Richard de Zoysa, JVP, Premadasa, Lalith Athulathmudali, Gamini Dissanayake, Neelan Tiruchelvam, Dayan Jayatilleke, LTTE, Mr Yoheswaran, Ossie Abeygunasekera, Mr Ashraff, TULF, Mr. Amirthalingam, Sam Tambimuttu, Mr Sivasithamparam, Vartharajah Perumal, Arjuna Aluwihare
Premadasa’s dark period culminated in the killing of Richard de Zoysa in February 1990. I was away at the time, sailing round the world again on the Semester at Sea programme, and I got back only after things had settled down. I have written elsewhere, in different modes, about the incident, so I need not discuss it here. However what I found when I came back to Colombo in July was a world rapidly returning to normalcy.
I have argued that Premadasa used the opportunity offered by the international furore over Richard’s death to rein in the death squads that had destroyed the JVP. I am aware that the force used was excessive, and I believe Premadasa knew this too, but felt he had no alternative when the Ceasefire he had offered was ignored. To his credit it must be noted that, after February, the squads, which had been continuing with excesses such as Richard’s killing even after there was no threat, were disbanded.
I suppose normal too was the renewal of hostilities with the LTTE, since hindsight teaches us, as it taught Premadasa and Chandrika and later Ranil too, that the Tigers were at their most dangerous when pretending to negotiate. Though Premadasa’s technique of dealing with the Tigers after war broke out was not as successful as that of the Rajapaksa government, he also in his own way did much to reduce their strength. In particular he concentrated on developing the East, and in fact by the time he died he was able to hold elections there in which the UNP did remarkably well.