Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna

People's Liberation Front
ජනතා විමුක්ති පෙරමුණ
மக்கள் விடுதலை முன்னணி
Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna
Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake
Secretary M. T. Silva
Founder Rohana Wijeweera
Founded 14 May 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
International affiliation International Communist Seminar
Colors      Red
Parliament of Sri Lanka
6 / 225
Sri Lankan Provincial Councils
15 / 455
Local Government
74 / 4,327
Election symbol
Janatha Vimukti Peramuna leadership at May Day Celebration in Colombo in 1999.

The Janathā Vimukthi Peramuṇa[1] (Sinhalese: ජනතා විමුක්ති පෙරමුණ; Tamil: மக்கள் விடுதலை முன்னணி "People's Liberation Front"[2]) is a communist and Marxist–Leninist party in Sri Lanka. The party was involved in two armed uprisings against the ruling governments in 1971 (SLFP) and 1987–89 (UNP). After 1989, it entered democratic politics by participating in the 1994 parliamentary election.[3]


The JVP was founded in 1965 with the aim of providing a leading force for a socialist revolution in Sri Lanka.[4] By 1965 there were four other leftist political parties: the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), established in 1935 as the first leftist party in Sri Lanka; the Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CP), an offshoot of the LSSP; the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP); and the Ceylon Communist Party. It was a period when economic crisis in the country was deepening. Since the country's independence the two main parties, the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, had governed the country, each for eight years. According to the founders of the JVP, neither party had been able to implement even a single measure to resolve the crisis that Sri Lanka faced. The JVP considered the entry of three left parties into the government in 1964 as a conscious betrayal of the aspirations of the people and the working class.

Rohana Wijeweera

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

By this time, the Communist Party of Sri Lanka was divided 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 joined the party's staff. He made the trade union office of the Chinese faction his home.


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.[5] The words mouthed by the leaders of the "old left" were accepted by workers as the final word. He also believed that the leadership of the "old left", aware of this aspect, utilized it to the fullest to blunt the militancy of workers. 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. 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.

Five classes

Wijeweera felt that one of the more important tasks was to politically educate 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 split 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 classes, all conducted by Wijeweera, stretched from 17 to 18 hours a day, interrupted only by meals.

By 1971, the JVP had established itself as a political party and offered an alternative to those disillusioned with the politics of the other left organizations. The majority of the members and supporters of the JVP, at that 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 had later admitted that at that time, it was not a completely mature political party. There were many shortcomings, which they sought to rectify.

1971 uprising[6]

Main article: 1971 JVP Insurrection

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 5 April. 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.[7]

The insurgency 1987–89

The defeat of the 1971 uprising and the death of comrades 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.[8] Government forces captured and killed Wijeweera and his deputy in November 1989 in Colombo;[9] by early 1990 they had killed or imprisoned the remaining JVP politburo and detained an estimated 7,0000 JVP members. Although the government won a decisive military victory, there were credible accusations of brutality and extrajudicial methods.[10] The number of deaths during the insurgency 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 the methods of death, including the "necklace" of a burning tyre, copied on the South African ANC-practice of the time, 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 Lanka's national politics and its international relations. As a result of the struggle, the United Front Government proscribed the JVP in April 1971. It became an underground organisation and in 1978 participated in the local government elections. In 1982 the JVP participated in the District Development Council (DDC) elections and the presidential elections. The JVP was the only radical party that contested the DDC elections in 1982.[11] The United National Party had introduced the District Development Council as a solution to the ethnic conflict. The NLSSP, CP, and SLFP boycotted the elections, but the JVP contested and won a couple of seats in the council's elections. It was during this period that the Election Commission of Sri Lanka formally recognised the JVP as a legitimate political party.

1982 presidential election

The government proscribed the JVP again after the DDC elections. In 1982, Rohana Wijeweera contested the presidential elections. The party expected to win more than 500,000 votes, but won only 275,000. Though it received 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

In 1983, after the ethnic riots, the government proscribed the JVP, CP, and NLSSP (Vasudeva Nanayakkara's and Vikrambahu Karunaratne's Party) claiming that they were involved in the Black July riots that killed thousands of Tamils.[12] In order to attract the United States and the UK, the government had resorted to proscription of the three parties. Later, the proscription on the CP was lifted, but the JVP continued to be proscribed.

Performance in elections

During the 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 party of this coalition, it became part of the government.[13]

2005 presidential elections

In 2005, Mahinda Rajapakse was elected president of Sri Lanka with the support of his party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Some political analysts believed that the majority of support and endorsement to Rajapakse came from the JVP and the Jathika Hela Urumaya after he agreed not to divide the country into federal states as the LTTE had demanded. A few analysts reject this idea by saying that JVP and JHU were too small parties to have such a major effect. But some other independent intellects like Dayan Jayatilleka, Nalin de Silva and Mohan Samaranayake point out that SLFP's agreement with JVP paved the path to the victory[14]

Internal conflict of April 2008

The party had an internal conflict between the two factions of Wimal Weerawansa and the party leadership in April 2008.[15] The party had decided to suspend the membership of Wimal Weerawansa as of 21 March 2008. The media reports said that Weerawansa had an argument with the leadership based on the disarmament of the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal (TMVP) political party, which was contesting in the country's eastern provincial council elections to be held in May 2008 under the banner of the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA).[16][17] A member of the party, Piyasiri Wijenayake, accused the opposition party, UNP, of conspiring against JVP at a media conference held at Nippon Hotel in Colombo on 8 April 2008. He alleged that Ravi Karunanayake, a UNP member who had attended a meeting with senior JVP leaders at his residence, was the main conspirator.[18] Piyasiri Wijenayake further told BBC that his and Achala Suranga Jagoda's vehicles were forcefully removed by the group led by Jayanatha Wijesekara, a member of the parliament from Trincomalee district.[19]

The dissident Wimal Weerawansa group visited the most senior Buddhist monks of Asgiriya and Malwatte chapters on 20 April 2008, to seek the blessings for their new political movement. Weerawansa also accused the UNP Kotte leaders of the conspiracy against the JVP.[20] 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 14 May 2008, the anniversary of the day Rohana Wijeweera had formed the JVP in 1965 and of the day the LTTE had killed 146 pilgrims during the Anuradhapura massacre at the Sri Maha Bodhi in 1985. The party leaders who addressed the inaugural ceremony at BMICH in Colombo said that the new political party was an alternative to the two main political parties, UNP and SLFP, but not of the JVP.[21] In December 2008, JNP joined the government. They claimed that the government should be supported in this moment as it was successfully fighting LTTE in the north of Sri Lanka. In commenting on this issue, JVP politicians blamed the government, saying that it had mishandled many problems. They further alleged that their rivals had joined the government for personal gain.

2010 presidential & Parliament elections

JVP formed a coalition with UNP to support Sarath Fonseka, the former army chief, in the 2010 presidential elections,[22] but he was defeated by the incumbent, Mahinda Rajapakse.[23] After this, the UNP left the coalition and the JVP contested the general elections along with Sarath Fonseka's factions under the banner of Democratic National Alliance. The alliance won 7 seats, of which 4 were won by JVP candidates. The party had 39 seats before the elections.

2015 presidential & Parliament elections

JVP neither contested nor directly supported any coalition in 2015 January presidential election but heavily criticized & incumbent president Mahinda Rajapakse which eventually assisted his ouster . Later in August they contested on their own for parliamentary election and obtained 6 sets garnering 543,944 votes.


Other notable leaders

Electoral History

Sri Lanka Parliamentary Elections
Election year Votes Vote % Seats won +/– Government
1994 90,078 1.13%
1 / 225
Increase 1 Opposition
2000 518,774 6.00%
10 / 225
Increase 9 Opposition
2001 815,353 9.10%
16 / 225
Increase 6 Opposition
2004 4,223,970 45.60%
39 / 225
Increase 23 Government [lower-alpha 1]
2010 441,251 5.49%
4 / 225
[lower-alpha 2]
Decrease 35 Opposition
2015 543,944 4.87%
6 / 225
Increase 2 Opposition
Sri Lanka Presidential Elections [lower-alpha 3]
Election year Candidate Votes Vote % Result
1982 Rohana Wijeweera 273,428 4.19% Lost
1999 Nandana Gunathilake 344,173 4.08% Lost

See also


  1. As part of the United People's Freedom Alliance, but left the coalition after a year with the 39 elected seats
  2. As part of the Democratic National Alliance, but later on the coalition was dissolved and JVP was left with 4 seats
  3. JVP only contested in the 1982 and 1999 elections


  1. "Political Parties".
  2. "List of recognized political parties" (PDF).
  3. "Parliamentary General Election - 1994" (PDF).
  4. "Concerning Dayan Jayatilleke, JVP and Pol Potism".
  5. "SRI LANKA: THE UNTOLD STORY Chapter 40: Rohana Wijeweera's killing - still a mystery".
  6. "A Lost Revolution: The JVP Insurrection 1971".
  7. "Memoirs of Sirima R. D. Bandaranaike : Insurgency April 1971". Sunday Observer. 8 May 2005.
  8. "How the JVP ruined rural Sri Lanka".
  9. "JVP Leader and Revolutionary Rohana Wijeweera's demise".
  10. "JVP 'appreciated' 88-89 crackdown". BBC News. 18 March 2008.
  11. "The 1982 Presidential Candidacy of G.G. (Kumar) Ponnambalam, Jr. Revisited".
  12. Tempest, Rone. "Sri Lanka Fears Infiltration by Outlawed Group Mysterious Sinhalese Extremists Suspected in Parliament Grenade, Gun Attack". Los Angeles Times. 22 August 1987
  13. http://www.slelections.gov.lk/pdf/Preference2004GE.pdf
  14. "Agreement between SLFP Presidential Nominee, Mahinda Rajapakse & JVP signed at Temple Trees, Official Residence of the Prime Minister 8 September 2005".
  15. "Wimal : notable absentee". BBC News. 5 April 2008.
  16. "JVP 'suspends' Weerawansa". BBC News. 4 April 2008.
  17. "JVP splits in two". BBC News. 8 April 2008.
  18. "Wimal the conspirator - JVP". BBC News. 9 April 2008.
  19. "JVP legislators' vehicles 'stolen'". BBC News. 9 April 2008.
  20. "Prelate urges JVP unity". BBC News. 20 April 2008.
  21. "JNP 'alternative' to main parties". BBC News. 14 May 2008.
  22. Sri Lankan parliamentary election, 2010
  23. "PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION – 2010 Official Results".

Further reading

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