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Wijeweera and cinema magic – Srilal Jayasuriya

Image: 1989 a woman walked passed a bodies of a massacre by JVP at Menikhinna.

(Daily Mirror 29.02.19) In Anuruddha Jayasinghe’s Ginnen Upan Seethala, Kamal Addaraarachchi as Wijeweera gives life to a revolutionary on the run!

All that the country needs now is a really honest hundred per cent corruption-free, dedicated leader who has democratic principles – to pull this country out of the rut!

The plan was to take into custody, Premier Sirimavo Bandaranaike and to force her to make a statement abdicating her Premiership and hand over the reins of the Government to JVP.

Ginnen Upan Seethala directed by Anuruddha Jayasinghe, now being screened in cinemas halls around the country tries to explore the background which pushed the founder of the JVP Rohana Wijeweera to react – the way he did – to various changing situations that prevailed in the country from 1971 to 1989

On 5th April 1971, Rohana Wijeweera made the wrong call, when he ordered his faithful followers – mainly the youth of the country – to attack the Police stations around the country with hand bombs filled in empty condensed milk tins – and take control of villages and towns.

Along with the mob attack on police stations, his plan was to take into custody, the then Premier Sirimavo Bandaranaike and to force her to make a statement abdicating her Premiership and hand over the reins of Government to JVP.

His plan ended in a flop and over 10,000 youths lost their Jives in this lunatic exercise.

But the Director of the Film “Ginnen Upan Seethala” conveniently chooses to forget this initial setback in the career of a political cum revolutionary leader. thereby preventing the viewers from making a just and a fair assessment of his subsequent actions leading up to the uprising in 1988-1989 and prefers to commence the film with the pronouncement of Life Sentence on Wijeweera delivered by the Criminal Justice Commission – for waging war against a democratically elected government.

In 1971 a strong left-of-centre government elected only a year before in 1970 was in power with the leaders of leftist parties N.M., Colvin, Leslie and Pieter holding Cabinet portfolios. In addition, youthful left leaders like Sarath Muttetuwegaama and Prins Gunasekera had also gained entry into the Parliament. The giants in trade union sector, D.G. William, M.G. Mendis and L.W. Pandith were in control of the public and private sector work forces.

In such a situation there was no way for Rohana Wijeweera to muster public support for an uprising – maybe he wanted to emulate Fidel Castro and his comrades in Cuba – but when Castro and his comrades stormed the Military Barracks in Havana, a ruthless dictator was in power. That situation never prevailed in Sri Lanka in 1971 and Wijeweera’s uprising was doomed to fail from the word go. The director should have devoted at least 10-15 minutes to highlight this debacle – consequently, the director of the film had made a false start!.

JVP in the formative years exhibited a talent of designing handwritten propaganda posters in black and yellow which delivered a message in just three to four words – A talent which had not found a place in Anuruddha Jayasinghe’s film. It had been reported that JVP had the ability to paste thousands of posters within a certain time frame of a day in all Grama Niladari Divisions of the country at one and the same time.

In 1971, Wijeweera was the star speaker and the sole attraction at JVP meetings. Standing on makeshift platforms – sans a roof – the bespectacled bearded leader with long hair, dressed in a military-style shirt, sporting a Cheguevara Cap – was the cynosure of all eyes – as he addressed the gatherings for hours at a stretch.

It had been reported that no one who had come to listen to his 5 lessons, had left the gatherings without obtaining the membership of JVP. With more dedicated research, the gist and essence of the 5 Lessons should have been uncovered and included in the film. Instead, the film wastes much time showing the Central Committee members of JVP shifting a feeble looking leader from one location to the other.

Actor, Singer and TV presenter Kamal Addaraarachchi, whom we encounter in romantic scenes in films and teledramas comes down to earth with a solid performance in the midst of restrictions imposed on him by the director.

Credit should go to him in the first place for agreeing to portray the role of a besieged revolutionary – always on the run! Versatile actress Dilhani Ekanayake as the Doctor’s wife plays her role spot on.

When the JVP goes underground consequent to a ban imposed by J.R’S Govt. Wijeweera is portrayed in the film as a weak character, shivering with fever after being caught in heavy rain in a jungle hideout – while all others around him are shown hail and hearty!. Even at the purported Central Committee and Politbureau meetings, Wijeweera is portrayed as a leader who cannot take a prompt decision. He seems to rely too much on his comrades – this is contradictory to real life Wijeweera. Wijeweera is reported to have taken all the important decisions by himself without relying on others – and his word was the final word!. Maybe the director wanted to convey a message to the viewers, that Wijeweera alone was not responsible for the cruel decisions taken by the JVP.

For a good part of the film, the scriptwriter and the director had taken pains to justify the actions taken by Wijeweera, in retaliation to the ban imposed on JVP and signing of the Jr-rajiv Gandhi Treaty.

Over 60,000 people including hundreds of university students perished when JVP went on a rampage to show their dissent to J.R. – Rajiv Gandhi Treaty.

Police and Armed forces personnel were dragged from their homes and killed. Even the members of their families were not spared. CTB buses and depots were burnt to cinders.

Hundreds of Agrarian Offices which served the rural farmers were burnt down, Intellectuals and film artistes too were not spared. While al1 these were happening around the country, Wijeweera was shown happily fathering six children, in whatever location he was shifted to by his comrades!.

Wijeweera was even shown pacing up and down in a hospital corridor while his wife Chitranganie was experiencing labour pains in a hospital bed in a Govt. Hospital – A simple luxury he denied to thousands of expectant mothers – to deliver their babies in a peaceful environment – when his military wing under “Keerthi Wijayabahu” – as shown in the film is one of JVP Central Committee member’s pseudonym – forced all hospitals and nursing homes in the country to close down by delivering a handwritten sheet of paper.

I was also a victim of this cruel act. At that, we were living in a coastal town 45 Km south of Colombo. My wife was expecting our third child in September 1989. We had made all arrangements to admit her to a private nursing home in the town, for her confinement on 4th September as advised by doctors.

But on 30th August all hospitals and nursing homes in the country were forced to close down. The doctors, nurses and supporting staff just abandoned the hospitals and ran for dear life. The members of our family, close relations as well as neighbours spent sleepless nights wondering what to do next. Even the neighbours were coming in and going out of our house making various suggestions. Some suggested that we should get down a midwife to stay 24 hours in our home. Time was ticking by. My wife kept her nerves and stayed unruffled in the face of unfolding uncertainties. Luckily, the unborn baby seemed to have relished the extended stay in the mother’s womb and may have waited for the opportune time to make a move.! – and that opportune time arrived when we got the news on 6th September that the Army had started clearing the Castle Street Hospital – removing the dead corpses on hospital beds, washing and disinfecting the wards and labour rooms. By noon the hospital started admitting patients. At this point, my brother-in-law who was a final year Medical Student at Colombo University came forward to help me out. He made arrangements to get my wife (his sister) admitted to Castle Street Hospital on 6th evening through the back door – since she had not attended any clinic in the hospital or consulted a specialist in the hospital, and we were blessed with a baby girl on 7th Sep. 1989 (Thank You, Malli! for coming forward to help me in the hour of my need).

How many expectant mothers lost their lives during this period? How many innocent infants were prevented from seeing the light of the day? The film maintains a deafening silence on all forms of cruelty imposed on the population of this country – in the name of ‘Liberation’!

The estate Bungalow at St. Mary’s Estate Ulapane was not the ramshackle shed of a house as shown in the film. Maybe the director of the film wanted to convey to the viewers, that JVP as a fledgeling political party did not possess funds to provide their leader with a comfortable house. But he had been living in a spacious luxury estate bungalow – with all the conveniences – situated in around 10 acres of land. In the living room there had been a chest full of imported liquor and in the study room there had been a rack full of latest editions of the British Encyclopaedia – may be to protect his new identity as Attanayake and to detract anyone who steps into his bungalow.

When Col. Janaka Perera arrived at the doorstep of the Bungalow on 11th November 1989 and confronted him, with his battalion positioned around the bungalow, the initial reaction of Wijeweera had been to insist that he was, in fact, Attanayake and not Wijeweera and did not remain silent as shown in the film. Here again, the director of the film seems to impress on the viewers that Wijeweera was a man of truth even in the face of death.

And in the final scene the film ends with the comic parting words uttered by Wijeweera to his wife – ‘ Daruwanta Hondin Uganwanda’ (Give a good education to the children) and here is the man, whose folly made the country to lose hundreds of university students – wishing his children to get the best education available come what may.how many parents lost their children in the prime of their lives? Even today university students are being used by certain political groups as Guinea pigs to further their own political ends and once a month they happily get a free Cannon shower from police vehicles on the centre of highways!.

In his heydays Wijeweera’s, clarion call to the youth had been “Dhanin Weti Jeewathwanawata Wada, Depaying Sita Gena Miyayema Wati” (It’s better to die standing on one’s feet – rather than live begging on knees”) It was only two weeks back, when the 31-year-old Uvihdu Vidura Wijeweera, the eldest son of Rohana Wijeweera who is following a course in Political Science in a University in Russia, came on TV in a talk show telecast by a Private TV Channel, he stated that he was known and called “Uvindu Vidura” and does not use the surname “Wijeweera” as he wants to create an independent identity for himself to go forward in his life !.

It’s understandable – the young man knows very well that he will be at a disadvantage if he goes to the world as Wijeweera’s son – Rohana Wijeweera had earned a place in the history, as a revolutionary who led the youth of the country in the wrong path, twice within two decades and ended up destroying nearly 60,000 young lives. Let no one in the future lead our youth in the path of destruction. All that the country needs now is a really honest hundred per cent corruption-free, dedicated leader who has democratic principles-to pull this country out of the rut!



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