17 September, 2019

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A Question For Sarath Amunugama On “Gota’s War”

By Laksiri Fernando –

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Dr Sarath Amunugama began his review of C. A. Chandraprema’s book with its title “Gota’s War.” Perhaps he was not very comfortable at the beginning, and said “When you read the book you learn that it does not mean that Gota won the war single handedly,” which of course is obvious to anyone.

But what he tried to hide is the glorification of a person in the name of war against terrorism and an unashamed attempt at building a personality cult in Sri Lanka. Amunugama babbled to say that “What the title means is that the war with the LTTE is looked upon, through the eyes of one of its most significant players, namely Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.”

If the author wanted to ‘look upon’ the war ‘through the eyes’ of Gota for example, then the title should have reflected that angle without naming the war by his name. I have searched hundreds of titles of books on wars and found that only ‘Napoleonic wars’ were primarily named after Napoleon. It is perhaps no coincidence that Amunugama quoted Napoleon, “I want only lucky Generals,” and said “He [Gotabhaya] probably remembered Napoleon’s dictum.”

The implicated equation of Gotabhaya to Napoleon apart, it was not clear who were these ‘Lucky Generals.’ There was no mentioning of the former Army Commander, Sarath Fonseka, at all. Perhaps it is a ‘prohibited’ word in this game of family politics. Perhaps he was an unlucky General. For an objective review, his name however should have figured whatever his failings.

Amunugama says, “When I discussed this book with Mr Chandraprema, he tactfully suggested that I should concentrate on the early chapters dealing with political processes” for the review. That is mainly what he has done and there is no major qualm about it except for one or two points.

He makes a false distinction between mob violence and state sponsored violence and more seriously justifies the former saying “the successive mob violence in Sri Lanka both in the South and North, as pointed out by the author, have been a part of the birth pangs of ‘new nations’ of Asia.”

It is surprising to know that Amunugama calls Sri Lanka a ‘new nation’ which has a history of over 2,500 years where different communities lived peacefully for most of the time. When he says that mob violence is part of ‘birth pangs’ he is not only indifferent to them but also justifies them as natural. He has said this not in isolation, but in the midst of Dambulla mob attacks on a Muslim Mosque recently.

Dr Amunugama is not an ordinary politician. He is prominent to have a leftist background during his university days and with ostensibly liberal and progressive viewpoints for a long period thereafter. He was also considered a person free from communal views. But the following is what he says today. He again refers to mob violence or ‘birth pangs’ of the ‘new nation.’

In all these cases a significant fact is the perceived injustice by a stronger community. While that majority community may be stronger in terms of brute strength, they feel that they have been cheated or let down by a partner with whom they have lived together, and even depended on for economic progress.”

He admits that the “majority community may be stronger in terms of brutish strength.” But there is a “perceived injustice by the stronger community” for example the Sinhalese majority. That is that “they feel that they have been cheated or let down.” So you attack the minorities, ransack them and even kill them. This is the sociology of ethnic conflict according to Amunugama.

Of course he might say that he was ‘quoting’ his former teacher Professor S. J. Tambiah to justify Sinhala violence. But he was simply misquoting him quite unashamedly I might say.

My main question to Dr Amunugama is the following. There is no doubt that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa played a key role during the war against terrorism along with the others as he has admitted. As he points out it may be “a very happy and rare coincidence that the country’s chief executive and the chief executive of the defense forces were so close that there could be no misunderstandings or conflicts in the execution of the military offensive.”

But no one can hide the fact that the two are brothers. It is also a known matter that if not for the external pressure that the armed forces could have won against the LTTE at the Vadamarachchi operations in 1987 or even thereafter. Therefore, there is no need to give credit to a single person. That is not proper history writing.

More serious is the fact that Defense of the country is still kept in the hands of the brother of the President. He is also not the only family member within the key positions of the Government. While it is true that family is an important institution in the Sri Lankan society, keeping political power within a family has far reaching implications for democracy and good governance. There is something called nepotism that civilized people detests.

Perhaps the eulogy that Chandraprema and Dr Amunugama accorded to Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is a good occasion to bid farewell to him. And if he is a proper professional person, as many people claim, that is something he himself should initiate to do.

 

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    Hagiography passing off as ‘history’.

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      Keep up the good work Laksiri! The fact of the matter is the leftist geriatrics like Sarath Amungama have lost the plot, and have become ultra Sinhala nationalists being senile… they have all joined MR’s cabinet of goons, fools and criminal incompetents viz. Vasu, Thissa Vitharana and DEW. They are intellectually and morally bankrupt like Sarath and a disgrace to the left just like the Dambulla monk and Gota the goon who likes to wrap himself in the Buddhist flag is a s disgrace to the Dhamma!

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        Exactly Dinuk, you have driven the nail, right on to the nut of these nuts.

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    This is not history. These are ‘opinions’ based on ‘hearsay’ and ‘versions.’To understand proper historiography one should read Dr.Upali Wickremeratne’s new book :Hearsay & “Versions’ in British Rrelations with Kandyan kingdom, Vijitha Yapa, March 2012. Wickremeratne is a real tested scholar, B.A..(Ceylon) B.A. Hons London, PhD Lond, Bar-at Law Lincoln’s Inn, former Lecturer, and Teacher of History in England and Legal consultant in UKand Author/Historian who followed in the footsteps of family friend, Dr. Colvin R De Silva. He has analysed the whole gamut of evidence used to reconstruct the history of the early British period and exposed the shortcomings in British documents, and Sri Lankan hearsay. He has also pointed out shortcomings in the ‘evidence’ used by his mentor, Colvin de S and also his colleague historian K.M.de Silva. He has applied the English Law of Evidence to look at the ‘evidence’ on which history has been written and introduced new dimensions to historiography. His book has helped to clear the names of Pilimataalvve, and Ahelepola and Mahanayakes and Kandyans in general of built up prejudices.
    What passes today as history of the current situation is nothing but ‘opinions’ expressed on ‘hearsay or ‘versions’ or simply on imagination.We will need another author like him to write an objective history of today’s events. That should be left to posterity when present actors are not around. what comes out now are eulogies, Prasatha-kavi’

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    Post Script.
    The word “Prasastha-kavi’ has been mistyped. One can call it also Hatan-kavi like Kunstantinu-HATANA.

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    Dr Laksiri Fernando was a rebel himself. I recall he lost his chance of being made permanent at Vidyodaya Uni in 1969 because he did not want to talk as given to him by the traditional society. He accepted without any complaint the termination of his temporary contract by Uni admin after he delivered a controversial lecture to uni students who in fact enjoyed it very much! His frank review of a review by a reputed academic and a seasoned politician, Dr Sarath Amunugama, of Chandraprema’s book Gota’s War is in fact new evidence that Laksiri is the same old rebel who would not hesitate to say what he has to say if it is wrong. Kudos for Laksiri and a good eye opener for Amunugama who may now have to fight very hard to maintain his reputation.

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      Citizen, what is this reputation that Sarath Amunugama has to fight hard to save? You mean Geetha Kumarasinghe’s birth pangs?

      It is only Great, Honest and Decent Men has reputations. Just because one is an erudite, does not necessarily mean he is a Great person. Great Men live exemplarily lives. Even Lakshman Kadiragamar lacked the quality of being Great, when he married the second time round a female, younger than his own daughter and son. Further he compromised with Corrupt political leadership of CBK just for personal gain. Then what is so great about Lakshman Kadiragamar? This man Sarath Amunugama’s qualities are amply displayed when he has tried to sing hosannas to Gota for the obvious, praising a so called gutter journalist. The above is a good narative to show who the real Sarath Amunugama is, nothing but a Humbug and an opportunist.

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    Credit must be given to the Rajapakses for providing the materiel and letting the professional soldiers fight the war. We would have had earlier success had President Kumaranatunga allowed her generals to fight the enemy instead of permitting a military buffoon in Anuruddha Ratwatte to make vital decisions to meet political deadlines and more importantly make the unpardonable decision to advance on Jaffna on the A9!! – having to protect two flanks and resulting in failure and casualties – when the recommended and obvious option was through the Western approach; which was the one Sarath Fonseka eventually took with great success.

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      @ Achilles, this war with the LTTE could have never been won if not for the US and the Indians pressurerising the LTTE to bury their weaponry drawing the govt. Forces, after closing the Mawilaru anicut and the high Command of the LTTE retreating, leaving a skeletal force for the Govt. Forces to over run them. The skeletal force having no access to news, as to what is going on, obviously believed as before the advancing Forces will be encircled and hammered as done before. But this time around the main cadre that retreated never came round to attack the advancing govt. Forces, but the skeletal LTTE cadre was sacrificed to give credence to the war effort. Further the govt. Forces, exactly knew which routes to take, avoiding the land mines, as the US and the Indians had made available the route map to their allies Gota and MR. That is why the entire North and the East was captured under thirty months, otherwise it would have taken another thirty years. So do not be euphoric about this false war victory of MR, that was staged by the US and the Indians. Today the US and the Indians are dissappointed with MR, for him not keeping to promises made prior to him being elected as President in 2005, yet again through manoeuvring with the involvement of the US and the Indians. The release of SF is also under the pressure of the US posibly trying to cut diamond with diamond.

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    Book about Napoleon Borupart

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    Gota’s war with the General for the credit of winning the war!

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    When was Amunugama a leftist! he is just rather more educated and sophisticated than the majority of parliamentarians.
    The stories of his opportunism are legion..like when listening to elections results in the company of the then Chairman of Radio Ceylon, it became obvious the UNP was going out of power and the incumbent chairman wd probably lose his job. So Sarath sidled out of the room. We can only guess where he went. The next day almost,is appointment as the radio Chairman was announced. If it wasnt rasdio ceylon chairman it was something similar. i think Neville Jayaweera was the incumbent. It is disgusting how all these people are happy to serve an master so long as it benefits them in one way or another. I don’t know about Sri Lanka, the Wonder of Asia, but definitely the Sri Lankan PARLIAMENT is the wonder of the WORLD! Can there be any other parliament of “fowls” such as this one! Someone should write a book about it or put it in the Guinness book of records for the highest number of rogues, ruffians, rednecks, buffoons, bleckmarketeers, blunderers, and overnight billionaires!

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