By Rajiva Wijesinha –
Enemies of the President’s Promise: Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Seven Dwarfs – Grumpy 5
I also suggested, as happened in Pakistan, the establishment of ordinary schools by the military, or taking over the management of existing schools in areas where the military had a presence. This had been essential in Pakistan, where the public education system had been inadequate in rural areas where there were military cantonments. The army had therefore begun schools to cater to the children of military personnel, and these were then opened to the public too for a fee.
Sri Lanka however, having had a good public education system, had not initially needed such establishments while, the country being small, military personnel had not generally had their families with them when they were stationed away from Colombo, since regular visits were possible. But while coordinating on behalf of Sabaragamuwa University the degree programme at the Sri Lanka Military Academy in Diyatalawa, I had noticed how much more content were the officers whose wives and children were with them. This was possible only when the children were very young, since later on it was thought essential that they be admitted to good schools in Colombo, given the inadequacies of rural schools. But it struck me then that the SLMA could easily take charge of one or two local schools in Diyatalawa, something I had indeed suggested for Sabaragamuwa University and the local school in Belihuloya, since I saw how my academic colleagues suffered from having to send their children to schools in bigger towns.
Given the commitment of the more sophisticated parents who would now be sending their children to the local school, the standard of education there would improve, to the benefit too of the local children. And the managing institution would make sure that essential subjects, such as English and Mathematics and Science, which were grossly neglected in many rural schools, would be properly taught.
The Ministry of Defence had indeed taken over one school after the war, but this was in Colombo. But my suggestion as to this and other initiatives was not taken up, with Gotabaya laconically telling me that he would have to face even more criticism with regard to what was described as militarism. Later however, after a paper I produced for a Defence Seminar, he told me to go ahead, but I explained that I could do nothing, it was the Kotelawala Defence University and other military bodies that had to take the lead – though the KDU, given its civilian agenda, was uniquely positioned to move in this matter without criticism.
I did then take up the matter with the KDU but, perhaps because it had to work through civilian academics in many areas, there was hardly any progress on the matter. One Department did produce good ideas with regard to the training of medical support staff, but that alone was not enough, and soon I was not in a position, having protested about what happened at Weliweriya, to pursue the idea. I was put off, albeit very politely, with regard to a paper I had been asked to prepare for a symposium, and the Commandant later indicated wryly that the Secretary had not been pleased about my signing the petition.
I knew this, because he had in fact called me up and shouted at me for having, as he put it, signed something along with enemies of the government. He did grant that what had happened was wrong, but his point was that I was getting involved with those who were intrinsically opposed to the government. I did not think this was the case, and indeed I had toned down the initial draft which had thrown the blame for the incident on him almost personally, but I could understand his irritation. But I was surprised and saddened that he should have embargoed my participation in seminars organized by the military, because these had been amongst the most constructive in the recent past, in a context in which Sri Lanka had no real think tanks.
Indeed, just after the incident at Weliweriya, before I signed the protest, I had presented a paper at the recently established Officer Career Development Centre at Buttala, on the site of one of the Affiliated University Colleges where, twenty years earlier, I had coordinated the English course. I had found the senior officers there as worried as I was about the fact that the army had opened fire on civilians. They too recognized how bad this was for their reputation, because it would lend strength to those who claimed that the forces had targeted civilians deliberately in the war against the LTTE.
My continuing belief is that the senior officers well understood the rules of war and had worked in accordance with them during the war. After the war I had personal experience about how positive they were about the civilians they were in charge of. For instance, one of the toughest generals during the war, Kamal Guneratne, who was head of the Security Forces in Vavuniya, and responsible for the Welfare Centre where the displaced population had been housed, proved astonishingly liberal about releasing the vulnerable, even though he was told that several security checks were required before this could be done. And as noted previously, when efforts were made to delay the resettlement Basil Rajapaksa was trying to expedite, the generals in the field ignored the order they had received to recheck civilians and sent them back to their places of residence as quickly as possible.
So too it was civilians with a pluralistic outlook whom they invited to their seminar discussions. At Buttala for instance they called on members of the LLRC, who were generally blacklisted by the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies, which was run by the Ministry of External Affairs. Serious discussion was impossible there, whereas at both Buttala and the KDU, and the Training Centre that another very bright general had set up at Kilinochchi, the former capital of the LTTE, open and frank discussion was encouraged.
It was tragic then that, as time passed, Gotabhaya seemed to harden and prevent his senior officers from developing, together with liberal civilians, programmes that would have promoted reconciliation. Given both continuing security needs, and the comparative efficiency of the military, there was no doubt that they needed to remain active in the North. But ways and means could have been found of avoiding a heavy handed approach, and promoting civilian leadership which the military could support, rather than seeming to impose itself as an independent authority. The synergy that military training engendered within the forces seems to have been avoided with regard to the Tamil population of the North, and the impression that Gotabaya saw them as outsiders, not people he should care about as equals, became entrenched.
That he held similar views about the Muslims had also become clear. Indeed his presentation of himself as the champion of the chauvinists crystallized through his association with a group that targeted the Muslims. This was the Bodhu Bala Sena, the Buddhist Strike Force, which began in 2013 to engage in a vicious and violent campaign against Muslims.
Matters came to a head in this regard when, in June 2014, after some preliminary skirmishes, they provoked violent action against Muslims in the Aluthgama area, at the southern end of the Western Province, with the police taking neither preventive nor restraining action. Both the President and Gotabaya were out of the country at the time, which highlighted the absurdity of a situation in which the country had an octogenarian Prime Minister without the capacity to think or take decisions.
There were all sorts of conflicting stories about what had occurred, including the claim that Gotabaya had in fact ordered the police to ensure better control, but this had been ignored. Certainly the President behaved better than his counterpart JR Jayewardene had done in 1983 when there was violence against Tamils. But the plain fact was that the BBS had been permitted to engage in provocative rhetoric and the police had done nothing to stop the rioting that followed.
The President’s responses afterwards indicated that he was in a state of confusion, and was not being presented with the whole picture. Firstly he claimed that some Muslims were indeed trying to take up arms, which echoed both the claim by the security establishment that there were efforts to start a jihadi movement in the country and the assertion by the BBS leader that, since some Muslim politicians were trying to establish a Gaza strip in Sri Lanka, they would respond like the Israelis.
Such echoes of Gotabaya’s fascination with the Israelis perhaps explains why the President had not been told that Muslims in his own party had requested that the BBS rally be banned. He claimed that they had only gone to the affected area afterwards, but this was belied by a Muslim Minister in whom he had great trust, who confirmed that his plea had been ignored.
Second, the President granted that, despite the Muslim extremism he alleged, the BBS was a dangerous organization, but claimed that it was funded by the Americans and the Norwegians to destabilize the government. Certainly it was true that BBS personnel had, before the movement was set up, received some Norwegian funding, but it was also true that they had been patronized by the Secretary of Defence. The President claimed that Gotabaya had only attended a meeting at which the BBS was present at his request, but that did not explain why what Gotabaya said seemed to echo the chauvinist sentiments of the BBS. And it was at odds with the claim of the BBS leader that it was the Norwegian they were associated with, a shadowy figure the Embassy, which was more transparent in its activities, should have been wary about, who had asked that Gotabaya be invited as the Chief Guest. The President certainly had no answer to the question why, if the Americans were engaged in a programme aimed at weakening the government, Gotabaya so readily fell into their trap.
Despite his criticism of the BBS, the President insisted that he could take no action, because he thought the Buddhist clergy would protest. This was nonsense, because many leading Buddhist monks had spoken out against the BBS. It was also nonsense to claim that he would be accused of being a dictator if he were firm, given that it was precisely those who felt that civil liberties were being eroded who urged using the full force of the law against the violent agenda of the BBS.
But, assuming that the President was not himself involved in the move to heighten tensions, it seemed clear that he felt himself straitjacketed. Given that he seemed convinced that it was only hardliners he could rely on electorally, he was obviously not going to take action against such extremists with elections due soon. And doubtless he would be held to this position, given that Gotabaya had announced an intention to enter politics, combining this with the assertion that he would do much better than existing politicians. So, though he couched this apparent change of mind in terms of willingness to satisfy a request of the President, if he made one, he was making no bones about the fact that he subscribed to the mythology of his outstanding capacities.
Peace / December 9, 2014
“Despite his criticism of the BBS, the President insisted that he could take no action, because he thought the Buddhist clergy would protest. “
Moral of the story is two wrong wouldn’t make some thing right.
SWRD- Learned from Buddhist monk.
Amirthalingam/Yogeshwaran -Learned from LTTE/Prabakaran.
India- Learned from LTTE/Prabakaran.
Premadasa- Learned from LTTE/Prabakaran.
Prabakaran/LTTE- Learned From Mahinda.
Mahinda- Learned from JHU/Champika.
Maithiri- Who is he going to learn from?…….
Ganda Weera / December 9, 2014
WHy aren’t you seen in the campaign trail, professor? We don’t see you outside CT anywahere. What is going on?
We like to hear you saying all this in speeches in Sinhala.
Come on, show us your colours.
Jay Chrish / December 9, 2014
Sri Lanka History only written in English or Pali . The professor professing the preamble for the next chapter. A decent Sri Lankan and a true liberal.
Park / December 9, 2014
Gotha entering politics! Well he has to enter the international criminal court before he enters politics to prove he is a person who has not committed any human rights violations. If not international criminal courts, at least he has to face a Sri Lankan independent open court where he faces his charges and proves that he is clean. We do not want another addition to the criminals who are already in politics.
Gota supporter / December 11, 2014
puck the international criminal court which has NO jurisdiction in Sri Lanka. It is only good for white arse lickers like you. Gota came. He saw and he conqured. What do you say to that. Your hero bakaran has been vanquished.
Sri Lanka needs people like that for the next phase.
The Last Dinosaur / December 9, 2014
Please write this in sinhala too.
and let the massess read.
How many of the masses in south would read and understand?
Even if they understand, would they change?
Lanka Watch / December 9, 2014
Peace — Maithiri will learn from CBK and learning will go on & on
Nishantha De Silva / December 9, 2014
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Lucky / December 9, 2014
Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
To be in good books or Rajapaksa and Seven Dwarfs, you lied about “Blue eye children” in the IDP camps. You insulted Tamils. Shame on you.
Today, you talk about Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Seven Dwarfs and soon after the President election, you will talk about MAITHIRIPALA AND SEVEN THIEVES.
You have no policy, what you are looking for is a Minister post.
Sorry, you won’t get it. If you want, join the JVP or JHU.
Learn to be an honest man like your later father.
Don’t tell lies for shake of money and promotion.
MirakRajBanda / December 9, 2014
How long it would have taken Gota to stop Aluthgama carnage?
A call from him would have prevented an ethnic cleansing and another call to shut the Gunndasara behind bars. Nearly a million votes go to Mahinda if he was a wise man.
How can you expect wisdom and vision from a petrol shed boy????
Bodin / December 9, 2014
Aluthgama carnage had two sides. One was in Kaadiyawatta-Dhargatown where Muslim youths wearing white mufti hats were organized and ready. The other was the attempt by the BBS to rouse public emotions.
Fathima Fukushima / December 9, 2014
Kothapaya’s mobs have burnt 2 Muslim shops today in Aluthgama.
Leash these dogs.
Kirri Yakka / December 9, 2014
Fairly simple now. Muslim Terrorist have got out of control. Military law is needed. No need for elections.
Kiri Yakka / December 9, 2014
We are getting very tired of you MR is good his brothers are goons story. Time to give that yarn up.
Not sure if you have come to terms of the fact that you have now jumped Ship. Perhaps you can say MR is bad and his bros are worse.But not much worse than me.
Sven Perera / December 9, 2014
People would disagree but I myself wish ( me being sinhalaya but supporting to non violence) that Rajapakshes undoubtedly deserve Hague sessions.
It was not him that saved the nation but the truth as it is he was the man who grabed the credit of war of which 75% was over by the time he took over the regime. Late Kadirgamar paved the way all the rich nations to ban LTTE in their soils – that then isolated them on the west by 2004.
justice / December 9, 2014
I am shocked that RW wanted the military to implement education.
I remember how he ruined the education system with Tara De Mel who was entrusted with the task, though she was a medical doctor and not an educationist, purely because she was a good friend of CBK.
Now RW is defending Gota’s involvement with BBS!
Whose side is he on, at this election?
punchinilame / December 9, 2014
Rajiva will agree that at the moment what the Villagers will understand
is a MAHINDAs DECLARATION OF ASSETS, now that Mithiri has given one
As a political move, all Rallies should be presented with a large
cut-out showing the estimated figures of this Declaration, with a
foot-note that the figures are subject to revision once the EC is
furnished with such an offical declaration.
MR has to either accept the contents of the placard-cut out, deny it
or submit his official one – will he dare to do it.
Muni / December 10, 2014
Why dont you go and do some campaigning eh? stop this crying and go do some work, you…
Nawaz Dawood / December 10, 2014
You are not an elected politician. Just grouping up with government for all these years, you are a disgrace to human beings. Gota has done more work for the country that you even cannot think of. None of us know why you are even there as a political entity.
The Messenger / December 10, 2014
The biggest Myth that the Sinhala-Buddhists believe is that the threat of LTTE terrorism is still not totally absent and ONLY Mahinda Rajapakshe can deal with it. Another Myth that they believe is that ONLY Mahinda Rajapakse has the ability to handle international pressure.
Right now there is no military threat from the LTTE to Sri Lanka. If it happens in the future, with the help of Sarath Fonseka, Maithripala Sirisena can also deal with it. On the other hand, Mahinda Rajapakse is totally mishandling the international pressure and making it worse.
Spring Koha / December 10, 2014
The Amazing Professori has again given his own stylized version of our modern history. But too many people are aware of your slant, and your own historical part in defending the odious actions of the Regime. Out damned spot! You survive by hanging on to the coat tails of the elected. Your own survival depends on a correct reading of which way the wind blows, and then positioning yourself accordingly. What an existence for an educated man. There are other avenues, Professori, for contributing to the well being of our beloved country.
Oh, by the way, nothing anyone might say will convince those in the know that MR and GR were fully aware of the goings-on at Aluthgama. They are as culpable as their feral surrogates for the ensuing events on which they capitalised. The fish has been thrown away, but the stink lingers on.
WalaGemba Raja / December 11, 2014
A Charlatan and pussy just whining because he was snubbed by the Mafia. You C-suckers should do something beneficial for the masses of our beloved country at the grass root level than grumbling in these columns.
jayt / December 11, 2014
finnaly, cat out of the bag. they will not publish it in sinhala because then the boru patriotism will be revealed. And when I said in other website that foriegn spies brought the end of tigers and replce with TNa,
Sinhala sackilas denied and attack me. I knew Western and israel spies were behind gota even after their major link-fonsaka broke away.
All spies shouted propaganda to sound like they are trying to protect tigers leaders. this is the global trick they played to win huge tamil population in one side and trick sinhalese to popularize rajapacksas among singhalese
I also wrote bringing war crime chargers to popularize and promote Rajapaksas
On the other hand, they behind CBK and Ranil too, then one lose…they have the other. And all of them are relatives of Tamil and that is another biggest interest here