1987–1989 JVP insurrection

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The Second JVP Insurrection
Part of the Cold War and Sri Lankan Civil War
JVPInsurgency Montage.png
Clockwise from the left: A militia of the DJV;
A graffiti in front of a post office reading "let's kill J. R.";
A security guard in front of the BOC vandalised by the DJV;
A bus that was burnt down by the DJV
  • 15 April 1987 – 13 November 1989 (1987-04-15 – 1989-11-13)
    (2 years, 7 months and 29 days)

Sri Lankan Government victory

  • Emergency conditions in South-western and Central provinces lifted
  • Insurgency declined following the fall of the Eastern bloc

 Sri Lanka

Military support (for Sri Lanka):
 South Africa
 United Kingdom (from July 1987)[a]
 United States



 North Korea[3]
Bandera del PLOTE (Tàmils).svg PLOTE (until 1988)[4][5]
Ba'athist Iraq Iraq[6][7]
Commanders and leaders
Sri Lanka J.R Jayawardene
Sri Lanka Ranasinghe Premadasa
India Rajiv Gandhi
India V. P. Singh
Rohana Wijeweera  Executed
Upatissa Gamanayake  Executed
Saman Piyasiri Fernando  
Somawansa Amarasinghe  Surrendered
Premakumar Gunaratnam[8]
Shantha Bandara  
Lalith Wijerathna  Executed
Ranjitham Gunarathnam  Executed[8]
Units involved
North-Eastern cell
South-Western cell
Central Cell
Flag of the Sri Lanka Police.svg 6,000
100,000 (1989)
15,000 (1987)[9]
Casualties and losses

6,700 killed by the insurgents

14 Jawans killed by the DJV, 1 heavy infantry vehicle destroyed[b]
5,000-10,000 captured and killed
Total killed: 60,000 - 80,000[11]
Coat of arms of Sri Lanka, showing a lion holding a sword in its right forepaw surrounded by a ring made from blue lotus petals which is placed on top of a grain vase sprouting rice grains to encircle it. A Dharmacakra is on the top while a sun and moon are at the bottom on each side of the vase.
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The 1987–1989 JVP insurrection (also known as the 1989 Revolt or the JVP Troubles) was the second unsuccessful armed revolt led by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna against the Government of Sri Lanka under President J. R. Jayewardene. In contrast to the first unsuccessful JVP insurrection of 1971, the second insurrection was not an open revolt. It was a low intensity conflict that lasted from 1987 to 1989. The JVP resorted to subversion, assassinations, raids and attacks on military and civilian targets, while the Sri Lankan government reacted through counter-insurgency operations to suppress the JVP.

The insurgency began in 1987 and lasted until 1989 with guerrilla forces led by the Deshapremi Janatha Viyaparaya, a militant group of the JVP. The insurgency peaked in 1988 and affected all Sri Lankan civilians, including without political stake in the situation.

Attacks on civilians by pro-government forces began following the re-election of Ranasinghe Premadasa. The period of government mass killings soon began following the ceasefire of the Sri Lankan Civil War and the expulsion of the Indian Peace Keeping Force. Various Sinhalese insurgents and counter-iinsurgents emerged in violent combat against each other. Both Socialist and Anarchist militant groups that opposed the insurgency, began violent persecution of insurgents. Anti-JVP anarchist militias include the People's Revolutionary Red Army.

The JVP by 1978 was receiving funds from various socialist/communist nations such as North Korea, Iraq and Cuba. With sufficient support, the JVP built an militant organization named "Patriotic People's Project"; it soon emerged in combat against the Sri Lanka Armed Forces.


Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna[edit]

Founded by communist Rohana Wijeweera. JVP is known for its revolutionary youth background. The organization was banned more than once and the first incident was when the group was involved in riots, Anti-American riots of 1970s. Since then the movement was named Che Guevara clique (which the JVP didn't claim for itself) by the Ceylonese Government and international media.

Rohana Wijeweera. The founder and leader of the People's Liberation Front - JVP.

Over 410 members were arrested in March and over 20,000 rebels were arrested. The group was registered as a political party internationally in Havana, Cuba in 1978. The pro-western government didn't want it to be a mainstream political party so they banned the party in 1983 following the beginning of the Sri Lankan civil war blaming they were involved.

1971 JVP insurgency[edit]

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) launched an open revolt against the government under Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike in April 1971. Caught off guard the government was able to subdue the insurgency in a matter of weeks. The insurgency lead to the death of 4-5000 (unofficial) people and over 20,000 suspected rebels, mostly youth, were arrested in the amnesty period that followed. The arrested youth were released after rehabilitation.

Rohana Wijeweera and the other major leaders of the insurgency were sentenced to prison terms and the JVP banned. However, all of them were released in 1977 by J. R. Jayewardene after the UNP formed a government after they won the general election under a general amnesty issued for those prosecuted under the infamous Criminal Justice Commission.

Civil war[edit]

During the early 1980s, as the Tamil insurgency to the north became more intense, there was a marked shift in the ideology and goals of the JVP. Initially Marxist in orientation, and claiming to represent the oppressed of both the Tamil and Sinhalese communities, the group emerged increasingly as a Sinhalese nationalist organization opposing any compromise with the Tamil insurgency.

Rohana Wijeweera came third in the presidential elections in 1982 and the Jayawardene government did not like their rise. There are no convincing evidence as to say whether JVP was involved in 1983 ethnic riots, but it was once again banned with several other left wing parties and its leadership went underground. It is highly suspected that this ban was due to J.R Jayawardene's fear of losing the presidential election to somewhat pro socialist Rohana Wijeweera in near future. It is also to be noted that he highly downgraded the diplomatic relations with socialist countries like Cuba, Soviet Union.


Having been banned and driven underground, the JVP began preparing to topple the government. They began targeting opponents, carried out robberies to collect funds and began acquiring weapons. Usually collecting pistols and shotguns from owners who had gained gun licences from the government. Thereafter they planned to raid armories of the government, who had deployed its forces to the north and east of the country to counter the Tamil militancy. The predominant source of the group's income was bank heists which it usually conducted.[12]

Until 1987, no arms were available for the DJV to train the youths, said analysts. Collection of weapons began in the early 1987, weapons training began in mid 1987. The instructors were deserters from the army.[13]

Police inspectors reported their pistols to be missing. Landlords were given shotguns by the police to defend themselves. The DJV stole the weapons and ammunation from military bases, defence acadamies and from landlords. A spate of gun thefts were reported from Balangoda, Deniyaya, Hakmana, and Nochchiyagama in 1987. There were reports in May 1987 that more and more youths were collecting such weapons from police stations in the south. 600 weapons, mostly shot guns were taken by DJV in July 1987. An ASP reported that his pistol and ammunition has been stolen from his car in May 1987.[13]

Prelude to open insurrection[edit]

On 15 December 1986, the JVP abducted and murdered Daya Pathirana, leader of the Independent Students Union (ISU) of University of Colombo, which was a rival of the Socialist Students Union, the student's wing of the JVP. By this time JVP was already designated as a terrorist organization by J.R Jayawardene.

Attacks on politicians[edit]

In 1979 JVP opposed the usage of military to fight the LTTE and other groups like TELA. They changed the decision of opposing the war against LTTE and it was shortly after its ban. Lionel Bopage left the party due to this change of decisions.

Grenade attacks on the Mahajana Party[edit]

Mahajana party was a close ally of the Tamil Militant groups. In 1986 JVP conducted a grenade attack on the buildings of the Mahajana Party and assassinated Vijaya Kumaratunga in 1988 when the insurgency came to the peak. Vijaya Kumaratunga was alleged for being a Naxalite alongside the United Socialist Alliance.


Early attacks[edit]

On 15 April 1987, JVP attacked the Pallekele Army Camp in Kandy. Led by a former soldier, Mahinda, under the directions of Shantha Bandara, the JVP seized 12 Type 56 assault rifles, seven sub-machine guns and ammunition. In May 1987, the Sri Lanka Armed Forces launched the Vadamarachchi Operation (Operation Liberation) with the objective of defeating the LTTE militarily and re-establishing government control in areas dominated by Tamil militants. However, the second phase of Operation Liberation was abandoned with the Indian intervention by Operation Poomalai, which led to the signing of the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord in Colombo on 29 July 1987 and arrival of the first troops in the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) on 30 July.[14]

The prospect of Tamil autonomy in the north together with the presence of Indian troops stirred up a wave of Sinhalese nationalism and a sudden growth of anti-government violence by the new organization of the JVP that emerged as an offshoot of the JVP—the Patriotic Peoples Front (Deshapremi Janatha Viyaparaya—DJV) led by Saman Piyasiri Fernando. On 7 June 1987, Sri Lanka Air Force Base, SLAF Katunayake and the Kotelawala Defence Academy were attacked and weapons and ammunition were stolen, while four of the attackers were killed. DJV claimed responsibility and the Criminal Investigation Department investigation resulted in 13 JVP members arrested. On 18 August, when the first parliamentary group meeting took place after the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord, assassination attempt was made on the president and prime minister, resulting in the deaths of two, including a Member of Parliament (MP). Lalith Athulathmudali, the Minister National Security and Deputy Minister of Defence, was severely wounded.[15] The investigation into the raid on the Pallekelle army camp in April 1987 resulted in the discharge of thirty-seven soldiers suspected of having links with the JVP.

Murder and intimidation[edit]

The DJV thereafter launched a campaign of intimidation against the government and the ruling United National Party (UNP) party, killing more than seventy members of parliament between July and November 1989.[16] Organised in cells of three people and based around Matara in the south, the JVP murdered probably thousands of people and crippled the country with violently-enforced hartals (general strikes) for two years. Individuals or organizations were warned or intimidated with messages dropped in the night to homes or posters or graffiti that appeared over night.

Those that did not cooperate were brutally killed, with the repercussions extended to their family members. Executions were mostly carried out at night with armed groups coming to the homes of the victims and carrying them away to be tortured, executed and left as an example, while occasional bombings took place. In most cases the funerals of these victims were not allowed by the JVP, traditional final rights were not allowed and the caskets were to be carried below knee level as a mark of disrespect. With these techniques of fear and intimidation, the JVP was able to bring the country to stand still. Acts of sabotage were common, with destruction of government property, electric transformers were a common target. Killings took place in both urban and rural areas and the government seemed powerless in the face of it. One of the key police officers leading the effort to counter the JVP, Senior Superintendent of Police Terrence Perera, Director of Counter Subversive Unit was killed by the JVP gunmen in Battaramulla on 3 December 1987 and Harsha Abhayawardene, UNP General Secretary was killed by the JVP gunmen in Wellawatte on 23 December 1987. Killings continued into 1987, on 7 February Mervyn Cooray, Member of Parliament for Panadura survived an assassination attempt, on 1 May; Nandalal Fernando the new UNP General Secretary was killed; G.V.S. de Silva, Galle District Minister was shot dead that month; Lionel Jayatilleke, Minister of Relief and Rehabilitation was shot dead on 26 September 1988 near a temple killing 3 more people and on 21 October Tudor Keerthinanda, UNP Working Committee Member was killed. 1989 saw the killing of Senior Superintendent of Police Bennet Perera, former Director - CID, who was gunned down, at Mount Lavinia on 1 May 1989, Assistant Superintendent of Police Shahabdeen, Security Officer - Minister of Transport was killed on 23 August 1989, Captain B. M. Perera of the military police was shot dead in Moratuwa on 12 September 1989. Close to 50 school principals were killed, along with tea planters (Tea estate superintendents), public servants and clergy between 1988 and 1989 for defying JVP orders sent via short memos known as chits.

Many professionals were also killed for defying JVP orders these included Dr Gladys Jayawardene, Chairperson, State Pharmaceuticals Corporation; Premakeerthi de Alwis; Sagarika Gomes; Harshe Abeywardena, the UNP chairman; D. C. Athukorale, Chief Engineer, Colombo Port Authority; Liayana Pathirana, Working Director, Salt Corporation. 102 Sri Lanka Freedom Party supporters and 117 United Socialist Alliance supporters were also killed. 41 Buddhist monks were killed. Many wealthy businessmen were killed, including the Shanmugam brothers, K. Gunaratnam and Shabeer Hussain. Several Indian expats were also killed, including Mr. and Mrs. Banshall working at the Pelwatta Sugar Factory, D. K. Sundaram, P. Nadar Weeramuni and Ann Herchoi.[17] Over 2,500 members of the United National Party was killed between 1988 and 1989.[18][19]

Killed UNP members[edit]

The JVP in 1988, assassanated various members of the United National Party. The general secretary of the UNP was killed in May 20 1988.[20][21]

Daya Sepali Senadheera the wife of Bandulahewa Senadheera, UNP MP, Karandeniya district; Jinadasa Weerasinghe, UNP MP, Tangalle; W.M.P.G. Banda, UNP MP Gallegedera; Lesley Ranagal, UNP MP Borrella - were some assassinated. Death threats were sent before assassanation of a person. The request was to leave the United National Party which the DJV labeled a "party of traitors".[22][21]

Other attacks[edit]

In 1989, the government accused the DJV of having caused the death of over 35,000 people, mostly government supporters[23] Another report, however, states that the JVP and its militia, the Deshapremi Janatha Viyaparaya (DJV), were responsible for "more than 10,000" deaths thus supporting the evidence of the certain amount of deaths were caused by the government.[24][25] The JVP also expressed its patriotic ideals from 1986; when its fighters (PPF) called for a boycott of Indian goods and gave warning to all Indian nationals to leave the island before 14 June 1989[26] At the beginning of August 1989, seven people died following encounters between the JVP and police forces[27] A leading Buddhist monk was gunned down by the JVP on 3 August 1989[28] Later in the month, a top journalist and some civilians were killed by the JVP, while some of its own supporters died in the encounters[29] A successful strike by transportation and health workers was called by the JVP in mid-August 1989, thus showing the extent of JVP unionist support. At the end of August 1989, the JVP threatened to target soldiers' families if they did not resign from governmental forces. The threats were carried out soon after, in the context of another strike organized by the JVP on 28 August[30]

Violent clashes occurred again at the beginning of October 1989, leading to the deaths of 59 persons during the 7–8 October weekend alone.[31] At the beginning of November 1989, clashes between JVP and government forces caused at least 60 deaths in the space of 24 hours.[32] One deputy of the United National Party was assassinated by JVP gunmen on 25 June 1989, a few days after the imposition of a state of emergency throughout Sri Lanka, imposed by the government as result of an increase in civil strife [33] The following day, the JVP called for a general strike in Colombo and warned residents to remain indoors because of fighting in the streets.[34][35]

Assassination of Vijaya Kumaratunga[edit]

Vijaya Kumaratunga's assassination was one of the turning points of the insurgency. Pro-Kumaratunga groups attacked suspects of both government forces and the DJV with the help given by other socialist anti-insurgent militias. [36][37]

Assassination and funeral[edit]

Kumaratunga was shot in the head with a Type 56 assault rifle outside his home on the outskirts of Colombo on 16 February 1988 by Lionel Ranasinghe, alias Gamini. Ranasinghe confessed to the murder under questioning by the Criminal Investigation Department. In a 141-page statement, he said he had been carrying out orders given to him by the Deshapremi Janatha Viyaparaya (Patriotic People's Movement), the military arm of the JVP, which was responsible for multiple assassinations in the late 1980s.[38] However, a presidential commission report concluded that President Ranasinghe Premadasa of the UNP and two government ministers, Gamini Lokuge and Ranjan Wijeratne, were behind the Kumaranatunga assassination.[39]

Kumaratunga's funeral, on 21 February 1988, attracted huge crowds and was the first funeral to be broadcast live on Sri Lankan television (by the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation). It was held at Independence Square in Colombo as a state funeral, even though he represented the opposition to the UNP government. The day of his assassination is widely known as "The Horrible Tuesday" or "The Darkest Tuesday in Sri Lankan History" (He was assassinated on a Tuesday).[citation needed] His death is still mourned by many people in Sri Lanka.[40][41]

The JVP used various militant arms to attack the enemy. The most notable was the Patriotic People's Movement of Sri Lanka commonly known in the country as the Patriotic People's Front. It had various other sub-guerrilla groups such as the Patriotic People's Battalion and the People's Militant Front. The students' wing was named the Patriotic Students' Union.[42][43]

Notable attacks[edit]

Although much of the insurgency was a low-intensity conflict, with targeted assassinations and intimidation. Major attacks include the 1987 grenade attack in the Sri Lankan Parliament and 1989 Temple of the Tooth attack. In addition the militant wing of the JVP led by Saman Piyasiri Fernando staged several major attacks on military installations in the south of the island and a minority on the East led by Premakumar Gunaratnam. These included;

In many of these attacks, the JVP targeted the armories capturing weapons and ammunition that it claimed to use against Indian Peace Keeping Forces.[46] In total the JVP killed 342 police personnel, 209 armed forces personnel and 98 Sri Lankan home guards.[17] DJV also used landmines to destroy various infantry vehicles. Demonstraters usually threw stones and tins at Sri Lankan Army Bases.[47]

Insurgency in Kallar[edit]

An Indian Peacekeeping Force base came under attack in 1988. Ammunitions and mortars were stolen.[48] 26 Indian soldiers were killed by a group named Patriotic People's Red Army and their ammunition were stolen as well. 50 members of the JVP raided the camp in Trincomalee and some Tamil groups assisted the JVP through the links Premakumar Gunaratnam established to certain Maoist groups active in Tamil Eelam who too were at combat with the Government authorities and the LTTE. The DJV killed 14 Jawans.[49] Wijeweera and Premakumar visited the EPRLF - Marxist Sector camps to get training for the JVP cadre. Inter-university Students' Union also helped the JVP establish friendly relations to the Tamil militants through Tamil universities.[50][51][c][47]

Brutal counter insurgency operations[edit]

Ranasinghe Premadasa called for an anti-communist death squad named the Black Cats who are a state terrorist group. Premadasa used any means possible to control the Tamil separatist and the Communist insurgencies. He did not think that the LTTE could stand the treat JVP was compatible of. He saw communists as organising a 'Mass Movement' to topple his government.[52][53]

Ranasinghe Premadasa openly supported the LTTE to end the other groups like the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front and more importantly the interventionist IPKF which was seen to be invading the country by both Sri Lankan Tamils and the Sinhalese majority the Indo-Lanka accord was signed.

When the JVP offensive came to peak, government paramilitaries such as the 'Yellow Cats', 'Scorpions', 'Eagles of the Hill Country' and 'Shra' were used in order resist the insurgency. Some points, none of these paramilitaries were official and they often got into combat with the police forces. With the insurgency, however, government recognized many as possible.[54][47]

As a reaction to an attack by the DJV on military personnel which killed 15 soldiers. Eagle's of the Hill Country launched an attack killing over 82 suspected JVP supporters. The killed also included children. Every suspect was unarmed. This included Indian Tamils who make a living by the tee estate of Kandy also known as the Hill country.[55][56] On 5 October, 'The Eagles' shot or beheaded fourteen workers at a Peradeniya University residential complex for custodial and clerical staff. Police later received a message from these vigilantes, claiming responsibility for the murders and that the victims were JVP supporters who had engineered the murder of T. E. Nagahawatte, an assistant registrar at the university and a captain in the local army volunteer reserve force. It is noted that the police took similar means of terrorism against the JVP supporters.[57][58]

Detention from state[edit]

The government replied brutally showing no mercy and the government has been accused of using detention camps in several places including Batalanda to quell the JVP uprising. These were said to be run by anti-subversive units of the police who were tasked with disarming the rebels.[59][60][61][62][63] It is believed that nearly 5,000-10,000 members of JVP activists were brutally tortured and killed in various camps that ran country-wide. The biggest was the camp in Batalanda which was established by the Black Cat paramilitary.[64] Ranil Wickremesinghe is accused of being the political authority of the alleged detention center. Batalanda commission was appointed by the government of Chandrika Kumaratunga to look into the violations of human rights and crimes committed at Batalanda torture and detention center. In its report the commission recommended the government to take legal action against then opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. However no legal action was taken against him by any government to date and several who were arrested for their involvement in alleged killings have been revealed to be from organizations such as the Sri Lanka Mahajana Party which was established by Vijaya Kumaranatunga who himself was assassinated .[65][66]

Government mass killings and investigation[edit]

It was alleged by both the LTTE and JVP that government-sponsored death squads were responsible for more deaths than they did. United Nations investigations were not seen as satisfactory to the groups. The government mostly targeted tee state workers for their allegiances to the communist parties. Police brutality came to peak and it targeted the homeless for their involvement in the attacks on the wealthy businessmen and tea state owners.

In 1994, after a request by the United Nations (UN) regarding the mass graves, the Government reported that an excavation of the graves had been carried out on 14 September 1994 under the supervision of the High Court and it resulted in the discovery of an unspecified number of skeletal remains.

The reports also indicated that a team of forensic, investigative and legal experts helped the court, in order to ensure a proper and scientific excavation and to assist in the further discovery and identification of bodies and the investigation of the circumstances in which they were buried at Sooriyakanda.[67] The Government also reported that it has started to investigate newly discovered graves, including one at Ankumbura which may contain the bodies of 36 people killed by the police in 1989.[68]

Assassination of rivals[edit]

JVP-CPSL rivalry began since the 1970s when the IMCWP was held in Havanna. Both sought to be favored by the people who support Marxism-Leninism. During the insurgency, JVP assassinated a total of 117 members of the United Socialist Alliance[69] which includes the EPRLF, Nava Sama Samaja Party, CPSL, TELO and the Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya.[70]

Anti-India Campaign[edit]

In 1986 JVP started delivering posters warning about a possible Indian invasion. Since the 1970s Wijeweera have been aware of Indian expansionism due to the border conflict with China. JVP attacked an Indian armory in Kallar to steal weapons. The attack was led by the Trincomalee cell leader Premakumar Gunaratnam of the DJV. JVP conducted massive protest strikes to enforce both the Tamil and Sinhalese groups to fight against the Indian forces. Although with the anti-Indian sentiment, JVP denied any violence against the Indian Tamils.[71]

Ideology of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna rapidly changed from believing in mass movement to believing in militarism against both National and Ethnic enemies. Many criticized this as the ultra-right turn from the party that was once considered the Ultra-left party of Sri Lanka.[72][73]

Attacks on provisional elections[edit]

The JVP felt betrayed when the PLOTE and the SLFP participated in provisional councils. The DJV bombed two SLMP rallies in 1988. It also massacred an election school in the Uva discrict. The reason was seen as the fact that most of the provisional councils were controlled by India.

In defence[edit]

The United Socialist Alliance formed an armed wing with the help of PLOTE and the IPKF while the IPKF was in combat with the PLOTE. The TELO also supported the United Socialist Alliance due to Vijaya Kumaratunga having established links to the ENDLF. The NSSP was given training by the ENDLF.[74] The new armed group was named Social Revolutionary Red Army. The pre-dominant goal was to defend the provincial councils. Messages were left behind as "Killed by the S.R.R.A for boycotting the elections" thus limiting the boycott of elections.[d]

Investigating into the origins[edit]

The government "succeeding" United Front banned the Communist Party of Sri Lanka and Nava Sama Samaja Party which is a Troskyte party. In early 1980s the government got private training from the British military contract group Keenie Meenie Services. India later established strong connections to all of these groups got their help the fight the LTTE in the late 1980s.[75][76]

The ban on the CPSL was however lifted following an investigation by Soviet Embassy which did infact oppose the pro-Western stance in the midst of the Cold War. It was revealed that this was a part of aggression by the SL government against communist parties as a result of CIA influence within Sri Lankan politics. The JVP which was banned the same year as the CPSL started heading towards a militarist solution against the government.[77] The government under the UNP was pro-Western due to the fact that it opposed the Indian intervention on the LTTE side and wanted aggression against the United Front which persecuted the United National Party.[78]

A former JVP and DJV member Sanath explains:

When the party got banned we lost a lot. But it gave us a favor. We knew we were heading towards a militarist solution.[78]


A decade prior the North Korean embassy which had maintained contacts to the JVP was closed by the United Front government.[79] Violent acts persecution against the United Front began as well. It was targeted by the UNP for being a pro-Soviet regime.[e][80] JVP didn't attack the LTTE or any other North Sri Lankan group as Sanath further explains how the state of Sri Lanka was the actual enemy of the people. DJV sometimes formed alliances between Sinhalese and Tamil militants in order to fight against the opposition of the regimes.

Further brutality[edit]

The JVP made a serious misjudgment when, through the DJV, it called for the killing of members of the families of the security personal. This destroyed the small but significant amount of support that it enjoyed among the lower ranks of the armed forces, and made it possible for the government to justify its campaign of terror.[81]

A village locked down due to a JVP-enforced hartal

Most notable of the attacks on families of the security personal, was the attack on family of Deputy Inspector General of Police Premadasa c. On 24 July 1988, his ancestral home in Poddala was surrounded and set ablaze by suspected members of the JVP, Udugampola's mother, brother, sister-in-law and two small children were killed in the fire. Following this Udugampola began a ruthless crackdown of the JVP in the Southern and Central provinces.[17][82]

As a means of pacifying the support base of JVP, a wide range of acts of cruelty, including the torture and mass murder of school children, who were allegedly JVP supporters, was carried out by the state.[83][84] In one case, security forces allegedly opened fire on a rally convened by the JVP on 28 July 1989, killing 129 people.[85]

The practice of Necklacing was at peak in the country since the late 1970s. Even the LTTE used these mechanics at the time. The LTTE however didn't need further violence in their enemies except the IPKF. Many alleged supporters of the JVP were killed on streets with the message tagged in their heads "This is what happens when you join the JVP". Anybody who spoke against the police were sentenced to death. With the violence at peak with the LTTE Insurgency and the JVP insurgency, Sri Lanka would be internationally tagged for countries that practices cannibalism.[84][86]

Personel feuds[edit]

The death squads like 'Black Cats' and 'Yellow Cats' were formed by conservative politicians. Private militaries were initially formed to protect the certain politician but when a JVP treat could not be seen, they were equally attacked by the police, their predominant role was to assassinate the certain politician's enemies. Not only did the JVP personnel die from this process, but also the LTTE, UNP and IPKF. Businessmen died over personel feuds.[87]

Other Sinhalese nationalists[edit]

A vigilante group named Patriotic Sinhala Youth Front emerged as an anti-communist group. It was pro-Sri Lanka but not necessarily pro-UNP, or pro-US like the UNP. The group used an infamous "Ape ekata thopee dolahak" meaning "Twelve of Yours, for that one of us!" Soon it emerged in bloody combat against the Patriotic People's Front.[88]

A death treat reads:

Dear Grandfather/Grandmother/Mother/Sister, we know that your son/brother/husband is engaged in brutal murder under the pretence of patriotism. Your son/brother/husband, the so-called patriot, has cruelly taken the lives of mothers like you, of sisters, of innocent little children. In addition he has started killing the family members of the heroic Sinhalese soldiers who fought with the Tamil Tigers and sacrificed their lives, in order to protect the motherland. "It is not amongst us, ourselves, the Sinhalese people, that your son/brother/husband has launched the conflict in the name of patriotism? Is it then right that you, the wife/mother/sister of this person who engages in human murder of children should be free to live? Is it not justified to put you to death? From this moment, you and all your family members must be ready to die. May you attain peace in the afterlife! - Patriotic Sinhala Youth Front.

Assassinations of other activists[edit]

On February in 1990, Richard de Zoysa was assassninated by the Black Cats. More activists were attacked by the government death squads. The infamous Black January was followed by more violent events. Assassinations continued until Ranjan Wijeratne was assassinated by the LTTE.[89]

End of the Insurgency[edit]

Sri Lankan army on patrol in a village to combat the Insurgents

Government forces attached to Operation Combine captured JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera in Ulapane and brought to Colombo, where the government claimed 13 November 1989 that Wijeweera was shot and killed by H.B. Herath during a search operation. Although the Government won a decisive military victory there were credible accusations of brutality and extrajudicial killings.[90][91]

Saman Piyasiri's death and decline of the Insurgency[edit]

On December 27, 1989, a special police team, led by SSP Lionel Gunathilake, arrested Saman Piyasiri Fernando along with his mother and fiance; who was a sister of JVP politburo member Daya Wanniarachchi, at Koswatte, Nawala, at a rented house owned by Mark Antony Fernando, who works at SLBC. According to the police sources, the number of military books found inside the house and some of them are not found in Sri Lankan military libraries. Lalilth Wijeyrathna, Upali Jayaweera, Ranjitham Gunaratnam, Gamini Wijegunasekara and Shantha Bandara tried to regroup. However, the government forces managed to capture them and subsequently killed them on December 1989. The leadership of the JVP was transferred to Lalith Wijerathna. It is believed that Wijerathna was captured in Colombo by a special police team from Kandy either late December 1989 or early January 1990. At a later date in January he was allegedly executed by his captors in Kandy in the last days of the operation Combine

Post-Insurgency combat[edit]

Within early 1990; the government reported deaths of all three major leaders and the insurgent party that consisted of over 15,000 troops were almost defeated and gave up the arms. The government had a decisive victory over the JVP, which returned to democratic politics under the leadership of Somawansa Amarasinghe.[90]


According to international terrorism expert Dr. Rohan Gunaratna's research, JVP killed 30 politicians, 23 academics, 1 clergy, 2 government officials, 89 civilians and 61 service personnel, from July 1987 to January 1990. Rest of the killings (21 armed fighters) are attributed to state or state-sponsored death squads.[a] A European delegation estimated the total death toll to be 60,000, while more conservative estimates have placed the death toll at 35,000, with the vast majority being perpetrated by state-sponsored death squads.[92]

Killings by group[edit]

  • DJV killed around 6,000 people who were mostly police or armed forces. It also killed 41 Buddhist Monks and 2 Christian Clergy. Only killings happened between 1988 and 1989 are counted by investigators
  • A group named Draa killed 26 Indian Soldiers
  • The PRRA and SRRA killed around 1000 people[93]
  • Ukussa paramilitary killed 80-100 people in the Kandy massacre and 14-20 people in the Peradeniya massacre
  • Black Cat group killed 300 members of the CPSL and a certain number of people in the Eppawela attack[94][95][96]

United Nations Research[edit]

Three members of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights visited Sri Lanka from 7 to 17 October 1991, and paid a follow-up visit from 5 to 15 October 1992, at the invitation of the Sri Lankan government. Prior to the 1992 visit, the WGEID had transmitted 4,932 cases of "disappearances" to the Government of Sri Lanka and had received reports from various reliable sources about approximately 9,000 cases that had not been processed. The WGEID considers only cases of "disappearances" in which the government is involved; thus, although the WGEID acknowledged it received information about people who disappeared at the hands of the JVP and the LTTE, it could not consider these cases in its report. The WGEID reported its findings to the Commission in February 1993, issuing a series of recommendations, including one that the PCIIRP expand its mandate to investigate the thousands of cases reported prior to its establishment.[97][98]

Calls for further investigations[edit]

Notable international jurist Neelan Thiruchelvam, in a speech at the ICES-Colombo, indicated that the appropriate investigations into and disappearances of civilians, including many children in the Sathurukondan, Eastern University, Mylanthanai and the mass murder and burial of school children at Sooriyakanda, were being hampered by the adoption of emergency regulations, which were contributing to a climate of impunity. He called for the partial, if not complete, revocation of emergency regulation so that an impartial inquiry into these incidents could take place.[99]

These attempts failed and Thiruchelvam was assassinated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.[100]


Following the insurrection, the JVP was relaunched and participated in electoral politics. At the parliamentary elections held on 2 April 2004, the party was part of the United People's Freedom Alliance that won 45.6% of the popular vote and 105 out of 225 seats. As the second partner in this alliance it became part of the government. It also supported the winning candidate Mahinda Rajapakse in the 2005 parliamentary election. Along with the UNP it supported General Sarath Fonseka in the 2010 presidential election.

In popular media[edit]

The documentary film of the Second JVP insurgency titled Udugan Yamaya was made in 2006. It was screened in The Times London film festival the same year.

A movie based on Wijeweera's backstory Ginnen Upan Seethala was released in 2017 featuring many events that took place between 1977 and 1987.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Predator is loosely based on the insurgencies of Sri Lanka, It features combat with a group named 'People's Action Front' making a close reference to the 'People's Liberation Front'.

See also[edit]


a. ^ Gunaratna, Rohan. (1998). p. 353, Sri Lanka's Ethnic Crisis and National Security, Colombo: South Asian Network on Conflict Research. ISBN 955-8093-00-9
  1. ^ Britian didn't neccessarily support Sri Lanka until the Indo-Lanka accord was signed
  2. ^ On July 25, 1989 DJV blew up a truckload of Indian soldiers killing 14 of them before seizing all their weapons[10]
  3. ^ For citation and information, see List of Sri Lankan Tamil militant groups
  4. ^ See #Assassination of Vijaya Kumaratunga
  5. ^ The CPSL was in the UFSL


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  14. ^ Icon of unparalleled bravery and commitment
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Further reading[edit]

  • Moore, Mick. (1993). Thoroughly Modern Revolutionaries: The JVP in Sri Lanka. Modern Asian Studies ISSN 1469-8099
  • Rebellion, Repression and the Struggle for Justice in Sri Lanka : The Lionel Bopage Story by Michael Colin Cooke, Agahas Publishers, Colombo (2011) ISBN 978-0300051308
  • Gunaratna, Rohan. (1998). Sri Lanka's Ethnic Crisis and National Security, Colombo: South Asian Network on Conflict Research. ISBN 955-8093-00-9
  • An Exceptional Collapse of the Rule of Law: Told Through Stories by Families of the Disappeared in Sri Lanka, Edited by Shyamali Puvimanasinghe, researched by Moon Jeong Ho and Bruce Van Voorhuis, Published by the Asian Legal Resource Center and Asian Human rights Commission (Hong Kong) and the 'Families of the Disappeared' (Sri Lanka), 2004.
  • Holt, John. The Sri Lanka Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Duke University Press, 2011 WR.
  • Warfare and armed conflicts : a statistical encyclopedia of casualty and other figures, 1492–2015, Page XV.

External links[edit]