Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna

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People's Liberation Front
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna
Sinhala name ජනතා විමුක්ති පෙරමුණ
Tamil name மக்கள் விடுதலை முன்னணி
Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe
Founder Rohana Wijeweera
Secretary M. T. Silva
Founded May 14, 1965 (1965-05-14)
Split from Communist Party of Sri Lanka
Headquarters 464/20 Pannipitiya Road, Pelawatta, Battaramulla,
Sri Lanka.
Newspaper Sensakhti/Red Power, Niyamuva, Seenuwa
Ideology Communism,
Sri Lankan nationalism
National affiliation Democratic National Alliance
Sri Lankan Parliament
4 / 225
Election symbol
Janatha Vimukti Peramuna leadership at May Day Celebration in Colombo in 1999.

The Janathā Vimukthi Peramuṇa (Sinhala Wp→ ජනතා විමුක්ති පෙරමුණ; Tamil Wp→ மக்கள் விடுதலை முன்னணி "People's Liberation Front") is a Marxist-Leninist, communist political party in Sri Lanka. The party was involved in two armed uprisings against the ruling governments in 1971 and 1987-89. After 1989, JVP entered into the democratic politics by participating the 1994 parliamentary general election.


The JVP was founded in 1965 with the aim of providing a leading force for a socialist revolution in Sri Lanka. By 1965 there were four other leftist political parties of considerable size: the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), the first leftist party in Sri Lanka and established in 1935, the Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CP) which was a break away from the LSSP, the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) and the CP-Chinese faction. This was a period when economic crisis in the country was deepening. Since independence from colonialism the main two parties United National Party and SLFP had governed the country, each for eight years, but according to the founders of the JVP they had been unable to implement even a single measure to resolve the crises Sri Lanka faced. The JVP considered the entry into the government by three left parties in 1964 as a conscious betrayal of the aspirations of the people and the working class.

Emergence of a leader

During this period, Rohana Wijeweera was studying medicine at Lumumba University in Moscow. There, he read the works of Marx, Engels and Lenin, and became a committed socialist. He later broke with Soviet orthodoxy and was not permitted to return to the USSR after a visit home in 1964.

By this time, Communist Party of Sri Lanka was divided over the Sino-Soviet split and as a result broke down into two factions; the Chinese faction and the Soviet faction. The Chinese faction was led by Premalal Kumarasiri. Through his father's political activities, Wijeweera came in contact with Kumarasiri and now joined the party's staff. He made the trade union office of the Chinese faction his home and, before long, he became a person known to everybody in the party.


Wijeweera increasingly felt that the Left movement (which is now generally referred to in Sri Lanka as 'old left') that had existed up until then had not produced even a few professional revolutionaries and had never made a meaningful effort to educate the masses on Marxism.[citation needed] The words mouthed by the leaders of the 'old left' were accepted by workers as the final word. Even more pathetic, to him, was that the leadership of the 'old left', aware of this aspect, utilized it to the fullest to blunt the militancy of workers.[citation needed]

Wijeweera and others decided in mid-1966 to launch a new party explicitly revolutionary in character. They started from scratch, in contrast to the birth of most political parties in Sri Lanka, which broke off from other established parties.[citation needed]

In the period that followed the cadres engaged themselves in political activities that consisted mainly of trying to increase the political awareness of the working class.[citation needed] The economic hardships they faced were crippling. They walked miles and slept in bus halts or temples. Sometimes the only meal of rice for the day was got from the mid-day alms offered to temples. The mornings were spent earning money by carrying loads in the vegetable markets and the afternoons were devoted to political work.[citation needed]

Famous "five classes"

One of the more important tasks was how best to approach the goal of politically educating the masses. Following deliberations on this issue, it was decided that an uncomplicated Marxist analysis of the socio-politico-economic problems of the country should be the introductory step. The Marxist analysis was staggered into five discussions along with five main themes. Throughout the rest of 1968, Wijeweera walked the length and breadth of the country conducting political classes for the members of the party.

The five basic political classes were followed by an education camp. Precautions had to be taken to keep this educational camp a secret to avoid alarming the government as well as the "old left". The lack of economic resources made it felt in no uncertain terms. The breakfast for the 25 to 30 people participating in the camp, cramped in a small room, consisted of tea. Often there were only two solid meals per day. The classes, all conducted by Wijeweera stretched from 17 to 18 hours a day interrupted only by meals. Sleep was confined to five hours and it was not possible to have showers during the seven days of the camp.

Two years later, by 1971, the JVP had established itself as a political party and offered an alternative to those disillusioned with the politics of the "old left". The majority of the members and supporters of the JVP, at this time, were in the young adult age group. Alarmed at the political potential and the political challenge of the JVP, the government and its leftist allies leveled a variety of slanders against the fledgling party. The JVP has later admitted that at that time, it was not a completely mature political party. There were many shortcomings of which they sought to rectify.

1971 uprising

The 1971 uprising led by the party was an unsuccessful Marxist youth rebellion that claimed 15,000 youth lives.

The JVP drew worldwide attention when it launched an insurrection against the Bandaranaike government in April 1971. Although the insurgents were young, poorly armed, and inadequately trained, they succeeded in seizing and holding major areas in Southern and Central provinces of Sri Lanka before they were defeated by the security forces. Their attempt to seize power created a major crisis for the government and forced a fundamental reassessment of the nation's security needs.

In March 1971, after an accidental explosion in one of the bomb factories, the police found fifty-eight bombs in a hut in Nelundeniya, Kegalla District. Shortly afterward, Wijeweera was arrested and sent to Jaffna Prison, where he remained throughout the revolt. In response to his arrest and the growing pressure of police investigations, other JVP leaders decided to act immediately, and they agreed to begin the uprising at 11:00 p.m. on April 5.

After two weeks of fighting, the government regained control of all but a few remote areas. In both human and political terms, the cost of the victory was high: an estimated 15,000 insurgents—many of them in their teens—died in the conflict, and the army was widely perceived to have used excessive force. In order to win over an alienated population and to prevent a prolonged conflict, Bandaranaike offered amnesties in May and June 1971, and only the top leaders were actually imprisoned. Wijeweera, who was already in detention at the time of the uprising, was given a twenty-year sentence.[1]

The insurgency 1987–89

This led to the post-1987 revolt of the JVP when, adroitly exploiting the arrival of the Indian Peace Keeping Force and the widespread nationalist sentiments of large sections of the Sinhala people, the JVP began to terrorise both the state machinery and those sections of civil society opposed to its thinking and almost brought the state to its knees.

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. Government forces captured and killed Wijeweera and his deputy in November 1989 in Colombo; by early 1990 they had killed or imprisoned the remaining JVP politburo and detained an estimated 7,000 JVP members. Although the Government won a decisive military victory there were credible accusations of brutality and extrajudicial methods.[2]

The number who died is uncertain: the Government was fighting multiple Tamil insurgent groups at the time, using multiple official and unofficial forces, and in the resulting chaos it was said that the uniforms of those responsible for an action denoted only those who were not actually responsible. In addition, many people took advantage of the chaos to prosecute deadly local feuds. What is certain is that the methods of death were appalling: the South African "necklace" of a burning tire, victims eviscerated and left to die, and even the occasion of a dozen heads arranged around the Alwis pond of the University of Peradeniya.

Democratic politics

After the 1971 uprising

The brief conflict created turmoil in Sri Lankan national politics and international relations unparalleled in its recent political history. As a result of the struggle, the United Front Government in power proscribed the JVP in April 1971. Then it became an underground organisation.

In 1978 they participated in the local government elections. In 1982 the JVP participated in the District Development Council (DDC) elections, and the presidential election in 1982. The JVP was the only radical party that contested the DDC elections in 1982. The United National Party Government as a solution to the ethnic conflict, had introduced the DDC. It was a kind of a decentralisation programme. The NLSSP, CP, and SLFP boycotted the elections, but the JVP contested and won a couple of seats in the DDC. During this period, the Election Commissioner formally recognised the JVP as a legitimate political party.

1982 presidential election

During this period, the government proscribed the JVP again. It was a blessing in disguise for the JVP, because at the Presidential election, they expected more votes. For the first time the charismatic leader of the JVP, Rohana Wijeweera contested as a presidential candidate. They hoped to win more than 500,000 votes, but managed to draw only 275,000. While receiving more votes than the candidate Colvin R. de Silva, the party was disappointed by the results. The government again banned the party, and JVP membership declined as people began to doubt its electoral viability.

1983 ethnic riots

However, the JVP was proscribed once again and forced to revert its operations as an underground organisation. In 1983, after the riots, the Government proscribed JVP, CP, and NLSSP (Vasudeva Nanayakkara's & Vikrambahu Karunaratne’s Party) claiming they were involved in the Black July riots that killed thousands of Tamils.[3] But by that time, the Government wanted to prove that it was a coup by pro-Russian parties, in order to attract the United States and the UK, and it resorted to proscription of the three parties. Later, the proscription on the CP was lifted, but not on the JVP. The third phase of the JVP began in the post-1983 period and goes up to the end of 1989.

Democratic politics after 1989

At the last legislative 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 the 225 seats in Parliament. As the second-largest partner in this alliance it became part of the government. The JVP originated as an underground militant movement, which launched an armed rebellion in 1971.

2005 presidential elections

Mahinda Rajapakse was elected president of Sri Lanka with only part support of his own party, the SLFP. Majority support and endorsement came from the JVP and the JHU after their acquiring his agreement not to divide the country into federal states as the LTTE demanded.

Internal conflict of April 2008

The party had an internal conflict in April 2008, between the two factions of Wimal Weerawansa and the party leadership.[4]

Party decided to suspend the membership of Wimal Weerawansa from March 21, 2008. As in the media reports Weerawansa had an argument with the leadership based on the disarmament of Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) political party which contesting in the country's Eastern provincial council elections May 2008 under the banner of ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA).[5][6]

Piyasiri Wijenayake the JVP MP, accused opposition party UNP for conspirating against JVP, told at a media conference held at Nippon hotel Colombo on April 8, 2008. He added Ravi Karunanayake, a UNP MP who held a meeting with senior JVP leaders at his home as the main conspirator.[7]

Piyasiri Wijenayake told BBC, the official vehicles of himself and Achala Suranga Jagoda another dissident JVP MP, forcefully removed by the group led by Jayanatha Wijesekara a JVP Trincomalee district MP.[8]

The dissident Wimal Weerawansa group visited the most senior Buddhist monks of Asgiriya and Malwatte chapters on April 20, 2008, to get the blessings for their new political movement. Weerawansa again accused the UNP Kotte leader for the conspiracy against the JVP.[9]

The breakaway group of ten JVP parliamentarians led by Wimal Weerawansa formed a new political party called the Jathika Nidahas Peramuna (JNP). Party activities began on May 14, 2008, the same day Rohana Wijeweera formed the JVP in 1965 and also the day the LTTE killed 146 pilgrims during the Anuradhapura massacre at the Sri Maha Bodhi in 1985. The party leaders who addressed the inaugural ceremony at BMICH Colombo said, the new political party is an alternative to two main political parties UNP and SLFP but not for the JVP.[10] In December 2008 Jathika Nidahas Peramuna joined the government. They claimed that the government should be supported in this moment as it is successfully fighting LTTE in the North. Then onward JNP sat with the government in parliament. JVP commenting on this issue blamed the government that though the LTTE problem is a critical issue it is not the only issue faced by the country and as the government mishandles many other problems. They further alleged that the rival members joined government on personal gain.

Further reading

  • SRI LANKA - A LOST REVOLUTION? The Inside Story of the JVP by Rohan Gunaratna Institute of Fundamental Studies (1990), English ISBN 955-26-0004-9 ISBN 978-955-26-0004-3
  • Insurgency – 1971 : An Account of the April Insurrection in Sri Lanka by Justice A.C. Alles, The Colombo Apothecaries' Co. Colombo, Year 1979, Third printing
  • Sri Lanka, the years of terror: The J.V.P. insurrection, 1987-1989 by C.A. Chandraprema, Lake House Bookshop (1991), English ISBN 9559029037
  • Rebellion, Repression and the Struggle for Justice in Sri Lanka: The Lionel Bopage Story by Michael Colin Cooke, Agahas Publishers, Colombo (2011), English ISBN 9789550030037

Notable leaders

See also


  1. "Memoirs of Sirima R.D.Bandaranaike : Insurgency April 1971", Sunday Observer, May 8, 2005. 
  2. "JVP 'appreciated' 88-89 crackdown", BBC News, 18 March 2008. 
  3. Tempest, Rone. "Sri Lanka Fears Infiltration by Outlawed Group Mysterious Sinhalese Extremists Suspected in Parliament Grenade, Gun Attack". Los Angeles Times. August 22, 1987
  4. "Wimal : notable absentee", BBC News, 05 April, 2008. 
  5. "JVP 'suspends' Weerawansa", BBC News, 04 April, 2008. 
  6. "JVP splits in two", BBC News, 08 April, 2008. 
  7. "Wimal the conspirator - JVP", BBC News, 09 April, 2008. 
  8. "JVP legislators' vehicles 'stolen'", BBC News, 9 April 2008. 
  9. "Prelate urges JVP unity", BBC News, 20 April 2008. 
  10. "JNP 'alternative' to main parties", BBC News, 14 May 2008. 

External links

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