“JVP Leader Rohana Wijeweera Groaned While Being Thrown Into the Incinerator”-Eye Witness Account of Army Photographer Indrananda de Silva


Udeni Saman Kumara

Rohana Wijeweera

Rohana Wijeweera

(Former Lance Corporal of Sri Lanka Military Police, Indrananda de Silva, reveals the last moments of JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera before he was killed after interrogation)

Q: What is your name?

A: Indrananda de Silva.

Q: Do you remember November 1989?

A: The most unfortunate incident of my life took place in that month.

Q: What were you then?

A: I was a Lance Corporal of Sri Lanka Military Police.

Q: What was your duty?
A: I was the photographer for Military Police.

Q: Where were you on the night of 12 November?

A: I was sleeping in the single officers’ billet of Military Police in Narahenpita, Colombo.

Q: What was the time?

A: About 1 a.m.

Q: What happened?

A: I was fast asleep. An officer came and woke me. He was Captain Abeynayaka. He asked me to get up silently, get the camera equipment ready and get into the Commanding Officer’s car, parked in the compound. It was special duty. Lights were not switched on. Everything was done in darkness.

Q: What did you think?

A: It was 12 November, 1989 and I suspected that I too had been exposed, since I was sympathetic towards the JVP. Several friends of mine, who were in the armed services had disappeared then. I suspected it was a plant to abduct me.

Q: What did you do?

A: I took out the camera equipment and put a revolver, I had secretly kept, into my bag. But, I thought again that if there was only suspicion about me, the pistol could prove it. It was not the property of the Army. Therefore, I kept it back in my secret hiding place within the photography unit. Then I walked out with only the camera equipment.

The CO’s vehicle was there and the CO was in it. I got in and the vehicle drove off silently. When the vehicle passed Narahenpita fair, the CO asked if I had a girlfriend. I said no. CO said he would not question me but I should not divulge the incident to anybody. I had suspicion, but I had never thought of arresting a person of Comrade Wijeweera’s calibre.

Q: Who was this CO?

A: Colonel Dassanayaka. He was commanding our unit.

Q: Where was your vehicle driven to?

A: We went directly to the Ops Combine operation centre in Thimbirigasyaya.

Q: Who was there?

A: We climbed the steps. There were 15 senior most Army officers there. I understood that something important was happening there.

Q: What happened next?

A: An officer asked if the photographer had come and suggested photos be taken.

Q: What was happening there?

A: In the main conference hall, 15 officers were sitting at the round table. I did not recognize the person sitting on the main chair. That person was handed over to me to be photographed.

Q: Did you speak with him?

A: I didn’t know who he was. Therefore, I inquired from an officer. He said that the person was Rohana Wijeweera.

Q: What came to your mind?

A: I could not think of anything. I had seen Comrade Wijeweera at a meeting when I was schooling. Then he had long hair. I could not imagine that this was him. I thought it was a conspiracy. There were such actions then.

Q: Did you speak to him?

A: A screen was arranged to photograph him. While arrangements were being made I asked who he really was. He smiled and replied he was Wijeweera. When I asked where he was caught, he said the officers captured him at Ulapane.

Q: What else did you talk to him about?

A: I had only two minutes to talk to him while the screen was arranged. I understood that he was Wijeweera who had cut his hair short and shaved. I took several photographs and an officer asked him to pose smilingly for one.

Q: Did he smile then?

A: He did not pay attention to that. I captured several photographs from the front and sides. Then our video crew arrived there. An officer said to record the video. I moved aside and they arranged for the video.

Q: How long did it take for the video?

A: About 40 or 45 minutes.

Q: You said there were about 15 senior officers. Who were they?

A: General Cecil Waidyarathna was the most senior officer. There were Brigadiers Lucky Algama and Jayasundara, Colonels Ivan Dassanayaka, Balagalla, Lieutenant Colonel Janaka Perera, who was the chief of the intelligence wing, Captains Gamini Hettiarachchi, Muthalif, Weerasinghe, Abeynayaka, Thoradeniya and the famous Udugampola’s brother Padmasiri.

Q: Did they give instructions to Wijeweera about the way to speak in the video?

A: No. They asked him to say what he had in brief.

Q: Did he continue to speak?

A: They were around him listening. Comrade Rohana went on speaking. Nobody objected and nobody made suggestions.

Q: What were the feelings and expressions on Wijeweera’s face when the video was recorded?

A: He appeared to be in a state of shock. The movement had been destroyed then. His face said that everything had come to an irreparable end. He controlled his emotions and faced the moment boldly. He clearly presented how the JVP was pushed out of the democratic path and suppressed.

Q: Only five minutes of Wijeweera’s last speech was aired on television. What was hidden?

A: Leutinent Muthalif took both the video cassette and the negatives of photographs from me.

Q: I want to know exactly what Wijeweera said.

A: He explained that the aim of JVP politics was not arming. He recalled the elections of 1982. He said that we had done everything in the democratic manner contesting elections. He pointed out that the JVP was wrongly banned by connecting it to the Black July. This injustice was revealed to everybody in order to get the ban withdrawn, but nobody listened, to them. Several Party members were also killed. The Party had been informed of the plans to murder the leaders. The situation was not good for open politics. We had the challenge of either quiting politics or facing suppression. He said that the party had opted to face suppression.

“We did not select this path willingly. We are ready to quit the armed struggle whenever the democratic space is opened.” He demanded that students and youth lay down arms and join the democratic mainstream again.

Q: What were the expressions on the faces of the officers when the speech ended?

A: He was taken to the discussion table again after the video was recorded. Again he was questioned for about 30 minutes. Several officers were shocked with those answers.

Q: What did Comrade Wijeweera say?

A: He said that we knew how the Premadasa regime had given arms, cement and money to the LTTE in Wanni jungle. He said that those weapons would be turned on us one day. He pointed out that we had to hand over weapons to the separatists while killing the patriotic people of South. He appealed to the officers to awaken their conscience without letting this crime continue. He also begged of them not to darken the future of the country further.

Q: What special questions did they ask?

A: They asked if he had trained as guerilla. He said no and provided a long reply saying he had been among people. He said what he wanted. I noticed the officers were shocked with the answers. They did not know that Comrade Wijeweera would be killed.

Q: Did somebody question about the killing of Vijaya Kumaratunga?

A: Yes. They asked why Vijaya Kumaratunga was killed. “No, we did not kill him. I think it was a result of a political march with the support of the government,” he replied. When repeatedly questioned, he said that the JVP did not want to kill Vijaya Kumaratunga. He said that JVP was criticical and was not happy with his political strategy.

Q: Did anybody question in a threatening tone?

A: No. The questioning was very cordial. I noticed they were shocked and agitated with the answers.

Q: What happened after that?

A: After 20 minutes, Cecil Waidyarathna opened the door of his room and called several persons by their names.

Q: Who were called?

A: Five or six persons, including Colonel Ivan Dassanayaka, Major Thoradeniya and Superintendent of Police Ronnie Gunasinghe. Their discussion ended in 15 minutes.
While the discussion was going on, I was taken to a room on the ground floor and several photos of Comrade H.B. Herath were taken. He was half dead then. We put him against a wall with difficultly and took several photographs. His face was swollen and the entire body was blue.

Q: What was said after you came up again?

A: Wijeweera was ordered to be taken downstairs. Several persons came with him. All thought he would be taken somewhere. Nobody thought he would be killed.

Q: Didn’t you scent that he was to be killed?

A: I understood that something dangerous was taking place. Muthalif told me the trouble was over. I asked him why he said so. He said Rohana Wijeweera’s work would be finished that day. I felt what was going to happen. But a single person could not do anything on behalf of Comrade Rohana Wijeweera.

Q: Did Wijeweera say anything while he was going down the staircase. Did he feel something was going to happen?

A: He was blindfolded. The spectacles were removed and put into his pocket. Comrade Wijeweera asked where he was being taken. Nobody answered. It was a dull silence.

Q: What was time then?

A: It was past 2.30 a.m. Everything was unbearably silent. Everybody knew Comrade Wijeweera was to be killed. Nobody could imagine what would happen. Before he was blindfolded, Ronnie Gunasinghe took Comrade Rohana’s hands and tried to read his palms from the torch light. Then Comrade Rohana asked if there were death signs. All gasped at it. Ronnie Gunasinghe said he was checking if there were marks of weapon training.

Two Pajero vehicles were brought and Comrade Wijeweera was taken away.

Q: Who else went in the vehicles?

A: Major Thoradeniya went in one vehicle. Ronnie Gunasinghe boarded the other one. As I remember, Major Udugampola also got into it. Major Muthalif and several randomly selected soldiers also got into the vehicles.

Q: Didn’t you go with them?

A: No. I thought our vehicle would go but it didn’t. I went inside looking for CO Dassanayaka. He was sitting alone in an upset mood. I said, “Sir, the other two vehicles left. Won’t we go?”

He said, “No. Let us go to the camp.”

I didn’t know what his duties were. But our CO was assigned to monitor the shooting and report. It was a serious responsibility. When Colonel Dassanayaka was walking out, he met General Cecil Waidyarathna. He thundered in English, “I gave you an order. I will kill you like a dog if you cannot carry out that order. Go now.”

He got into the car. I got in. He did not check what happened to Abeynayaka who came with us and drove off. At the colour lights of Thimbirigasyaya, he asked me where Wijeweera was taken. He had been at the discussion in an upset mood. I said, I did not know.

I was asked to go back and inquire from Brigadier Jayasundara. When I went there General Cecil Waidyarathna was getting into his car muttering that trouble was over. I was afraid what would happen if he saw us again and ran back to our vehicle. I said that General was leaving.

Q: Where did you go then?

A: I was taken in and the vehicle was driven to a byroad to be kept hidden until the General left with the squad. After that we went back, got information and went to the cemetery.

Q: Did you go to the place where Wijeweera was shot and killed?

A: No. We went directly to the cemetery. When we went to the gas plant, Comrade Wijeweera had just been brought there after being shot at the Golf Course.

Q: Was it the crematorium on the other side of Devi Balika Girls’ School?

A: That’s right. Comrade Rohana was brought and placed on the cement floor.

Q: Did you go there and see?

A: Yes. There was some light. He was lying face up.

Q: His clothes?

A: Same shirt and trousers.

Q: Eyes?

A: Blindfolded.

Q: Did you see the wounds?

A: Yes. They had shot him on the chest. The shirt was soaked in blood.

Q: Was blood oozing?

A: Blood was flowing on the cement floor.

Q: Hands?

A: They were not tied. They were dropped sideways like in a normal dead body.

Q: Wasn’t the body moving?

A: No. The custodian of the crematorium was brought. He said, “I cannot do it like that. I am performing a duty here.” Major Thoradeniya kept the pistol to his head and ordered, “Give the key you dog. I’ll kill you otherwise.” He gave the key humbly. The way to burn the body was also learnt from him.

Q: Was Wijeweera’s body taken in on something?

A: No. It was ordered to throw his body in. Two personnel took him and threw him in but he knocked on the wall and fell on the ground.

Q: Then?

A: He groaned loudly. All heard that painful groan. My heart burnt within. Everybody knew that Comrade Rohana Wijeweera was not dead. Somebody shouted, “You cannot do a job right.”

Q: Who shouted?

A: I did not see properly. I think it was Major Muthalif. He was swung in the second time and the gas switches were put on. We did not wait there for more than two minutes.

Q: Who actually shot Rohana Wijeweera?

A: I was not there. I went to the cemetery. Therefore, I did not see. But, I visited the Ops Combine often then. I know the soldiers who joined the task. From them, I knew that an Army Major and a Superintendent of Police had shot him.

Q: Is it true that Wijeweera was tortured before killing?

A: Those savages took Comrade Wijeweera to the Golf Course. They had tortured him. A soldier who was there told me that they did not know he was Wijeweera. The story that he was put in a gunny bag was a lie.

Q: Were you informed that Wijeweera said something before death?

A: No. It happened in a short while. I thoroughly believe history will give a fair judgment for this crime.

Courtesy: Ceylon Today