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A senior cop remembers April 1971



(Excerpted from the memoirs of Senior DIG (Retd.) Edward Gunawardena)

A few months after the SLFP-led United Front Alliance headed by Mrs. Sirima Bandaranaike was elected in 1970, information started trickling in that the JVP was planning an uprising against the government. Cells were formed island-wide and clandestine indoctrination classes conducted by trained cadres. Simultaneously there was a spate of bank robberies and thefts of guns from households were reported to the police from all parts of the island. Unidentified youths were collecting empty cigarette and condensed milk tins, bottles, spent bulbs and cutting pieces of barbed wire from fences to make hand bombs and Molotov cocktails. Instances of bombs being tested even in the Peradeniya campus came to light.

By January 1971 the threat became real and the police began making arrests. Rohana Wijeweera, the leader of the movement, was arrested with an accomplice Kelly Senanayake at Amparai and detained at the Magazine prison. In the villages the common talk was that a ‘Che Guevera’ movement has started. Unknown youth moving about in villages were being referred to as ‘Che Gueveras.’ Police intelligence briefed the government of the developing ‘Naxalite’ like situation and action was taken to alert all police stations.

At the end of March 1971 there was specific information that the first targets would be the police stations. The attacks were to be carried out simultaneously on a particular day at a given time. With heightened police activity, the JVP ‘attack groups’ were pressurized to put their plan into effect hurriedly despite Wijeweera being incarcerated.

Synchronizing the attacks was a problem for the JVP. Mobile phones were not available then and the leaders had to resort to coded messages in newspapers. Police intelligence was able to crack their codes without much difficulty. It came to light that all police stations would come under attack at midnight on of April 5. The plan was to fire with guns at the station, and throw hand bombs and Molotov cocktails so that the policemen would run away or be killed. The attackers were to rush in and seize all the firearms in the stations.

The Police were ordered to be on full alert on this day. On April 4, in addition to my duties as the Director, Police Planning and Research I was acting for Mr. P. L. Munidasa, SP as the Personal Assistant to Mr.Stanley Senanayake the IGP. At about 4 p.m. an urgent radio message addressed to the IGP was opened by me. The message was alarming. The Wellawaya Police station had been attacked and the OIC Inspector Jayasekera had received gunshot injuries, a PC killed and several injured. The police had fought back bravely and not abandoned the station.

As soon as the IGP was informed, he reacted calmly. He summoned all the senior officers present at Headquarters briefed them and ordered that all police stations including the Field Force Headquarters, the Training School and Police Headquarters itself be placed on full alert with immediate effect. Among the officers present I distinctly remember DIGs S.S. Joseph and T.B. Werapitiya. All police officers irrespective of rank were to be armed and issued with adequate ammunition. This task was entrusted to ASP M.D. Perera of Field Force Headquarters who was in charge of the armoury. I too was issued with a Sterling Sub-machine gun.

During this time I was living in Battaramulla with my wife and year old child in my father’s house. My brothers, Owen and Aelian, who were unmarried were also living there. My wife and I with the child occupied a fairly large room in which an official telephone had been installed. We had decided to live here as I had started building a house on the same ancestral property; and it is in this house that we have lived since 1971. 1 had an official car, a new Austin A40 which I drove as I had not been able to find a suitable police driver. Apart from the telephone, I had a walkie-talkie and was in constant communication with the Police Command Room and the IGP.

On the night of April 4 as there was nothing significant happening except for radio messages from police stations asking for additional strength, weapons and ammunition, I was permitted by the IGP to get back home. I telephoned the Welikada and Talangama police stations and was informed that the stations were being guarded and the areas were quiet. At about 10 p.m. I reached home safely and slept soundly. But something strange happened which to date remains a mystery. At about 3.30 a.m. (on the April 5) my telephone rang. The caller in a very authoritative voice said, “This is Capt. Gajanayake from Temple Trees, the Prime Minister wants you immediately.”

I hurriedly got into my uniform and woke up my wife and told her about the call. Just then it occurred to me that I should call Temple Trees. There was an operations room already functioning there and Mr. Felix Dias Bandaranaike had taken control of the situation. When I called, it was answered by my friend and colleague Mr. Cyril Herath. He assured me that I was not required at Temple Trees and that there was no person there by the name of Capt. Gajanayake. Much against the wishes of my wife, my father and brothers, dressed in a sarong and shirt and armed with my revolver I walked down the road for about half a kilometer. But there was none on the road at that time of the night.

By next night disturbing messages were coming to Police Headquarters from all over the Island. A large number of police stations had been attacked and police officers killed and injured. SP Navaratnam and Inspector Thomasz had been shot at on the road in Elpitiya and the latter had succumbed to the injuries. A number of Estate Superintendents had been shot dead. Trees were cut and electricity posts brought down. Desperate messages were pouring in from several Districts stating that administration had come to a standstill. The Kegalle, Kurunegala, Galle and Anuradhapura Districts were the worst affected. The least damage was in areas where the police had taken the offensive. In Colombo although the police stations were not attacked there was panic. With the possibility of water mains being damaged tube wells were hurriedly sunk at Temple Trees. General Attygalle, the Army Commander, had taken over the security of the Prime Minister and Temple Trees.

Talangama Police station that policed Battaramulla was guarded by the people of the area. Even my brothers spent the nights there armed with my father’s shotgun. IP Terrence Perera who was shot dead by the JVP in 1987 was the OIC. The excellent reputation he had in the area made ordinary folk flock to the station and take up positions to defend it if it was attacked. Some of the people of Battaramulla who were regularly there whose names I can remember and who are still living are K.C. Perera, W.A.C. Perera, Jayasiri, Victor Henry, Lionel Caldera and P.P. de Silva among others. Incidentally Brigadier Prasanna de Silva one of the heroes of the recently concluded war against the LTTE is a son of P.P. de Silva.

There were also those who gave assistance in the form of food and drink for all those who had gone to the aid of the police. The late Edward Rupasinghe a prominent businessman of Battaramulla, supplied large quantities of bread and short eats from the Westown Bakery which he owned. However as the attacks on police stations and state property became more and more intense, the SP Nugegoda T.S. Bongso decided to close down the Talangama Police Station and withdraw all the officers to the Mirihana Headquarters Station. This move made it unsafe for me to live in Battaramulla and travel to Police Headquarters.

The late Mr. Tiny Seneviratne SP and his charming wife readily accommodated us in their official quarters at Keppetipola Mawatha. The late Mr. K.B. Ratnayake had also left his Anuradhapura residence to live with the Seneviratnes. KBR and Tiny were good friends. During this time in the midst of all the disheartening news from all directions there were a few bright spots I have not forgotten. These were messages from Amparai, Kurunegala and Mawanella.

At Amparai the ASP in charge A.S. Seneviratne on information received that a busload of armed insurgents were on the way to attack the police station in broad daylight had hurriedly evacuated the station and got men with arms to hide behind trees and bushes having placed a few dummy policemen near the reserve table that was visible as one entered the station. As the busload of insurgents turned into the police station premises a hail of gunfire had been directed at it. About 20 insurgents had been killed and the bus set ablaze.

In Kurunegala the Pothuhera police station had been overrun and occupied by insurgents. Mr. Leo Perera who was ASP Kurunegala had approached the station with a party in mufti unnoticed by the insurgents, taken them by surprise and shot six of them dead. The police station had been reestablished immediately after.

In Mawanella and Aranayake the insurgents held complete sway. Two youths had visited the house of a retired school master on the outskirts of Mawanella town and demanded his gun. He had gone in, and loaded his double barrel gun and come out on the pretext of handing it over to the two youths he had shot them both dead discharging both barrels. The schoolmaster and his family had taken their belongings, got into a lorry and immediately left the area.

With the joint operations Room at Temple Trees under Minister Felix Dias Bandaranaike assisted by the Service Chiefs, the IGP and several senior public servants functioning fully the offensive against the insurgents began to work successfully. Units from the Army, Navy and the Air Force were actively assisting the police in all parts of the Island particularly in making arrests. Helicopters with pilots provided by India and Pakistan were being extensively used by officials and senior officers of the Armed Services and the Police for urgent travel.

On the night of April 10 or 11, I had finished my work at Police Headquarters and returned at about 10 p.m. to Keppetipola Mawatha. During the day my wife had been able to find a police jeep to be sent to Battaramulla to fetch a substantial supply of jak fruits, manioc and coconuts from our garden. The Seneviratnes took immense pleasure in feeding all and sundry who visited their home.

At about 10 p.m. I received a call from the IGP requesting me to take over Kurunegala Division the following morning. He told me that a helicopter would be ready for me at Parsons Road Air Force Grounds at 5.30 a.m. According to him the insurgents were still active in the area; the SP Mr. A. Mahendran was on sick leave and Mr. Leo Perera ASP was bravely handling the situation almost single handed. Although the assignment did not bother me much, my wife was noticeably concerned. Mrs. Seneviratne an ardent Catholic gave me a miniature medal of St. Anthony assuring me that the Saint will protect me from harm.

The helicopter took off at the crack of dawn. It was piloted by a young Flt.. Lieutenant from the SLAF and I was the only passenger. I have forgotten the name of this pilot. He was a pleasant guy who kept conversing with me all the way. He told me that he had flown to Anuradhapura and Deniyaya the previous day and in both those areas the insurgents were on the run and the security forces were on top.

Having been cloistered at Police Headquarters always peeking out of windows with a weapon in the ready or reading messages of deaths of police officers and the successes of insurgents, a feeling of relief overtook me on the flight. In fact I began to look forward to some action and this did not take long to come.

As the helicopter landed I was met by ASP Leo Perera who was a contemporary of mine at Peradeniya. There were several other police officers and also two officers of the Air Force. The latter were there to go to Colombo in the same aircraft. I carried only a travel bag with the minimum of clothes.

My first task was to address the officers gathered at the Police Station. I praised them for facing the situation bravely. Their only complaint was that they were short of ammunition. I suggested to Leo that as far as possible shotguns be used instead of 303 rifles. An officer was dispatched immediately to get as many guns as possible from the Kachcheri and the production room of the court house.

ASP M.D. Perera of Field Force Headquarters who was contacted on radio undertook to airlift 15 boxes of SG and No. four 12-bore cartridges. All the officers present were pleased as they all agreed that shotguns were more effective. The families of police officers too had left their quarters and barracks and taken up residence in different sections of the station. Most importantly their morale was high. Leo Perera had led them admirably.

At about 10 a.m. after partaking of a kiribath and lunumiris breakfast with the men I left for my office, that of the SP Kurunegala. I was very happy when Inspector Subramaniam was assigned to me. He was known to me and he appeared to be pleased with the task. He was a loyal and cheerful type. I chose a Land Rover with a removable canvas top for my use and also a sergeant and two constables with rifles. Subramaniam and I had Sterling sub-machine guns. These officers were to be with me at all times. In the afternoon I was able to obtain two double barrel Webley & Scott shotguns with about 10 No. four cartridges. There were several beds also already in place in the office. Telephoning my wife was no problem as I enjoyed the privilege of priority calls.

I had lunch with Inspector Subramaniam and my escort in the office. The rice and curry lunch had been sent from the Police Station mess. After a late lunch and a brief post lunch rest the four of us dressed in mufti set off in the Land Rover driven by a police driver. IP Subramaniam carried a Stirling sub-machine gun and the sergeant and PC 303 rifles. A loaded double barrel gun lay on the floor board of the Land Rover. After visiting the Potuhera and Mawathagama stations and patrolling the town area we returned to our base. Subramaniam also made arrangements with a boutique in town for some egg hoppers to be delivered to us at 8 p.m.

A little excitement was to come soon. After refreshing ourselves and having eaten the egg hoppers we visited the station. At about 9.45 p.m. I was having a discussion with a few officers in the office of the OIC Crimes when we heard two minor explosions and somebody screaming that the station was being attacked. Armed officers took up positions according to instructions. I ordered that the station lights be put off. An Inspector armed with a loaded shotgun, a few constables and I crawled to the rear of the building. Bombs were being thrown from the direction of a clump of plantain trees. A small tin with the fuse still burning fell close to where we were.

A PC jumped forward and doused the fuse throwing a wet gunny bag on the object. Two more similar objects fell thrown from the same direction. The same PC rushed forward and removed the burning fuses with his hands. As the objects were coming from about the identical place, I grabbed the shotgun and discharged both barrels in that direction simultaneously. The ‘bombing’ stopped thereafter. Two armed mobile patrols were sent out to the roads to look for any suspects. But the roads were empty. At about 11 p.m. the lights were put on and the station resumed its activities.

To say the least these ‘bombs’ were crude and primitive. In each of these we found a large ‘batta’ cracker the fuse of which came out of a hole in the lid of a cigarette tin. Round the ‘batta’ was a layer of tightly compressed fibres akin to the fibres in a squirrels nest. On the outer side of the compressed fibre were barbs cut off barbed wire and rusted nails. A thousand of such ‘bombs’ could not have matched the destructive force of a modern hand grenade. This state of unpreparedness was perhaps the foremost reason why the insurrection fizzled out early.

More action was to follow that same night. After my escort of three officers and I had retired to bed in the SP’s office, a few minutes after midnight the Sergeant guarding a large transformer on the Wariyapola Road with two other constables started calling me on the walkie talkie in a desperate tone. He sounded very excited and told me that shots were being heard close to the guard point. I instructed him to take up position a reasonable distance away from the transformer where there were no lights and shoot at sight any person or persons approaching the transformer. I also assured him that I would be at the guard post with an armed party in the quickest possible time.

IP Subramaniam and the other two officers were eager to join me. I got the driver to remove the hood cloth of the Land Rover. Whilst the sergeant who was armed with a rifle occupied the front seat alongside the driver, Subramaniam and I armed with two double barrel guns loaded with No. four cartridges took up a standing position with the guns resting on the first bar of the hood. The two PCs were to observe either side of the road. Prior to leaving I radioed the Police station to inform the Airforce operations room about my movements and not to have any foot patrols in the vicinity of the transformer.

There were no vehicles or any pedestrians on the way to the transformer. About a hundred meters to go we noticed a group of about eight to 10 dressed in shorts getting on to the road from the shrub. The distance was about 50 to 75 meters. The driver instinctively slowed down. The shining butts of two to three guns made us react instantly. I whispered to Subramaniam when I say ‘Fire’ to pull both triggers one after the other. We fired simultaneously and the Sergeant and PCs also fired their rifles.

Once the smoke cleared we noticed that the group had vanished.

As we approached the spot with the headlights on we noticed three shot guns scattered about the place. On closer examination there was blood all over and a man lay fallen groaning in pain. Beside him was a cloth bag which contained six cigarette tin hand bombs. Two live cartridges were also found. In two of the guns the spent cartridges were stuck as the ejectors were not working. The other gun was loaded with a ball cartridge which had not been fired. Having collected the guns, the bag containing the bombs and some rubber slippers that had been left behind. We proceeded on our mission to the transformer having radioed the guard Sergeant that we were close by.

As we approached the transformer the Guard Sergeant and the 2 PCs came out of the darkness to greet us. They were visibly relieved. But when the Sergeant told us that several shots were heard even 15 minutes before we arrived, I explained to them what had happened on the way. The Sergeant’s immediate response was, “They must be the rascals who were hovering about the village. They are some rowdies from outside this area who are pretending to be Che Guevaras”.

After reassuring them we left. On the way we stopped at the place where the shooting occurred. The man who was on the ground groaning in pain was not there.

Having snatched a couple of hours of sleep, at about 9 a.m. I drove with the escort to the Kurunegala Convent to call on the Co-ordinating officer Wing Commander Weeratne. A charming man, he received me cordially. He looked completely relaxed, dressed only in a shirt and sarong. He introduced me to several other senior officers of the Airforce and Army who were billeted in that spacious rectangular hall. One of the officers to whom I was introduced was Major Tony Gabriel the eminent cancer surgeon. A volunteer, he had been mobilized. I was also told that a bed was reserved for me. But I politely told him that I preferred to operate from my office. Wing Commander Weeratne also told me that he would be leaving to Colombo on the following day and the arrangement approved by Temple Trees was for the SP to act whenever the Co-ordinating officer was out of Kurunegala.

I joined the Co-ordinating officer and others at breakfast – string hoppers, kirihodi and pol sambol and left for the Police Station soon after. The escort was also well looked after. Weeratne and Tony Gabriel became good friends of mine. Sadly they are both not among the living today. After the meeting with the Co-ordinating officer we visited the Potuhera Police Station. Blood stains were clearly visible still and the walls and furniture were riddled with bullet and pellet marks. The officers looked cheerful and well settled. They were all full of praise for the exemplary courage shown by ASP Leo Perera in destroying the insurgents and other riffraff who were occupying the station and for re-establishing it quickly. One officer even went to the extent of suggesting that a brass plaque be installed mentioning the feat of Mr. Leo Perera.

When we returned to Kurunegala the officers were having lunch at the Station. The time was about 1.30 p.m. We too joined. Leo Perera was also there. He had tried several times to look me up but had failed. I complimented him for the excellent work done and told him that the high morale of the Kurunegala police was solely due to his leadership. He smiled in acknowledgment. But I noticed that he was not all that happy. He had a worried look on his face.

At about this time a serious incident had taken place giving the indication that insurgents were still active in the area. An Aiforce platoon (flight) on a recce in the outskirts of the town had come across a group of insurgents in a wooded area. The surprised group had surrendered with a few shot guns. An airman noticing one stray insurgent who was taking cover behind a bush had challenged him to surrender. The insurgent had instantly fired a shot at the airman who had dropped dead. The attacker had been shot dead in return by another airman.

At about 3 p.m. an Airforce vehicle drew up at the police station with a load of nine young men who had been arrested. They had deposited the two dead bodies at the hospital mortuary. All those under arrest were boys in their teens dressed in blue shorts and shirts. They had all been badly beaten up. I cautioned the airmen not to beat them further and took them into police custody. They had bleeding wounds which were washed and attended to by several policemen as they were all innocent looking children.

On questioning they confessed that they were retreating from the Warakapola area and their destination was the Ritigala jungles in Anuradhapura. They had these instructions from their high command. At this time, as if from nowhere appeared two young foreign journalists, a man and a woman. One was from the Washington Post and the other, the young woman from the Christian Science Monitor. Apart from taking photographs they too asked various questions.

The boys had their mouths and teeth were badly stained. They had been chewing tender leaves to get over their hunger. According to them they had been taught various ways to survive in the jungle. They had been told to eat apart from fruits and berries and tender leaves even creatures such as lizards and snakes; and insects particularly termites and earthworms. The nine young men were provided bathing facilities and a meal of buns and plantains; and locked up with about five more insurgent suspects to be sent to the rehabilitation camp that had been established at the Sri Jayawardenapura University premises. This was to be done on the following day in a hired van under a police escort.

At the police station I received a call from the Wariyapola police to say that six young men with gunshot injuries had got admitted to the Wariyapola hospital. They had told the police that they had been shot by a group of insurgents on the Wariyapola-Kurunegala road and had been able to reach the hospital in the trailer of a hand tractor. I immediately guessed that they could be the insurgents who were shot near the transformer. I explained to the OIC Wariyapola that they were a group of insurgents and to keep them in police custody.

In the evening I received a call from the IGP that he would be arriving in Kurunegala at 8 a.m. accompanied by General Attygalle. He told me that they wanted to have a chat with Leo Perera. I immediately informed Leo and told him to remain in office or at the Police Station in the morning.

By that time I had come to know that several Kurunegala SLFP lawyers had made some serious complaints against the ASP. Leo having received credible information that some of these lawyers were in league with insurgent leaders had not only questioned and cautioned them but even got their houses searched. One special reason for these lawyers to be aggrieved was because three of the insurgents shot dead by Leo when he recaptured the Potuhera Police Station had been local criminals who had been associating closely with them.

When the IGP arrived with the General I met them and brought them to my office. Wing Commander Weeratne, the Co-ordinating officer was also present to meet them. He had made arrangements for an armed escort of airmen to accompany the IGP and the General wherever they went. The undisclosed mission of the two top men was to take Leo back to Colombo with them. The IGP had been pressurized by Minister Felix Dias Bandaranaike to transfer the ASP, but the IGP had decided not to displease and discourage a young officer by making him feel that he had been punished. The IGP was more than conscious of the fact that the ASP had done an excellent job in quelling the insurgency in the Kurunegala District.

Leo was in my office. He was cheerful, calm and collected. The IGP and General Attygalle spoke to him cordially. Over a cup of tea the four of us discussed the happenings in the country. After a few minutes the General turned to Leo and said, “Leo, you have been working very hard. You need some rest and you must come along with us to Colombo”. Leo smiled, looked down and calmly responded, “Sir, thank you for the compliment, but let me say that this is not the time to rest, there’s plenty of work to be done”. He then went on to explain the underhand manner in which three lawyers, mentioning their names, who pretended to be great supporters of the government were acting. He went on to emphasize that he even had proof how they were hand in glove with insurgents and local criminals.

The IGP and Attygalle were conspicuously silent. After a few moments Leo spoke again. He said: ” If I come with you now, all these rascals will think that I was arrested and taken to Colombo. I will come to Police Headquarters on my own. Shall drive down this afternoon”.

Soon after the IGP and General Attygalle had left, at about 11 a.m. a high level team of investigators arrived from Colombo. This team consisted of Kenneth Seveniratne, Director of Public Prosecutions; Francis Pietersz, Director of Establishments and Cyril Herath, Director of Intelligence. Their mission was to carry out a general investigation into the happenings in Kurunegala. They were all my friends; my task was to give them whatever assistance they required. They were billeted with the Airforce and worked mainly from my office. They visited several places including the Kurunegala, Potuhera and Mawathagama police stations; and the Rest House which had been the meeting place and ‘watering hole’ of some of the lawyers during the height of the troubles. Many lawyers and several police officers were also questioned by them. They completed their assignment after about a week and left for Colombo.

Significantly they had not been able to find evidence of any wrongdoing by ASP Leo Perera. Before long I too was recalled to Colombo and asked to resume duties as the Director of Police Planning & Research. From this position too I was able to make useful contributions to the rehabilitation effort and particularly the fair and equitable distribution of the Terrorist Victim’s Fund.

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Part 5

By Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil

President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada

Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum

Settling down

The Government of Ceylon had decided to institutionalise organised tourism a few years before I joined the Ceylon Hotel School (CHS). Accepting the recommendations of the international experts who prepared the Tourism Development Master Plan, the government invested on developing the future leaders of the hospitality industry. We were the key beneficiaries of this vision. All CHS facilities, tuition and full-board accommodation, laundry etc. were provided to each student at a highly subsided monthly fee of Rs. 100 (around US$ 25 at that time).

My second month at CHS was better as I gradually learnt to avoid getting into trouble too frequently. Having recovered from the initial culture shock, I started to enjoy everything at the hostel and the school, with the exception of studying. The only major change we had was when our Hostel Warden’s son, who was in our batch, left CHS after a month, much to the disappointment of his father. Apart from that tension, the hostel life was mostly enjoyable.

There were two resident male helpers at the hostel who made tea and breakfast for the students, cleaned the hostel, and distributed our dinner packets and weekend meals which came from Samudra Hotel. When we realized that one of these helpers, Cooray, was good at book-keeping, he became very popular among the students as this was the hardest subject for most of us. Some students arranged for Cooray to give them free lessons on book-keeping throughout our three years at CHS.


Eggs or cigarettes?

At the hostel, we were entitled to only one egg per student every morning. Cooray and his assistant prepared the egg to order for each student in the hostel kitchen. As some of the students attempted to get breakfast eggs twice, the Warden had introduced a control system by getting the eggs distributed to each room in the hostel early morning by one of the helpers. This meant that there were twelve eggs placed on the dining table in the dormitory where I lived with eleven other students. Some students woke up early simply to pick an extra egg when a roommate was absent.

We came to a mutually beneficial agreement with the owner of a small tea house that we passed every morning walking from the hostel to CHS. In exchange for an egg, he gave us a cigarette, which was usually shared by a few students. The more eggs we managed to collect or steal, the more cigarettes we received. One of my batchmates and roommates, Hiran, occasionally stayed at his girlfriend’s nearby house in the night and sneaked back to the hostel in the morning. He was always annoyed that his egg was missing by the time he returned to the hostel. Hiran used to shout every morning, “Cooray, who stole my bloody egg?”. I never told him that it was me.


Hostel and fun

We played all types of outdoor and indoor sports at the hostel – basketball, cricket, football, pingpong, carom, cards, chess, etc. Rugby football and a

thletic teams practiced on the outside fields or on the famous Galle Face green in the early morning. Some afternoons, we went for a sea bath just behind the hostel. I continued to practice Judo three evenings a week at my club in the Colombo Central YMCA. Some evenings, when we were dead broke and bored, we went for

 long walks around Colombo or just sat on the front half wall of the hostel in our sarongs and looked at girls walking from a nearby girl’s hostel.


Hotel Developments

As the government had identified tourism as a sector with major economic growth potential, many concessions including lengthy tax holidays had been offered for new hotel projects. As a result, many new hotels were being constructed in the early 1970s. The first two international hotel brands ever to operate in Ceylon were already on the island – a prominent US hotel chain, Hyatt, who managed the historic Mount Lavinia Hotel, and the largest British hotel chain, Trust House Forte, who managed the brand-new four-star level Pegasus Reef Hotel. Among locally managed new hotels already opened, most prestigious were Bentota Beach Hotel and Browns Beach Hotel.

In development stage, was a four-star level hotel in Colombo which was negotiating a franchise agreement with the largest hotel chain in the world at time – Holiday Inn. There were no five-star hotels in Ceylon at that time, but two five-star hotels were being developed with financial support and 25-year management contracts offered by the government – a 252-roomed InterContinental getting closer to the opening date and a 266-roomed Oberoi, which was due to open in three years’ time. The site for the latter was right in front of our hostel. Seated at the front half wall, at times, we looked at this site and wondered if we would find middle management jobs there when the hotel opened. Some of us actually did so years later.



Owing to peer pressure, we also did stupid things. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, as the free-love movement spread around college campuses in Europe and North America, running around naked or ‘streaking’ became a popular prank. Given the deep-rooted culture in Ceylon, streaking in public was certainly not common or ac

cepted. One evening, a few of us were seated on the front half wall. Out of the blue, one of my batch mates said, “I bet none of you have the guts to streak to Hotel Lanka Oberoi site and back!”. I got up, put my sarong on the ground, ran naked across Galle Road to the Oberoi site, and ran back.

Unfortunately, a couple of cars happened to pass by at the exact same time, with the occupants, including a few ladies in full view of this indecent exposure. We watched them drive straight to the nearby police station to lodge complaints. In fear, we rushed back to the hostel, turned off the lights, and went to sleep. Within a few minutes time, we heard the police visit the Warden to find out what was going on. He was furious, but never discovered the truth. All in all, the hostel life was full of fun, even on days when we were bored, financially broke or broke the law.


The first job

One day, when walking in the back of the house of Samudra Hotel adjoining the CHS, I saw a small notice that said that the Samudra was seeking part-time busboys (table clearers at restaurants/cafes) to work in their restaurant for a few evenings a week. I immediately went to see the Catering Manager of the hotel and expressed my interest. As I had less than two months experience at CHS, he was keen to find a more senior student, but none of them were interested in being a busboy. Some of them were under the unrealistic impression that they would be able to get part-time work in white collar or supervisory positions.

Owing to the lack of interest by other students, I was chosen. My job was to clear tables and assist waiters who served the customers. I particularly liked to work in the evenings when the hotel had well-advertised ‘Sundown Dances’ with live bands. My salary for the evening was Rs 4.00, or around US$1.00 at that time. I liked the free entertainment, experience, and the pocket money.


Getting fired

Hotel Samudra had only ten rooms, which were occupied most of the time. A family of four from the UK were occupying two rooms for a long period, as they were in Ceylon to settle some family matters. The parents were Ceylon-born, but their two daughters, ages 16 and 19, were both born in the UK and were unfamiliar with Ceylonese culture. They both became quite friendly with me. I found their trendy attire and their accents interesting. Similarly, they found my afro hair, big chain with a peace sign, broad belt with a large brass buckle and huge bell bottom jeans, cool and groovy. The 16-year-old was interested in dating me, but it was the 19-year-old who invited me to accompany her to a ‘Sundown Dance’ at my workplace. As I had saved some money from my salary the previous week, and had a night off, I happily accepted her invitation and had a good time. It was my first dance and later that evening, in the dark dance floor I experienced my first-ever kiss.

The Catering Manager of the hotel was a strict disciplinarian. During his evening round to the restaurant and the bar, he was shocked to see me dancing away with a hotel guest. The next day, I was summoned to his office. I was told very clearly that no employee was permitted to enjoy the hotel facilities, and that employees were certainly not permitted to have any personal relationships with hotel guests. I apologised and mentioned that it was my off day. This angered him more, and he yelled, “You are fired!”. He ordered me to return my uniforms immediately and not to show up for work again. My first job in the hospitality industry ended almost as quickly as it began.

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Giuliani’s Legal Trouble Is Trump’s Too



To save himself, the President’s former lawyer might have to spill damning secrets.

POLITICO magazine

by Selvam Canagaratna

“You don’t need to be a lawyer to know that when federal agents knock on your door with a search warrant and seize your electronic devices, you’re in big trouble.” wrote Renato Mariotti, Legal Affairs Columnist for Politico magazine. “Ever since that happened to former Donald Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday, he has tried to downplay the peril he is in, saying whatever evidence is on his phones proves that “the President and I…are innocent.”

But it sure looks like Rud y has a long legal battle ahead of him, and his best defense will likely put him at odds with his former boss. If Trump doesn’t voluntarily protect his one-time counsel, Giuliani may have no choice but to point the finger at his former client. (Their relationship was tested in January when Trump reportedly refused to pay Giuliani for his unsuccessful work trying to overturn the November election results.)

The saga of one-time Trump legal fixer Michael Cohen, who turned on his boss after he pleaded guilty for election finance violations and fraud, is instructive here. Despite Cohen’s assertion that Trump knew of the violations, the President was protected from prosecution while he was in office under Department of Justice guidelines. Now that Trump is a civilian, those guidelines do not protect him, and he has to be concerned about his own liability going forward.

There can be no question that the execution of a search warrant at Giuliani’s residence is a serious step that indicates the criminal investigation against him is far along. Federal prosecutors can’t obtain a search warrant based on a hunch or mere suspicion. They had to present substantial evidence to a federal judge that there is good reason to believe that a federal crime was committed and that evidence of that federal crime was located in Giuliani’s apartment and his electronic devices. It’s significant a judge was persuaded they met that standard.

For that reason, prosecutors likely have a lot of the evidence they need already. During my time as a federal prosecutor, when I sought a search warrant for a subject’s electronic devices, typically I had already obtained some of the subject’s communications or electronic documents from other sources such as co-operators, subpoenas or prior search warrants. I used that evidence to persuade a judge that those communications would also be found on the devices. Even though prosecutors have some communications prior to obtaining electronic devices, the devices can contain more data, including deleted messages, metadata and location information.

In this particular case, one can trust the evidence was solid and substantial given the significant internal scrutiny that this case would receive within the Justice Department. The criminal investigation of any lawyer is a sensitive matter due to the complexities caused by attorney-client privilege, and the DOJ takes special care when investigating a criminal defense attorney, to ensure that the department does not appear to be targeting opponents. Obviously, obtaining a search warrant for the residence and devices of the personal lawyer of the former President would receive even more scrutiny from senior department leadership.

Curiously, the crime for which Giuliani is under investigation — violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires agents of foreign governments who lobby US officials to disclose their relationship with the foreign government — has been prosecuted only rarely over the decades. But FARA prosecutions spiked during the Trump administration, including the high-profile conviction of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and former Republican finance chair Elliott Broidy. (An associate of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn was also indicted for a FARA violation, but the conviction was later overturned.) That group of FARA prosecutions led President Joe Biden to vow on the campaign trail to increase the use of FARA if he were elected, saying there should be no lobbying on behalf of foreign governments outside regular diplomatic channels.

The investigation reportedly centers around Giuliani’s efforts to lobby the Trump administration on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs who were also helping him dig up dirt on then-candidate Biden and his family during the campaign. At issue, as well, are Giuliani’s efforts to persuade Trump to oust the ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, whose anti-corruption work was viewed hostilely by those same Ukrainian officials. If Giuliani’s efforts to push Trump to fire Yovanovitch were done on behalf of Ukrainian officials, that could be the sort of foreign lobbying activity that he should have disclosed.

Thus far, Giuliani has tried to hide behind mere technicalities, arguing that he didn’t have a written contract with a foreign official or oligarch. He won’t get away with that in court. What matters is whether he was an agent of a foreign government, not whether his relationship with that foreign government was memorialized in writing. You can’t avoid FARA requirements by failing to write down the details of your arrangement with a foreign government.

Giuliani’s work in Ukraine has been the subject of controversy for two years and was central to the first impeachment probe of Trump’s pressure on the new Ukrainian president. But, according to The New York Times, senior DOJ political appointees in the Justice Department repeatedly tried to block the search warrants, which suggests that the department has had the evidence it needs against Giuliani for some time.

Those prior efforts to slow down the investigation won’t help Giuliani now. If anything, they may eventually work against Giuliani if it is shown that they were done at his urging. Giuliani’s foolish public statements (he claimed erroneously that search warrants can only be issued if there is a fear the evidence will be destroyed) won’t help him either if he is ultimately indicted. At that point, he will need to adopt a defense strategy that may put him at odds with his former client.

Giuliani’s defense will likely be that he was acting completely at Trump’s direction and that his efforts on behalf of the officials and oligarchs was done to curry favour with them on Trump’s behalf, and was done at Trump’s behest and knowledge. Purely from a perspective of trial strategy, Giuliani’s best defense would include testimony from the former President that he knew everything Giuliani was doing and approved of every action he took. That would permit Giuliani’s defense team to argue that since he was ultimately advancing Trump’s interests, he was actually working on behalf of the United States, not Ukrainian oligarchs.


Unfortunately for Giuliani, Trump is not known for sticking his neck out for disgraced former aides, particularly if doing so would involve personal embarrassment or potential liability. Given how Trump distanced himself from former lawyer Michael Cohen when he faced similar peril, it is hard to imagine the former President taking an oath to tell the truth and subjecting himself to withering cross-examination that could embarrass him at best or expose him to potential liability at worst. (Trump’s record of lying under oath in civil suit depositions is well documented.)

The only surefire way for Trump to avoid testimony in the trial of Giuliani would be to take the Fifth, but Trump has repeatedly noted that taking the Fifth makes you look guilty. The only way for him to get out of testifying is for him to suggest that he didn’t really know what Giuliani was doing and didn’t approve of his activities. That would make him worthless for Giuliani as a witness and force Giuliani to point the finger at Trump to save himself. The five-year sentence Manafort received for conspiring to violate FARA gives Giuliani ample incentive to do so, especially since he knows Trump cannot pardon him any longer.

When a lawyer, particularly a famous former federal prosecutor like Giuliani, faces time in prison, the incentive to reduce that sentence is significant. Just like Michael Cohen, Giuliani will have every incentive to help federal prosecutors if it could potentially reduce his prison sentence. That could make the Giuliani prosecution far more consequential than it appears at first glance, given his role in everything from the defense of Trump’s impeachment to the January 6 insurrection.

Without Trump’s protection or financial support, Giuliani’s loyalty would seem to have a limited shelf life.


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The transitional 1990s and beyond (JVP-III)



by Rajan Philips

If the 1980s were tumultuous, the 1990s were more transitional, even if not less tumultuous. In this ‘potted’ history, it is not necessary to recount all the details of the 1990s and the first decade of the new 21st century. Suffice it to focus on developments that have had a continuing influence on current events and the farce of 2021. The UNP and the JVP, which more or less came together in 1977, were gone by 1994, after seventeen years of assorted achievements. The UNP would never return to the same pinnacle of power that it seized in 1977. The JVP with a new generation of leaders transformed itself into a democratic political party with mixed results. The first half the decade saw the disintegration of the UNP under the weight of the presidential ambitions of three rival contenders – President Premadasa and his two younger challengers, Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake. The LTTE took out every one of them in 1993 and 1994.

LTTE violence took off in the 1990s after the JVP had been finished off in the late 1980s. In a telling commentary on that period, Wikipedia lists the names of political leaders, parliamentarians, professionals and political activists who were killed by the JVP, the LTTE, other Tamil groups and the armed forces over three decades of violence. The 1990s began with the assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and ended with the killing of TULF MP and Legal Academic Neelan Tiruchelvam in 1999. The old leadership of the TULF, with the exception of M. Sivasithamparam, had been wiped out in the late 1980s. That included TULF leader A. Amirthalingam, a consummate politician and parliamentarian, who started off as a fiery federalist and turned himself into a mellowed separatist.

As the 90s wore on, the LTTE asserted itself as the sole representative of the Tamils. It waged war against the state and its forces but not to capture the state of Sri Lanka but to establish a new state of Tamil Eelam. The JVP’s mission was different, but its ultimate objectives were never clear. Lacking the LTTE’s military prowess, it never seemed plausible that the JVP was serious about capturing state power through violent means. Politically, the JVP swung from its ultra-left attacks on a manifestly leftist government in 1971, to undertaking ultra-right attacks against the most rightwing government in Sri Lanka’s modern history. The left-right cleavage was not part of the LTTE vocabulary.

On the other hand, although it railed against the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord and the presence of Indian armed forces in Sri Lanka, the JVP scrupulously avoided taking potshots at the Indian Army. The LTTE, in contrast, cut its military teeth fighting the Indian army and found common cause with the Sri Lankan government under President Premadasa to fight a common enemy. There was even grudging admiration among sections of the Sinhalese for the LTTE’s choosing to take on the Indian Army. For the record, the Indian Army came to Sri Lanka on the invitation of one Sri Lankan President and left Sri Lanka at the request of the succeeding Sri Lankan President. Hardly the modality for an occupying force. War or peace, Sri Lanka was again left to its own devices.


Illusions of Peace

The second half of the 1990s and the first half of the next belonged to Chandrika Kumaratunga. Her presidency began with a bang of charismatic inspiration but petered through for want of a clear focus and purposeful efforts. Perhaps her singular failure was not single-mindedly moving to abolish the executive presidency as she was universally expected to do. She was also the first and, until Gotabaya Rajapaksa arrived on the scene 25 years later out of nowhere, the only person to become President without previously being a Member of Parliament. Her parliamentary inexperience, untrammeled access to presidential power, not to mention her political ego, all combined to vitiate the promise with which she had led the People’s Alliance to power.

With the benefit of hindsight, we might say that parliament started becoming inexorably poorer from thereon. It is far worse now, in 2021, and for many new reasons. And it has taken a JVP MP, in Dr. Harini Amarasuriya, to take a spirited stand in defense of parliament and parliamentary democracy in Sri Lanka – against presidential authority and media hypocrisy. The ironies of history, you might say, but more on it later.

Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (CBK) deserves full marks for starting the peace process during her presidency, but she showed inexplicable naivete in choosing to rely on people from her social circles to take the lead in serious peace mediation. The LTTE was going to be a difficult peace-dance partner anyway, and it required much more than social brokering to make any headway. In the end, the LTTE almost succeeded in assassinating her during her election campaign for a second term in office in 1999.

The main irony of that period was the nasty competition between Chandrika Kumaratunga (leading the SLFP) and Ranil Wickremesinghe (leading the UNP) for leadership in the peace process. It was a total about-turn from previous decades when the two main Sinhalese parties fought one another over who was giving more concessions to the Tamil Federal Party, even though what was on offer was way less than what would be included much later in the 13th Amendment. In any event, the CBK-RW competition over peace turned out to be counter productive both to the peace process and to their respective political calculations.

It may not be wholly accurate to say that presidential politics was the main driver of the peace rivalry, but it is impossible to view the rivalry in isolation from presidential ambitions. All the constitutional changes proposed by the CBK government included provisions to protect her powers, which made it even easier for RW and the UNP to reject the proposals out of hand and even, in one instance, make a bonfire of them right in the well of parliament. As for Ranil Wickremesinghe, his obsession with becoming a President, or at least a presidential candidate one more time (after two attempts in 1999 and 2005), became quite obvious when he deliberately subordinated every initiative of the yahapalanaya government (2015-2019) to that single obsession.

Back during his rivalry with CBK over peace initiatives, Ranil Wickremesinghe stunningly turned to the LTTE to strike a counter peace partnership to CBK’s peace partnership with the TULF. I am not aware of any public recounting of the mediation that brought RW and the LTTE together in a peace initiative. But objectively, it fair to surmise that Ranil Wickremesinghe reached out to the LTTE as a counter to CBK’s peace alliance with the TULF. What was fairly well known throughout the JRJ presidency was that President Jayewardene cunningly kept not only the TULF but also the JVP from joining forces with the SLFP/Left opposition at that time. In the end, there was no ultimate benefit to anyone from JRJ’s Machiavellian politics. The presidential house he built so adroitly would be eventually lost to the UNP. Now it seems it is lost forever. And it will be for other more upstart aspirants as well.

As JRJ’s successor, President Premadasa took a different tack, reaching out to the LTTE to get the Indians out. We know how that tack or track ended. The TULF that was left hanging, or what was left of its depleted leadership, broke with the UNP and turned to Chandrika Kumaratunga and the People’s Alliance for a new kick at what had become the proverbial viable solution, while Ranil Wickremesinghe modified the Premadasa approach to re-engage the LTTE with Norwegian insurance. To their credit, Chandrika Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickremesinghe ‘fought’ over how to make better peace with Tamils, rather than about waging a more brutal war with the LTTE. They both admitted that the Sri Lankan state had failed in the building of its nation and were committed to creating a plural and inclusive polity. While their political spirits were willing their presidential flesh led them astray.

And their peace-fight was nasty. They could not work together even when they were forced to cohabit as President and Prime Minister between 2001 and 2004. Ranil Wickremesinghe, as Prime Minister, dashed everyone’s expectations of peace dividends by giving, not for the last time, free rein to corruption in government. For her part, and in what she would later admit to being among her more grievous mistakes, President Kumaratunga dismissed the Wickremesinghe government in 2004 (which she had the power to do under the pre-19A Constitution, unlike Maithripala Sirisena who flouted his own 19th Amendment in October 2018), dissolved parliament and won the parliamentary election in April 2004 with provisional support from the JVP.

The results of the April 2004 parliamentary election gave false hopes to President Kumaratunga and the JVP (that won 39 out of 105 UPFA seats in parliament, its highest on record), relegated Ranil Wickremesinghe to the opposition backwaters for the next ten years, and signaled the emergence of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the next presidential candidate from the true south. The country went through the tsunami devastation in December 2004, but that did not help the political leaders getting any wiser about working together. The Supreme Court abandoned President Kumaratunga when it rejected her bid to extend her second term by one year. Ranil Wickremesinghe even thought that Chief Justice Sarath Silva was helping him for not impeaching him earlier!

Those who had serenaded CBK during her rise lost no time in leaving as she declined. Mahinda Rajapaksa became the SLFP-UPFA candidate by acclamation. He reached a new agreement with the JVP. The unkindest cut of all was delivered by the LTTE to Ranil Wickremesinghe who thought that it would be a no contest. Mahinda Rajapaksa won the November 2005 presidential election by the squeakiest of margins, while Tamil voters in the north were ordered to stay home. Basil Rajapaksa’s familial prophesy that there will be a President from the south was finally fulfilled. But there were other dynamics at play.


Illusions of Restoration

In my last installment published two weeks ago (April 25), I alluded to Mahinda Rajapaksa becoming the presidential beneficiary of a new strand of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism fueled by the Jathika Chinthanaya school of thought. The school of thinking that JC advocated has not universally been accepted in Sinhalese political society. At one level, the electoral victories of Chandrika Kumaratunga (PA) and the partial successes of Ranil Wickremesinghe were moments of political pushbacks to the creeping influence of JC thinking. At another level, both the SLFP and the UNP were forced to come to terms with ‘JC forces’ and include them in their political alliances often on their (JC’s) terms.

The presidential system and proportional representation in parliamentary elections facilitated the emergence of alliance politics. The era of programmatic united fronts of political parties was gone. Serious political programs gave way to lawyerly Memorandums of Understanding. Multiple parties with bilateral/multilateral MOUs could come together under an umbrella alliance for contesting elections. The April 2004 parliamentary elections were the breakthrough election for the new Sinhala Buddhist nationalist organizations.

The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), the most electorally successful offshoot from the JC school, won nine seats in the election, all won by Buddhist Monks. The JVP which had been courting JC ideologues and followers from the 1980s, was part of Chandrika Kumaratunga’s alliance (UPFA) and won 39 seats. It was the JHU that successfully challenged President Kumaratunga’s attempt to extend her second term limit in the Supreme Court in August 2005. JC’s political consummation came within months, with the victory of Mahinda Rajapaksa in the November presidential election. That it came with support from the not so hidden hand of the LTTE did not dampen the significance of the moment. Mahinda Rajapaksa was recognized as the most authentic Sinhala Buddhist political leader since independence.

In terms of political analysis, the victory of Mahinda Rajapaksa has been described as the restoration of the linkage between the Sri Lankan state establishment and the political hegemony of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism. The linkage had apparently been ruptured since July 1987 when JR Jayewardene and Rajiv Gandhi signed the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord. Looked at in another way, the state of Sri Lanka which has traditionally been accused of alienating the Tamil and Muslim minorities, would seemed to have found a way to alienate even the Sinhalese majority.

And the restoration that was apparently achieved with the victory of Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2005, has not turned out to be as consequential as anticipated. To wit, the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord and the Thirteenth Amendment that it created have survived two terms of Mahinda Rajapaksa presidency and may yet survive the first term of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa presidency. At the same time, a full restoration of the linkages between the state of Sri Lanka and all its ‘peoples’ will require a more sensitive and nuanced understanding as well as appreciation of the nationalist compulsions of the Sinhalese, Tamils and the Muslims. Anything less can be nothing more than a farce. (Next week: The farce of 2021).

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