Assassination of Daya Pathirana

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Daya Pathirana assassination
Location Bolgoda Lake, Piliyandala, Sri Lanka
Date December 15, 1986
Target Daya Pathirana
Attack type
Deaths 1 killed (Daya Pathirana)
Non-fatal injuries
1 wounded
Perpetrators JVP activists (Some of them were students affiliated to Inter University Students' Federation)

The assassination of Daya Pathirana took place on 15 December 1986. Daya Pathirana was the leader of the Independent Students Union (ISU) of University of Colombo during 1985-1986. Pro-Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna activists (Some of them were mombers of Inter University Students' Federation) are accused of his murder. This assassination is considered as a watershed incident in the 1987–89 JVP Insurrection.[1][2]


Daya Pathirana pioneered the Independent Students Union (ISU) of University of Colombo during his study at the Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo. In the book Sri Lanka: The Travails of Unfinished War, Protracted Crisis (1995), Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka describes Pathirana as a very poor student, a radical Leftist, not a member of the old Left or the traditional Left.[2] Although he was leftist, he vehemently opposed Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the Marxist-Leninist political party which had almost total control over the student's unions in Sri Lanka. Therefore he and the Independent Students Union led by him became the most serious threat to the JVP control.[3] In a report named Insurrectionary Violence in Sri Lanka: The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna Insurgencies of 1971 and 1987-1989, Tisaranee Gunasekara describes Pathirana as a "radical student activist, with impeccable anti-UNP/anti-systemic credentials". Taking over the entire university system was a vital objective, because the Inter University Students' Federation (IUSF) was earmarked by the JVP leadership to be the public political face of the party.[4]

Abduction and assassination[edit]

On 15 December 1986, he along with a colleague named Somasiri was abducted to a lonely spot off the Bolgoda Lake, Piliyandala. The abductors then began to torture him and Somasiri, demanding information about other student and left activists. This was interrupted by a group of pilgrims (as it was the full moon poya day) It saved the life of Somasiri. But Pathirana was cut-throat at the point of intervention and eventually succumbed to his wounds.[2][4]


The assassination of Daya Pathirana is considered as the first targeted killing of the 1987–89 JVP Insurrection. The subsequent uprising proved extremely costly to the country, leaving approximately 60,000 dead or missing.[5] During its earlier stages, JVP unleashed violence killing radical leftist figures like Daya Pathirana and Vijaya Kumaratunga in a bid to neutralize the threats from the left-wing politics itself. However in 1996, 6 years after the failed insurrection, JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva denied that JVP was involved in the Daya Pathirana murder.[6]

Further reading[edit]

  • Jayatilleka, Dayan, Sri Lanka, Travails of a Democracy, Unfinished War, Protracted Crisis, Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, (1995), ISBN 0-7069-9350-0 / ISBN 978-0-7069-9350-9
  • Gunasekara, Tisaranee, Insurrectionary Violence in Sri Lanka: The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna Insurgencies of 1971 and 1987-1989, Ethnic Studies Report, ICES, Vol. XVII, No. 1, January 1999.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "15 December 1987". 2009. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  2. ^ a b c "The JVP and 'Pol Potism'". Ilankai Tamil Sangam. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  3. ^ "Transcripts from the campaign trail, November is for remembering". The Island. 2001. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  4. ^ a b "The Second JVP Insurgency (Part One)". Sri Lanka Guardian. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  5. ^ "Lesson Plan: A Dissection of Ethnic Conflict" (PDF). Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  6. ^ Collure, Shyamal A. (1996). "'We didn't kill'". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 23 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-11.