much loved face defaced by the shooting - his body lying at the
Loyalists' poster campaign for peace
there ever was an award for amnesiacs, hypocrites, opportunists and
psychopaths, the Sri Lankan breed of politicians are sure to
collectively bag it. One of the best examples of backtracking coupled
with an attempt to rewrite political history emerged recently with
President Chandrika Kumaratunga
crediting the United National Party (UNP) with the killing of her
husband, founder member and General Secretary, Sri Lanka Mahajana Party
(SLMP), Vijaya Kumaratunga.
killed at the height of the 1988 JVP insurgency, was among some 117 SLMP
members reportedly killed by the Marxist insurgents during the period of
popular film idol, who following his marriage to Chandrika Bandaranaike
joined the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and later founded the SLMP,
Kumaratunga within a short span of time, became a politician with a deep
understanding of the country's most contentious political issue and the
means of its resolution.
desire to see an end to the ethnic conflict also saw him visiting Jaffna
and with wife Chandrika to South India to discuss matters political with
the Tamil political leaders and the civilians.
Kumaratunga took long strides in politics it was public knowledge at
that time, that Kumaratunga was also earning the JVP's ire, particularly
due to his political stance with regard to the Indo - Lanka Accord and
his willingness, notwithstanding a jail term earned due to trumpeted
Naxelite charges by the J. R. Jayewardene administration, to work with
the UNP for the resolution of the conflict.
just 16 years after Kumaratunga's brutal assassination saw the victims
of JVP violence forging an alliance with the JVP, their aggressor, for
political purposes. The irony of the political marriage was that
Kumaratunga's widow, President Chandrika Kumaratunga was the unanimous
choice as alliance leader.
after the formation of the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), the
late SLMP General Secretary's 16th death anniversary that fell on
February 16 was also marked with a series of religious and relief
programmes - a political embarrassment to the true Vijaya loyalists who
did not wish to be in anyway associated with the JVP.
recalls JVP's tyranny
the founding of a new political alliance with the JVP has irked a group
of SLMP members known as the "Vijaya Sahurda Sandhanaya" or
"Vijaya Loyalists" to such an extent that they allege that
never has Kumaratunga's memory been insulted in this manner and have
vowed to tell the country the absolute truth about Kumaratunga's
assassination that is being given new political twists for political
to SLMP senior party sources, a series of other political killings had
been carried out by the JVP and one that the members remember for the
sheer brutality of it is the shooting of Ven. Pohoddaramulle Premaloka
Thero, the chief adviser of the SLMP party who was gunned down soon
after Kumaratunga's assassination.
to SLMP sources, insurgents linked to the JVP had visited the temple
under the guise of obtaining an interview for a party publication from
the monk and had spent some time at the temple premises questioning the
priest on his commitment to power devolution.
the priest had answered in the affirmative, reiterating his party's
collective commitment to power sharing as a basis for conflict
resolution, he had been twice shot in the mouth, instantly killing him.
are unable to forgive or forget, and most definitely cannot forgive our
former members who want to share a platform with the killers of our
leader simply to gain political power," said one SLMP member.
life was lost during a period of murder and mayhem. Both the insurgents
and the counter forces of the government were unleashing violence during
the height of the second JVP insurgency. A number of clergy including
Buddhists and Catholic priests, along with UNP, SLFP and SLMP
politicians became targets of JVP violence.
a large number of SLMP members, a relatively new political outfit making
new waves became prime JVP targets, largely due to the liberal political
view they adopted with regard to the concept of power sharing, a view
anathema to a large majority of the population at that time and to the
JVP that branded power sharing as a loss of sovereignty. The SLMP's
death toll within the two-year period of terror hence, amounted to 117.
senior SLMP member and Vijaya loyalist, Padmasiri Kodikara recalled, it
was a period of terror when the SLMP, unarmed and committed to a fresh
political ideology became prime targets to the "Deshapremi
Movement" that went on an outrageous killing spree.
were unarmed, relatively new and without our leader. The problems we
faced were enormous. It is tragic that some of our members are able to
perform this act of absolute political betrayal," he noted.
on political parties and death
was at this time that the Patriotic People's Movement, the military arm
of the JVP began issuing orders under the name of one Keerthi Wijebahu,
chief commanding officer of the movement, bringing the country to a
standstill. On September 6, 1988, Wijebahu demanded that all court
houses boycott work, thereby crippling the judicial activities in the
No. 4 bearing Ref. No. 0504 condemned the killing of pro-JVP lawyer
Wijedasa Liyanaarachchi allegedly by the police following orders from
the ruling UNP.
order specifically demanded all courts, the legal practitioners and
court workers to boycott work until justice is done to the
Liyanaraachchi murder. Any violators were threatened with instant death.
the Patriotic People's Movement banned the UNP for allegedly being
stooges of the West, particularly to the US and for being pro-India by
inviting Indian troops to help the nation with their military might.
Some of the leading UNP politicians were put on their 'assassination
list' as traitors to the nationalistic cause.
who represented the party or extended support to the UNP were also
issued with a notice of immediate death. The SLMP's plight was no better
with Vijaya Kumaratunga himself being put on the list of planned
assassinations for willing to work with the Jayewardene administration
on the national issue.
a series of other orders that added to the country's fear psychosis, the
JVP also prohibited the masses from participating in the 1988 general
election and followed it up with a series of killings of candidates.
what added a more fearful dimension to the story was the JVP's sudden
issuing of notices prohibiting people from reporting to work, ordering
islandwide strikes, crippling state transport and health sectors,
thereby having a huge negative impact on the country's economy, its
people and the country's image.
final public address
threats did not deter Vijaya Kumaratunga who had a political mission -
one that transcended political barriers. Kumaratunga, with his
unconcealed dislike for feudalistic politics was no fan of the SLFP, a
party that failed to sustain his interest due to its sheer lack of
new theories are being spinned about the assassination of the SLMP
leader, it is also timely to examine the contents of Kumaratunga's final
public address. Addressing a mammoth public rally held at Campbell Park
on January 28, 1988, Kumaratunga lashed out at the UNP, SLFP and the JVP
for failing to address the need of the hour.
Kumaratunga also voiced his concerns about the SLFP's links with the JVP.
"If JVP is willing to
lay down arms like timid boys at the behest of the SLFP Leader Sirimavo
Bandaranaike, then we demand to know as to who actually controls the JVP?
If hundreds of buses are burnt, public property worth millions of rupees
destroyed when the Bandaranaike mother and son duo demand such
destructive actions from the JVP from under the Bo tree in Fort, do we
have to ask as to who controls the JVP and under whose instructions this
country has been plunged to anarchy, destruction and bloodshed?"
also named a long list of persons murdered by the JVP including Nandana
Marasinghe, several LSSP members, James Ethugala and the like and
accused the JVP of carrying out a spate of killings due to SLFP
accusation against the SLFP of allegedly manipulating the JVP for
purposes of political expediency it seems is seeing a repeat, some 16
absolute mistrust of the JVP was not confined to Kumaratunga alone - his
wife Chandrika too did not see the JVP as a political party with a
mission or a true desire to settle the country's burning issue.
the aftermath of her husband's brutal killing, the then SLMP Leader
Chandrika Kumaratunga sought refuge in London with her two young
children, a decision that met with stoic approval with the party cadres
who feared for their life.
reportedly led a life of seclusion grappling with the reality of losing
her husband at a time when their political creation, the SLMP showed
all-potential of emerging as an alternative to both the feudalistic UNP
and the SLFP. In addition, she had to cope with the personal grief of
having to be both parents to two vulnerable children who had witnessed
their father being killed in broad daylight.
the silence, in a letter to the SLMP politburo during her period in
exile, Kumaratunga was explicit about the identification of his killers
and was aghast that the country despite loving her film idol husband had
failed to rise up against the JVP elements in the villages.
letter dated October 11, directed to the politburo members of the SLMP
sought to discuss the deficiencies of the SLMP and suggested practical
ways and means of strengthening the party's political position. Besides
the political ambitions that were clearly spelt out in the letter, what
emerged in the letter was her absolute mistrust and dislike for the JVP
which she called "a group of murderous fascists."
her lengthy letter, she had appreciated the efforts of the SLMP members
to help the party grow despite the immediate setback of losing Vijaya
Kumaratunga to an assassin's bullet. "I am enormously grateful to
the party cadres who fearlessly continue to face the threats of the
fascist JVP murderers and UNP goons to further the interest of a
political party that is at its infant stage, but showing tremendous
potential in becoming a true alternative to the two main political
forces in Sri Lanka," she wrote.
she has also given a firm pledge that under no circumstances would she
leave the SLMP created through the sweat and blood of true leftists:
"I shall not change this decision until death," she affirmed.
she has not only changed her decision but joined hands with the very
murderers of her leftist allies including her husband, Vijaya.
Kumaratunga also critiqued the lack of organisation within the SLMP and
declared that such political complacency would only help create a
political platform for the UNP and the murderous JVP, which she saw as
an unforgivable political omission.
an emotional note, the widow of Vijaya Kumaratunga had further stated
that while millions of Kumaratunga fans flocked to Colombo to pay their
last respects to the much loved film star, there was not a single person
at village level willing to raise a hand against a JVP member in
defiance of the brutality associated with the JVP.
a time when the backdrop to the Kumaratunga assassination is being swept
aside for purposes of political expediency, the "Vijaya
Loyalists" are planning to take action against the spreading of
falsehoods and explain to the public the true circumstances under which
Kumaratunga was gunned down.
Kumaratunga's tale of death being rewritten to suit a political
situation, the Vijaya loyalists have decided to end their silence. With
some of the members of the collective deciding to go public with the
knowledge they possess regarding the circumstances of their leader's
gunning down, fresh posters have come up in the city bearing
Kumaratunga's handsome visage that boldly stated: "Vijaya, I did
not betray you." Underneath is a smaller image of Chandrika
Kumaratunga clad in white and pledging to further the political cause of
her late husband, her hands brought together in a Marxists' salute in
front of Vijaya's coffin.
Loyalists have planned to hand over a transcription of Kumaratunga's
final speech along with a VCD to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
senior member, speaking to The Sunday Leader said that they were simply
unable to associate themselves with some of the former members who are
today in the PA-JVP collective and twisting Kumaratunga's assassination
details to suit their current political need.
is disgusting. We cannot believe how they can get on
the same platform knowing in their hearts that they killed our
leader and over 100 members," he said.
Vijaya Loyalists' group includes former adviser to the SLMP, Ven.
Wellawatte Sanghabhiwansa Thero, Ven. Madampagama Assajee Thero and over
50 senior SLMP politicians.
the Buddhist monks, the group includes former chairman of the Central
Provincial Council and Parliamentarian Sarath Kongahage, former PA
Deputy Minister Athula Nimalasiri Jayasinghe, former opposition leader
of the Southern Provincial Council, Cyril Dharmawardene, Eraj Fernando,
former opposition leader of the North Central Provincial Council,
Dhammika Lenawa, J. R. P. Suriyapperuma, Rusiripala Tennakoon, former
Southern Provincial Councilor Somapala Ekanayake, Vijith Anuradha, Anula
Herath, Sarath Dambawinna, W. P. M. Dissanayake, former Western
Provincial Councillor Peremasiri Perera, media personnel Bandula
Padmakumara and Mulan Perera, Shanthini Kongahage, Padmasiri Kodikara,
former chairman of the Medawachchiya Pradeshiya Sabha, Nalin Wijeratne,
Dehiwala-Mt.Lavinia Municipal Councillor Ananda Perera, Wijaya Neranjan
Perera and others.
nobody denied the JVP's inherent right to indulge in mainstream politics
and to be politically accepted, what these loyalists say is that such a
right could never extend to a mandate to rewrite history, particularly
the death of their revered leader Vijaya Kumaratunga.