politics compared to the impacts of the two main political parties and the old Left Movement led by the political giants such as Dr. N.M. Perera, Dr. Colvin R. de Silva and Dr. S.A. Wickramasinghe. 
On the very next year after the 1971 insurrection, Prime Minister Sirima Bandaranaike had to introduce a land reform scheme apparently responding to the insurrection of the previous year. Many of those involved in the insurgency had been from poor families in rural areas and the government seemed to have thought to address their problems through this land reform. 
On the political front too, the JVP had been arguing then that Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948 was a farce since the then Governor General was responsible for the British Queen and the highest court of the country had been the Privy Council in London. And the United Front Government of Mrs. Bandaranaike responded to this argument with a new Constitution which severed all administrative as well as judicial links with the British Raj and made Sri  Lanka a Republic in 1972. 


Even after its second insurrection of 1988/89 – in which almost the entire politburo including its founder Rohana Wijeweera was murdered – the JVP has been able to change the course of the country’s political history; sometimes manipulating the rivalries of the two main political parties. The party which has been the only political entity that unwaveringly opposed the executive presidency since the inception of that mode of governance was successful in at least clipping the wings of the executive president to some extent through the 17th Amendment to the Constitution in 2001. President Chandrika Kumaratunga, whose government lost the majority in Parliament and faced a no-confidence motion, was trapped by the JVP to bring in the 17th Amendment which somewhat bridled the Executive President through the independent commissions. 


Again in 2004, when peace talks between the UNF Government and the LTTE had taken a dangerous turn with the government beginning to give into almost all LTTE demands including the one for an interim administration for the Northern and Eastern Provinces called Interim Self-Governing Authority (ISGA), the JVP intervened. They pressed President Kumaratunga to dissolve the UNF Government and thereby prevented talks between the government and the LTTE on ISGA which was in fact a blueprint for a separate State. 
A year later, the Southern rebels again made history by preventing the administration of the Northern and the Eastern  Provinces falling into the hands of the LTTE. The LTTE had submitted a proposal called Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS) which provided for the administration of those two provinces to be placed under them and the Chandrika Kumaratunga Government inked the P-TOMS agreement with the Northern rebels. JVP withdrew from the government it had formed with Kumaratunga forcing the 
agreement to be inactive. 

 

"Despite the JVP surviving two bloody crackdowns by the armed  forces which claimed a huge number of lives and still active in politics  making daily headlines in the media, the possibility of the party  coming to power in the country is remote"


The contribution by the JVP towards the defeat of President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the 2015 presidential election, creating public awareness against the Central Bank bond scam and defeating the recent “constitutional coup” is well-known. Besides, it has introduced a distinct culture into Sri Lankan politics. The incredible selfless dedication for the cause by the majority of JVP members has been unparalleled. Many members of the party still give up their higher education, highly-recognised and well-paid employments, in order to become full-time cadres of the party. It is unimaginable in the present circumstances for a Member of Parliament, Provincial Council or a local government body to subscribe his monthly salary and other perks to a common fund run by his party and live a life with the help of party members and supporters. 


Yet, interestingly, the JVP has not been able to assume power at least in a local government body, except for twice in the Tissamaharama Pradeshiya Sabha. Some analysts attribute this failure to the brutality the party showed during its two insurgencies. Although the JVP had been brutal, the brutality of other parties during the two Southern rebellions had been no different. The main reason for people to not vote the JVP into power seems to be that the majority of ordinary people want to be with the winners and the JVP does not show signs of victory in elections, local or national. Hence, the party always remains a powerful opinion-maker and a pressure group. 

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