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Sri Lanka's biggest-ever serial killer - Part I:

The birth of JVP fear psychosis

The JVP was led by Rohana Wijeweera, who once deceived himself to be a socialist revolutionary, but was finally revealed as a megalomaniac capitalist with a love for wine, women, luxurious cars and raucous speeches inciting death and destruction. Now, Wijeweera and the other leaders of the JVP had gone into hiding, but the Politburo held secret meetings, some of them in Colombo and the others in the provinces

It was cool and crisp on the morning of December 2, 1987.

Life in Sri Lanka had returned to near normal after the ugly ethnic violence of July 1983 and the rioting that followed the signing of the peace accord with India. Things were settling down to an even keel.

The tourist industry and businesses as a whole, particularly the export trade, were picking up.

Shops were open, goods were freely available, office workers on the streets were making their way to work, traffic was heavy, the sun was shining, people were smiling and the proscribed JVP seemed well under control.

Key figures

One of the key figures in the crackdown on the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna was Deputy Inspector General of Police Terrance Perera, who was in charge of the Counter Insurgency Division that had made deep inroads into the JVP movement and had set up a countrywide intelligence network against the subversives.

The JVP was led by Rohana Wijeweera, who once deceived himself to be a socialist revolutionary, but was finally revealed as a megalomaniac capitalist with a love for wine, women, luxurious cars and raucous speeches inciting death and destruction.

Rohana Wijeweera

Upatissa Gamanayake

Vijaya Kumaratunga

Prof Stanley Wijesundara

Now, Wijeweera and the other leaders of the JVP had gone into hiding, but the Politburo held secret meetings, some of them in Colombo and the others in the provinces.

At one of these meetings, it was decided that the JVP should heighten violence and create a fear psychosis in the country in an attempt to overthrow the Government and takeover power in Sri Lanka.

Wijeweera, Gamanayake and the rest of the Politburo decided to set off a series of killings of targets, especially selected to create this fear psychosis, while also carrying out attacks on military establishments in order to show to the people that the JVP was the most powerful body in the country.

Serial killer

While deciding on further measures to infiltrate the Armed Forces and the Police, they also decided to look out for a serial killer, a blood-lusting psychopath who was more interested in murder than in the JVP cause.

Soon, the calm quiet of the cool December morn was shattered by the news that DIG Terrance Perera had been shot dead by a JVP gunman, as he was setting out to work.

This was the first of 43 serial killings of important persons that caused the JVP fear psychosis, which resulted in an enforcement of a reign of terror that paralyzed Sri Lanka, especially Colombo, the country's commercial capital, and the suburbs.

The JVP's chief slayer was a master gunman, who had taken to firing the venomous T-56 as a duck takes to water.

This instantly instilled fear in the nation, for, the man who had been slaughtered by the JVP gunman wielding a semi-automatic weapon, which pumps 20 shots in rapid succession, was leading the country's fight against Rohana Wijeweera and his band of subversives.

That morning, the handsome, well-built senior Police officer, who had first gained a reputation as a tough cop by killing the infamous brigand Podi Wije who terrorized villages in the North Central Province, was in a hurry to get to work.

He was getting late, it was 8.25 a.m. and he had a high-level conference to attend at his Longdon Place office in Colombo 7.

Terrance Perera had hardly any time left, as fate would have it.

He could not as was his custom kiss his wife and children goodbye.

JVP gunman

Getting into his white 15 Sri Toyota car, his revolver nestling on the left seat, the anti-subversive chief took off in a hurry from his home situated down a narrow lane, which turned off from the main Battaramulla-Colombo Road.

As the DIG braked at the T-junction to turn right into the main road, the JVP gunman who had been waiting there opened fire at pointblank range.

Terror trail
* First of 43 serial killings that caused JVP fear psychosis
* JVP's chief slayer a master gunman
* 'Gamini' given only five days training in handling automatic weapons
* Conspiracy to murder DIG Perera began allegedly in an SOS village

The five foot four inch killer, firing the powerful T-56 weapon that kept jumping up and down like a puppet on the string, was enjoying himself.

He is later reported to have said that the sight of blood gushing out of his victim gave him a feeling of supreme power and satisfaction.

DIG Terrance Perera had nary a chance of saving himself.

He had stopped at the junction and was almost turning the car to the right towards Colombo. There was no chance for him to reach for his gun.

Radical socialism

His bullet-riddled body slumped on the front seat. The car's windscreens were shattered.

So were the quiet and the calm of the morn, the morning which launched a reign of terror that ended with the death of JVP leader Rohana Wijeweera and his chief lieutenant Upatissa Gamanayake.

At the time, both were leading lives of top rung capitalists under the guise of promoting radical socialism and revolution of the masses whom they had taken for a right royal ride.

This was the first of serial killings by the psychopath slayer Lionel Ranasinghe codenamed 'Gamini' who became the JVP's No: 1 killer, who allegedly murdered 43 persons of social position, including popular actor-politician Vijaya Kumaratunga, former University Vice Chancellor Prof Stanley Wijesundara, UNP General Secretary Nandalal Fernando and Municipal Councillor Jayantha Mallimarachchi, the son of Food and Cooperatives Minister Weerasinghe Mallimarachchi.

His other victims included a Police Constable at Maharagama, a Sub Inspector of Police, a family of six who were UNP supporters at Pitipana, three members of the UNP trade union Jathika Sevaka Sangamaya, two Sri Lanka Transport Board depot inspectors, two SLTB drivers, several businessmen including the Shanmuganadan brothers in Pettah, a woman standing close to a polling booth on election day along with a child and two Police Constables and two Policeman providing security to a Provincial Councillor at Handapangoda.

Police investigations

According to the Police, the JVP's No:1 hit man had played a leading role in the attacks on the Sri Lanka Air Force base at Katunayake, the Welikada Prison, the Bambalapitiya Police Station where he shot dead a Police Constable, and the Rs 22 million robbery from the People's Bank branch at Galle Road, Wellawatte.

Police investigations have revealed that 'Gamini', aged 27 years, was given only five days training in handling automatic weapons by an Army deserter, who was an expert at firing the T-56 semiautomatic rifle.

Immediately after 'Gamini' murdered the counter subversive chief, a fellow subversive loaded him onto a 250 Honda and rode off allegedly to a boutique run by another JVPer, where the killer hid the murder weapon.

The conspiracy to murder DIG Terrance Perera began allegedly in an SOS village for orphaned children run by foreign aid in some proximity to the headquarters of the military wing of the JVP, known as the Deshapremi Janatha Vyaparaya (DJV) at Piliyandala.

It was headed by a terrorist styling himself as Keerthi Wijebahu.

Instructions from the Politburo for assassinations and attacks were relayed to him by a senior member, whose arrest in the late 1989s possibly helped the authorities to round up the leaders and bust the JVP organisation.

He and four others allegedly met 'Gamini' at the village and gave him the necessary instructions to eliminate DIG Terrance Perera.

Fear psychosis

A 'controller' codenamed 'RM' was appointed for the purpose, and he had reportedly told 'Gamini' the job should be done on December 1, 1987.

'Gamini' was also informed that the murder weapon, a T-56 semi-automatic rifle robbed from the Police or the Army, would be sent to him in a van that could be parked near the Three Bridges Junction at Battaramulla, a suburb about 10 km from Colombo.

The killer was also handed Rs. 50. He was not interested in money, but only in murder.

On December 01, the man who was to become JVP's No: 01 hit man and to create the unprecedented fear psychosis, went to the spot earmarked for the assassination of the DIG, on the pillion on a motorcycle ridden by 'RM.'

A Delica van was parked close by, inside of which were two subversives. The killer was asked to get inside the van and was handed a bag, which he opened and found a T-56 rifle inside it.

There was also a rifle magazine in it. One of the men also gave 'Gamini' a JR grenade. 'Gamini' then got down and slid back onto the motorcycle, which rode past the DIG's home which was being guarded by two STF commandos.

One was seated, while the other was standing near the garage. But, the senior Police officer's car was not there. The gunman and his accomplice then returned to the Battaramulla-Koswatte main road. There was a person waiting for them at the junction.

This subversive was 35-years-old. The rider stopped the bike and asked this man as to why the DIG's car was not there. The man replied that the car might have left early.

Then, 'RM' introduced the man to 'Gamini' saying, "This is the man who is giving the signal", and said that the two of them would return for the job on the following day.

'Gamini' and 'RM' then allegedly rode to a boutique run by another subversive codenamed 'U.'

The bag containing the T-56 rifle was handed over to the boutique owner for safekeeping.

That same evening the senior Politburo cadre and three others paid 'Gamini' a visit. Also, the senior cadre had taken him to Battaramulla and shown him the house of DIG Terrance Perera. About 7.00 am on December 2, the serial killer who was reportedly staying at the SOS village in Piliyandala left on his assignment of assassination.

About 8.00 that morning, he passed the senior Police officer's house and saw the STF Commandos were there. He also saw the DIG's white coloured car.

JVP cadre

Terrance Perera was not to be seen. Cool as cucumber, the serial killer of the JVP, psychopath that he was, was even able to notice that there was a bathing well nearby.

When he passed that well he saw the JVP cadre, possibly No: 3 in the organisation's hierarchy, standing near the boutique.

When 'Gamini' went up to him, he inquired whether the DIG was in his house. He said, 'Yes' and both of them then waited.

After about five minutes, they came to the Borella-Battaramulla bus halt, which was located near the T-junction, where the DIG would have to slow down his car to get into the main road.

When they were there, Terrance Perera's car passed them and the senior Politburo member pointed out the target to the gunman. Then, the two subversives had a cup of tea each and left, after having promised to meet that evening.

The gunman returned to the SOS village around 8.00 p.m. and the senior Politburo member who was serving as a liaison between the JVP hierarchy and the hit man arrived there with three others following him.

About 6.00 a.m. on December 2, 'Gamini' left his abode and was joined by 'RM' on his powerful motorcycle.

Then, they went to the boutique where the T-56 was hidden and 'Gamini' took it and loaded the magazine.

Security conference

'RM' wanted to make sure that the DIG was at home.

He left on his motorcycle and returned confirming that both the anti-subversive chief and his car were still there. Then 'Gamini' hopped onto the 250 CC motorcycle's pillion and after travelling some distance, got down and walked towards Battaramulla.

Then, the man who was to become Rohana Wijeweera's No: 1 slayer approached the T-junction leading to the lane in which Terrance Perera lived, and he discovered that the person who had been assigned the task of signalman was waiting there. 'Gamini' waked past and waited near the shops on the road.

About five minutes later around 8.25 a.m., the subversive touched his head with his hand as if he was parting his hair - a prearranged signal that the target was arriving. Within seconds, the unsuspecting senior Police officer, anxious to attend a high-level security conference on schedule, arrived at the turn off to the main road.

He was sitting duck for the waiting killer who, according to Police, had derived more satisfaction from killing a man, than having sex. And the JVP fear psychosis was born.


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