After winning the general election in 1977, Ranasinghe Premadasa approached JR with the proposal to release JVP leaders and members, including their leader Rohana Wijeweera. During the 1977 general election, Premadasa spoke out against the anti-democratic measures taken by then-Prime Minister Mrs. Bandaranaike to suppress the rebellion, and the story of Katharagam beauty queen Premawathi Manamperi was narrated with zeal and vigour by Premadasa in U.N.P. election stages.
People went home with tears in their eyes after hearing Premadasa’s story. JR and Premadasa reached an agreement that allowed Rohana Wijeweera and other JVP leaders to be released from jail. Despite the fact that this is a political decision that benefits both of them, it is a revolutionary one. JR, release the leaders and members from prison. And Premadasa reached a political agreement, but it was a revolutionary decision. Premadasa also served as a go-between for negotiations between JR and JVP leaders following Wijeweera’s release. Premadasa also gave Wijeweera, who had been released from prison, the town hall and Sugathadasa grounds for meetings.
1983 JR banned JVP. After being pushed into underground politics, J.V.P. took up arms against the government of J.R. A rebellion was launched against the 1987 Indo-Lanka Pact. At that time, J.R.’s government decided to suppress JVP. But then Prime Minister Premadasa did not support it. JR Jayawardana’s biography states:
In a matter of time, the alleged killings severely affected the unity of the party. Two senior ministers publicly criticized JR’s anti JVP stance and they announced that they would distance themselves from the anti-JVP movement. Those two are Prime Minister Premadasa and Finance Minister Ronnie de Mell. In early December, a news JR. received was that Premadasa has told the MPs that he would retire from politics by the end of 1988.
Biography of J.R Jayawardene
Another place in the biography says:
On December 30 and 31, Prime Minister Premadasa was in Kandy attending a much-publicized ceremony to inaugurate the golden canopy over the chamber where the tooth relic is enshrined in the Dalada Maligawa. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Premadasa and Ronnie de Mel made speeches. Both these speeches were on J.R.’s strict anti JVP stance. There political statements that said they would distance themselves from anti-JVP stand. Both argued that priority should be given to remedying the social conditions that enabled the JVP to pose such a serious threat to the government. They said it was better than responding to violence with violence.
Biography of J.R Jayawardene
It is also mentioned in another place in the biography.
During Premadasa’s visit to China in September, he had said at an international press conference held in Hong Kong that he would accept J.V.P. as guilty of violence and murder charges against them only if it was proven in a fair trial in a court of law. After returning to Sri Lanka, he printed and distributed copies of this discussion. Accordingly, it was reasonable for the security forces to think that there was no agreement on his taking strict action against the JVP.
Biography of J.R Jayawardene
Even after Premadasa became the presidential candidate in 1988, he did not say a word against JVP. Premadasa did not open his mouth against the JVP in his speeches, even though the people coming to his meetings were threatened with gun point and an unofficial curfew was imposed near his meeting ground and the shops were closed due to JVP curfew, only 10 or 12 people came to see Premadasa’s meetings. Premadasa said that 10 or 12 people who come to their meetings are quite enough because it is how delegates come from other countries to international conferences. He consoled himself by saying that they come to their meetings as representatives of the people, just like the representatives representing the country in international conferences.
Premadasa somehow won the 1988 presidential election. As soon as he won, he lifted the state of emergency and released detained 1800 J.V.P. rebels. After stopping the repression, the ban on JVP was also lifted. After that he invited JVP for talks. He promised to form an all-party government, appoint members from the national list and give ministerial positions, and if necessary, to dissolve the parliament so that the JVP can compete in elections. But J.V.P. did not stop their rebellion. Premadasa called JVP to an all-party national conference to bring them to the negotiations table.
He invited the JVP to come to the discussion table sent invitation with all party leaders’ signatures. JVP in response intensified their rebellion activities. When Premadasa was going to ask JVP to come to the negotiating table for the second time, Mrs. Bandaranaike and the left parties opposed it. She said in Parliament that Premadasa does not have the backbone to suppress the rebellion as she did in 1971.
Vasu said that J.V.P. should be cracked down by hook or by crook. It should be suppressed. It was after that it was decided to crack down. Premadasa suppressed J.V.P. and appointed a Youth Discontent Commission and according to its recommendations, JVP to get elected to the parliament reduced the cut – off – mark to get elected as a MP to 12%, 5%.
In the 1994 general election for the first time, J.V.P. MP came to Parliament because Premadasa reduced the cut-off marks from 12% to 5%. In 2020, Ranil got the position to be a Member of Parliament from the national list because of Premadasa’s policy of reducing the cutoff marks.
Because of that cut-off mark, JVP came back to life. In the general election of 2000, J.V.P’s number of MPs was 10. 2001 J.V.P. took the remote control of making governments and overturning governments because of this. In the general election of 2004, J.V.P’s number of MPs increased to 39. Later J.V.P was broken into two to three fractions and weakened. JVP won three seats in the 2020 general election. Without Premadasa’s cut-off mark, those three seats will not be available for them.
However, after the JVP received three seats in the 2020 general election, Ranasinghe Premadasa’s son formed a new party that became the country’s main opposition, and the party was appointed opposition leader. With Premadasa’s rise, the JVP, which fell to three seats in the 2020 general election, began to rise as a strong opposition to Gota’s government. Kumar Gunaratnam’s vanguard party, which broke away from the JVP, also rose at this time. Sajith Premadasa’s Samagi Jana Balawegaya leads the first wave of protesters to Gota’s presidential office in Colombo.
Hirunika is the one who organises the raid on Gota’s Mirihana home. Youths who rose to prominence through vanguards and social media descended on Colombo to raid Mirihane Gota’s home. JVP leader Anura Kumar, U.N.P leader Ranil, and Wimal Weerawansla warned them not to attend protests in the absence of a leader. But it is Sajith who gives strength to the wave of people besieging Gota’s house, and when the Rajapaksa government attacks the Galle face struggle ground, it is Sajith who goes there without fear. J.V.P., who had infiltrated the battleground, attacked Sajith there. Despite being attacked by members, Sajith remains silent about the struggle. It reminded him of his father’s JVP meetings. Despite the fact that a JVP curfew was imposed, it appears that his father did not speak out against the JVP. When Gota invites Sajith to accept the position of Prime Minister, Sajith refuses, claiming that the struggle cannot be betrayed.
‘Why does Sajith go so far for the struggle…?’
Sajith joins the struggle just like his father Ranasinghe Premadasa joined Rohana Wijeweera’s JVP in 1988. In 1988 Premadasa gets presidential candidacy from Colombo Kurunduwatte U.N.P because JR trusted and understood the only man who could attract the social revolution brought about in the country by Rohana Wijeweera’s is Premadasa. When 30 years have passed since Premadasa’s death, the Rajapaksas whom were said to be not even could be shacked, Premadasa’s son standing up against them launched because of the vanguards and social media activists launched struggle.
When Rohana Wijeweera died in 1989, Kumar Gunaratnam, a strong member of J.V.P., would never have imagined that Gunaratnam would one day do the struggle that Wijeweera did with a gun in 88-89 on Facebook. Also, when Premadasa died in 1993, he could not have predicted that his son would one day come to ask for the country’s leadership.
Rohana Wijeweera, JVP and Premasasa, are all like bark to the political tree. They both rise together at the same time.
By Upul Joseph Fernando