(Speech by Comrade Tilvin Silva – General Secretary of the JVP at the 45th Commemoration of April Heroes held at Town Hall at Panadura on 5th April, 2016.)
We have gathered here today to commemorate heroes of our party who laid down their lives on behalf of the right for politics of our class. Anyone born to this world ends his life in death. However, April Heroes of 1971 are a group who are born again after their deaths. They not only were born after their deaths but they were also able to awake the masses that were in a deep slumber. Hence, we believe that the experiences of April Heroes are very important for the people in this country today. At a time when 45 years have passed since the April Uprising capitalism in Sri Lanka and the capitalist class that carry it on their shoulders are confronted with an acute crisis. Capitalist class has got into a severe crisis within the rotting politics followed for the past 68 years. Our people, the society that is confronted with this crisis craves for a change. Hence, people in our country should acquire experiences of April Heroes.
Hence, we have decided to organize commemoration of April Heroes ceremonies throughout the island and to have broad discussions regarding their experiences with the people. Today, when this ceremony is being held at Panadura two other main commemorations are being held at Anuradhapura and Deniyaya in Matara. Also, it has been decided to have commemoration ceremonies in the Middle East and several countries in Europe with the participation of several leaders of our party. Already, the Leader of our party Comrade Anura Dissanayaka and the National Organizer Comrade Bimal Rathnayaka have gone abroad to participate in several of these ceremonies. Several more will go abroad to participate in ceremonies held in other countries.
Why do we commemorate heroes of April uprising? People are craving for a change at this moment when capitalism is confronted with a massive crisis. Those who promised a change have failed. The people in our country should understand what the real change is that is necessary for the country. This is why the experiences of April Heroes are important. It is the heroes of 1971 who taught us that the only solution for the impotent capitalist system is Socialism.
People belonging to three generations are participating in this commemoration – the ’71 generation, the generation brought up during the ’77 open economy and the new younger generation. People of these three generations have come together here to discuss experiences of the ’71 heroes, which is an important task. The Heroes of ’71 fought to take the country towards a giant leap in life, society and development in the country. Some ask us what we have done on behalf of ’71 Heroes. Some ask whether we have given compensation for them. The ’71 Heroes never fought to achieve any personal things. They fought sacrificing their lives with the unshakeable hope of building a new society. The only thing we could do for them is to create a Socialist red Sri Lanka.
It is 45 years since the ’71 uprising. There are many things to talk about it even after 45 years. Whatever is said, the ’71 uprising made a deep mark in our society. Our friends as well as enemies accept this without any argument. There have been three main armed struggles in our country. A rebellion broke out in 1818 against the British rulers who brought capitalism to our country. Also, Matale rebellion took place in 1848. British colonialists handed over the country to their lackeys. The ’71 uprising was against the oppression of re-colonialism. The ’71 uprising was able to add many a value for the lives of our people.
Can weekend newspapers today refrain from speaking about the JVP? Could newspapers ignore the ’71 uprising or the 88-89 struggle? Even retired ‘rebels’ who betrayed the struggle or fled from it add value to themselves talking about the ’71 uprising. After 45 years they are left with the uprising as the only important thing they can talk about. As such ’71 uprising created a tremor in the country. The poet, dramatist, the writer and the movie maker were forced to think anew. The government was forced to think differently. Heroes were added to the society. We were taught how to live, die and confront death.
Capitalism creates selfishness in people. From the time we leave home we are confronted with selfishness. However, April Heroes of ’71 showed us that even in such a society unselfishness could exist and a person could even sacrifice life for the good of others. Some say what occurred in 1971 was a rebellion. In reality it was a youth uprising against the repression of the capitalist government. Some say it occurred due to Comrade Rohana Wijeweera’s arbitrary decision. Whoever wished such an uprising it could never happen due to wishes of an individual. The ‘71 uprising was the logical outcome of the socio-economic – political situation that existed at the moment. It has the signs of rising against class oppression; struggle against denial of democracy and high ideals. It contained collectiveness, benevolence and sacrifice.
The British rulers who brought capitalism to Sri Lanka used the upper class in Sri Lanka to create a ruling class loyal to them. A capitalist class that was faithful and devoted to them was created. The British left the country handing over the administration to this class. When this happened in 1948 many said it was independence. It was not a genuine independence. The bond to the British royalty continued. British rule destroyed our culture, our resources and the central hills in our country. It created a massive proletariat. What the local capitalist class did was to continue the issues created by the British. By 1965 there was a massive economic crisis. The country was trapped in a large debt trap. The production broke down. Even the educated couldn’t get employment. Prices of goods went up. There was a social crisis. The rulers found it difficult to administer. Capitalism was in crisis. The only solution the world accepted for capitalist crisis is Socialism. At the time the LSSP and the Communist Party had been functioning. However, they were moving away from the left movement. The LSSP betrayed the ’21 demands’ of the working class and Socialism to join Ms. Sirima Bandaranayke’s government and accepted ministerial posts. This created a vacuum in the left movement. The JVP was born in 1965 to fill this vacuum. It was Rohana Wijeweera, a youth of 22 years from our class, that took the initiative to create this party. He held a discussion at Comrade Karunaratna’s residence at Akmeemana on 14th May, 1965, a Wesak Day, to form a left movement. A colossal decision was made and a challenging move was made. Comrade Rohana Wijeweera’s father was not a President or a Parliamentarian. He was not a film star either. As such, he, an unknown youth, had to make a tremendous sacrifice to create a left movement. He starved for days, had to walk for miles and carry loads to earn money for the movement. There isn’t any other political party in the world created in such a manner. This is where our party’s strength, energy and reverence lie.
Youths, scholars and intellectuals rallied around the JVP. A genuine left movement was rising up. We were slandered then as we are slandered today. It is not a new thing for us. Those gentlemen who snuggled with the capitalist class have slandered us from our inception. We tell these gentlemen that barking of dogs cannot shake mountains. We allow the dogs to bark but carry on with our journey until the final victory is achieved. Once slandering was unsuccessful the capitalist class commenced repression. The JVP decided to go among the masses. Accordingly, it was decided to hold a series of meetings. The inaugural meeting was held at Hyde Park in Colombo on 10th August, 1970. Comrade Rohana Wijeweera invited the people to build Socialism. Youths that were present donated money, jewellery and other valuables to the party. Girls donated ear rings and necklaces they were wearing. Men gave their wristwatches. The capitalist government was shaken. Suppression was unleashed. On 12th August, 1970 the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense Arthur Rajkumar Rathnavel said the ‘Che Guevara’ movement that was raising its head is the number one enemy of the government, it should be pursued and eradicated. Comrade Rohana Wijeweera, while the case against the ‘insurrection’ was being heard, wanted to get him to Court to ask two questions from him. The first question was to ask him how the JVP became the number one enemy of the government and the other was how and when the decision to pursue and eradicate the JVP was taken. He never made his appearance. That is the decision taken and implemented then.
It is in such a background that the JVP took a decision that it should not be inactive but should struggle on behalf of its democratic right to engage in politics. This is when the slogan “It is honourable to fight and die rather than live on ones knees!” was born within the uprising in 1971. A decision had to be taken whether to get murdered within one night or die fighting the enemy. Comrades of ’71 decided to fight. Certain capitalist gentlemen and small cliques that call themselves leftists who are not aware of the true situation attempt to distort the reason for the uprising. ’71 uprising is not an instant to grab power. It is an uprising against the repression that targeted the attempt to build a political party for a social transformation.
The uprising created a massive militancy among our youths and the proletariat. It is the Heroes of ’71 that gave the example of struggle for the masses who until then accepted suffering, slavery and carrying the burden of capitalism without any murmur. Heroes of ’71 sacrificed not only their knowledge and abilities but their lives they get only once in their lives. There is a saying that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Even today in our society there are many who curse the darkness without lighting a candle. There are many who curse this government. However, most of them are not prepared to light a candle. Heroes of ’71 without cursing the darkness lit a column of lamps. It is from the light that radiates from these lamps that the present generation is moving towards the path for Socialism.
There are several names that are conspicuous among those Heroes who made the supreme sacrifice. The ideal of the women was Comrade Premawathie Manamperi from Katharagama. She was subjected to every cruelty a girl had to undergo. However, she embraced death without divulging anything about the JVP. Comrade Kamala Bandu had the courage to shout ‘Long live the JVP’ even when he was cut to pieces using an electric saw. Comrade Susil Wickrema of Matara and Comrade Rathnayaka of Deniyaya chose death instead of living on their knees. Comrade Sonny Ariyatilleke of Balangoda was tortured and was dragged tied to a police jeep. However, he embraced death reciting a slogan from Ellepola. Our Heroes of ’71 were patriotic and the courage they displayed was admirable.
The government commenced its pursuing game. Our comrades were herded in prisons. They were tortured to make them wish death was more comfortable. Some fled to the enemy and betrayed the struggle. Some gave up the struggle after the defeat. There were heroes who sacrificed their lives as well as those who escaped death and were determined to take the struggle forward. This is why we were able to re-build the party. 1971 was the second birth of our party. It was the comrades who did not flee after the 1971 uprising who corrected the mistakes and built the JVP as a genuine Marxist – Leninists political party. They wrote:
The slaves of this land are in a battlefield
Come forward with arms craving for independence!
Kissing the soil soaked with blood of our heroes
Open your eyes to look how to die as men!
They had immense faith in Socialism to pen such words.
The ’71 uprising is not a struggle that was wasted. Heroes of ’71 won our country many things. It is the ’71 uprising that genuinely freed Sri Lanka from British colonialists. The Constitution of 1972 was an outcome of the ’71 uprising. The government had to bring in land reforms in 1975 and limit ownership of lands for 50 acres per person and lands had to be distributed to landless. The ’71 uprising influenced several social and economic amendments. A commission to study youth intolerance was appointed. However, the ’71 Heroes said there was no intolerance but what existed was injustice of capitalism. The only solution for the injustice for youth is Socialism.
What is the situation after 45 years? It is more serious than then. Capitalism is in a massive crisis. We need not say this. The Prime Minister who is steering capitalism in Sri Lanaka makes a statement in Parliament saying the country is confronted with a massive crisis; there is a massive economic breakdown. He says country’s debt is about Rs.10,000 billion. We have told about this crisis. We have said the country cannot be taken forward on debt. Ranil also said the people have to take bitter medicine to overcome the crisis. Ranil makes Mahinda Rajapaksa responsible for the crisis and asks people to drink bitter medicine instead of giving bitter medicine to Mahinda. We say what is given to the people is not medicine but poison. All these capitalist governments have made every person in the country indebted to the tune of Rs. 500,000. Rajapaksa took loans. Is Ranil trying to settle the loans? No, they too have to take loans. We have been imprisoned in an economy that depends on loans. Production has been broken down and the economy is run on taxes. The country is dragged further towards crisis. Instead of increasing production as a solution for the crisis the government attempts to sign ETCA with India to destroy the existing productions. Fertilizer subsidy is abolished. We’ll have to lead lives of paupers. The Minister of Agriculture who rents out a building for the Ministry paying millions says 100,000 acres of paddy fields would be removed from paddy cultivation to cultivate other crops. What is the intention? It is to rule the country according to whims and fancies of the West. This capitalism cannot give anything to our people.
Earlier there was the family rule. Now there is a coalition. This too has failed. Do they have a coalition to develop the country? No, they, as separate parties, are not given power by the people. Capitalist class has been confronted with a crisis. The SLFP ruled for 20 years but disintegrated when it lost power. Now they fight among themselves in public. They fight due to their greediness for power. Do they love the country? Mahinda Rajapaksa who was chased away by the people attempts to come to power again by splitting the party and displaying his nakedness. As such, our country needs a genuine change. Only new Socialism could do such a change. From everywhere we hear the need for the light of new Socialism. This is why experiences of ’71 are valuable for us. The JVP that was an infantile party then has now become a colossal movement that is inseparable from the masses. Today capitalism is weak, rulers have become impotent. However, the JVP has grown from strength to strength. Hence, we believe that the day is not far away when the new society, the aspiration of Heroes of ’71, would be developed with the leadership of the JVP.
Rajapaksa clique attempts to set up a new party to win those who are disillusioned of the two main political parties. Rajapaksa who failed in his administration for 9 years again asks for power. This clique never talked about people’s issues. They made a big noise in parliament demanding they be recognized as the opposition. They dashed coconuts and ground chillies to abolish FCID. They also talked against Geneva. Now they go to Geneva without their clothes. They shout without any shame. They cannot deceive masses. On the other hand the government attempts to tame the JVP. For, it is the JVP that carries out the functions of the opposition. They are trying to introduce new electoral systems to deny Parliamentary seats to the JVP. We say that new electoral systems that represent the wishes of the masses justifiably should be introduced.
They have also started vituperating the JVP. Those blokes who are comfortable in Rajapaksa’s lap slander leaders of the JVP. They call us red elephant calves. It is they who have dealings with the UNP. They get their passport issues solved through Ranil. It is such blokes that call us red elephant cubs. The tiny cliques that were chased out of the party too slander the party. They call themselves left but slander the JVP instead of criticizing the UNP. Their main enemy is not capitalism but the JVP. None of these is a challenge for the JVP. The only challenge we have is the capitalist system. We need not spend our time to answer fabrications against us. Lenin said “Vaska the cat listens, but continues eating.” We ask those gentlemen to go on insulting us. We would carry out the task of destroying capitalism and build Socialism which was the wish of ’71 Heroes. We are prepared to rally masses and give them courage for the task. We call upon everybody to rally with us. Mao Tsetung has said that success should be gauged not by praises of friends but the angry criticism of enemies. The JVP has never betrayed the aspirations of our people. We have never broken people’s trust. We have shown that we have not betrayed even before the threat of murder. We ask the masses to trust us.
Let flowers bloom all along the hills valleys and plains
Seizing the colour from the blood shed by our comrades!
Let’s hold high the waving red banner
And march towards a free new world!