19 September, 2020

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Athas Breaks Silence To Reveal His Ordeals Under Different Governments

By Iqbal Athas –

Iqbal Athas

One night in February 1998, a group of well-built men, all clutching Browning automatic pistols, forced their way into my house at Wijerama in Nugegoda.

One of them stormed into my bedroom in the second floor, cocked his pistol and placed it on my left temple. My wife Anoma and daughter Jasmin, then seven years old, watching television together with me froze in shock and horror. A second intruder walked in to thrust a loaded pistol at my back. They forced me out of my bedroom.

Outside the door, I saw others with their weapons in hand busy with the household staff. They were poring over their National Identity Cards or interrogating them. When they tried to force me down the stairway, my daughter, fearing she was going to lose her father, raised loud cries. One of them ordered a female help to move with her into a bedroom nearby and shut the door. Instead, she thrust her hands around my neck in a hard bind and screamed “my thathi, my thathi.” The cries could be heard from the road outside.

For some inexplicable reason, three more armed men rushed upstairs shouting “api yamu, api yamu” or let us leave. They withdrew. I rang the Police Emergency at Mirihana. A mobile patrol arrived to ask a few questions but left hurriedly. Word of the incident spread and we could not lie on our beds that night. The telephones rang incessantly. One of the callers was Mahinda Rajapaksa, then Minister of Fisheries. He was championing human rights issues and was kind enough to assure support. Others included highly placed sources in the military establishment and the Police. Some offered to come over. I forbade them for fear of exposure. Yet, there were a few who defied.

The wheels of justice did not move. Not until Bill Richardson, then United States Ambassador to the United Nations visited Colombo. He came for six hours as Special Envoy of President Bill Clinton.

The US Embassy got in touch to say he wished to meet me. When I did, Mr. Richardson said that during talks he raised issue with President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga about the ordeal I had to face. “She has assured a full investigation,” he told me. He later announced this at a news conference. Within days, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) launched investigations. My wife and I were invited one afternoon to an identification parade at the Magistrate’s Court in Gangodawila. I identified the man who placed the pistol on my left temple. He was the chief bodyguard of a former Air Force Commander. My wife identified another officer, who headed a special unit. After a legal trial lasting four years, the two were convicted to nine years rigorous imprisonment. One died whilst in jail. The other won bail. The case was later dismissed on legal technicalities.

An year before, in November 1997, my sources within the military establishment tipped me off about a bizarre encounter I would face. One of them said that a service intelligence arm was coaching a Tamil civilian in a military camp in Vavuniya. He was to come on television and identify himself as the English translator of Tiger guerrilla leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. He was to “confess” that his task every week was to translate the Situation Report column in the Sunday Times. The news reached me on a Monday morning. The next issue of the newspaper was six days away. The TV appearance was to take place in-between. There was an urgent need to have this information in the public domain.

Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was good enough to raise issue in Parliament on a Tuesday. A detailed report appeared in the next day’s Lankadeepa, our sister Sinhala daily. That notwithstanding, Senthinathan appeared on Rupavahini, the national television network. In footage repeatedly broadcast, Senthinathan declared he translated the Situation Report every week for the late Mr.Prabhakaran. It seemed that was how a deadly terror outfit like the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) conducted a separatist war — only after reading the Sunday Times every week. The column was read by the two protagonists to the war, the LTTE and the military, with equal interest. One or the other was displeased at different times over the content. Yet, if Senthinathan was correct, none of the investigative arms of the State questioned me and pursued the logical course — charge me in Court. That was not the idea. It was to silence me. I became an irritant to politicians of successive governments who painted rosy pictures of victories and poured billions in public money, some to the war effort and some to help themselves. Millionaires, both in and out of uniform, were born. It later transpired that Senthinathan was a man of unsound mind.

The final chapter to this encounter came from my friend and then Military Spokesperson, the late Major General Sarath Munasinghe. He knew I was readying to write a book on the Third Eelam War. Whilst documenting the sequence of events, I had often consulted him to double check on various matters. One night, at dinner together with another senior General, the subject of discussion was Senthinathan. At news conferences, as spokesperson, he had to defend what the so-called LTTE translator said. He looked distraught. “I am ashamed to do things like this,” he said. He confirmed to me details I had already learnt about the men who trained Senthinathan. He also told me something I did not know. The so-called translator had told his handler in the intelligence arm “Sir, I have done what you have told me. Now, please look after me.” Another was the fact that the “handler” flew every now and then from Ratmalana to Vavuniya for meetings with Senthinathan during the coaching sessions. “You can write this after I die. The public should know,” Maj. Gen. Munasinghe said.

Earlier, in 1993, the Army launched an operation in the Wanni leading to disastrous consequences. I had written about what would follow including a possible counterattack. What I forecast came right leading to an unusually high number of casualties. A floral wreath was delivered to my residence with a card purportedly from the military unit that faced the debacle. This drew angry protests from media organisations.

In 1994, I won the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). I will remember the ceremony in New York’s Grand Hyatt for many reasons. As I walked down the steps after making my speech, the first to congratulate me was renowned US diplomat the late Richard Holbrooke. He was later to be President Barrack Obama’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan when he died of illness. Others included Ted Turner, the man who launched CNN, his wife, actress Jane Fonda, millionaire businessman George Soros, TV anchors Peter Jennings and Dan Rather. There were some humorous moments too.

After the ceremony I returned to my hotel in Seventh Avenue to take the lift to the penthouse, allotted to me because the hotel was full. It was the first time I had to wear a tuxedo. The CPJ had paid $ 150 to hire one for me. Covering the late President J.R. Jayewardene’s visit to the US in June 1984, I had instead opted for a silk national dress, again for the first time, to cover the White House dinner hosted by the late President Ronald Reagan. In the lift this time there were three Americans. One of them, obviously in very good spirits, asked me “You work in this hotel?” One moment, you are at the zenith of your professional glory. The next, you get mistaken for a waiter. I replied “No! My Arab uncle is buying this hotel tomorrow.”

Space constraints prevent me from delving at length into another episode in 2008. It requires a detailed explanation. It is my fervent hope that I could place the facts in the public domain one day. One aspect is worth mentioning though for the damage it caused is irreparable. One night, I was alerted to a possible raid on my residence. It was reportedly to seize some documents related to a controversial transaction and thus track down my sources. I spoke with trusted sources. I was advised to close the house and move out. “If they want to search, let them break it open and do so. But don’t leave anything incriminating,” the source said.  Before I left with my wife and daughter, there was a bonfire of partly completed lengthy handwritten outlines of my book. There was a pile of documents, some of them classified or secret. These were papers on which I was confirming the factual accuracy of various military operations, what followed and photographs. A lot of kerosene was poured to finish the job soon. If I was found with those documents, under the state of emergency that prevailed, it would have been enough cause to detain me. My claim of writing a book would have just been dismissed as sheer bluff.

The Eelam War IV was heating up towards the end of December 2008. Two vans packed with well-built men, openly displaying assault rifles, had arrived outside my house past11 p.m.They were in civilian clothes. They tried to climb the high wall but found it difficult due to the strands of barbed wire on top. They were planning their next move, when a Police Emergency vehicle approached. They had hurriedly dispersed. An alert neighbour had telephoned 119. The next day, I received a telephone call. “We could not get you last night. But we will kill you soon if you don’t stop writing,” the caller said in Sinhala. This incident took place exactly ten days before Lasantha Wickremetunga, Editor of The Sunday Leader was killed. I made a complaint to the Mirihana Police.

I told a Cabinet Minister who is still holding office. He conveyed the news to President Rajapaksa. The President had ordered the then IGP Jayantha Wickremeratne to ask Mirihana Police to conduct patrols around my house. Though I had not asked, the Minister explained it was not possible to provide any security other than irregular police patrols. This was reportedly on the grounds that the war was escalating. He also cautioned me not to make too many people aware of the measures taken. Earlier, security provided to me on the basis of intelligence the government received was withdrawn. Appeals from various quarters were of no avail. Not even protests by media organisations.

Just two days after Mr.Wickremetunga’s death, atmidnightI was warned by an authoritative source that I was the next target. My suspicions were confirmed when he said about the presence of unidentified persons around my house. There were occasions when men on motorcycles followed me. There was one of them, his pistol bulging out of a tight bush shirt. He came in a motorcycle. He stopped a pedestrian a little away from my house and asked about my whereabouts. He least realised he was the driver of my vehicle. Details in the number plate was noted down and checked. It belonged to a lorry. I left home the next day and flew to Thailand. I lived for months, separated from my family and friends. There, I learnt what solitude means. Perhaps living in solitude is what drove even former Commander of the Army, Sarath Fonseka, who once wielded unlimited military power, to consent to negotiations for his release after 27 months in jail.

These are only a few snapshots from a long catalogue of encounters I have had as a journalist. There is both good and bad in them. The good is that there is a vast number in the defence and security establishments who stand for the truth. They want corruption exposed. Even more importantly, they were concerned about my safety. Otherwise I would not be living. They are bold enough to place their jobs and even their lives on the line. On the bad side are those corrupt and even the inept: Those who profited financially from the war. Truth is an embarrassment to them. They will go to any length to hide it, no matter what the consequences are.

I have had to face what I believe is more than my share of ugly encounters. This is because the Sunday Times is the pioneer in specialised reporting on matters related to both defence and security. This is through the Situation Report column. It is not an exaggeration to say most other media followed suit and began to have their own Defence Correspondents thereafter. In bringing to the public domain the varied aspects of the separatist war, I had to set my own benchmark. The principle criterion was to avoid the military’s operations becoming public knowledge or privy to the enemy before or during an operation. That would have been treachery. I have strictly abided by this rule. But some politicians did not. I recall an instance where a politician responsible for the military declared at several public meetings that his government’s military aim was to capture Jaffna within weeks. That the Tiger guerrillas made preparations thereafter is now history. They even smuggled in military hardware to defend themselves.

There are readers who have often given well-meaning advice. I have benefited from them. There are others who have been bitterly critical. I have accepted such criticism with all humility. There are yet a few who are vituperative, driven by personal agendas and motivations. I have refused to bow to them. I never will. There was one President who years ago had the tax men investigate me. They looked for my hidden millions, both rupees and dollars. What he learnt perhaps exasperated him. “Mekaa hingannek ney,” (this fellow is a beggar) he told a confidant.

I was one of the early or perhaps the first recipient of a dubious national honour – being called a traitor. There were government-sponsored demonstrations outside my house after a string of exposures in the Sunday Times. If indeed there were transgressions of the law, since treachery is an offence punishable with death, not one single state investigatory arm has questioned me. Therefore, threats and name calling, sometimes even killing of journalists, is to muffle their voices or shut them up forever.

Some have singled me out to claim that in my writings I had said that the war was “unwinnable.” I have mentioned this on occasions and clearly reasoned out why. I was not alone. There were many others more knowledgeable than me. This included three former Presidents and a Prime Minister. They are the late J.R. Jayewardene, Ranasinghe Premadasa, Chandrika Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickremesinghe respectively. This is expressly why they embarked on peace talks with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during different stages of the separatist war.

The Sunday Times (Situation Report) column has always protected not only the country’s sovereignty but also kept readers informed. In other words, in our own way, we have made a national contribution. In April 2003, when the Norwegian-brokered Ceasefire Agreement was in force, there was a move to formally recognise Sea Tigers, the ocean-going arm of the Tiger guerrillas. The Sunday Times (Situation Report) exclusively revealed that the head of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM), Major General (retd.) TryggveTeleffeson proposed that the Sri Lanka Navy should recognise the LTTE’s Sea Tigers as “a de facto Naval unit and the LTTE should be excluded from the law concerning limitations on outboard motors (OBMs) horsepower.” Until then, no one was aware. Thereafter, in what he called “Adjusted Proposals”, Maj. Gen. Teleffson sought to confine the Sri Lanka Navy’s exercises, particularly live firing to specified areas at sea. He also wanted to carve out separate areas in Sri Lanka’s sovereign territorial waters for “training and live firing” after repeating his earlier call to recognise the Sea Tigers as a “de facto naval unit.”

If not for the exclusive disclosure, the issue would have remained cloaked in secrecy. The Sri Lankan public would not have known that a non-state actor was to have its so-called navy formally recognised. This and another incident forced President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to write to then Norwegian Prime Minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik, seeking the SLMM head’s recall. He was withdrawn. In addition, I reported on many occasions about a guerrilla build-up during the ceasefire. During this period, I revealed exclusively how a string of 18 guerrilla camps had sprung up with the objective of surrounding the Trincomalee port. It caught the UNP Government by surprise.

The then Defence Secretary, Austin Fernando, drove from his office to Army Headquarters to ascertain the position and report to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe immediately. One in particular was the Kurangu Paanchaan base. The late Lakshman Kadirgamar, one-time Foreign Minister, raised issue publicly thereafter. This was a major cause for President Kumaratunga to withdraw support to the Ceasefire Agreement.

I also reported how the LTTE was moving valuable military items via the Bandaranaike International Airport when they passed through to Wanni after peace talks in various foreign capitals. I learnt recently that the Government now has official confirmation of this fact. It had come from a former high-level LTTE personality in a confession he made. If Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was kind enough to speak on my behalf earlier, as Prime Minister I had earned his ire. I was banned from his news conferences. His confidant, who was also my friend, conveyed to me that if I do not stop criticising, I would be “exposed” in Parliament.

In marked contrast, President Kumaratunga, who had cohabitation issues with the then UNP government, wanted to confer national honours on me. She said so to her parliamentarians. One evening, after coffee with her at the Janadipathi Mandiraya together with the late Lakshman Kadirgamar, I had a call from her office. One of her staffers said the President needed my bio data since I was being considered for a national honour. By hindsight, I am quite happy this did not materialise. I point this out to show how on the one hand, a President wants to honour a journalist. On the other extreme,  the same journalist is vilified as a good-for-nothing traitor. During the conversation at the coffee meeting I had occasion to speak about some highly irregular procurements by the Sri Lanka Navy.

Mr. Kadirgamar said, “Please tell HE all what you know.” I related the details. “What proof have you got?” she asked me. I produced a set of documents originating from Navy headquarters. “How did you get them?” asked Ms. Kumaratunga. Mr. Kadirgamar intervened promptly “You cannot  ask him that. He is not going to tell you,” he said. Ms Kumaratunga backtracked by saying, “That is not what I meant.” She was seated in a chair with her back facing Navy headquarters. She turned in the direction of NHQ, raised her hand, pointed her finger and remarked, “That is where the bullet is going to come from.” I later learnt that she made her own inquiries by confidentially asking senior Navy officers.

With her PA government coming to power defeating the UNP, she held a conference of senior military officers and the Police high command at the BMICH in July 2005. She turned to the then Inspector General of Police Chandra Fernando and declared “why don’t you charge him under the Official Secrets Act.” Only weeks earlier, I had exposed a move by the Sri Lanka Navy to procure a battleship ‘Sir Galahad’ which was being discarded by the British government because it found it costly to maintain. The question I raised was how Sri Lanka could maintain such a large vessel on which British troops had gone to war in the Falklands (Malvinas). Ms. Kumaratunga’s outburst came after a Navy officer, now holding a higher position, raised issue. It was his then boss who was spearheading the negotiations for the deal. When most politicians are in the opposition, the journalist is their loved darling. Once in power, they become their most loathed enemy. Of course there are exceptions if one is willing to do their bidding.

Once on a visit to then LTTE-held Wanni during the ceasefire in 2003, I asked my escort Daya Master whether I could meet Captain Ajith Kumara Boyagoda of the Navy and other military men who were being held prisoner. The next day, I was taken to a location off Puthukudiyiruppu. We arrived at a house with a high parapet wall. A covered van brought Captain Boyagoda and six Army soldiers. At one point during my conversation with them, I asked Daya Master whether he would kindly withdraw so I could talk to them privately. He agreed. A long conversation ensued. Besides an account that appeared in the Sunday Times (Situation Report), I had also asked the seven, one after another, what I could do to seek their release. They briefed me but wished those accounts should not be published lest it endangered their position. I agreed.

After my report appeared, I met with the then Army Commander, General Lionel Balagalle and briefed him. I told him that the prospects for a release were very high. He had initiated action thereafter and they were free. The fact that I was instrumental in their release was publicly acknowledged in a speech Captain Boyagoda made at a ceremony. It was held by Deshamanya Lalith Kotelawala whose Ceylinco Group donated houses to the seven.

On another visit, this time with the Army to a battle zone in Paranthan, guerrilla mortars began to rain. I was hurriedly taken to a bunker. When there was a lull and I walked out, the sight I saw was most disturbing. Wounded soldiers were being loaded in the trailers of tractors and rushed for medical attention. I wrote about this in the Sunday Times (Situation Report). As a result, Dr. Anula Wijesundera, a public-spirited doctor at the Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital was among those who initiated a campaign to raise funds. The Army unit at Paranthan received a brand new ambulance. Reference was made at the handover ceremony to my initiative.

These are just a few of the innumerable instances where reporting has led to benefits both for the country and the military. However, it was not always that the media was given access to battle zones prompting armchair critics to say copies are written in air conditioned rooms. To some, the minds are so conditioned; they only see traitors and terrorist acolytes. If one is to ask me whether I am happy being a journalist, my answer would be ‘yes of course.’ That is notwithstanding the threats and intimidation. Mind you, we are referring to a period when Sri Lanka was listed as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. The threats will not go away. Someone, somewhere will feel hurt all the time. The more powerful he or she is, the bigger the threat. All these raise an important question — what is journalism?

The best definition I have read is from Bill Kovach whom I have had the pleasure of meeting a few times. He is guru to some New York Times staffers. He defines it succinctly in his book together with Tom Rosenstiel titled ‘Elements of Journalism’. They say “the primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing.” To fulfil this task, among other matters, they note the journalist’s first obligation is to the truth and the first loyalty is to citizens.

Meeting those ideals, in today’s context in Sri Lanka, may be akin to swimming against the tide. Threats of white van abductions, intimidation, harassment and even killings stare in the face. Yet, for 47 long years I have remained a journalist notwithstanding the praises, threats, the abuse and name calling.

Note: Athas is Consultant Editor of The Sunday Times/Courtesy The Sunday Times 25th year souvenir

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    Immensely pleased to read a bit of your experiences as a journalist.Salute your courage and valor in reporting truth to the citizens.Journalists of your ilk are a fast dwindling tribe in present Sri Lanka.

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    The chief editor. why iqbal is now.. i work for sunsday times. mr iqbal every time said that tigers is genius.. sl army cant defeat the tigers… now hes talking is bulshit

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      ranjith,
      Iqbal was right.
      Sl army could not defeat the tigers.
      That is why many powerful nations (more than 20) and you know who
      had to come and help in the war.

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    U were Rejected as a Defense Analyst (Self-Appointed Tho) by Readers in SL & No One Else !!!

    So Now Why this Lonely Cry ???

    Part of this comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
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  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
    http://colombotelegraph.com/comments-policy/
    In short:
    • If you act with maturity and consideration for other users, you should have no problems.
    • Don’t be unpleasant. Demonstrate and share the intelligence, wisdom and humour we know you possess.
    • Take some responsibility for the quality of the conversations in which you’re participating. Help make this an intelligent place for discussion and it will be.

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    Mr. Athas… Welcome back. Now that DBS is closing the shop, we need someone to keep the information flow on.

    Can you talk about the pig head at your door stop? There was a rumour at that time that a defence expert organised that to delivered at your place.

    Also, there was a popular belief that Rajapakse Brothers effectively shut you down before the decisive war. Is that true? Why didn’t you say a single word about the brothers?

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    swimming against the tide is possible, but difficult.
    TRY DUCKKING THE TIDE .
    WITH THIS to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing.to the truth and the first loyalty is to citizens.AS MR Bill Kovach SAID.

    BUT NOT TO DIVIDE A COUNTRY,
    MY HONOR TO YOU

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    swimming against the tide is possible, but difficult.
    TRY DUCKING THE TIDE .
    WITH THIS to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing.to the truth and the first loyalty is to citizens.AS MR Bill Kovach SAID.

    BUT NOT TO DIVIDE A COUNTRY,
    MY HONOR TO YOU

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    I am left with the distinct impression that this quite lengthy and interesting contribution by Iqbal Athas confirms the belief that discretion is the better part of valour. He appears to have left many things of importance unsaid!

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      Yes, agree. One must read between the lines

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    Athas is a true national hero!

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      His informant was the man who ran Tamil net Sriram. Athas likes to walk around in trousers with pockets on all sides pretending he is a military man. he must have had to clean his military “gear” after the visit from the intruders. Does not take much to frighten these people who were covering the war from Colombo had never set foot anywhere past Kurunegala and had false info to complete a full page. He is still in Sri Lanka and has gone into hiding writing another column under a pseudonym. Cowards die a million deaths. You must show how brave you are “soldier” Athas.

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    Come come Kapila Kahapola. What you have read about Athas has hit you very hard. You don’t know how to react in a civilized way to a website that maintains decent standards. This is why you and your crony government is getting what it deserves. See what is happening in the UK today. Shame on you Kahapola.

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      Ayyo Ananda,

      In What Sense U Take Waving Under Pants by pussy-tigers a Great Thing to be Proud of ???
      I had Just One Question for Athas… That is How He Managed Himself in Thailand for 2-3 Years if He was a Higanna as He Himself Claimed ???

      Part of this comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
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      In short:
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    Although I have not had the benefit of reading the Sunday Times Situation Report regularly, on the few occasions I have, I always found it interesting and exciting, as it was rather like being inside a war-zone first hand.

    Mr Athas needs to be commended on his courage and the candour with which he had detailed events, rationales, agendas and outcomes very explicitly and forthrightly.

    If he hasn’t already, he should consider penning his memoirs in a book, for the sake of future generations and posterity in general.

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
    http://colombotelegraph.com/comments-policy/
    In short:
    • If you act with maturity and consideration for other users, you should have no problems.
    • Don’t be unpleasant. Demonstrate and share the intelligence, wisdom and humour we know you possess.
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    I like the speculative question if the Rajapaksa’s effectively shut down Athas before the decisive war.

    It certainly looks like they did unless Mr. Athas likes to justify his position.

    Now that the war is over isn’t it time for journalists of this calibre to return and expose the corruption ?

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      Return is not the best option. Journalists are an endangered species in SL. They should write about corruption from a secure place. The need of the hour is to expose the people who are eating in to national treasures, resources and public money.

      The greedy, selfish politicians and their henchmen should be put to jail and free the people from the misery.

      This country has enough resources and money if it is distributed equally without stealing and with bad planning.

      The public money should not be wasted on glorifying and for personal benefits for few at the top.

      Lets begin the work of cleaning the top and curtailing the corrupt public officers and politicos.

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    There are a very few who courageously brave even threats to their to say truth and defend their right to express their views openly. Iqbal, like the great poet Allama Iqbal, is one of them. I miss his writings.

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    All what you need to be a war hero is to wear neat uniform, epaulettes, a cap and a sunglass. Then surrounded by a group of heavily armed soldiers and camera wielding defence reporters with helmets to display the gravity of the fighting in the vicinity and here comes general. Headlines carrying hosanna to the successful battle the general conducted is read with awe.

    Parallel to that here comes the self-appointed defence correspondent. Get a dedicated column from a newspaper which is against the war conducted by the rulers who are despots. Don’t worry they are all over aplenty. Then get invited to offices’ messes, wardrooms and opposition party bigwigs. Collect all the gossips doing the rounds about what’s happening at the war front where loads braggadocio is dime a dozen while the poor foot soldiers are paying the supreme sacrifice.

    Then with a pinch of salt from an armchair with a air-conditioning at full blast scribble your junk with bit of phraseology added her comes the authentic report by a maestro. You are a champion my friend, Iqbal.
    You are lucky if again the LTTE rump manged to make some inroads into Rajapaksa nonsensical drama..

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    Dear Iqbal,
    I had the privilege to read “Situation Report” from its inception to the end (span of about two decades). I really thank you for your professionalism that you maintained in your works. I don’t see a similar dedication by many of the recent crop of scribes in Sri Lanka to their subjects (though there are true exceptions). But, when I reflect about the things happen between 2008 January and the end of war by 2009 May and since then, I feel that “perceived objectivity” of your writings was not so “objective” and were not entirely “free of biases”. When you think about it, no one is free of “biases”. We claim that we put all our efforts to be “perfectly impartial, fully objective and stick to the fact”, but the biases creep in when you cherry pick the facts to report. This cherry picking is the bias that spoiled some of your writing. The maintained hypothesis of your writing was that “war is unwinnable largely due to corrupt military establishment”. Then you cherry pick your “facts” to report and to validate this hypothesis. Instead, some wrote with the maintained hypothesis that “war is winnable if X, Y, Z are done” (mainly Divaina/Island and Prof. Nalin De Silva/Dayan Jayathilaka etc.) Your maintained hypothesis was of the “traitor” kind while the other camp’s maintained hypothesis was of the “patriot” kind. The “patriot camp” reporting is also bias but Sri Lankan polity embraced that bias and eagerly awaited for “facts” to be reported to validate “patriot” hypothesis. This bi-polarity of the “maintained hypothesis” was in its pinnacle during the mid- 2008 and you were anathema to many who were supporting the second hypothesis. Events proved that your hypothesis was wrong (despite military corruption war was won).

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    Mr Athas, I hope you are not back in Sri Lanka and planning to write again. Mahinda Rajapaksa will not tolerate your writings as his regime has a lot to hide from the people. Not only corruption but also illegal and criminal activities are rampant under his rule. I know it is tempting with so much of material available to write about but think about your life and the welfare of your loved ones. The one time human rights defender Rajapaksa is now a well known human rights abuser.Gota’s white van will get you and you will disappear.So, think long and hard.

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      And… Mr. Athas, the man from Singapore still advises the brothers… you know gu!

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    In your defence about your assertion that the war was unwinnable I completely agree with you.It was an assessment made on the basis that without outside help from numerous countries the SL military had no hope of defeating the LTTE.

    The Indians, US,UK,Israel,China and many others providing both intelligence,military harware and the blocade of military procurement by the LTTE. A more than a quarter of a million man military force agaisnt a few thousand LTTE carders kept the Sri Lankan military at bay for decades and that shows how heroic and capable the SL military were.I am not a supporter of the LTTE but it is laughgable how the Rajapaksa regime and the sinhala patriots are now hero worshipping the SL military.There are many countries fighting terrorist and liberation groups in their countries and they are not coming in their droves to learn from you tells a lot about your achievement. They all know how you won the war and they all know how you massacred the civilians in a no holds barred war of terror on the tamil people.

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    Like ALL conflicts the SL WAR against TERROR there are winners & losers on both sides.

    Fact is the LTTE terror was forced on SL by our friendly neighbor India ( Indian think tankers / RAW / Gandhi fam / T Nadu political SCUM etc )

    Winners: People of Sri Lanka of ALL ethnicities.
    Losers : The Terras – LTTE CRIMINAL Gang

    Thanks to the leadership of Rajapaske bros / SL President MR * / dedicated MEN & women of SL Security forces + Police forces.

    • THE 1 & ONLY President of SL to deliver real FREEDOM to SLANKANS; this is a FACT. Whether U may like it or NOT

    Thanks to the unweaving support by Republic of China / Pakistan (beyond the business interests)

    US support: They owed it SL last but not least SL got into trouble with India while SL sided then with US against UDSSR oriented India .
    And WE paid a HEAVY price for this alliance with US.
    And the same FRIEND is back stabbing SL 2day for purely GEO political reasons & due to US dumbness

    U might well say SL WAS & IS still a victim of Geopolitics / Overpopulation / Poverty / Corruption / inefficiency / wrong political SYS are just some of the side effects.

    Writers such as Iqbal have definitely contributed both positively & negatively during the cause of the bitter WAR AGIANST TERROR
    Most writers pretend to be the GOOD guy’s friends of the ordinary citizens seeking the truth.
    The FACT is most of them work for their paymasters & on hidden personal interests.

    In any case:

    My personal GRATITUDE to IQBAL for his role on release of the SF personal held captive by the LTTE Criminal GANG / for exposing those loop holes in “ Peace accord “ by the CRIMINAL Norwegian “ GENERAL “ & many other positive DEEDS.

    I acknowledge !!!

    Biggest traitors are:
    UNP – Ranil & the GANG / FEW of those BIG wigs in Uniform purchasing “ Rubbish”,
    Just to collect the billions in kick backs.
    ALL these CRIMINALS shall be processed & SHOT by a firing SQUAD.
    The empty bullets shall be returned to their fam. For refund !!!!

    At the receiving END there was those dedicated soldiers fighting to FREE our motherland from the LTTE terror gang ; ultimately laying down their lives for the FREEDOM of others incl. those of SL of tamils.

    May LONG live mother LANKA & her brave warriors !!!!
    May LONG live united mother LANKA !!!!

    The LIONS flag will fly high 4 ever in clear blue SRI LANKAN skies bringing cherish memories of our GALLENT & dedicated soldiers

    Thank You

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    As anit Boru and Boru says there are things Athas has said without saying. I can only hope those will enter the public domain some day. I pity readers like Ashoka Perera. I do respect and venerate his right to say what he wants. But he should not make himself a fool by saying things that are an insult to the intelligence of others. It is a Sinhala Buddhist organisation that has helped him, given him recognition in their newspaper and looked after him during his troubled times. Truth always hurts. For some, it hurts even more personally. What a shame!! That is the bane of our society.

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