By Arun Kumaresan –
Lessons from the arrest of former Indian Air Chief
Recent utterances by President Maithripala Sirisena challenging the criminal inquiries raised many eye brows. Being the symbolic representation of the Yahapalana movement spearheaded by political and civil organizations, the said utterances appeared him back tracking on the positions once forcefully taken that led to the change of regime. Whilst respecting his concerns for war heroes (‘Ranaviru’)- who did a yeoman service in defeating terrorism, which Mr President has the absolute right and duty to protect – the question arises whether such right extends to protect the wrong doer.
Men and women in Sri Lanka join the profession of arms as it is considered a noble profession transcending history when even the Royalty thought it mandatory to be proficient in art of war and lead men in battle. The fighting elements have a special place in any society. Once these men and women join the respective arms they are proud and committed to uphold sovereignty of the nation. They are well aware that it also may be at the cost of their own lives or limbs. They are professionals they do not expect the sympathy or empathy of any one especially the politicians who attempt to make use of them to create emotions for the sake of votes. But one thing they expect from their leadership element in uniform is absolute honesty and integrity at all times.
Mr President, as this note being drafted, a former Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal (ACM) Tyagi, who was arrested two weeks ago, is now languishing in a remand prison, subsequent to an investigation into a VVIP chopper purchasing scam. It is reiterated ACM Tyagi is presumed innocent and only after a due trial we will be able to see his culpability. ACM Tyagi has had an illustrious career culminating in as Air Chief, had actively participated in the 1965 and 71 Indo-Pak wars. But he could not take cover under the ‘war hero’ (Ranaviru) tag. Indian political leadership is strong to ensure the moral of the soldier is not affected by few fraudsters in uniform. Political leadership understands the importance of national security and the maintenance of the morale of rank and file that is closely linked to the honorable conduct of its military leadership.
Like you Mr President, your two predecessors (CBK & MR) too came into power crying slogans in election platforms to eradicate fraud and corruption (Dushanaya haa wanchava!) in military procumbent and gave this solemn promise to the rank and file who were taking the brunt on the battlefield. However, both these leaders stumbled to some crook military leaders who convincingly placed an argument before the political leadership that any such investigation will demoralize the rank and file. No better word to surmise this argument – absolute Bull Shit!!! It was only a cunning cover to continue the corrupt practices partnered with some elements in the political hierarchy. The wheeler dealers acted as excellent match makers. These match makers had the unique ability to inter mingle with blue or greens and they know who to tap when either of them in power (Now it is much easier as both are together!).
Unfortunately, President CBK only realized the scale of the fraud when her uncle and the then State Minister of Defense’s safe containing cash were raided. This is only an example how the military leadership hand in glove with the political elite enriched whilst rank and file perished in the battlefield. President MR too, as promised appointed Presidential Commissions of Inquiry to look into the corruption in previous era. It shed deep insights into corrupt deals including the infamous order of three C130 aircraft placed with Marshall Aerospace UK and only two were delivered for the price of three. The outcome of this inquiry with other host of findings was handed over to President MR and it was shelved with no further action only to benefit the spiders to spin a cobweb. Interestingly, Marshall Aerospace had the audacity to come in with another unsolicited proposal to sell more C130 aircrafts even under your ‘Yahapalana’ regime.
Mr President your recent utterance against the former Director General Bribery Commission was due to the fact; three former Naval Chief being arraigned before the courts for purported offences related to Avant Garde transactions. These allegations against the Avant Garde, Mr President, if you remember, were made by you and your campaigners so convincingly that eventually led to the down fall of the Rajapaksa regime. The other was the MiG 27 purchases and there may be many more. Even your cabinet spokesman recently stated that USD 6.5m had been fraudulently taken from the MiG 27 purchases. Your utterances leads to a belief whether the same arguments that scuttled Presidents CBK’s & MR’s original intent to have a corrupt free military is affecting based on the false belief; innocently or on the advice of some wheeler dealers – ‘such inquires will demoralize rank and file’
Definitely it will not, Mr President unless you and your campaigners were lying on campaign stages. If not, please benchmark your thinking with the arrest and remand of the former Indian Air Chief. The fraudsters in uniform can only be equaled to traitors of Prabakaran likes- they earned black money whilst rank and file made the supreme sacrifice. Mr President as the supreme commander; be not be sympathetic to the persons in courts wearing medals. They have sufficient resources based on the earnings – as employees at Avant Garde after transferring percentage stake of the state to the said agency at the time of their respective retirement- to defend themselves and prove their innocence.
MR PRESIDENT, IT IS YOUR BOUNDED DUTY IDENTIFY AND PROSECUTE THE FEW FRAUDSTARS IN UNFORM – THEN YOU CAN BE PROUD THAT YOU HAVE PROTECTED THE HONOUR OF THE 99+% MEN AND WOMEN IN UNIFORM.
This is the best way you can show your allegiance with the rank and file who are ready go to the battle front on your legitimate orders. Zero corruption in military will lead to a loyal and professional military. It will also send a clear message to other in the military leadership – serving or retired – who earned illegally under the pretext of conduct of war for past three decades that they too are criminals and fraudsters and to enable them to be judged by their own conscious as ‘GUILTY’ of corruption. May they repent rest of their lives to reduce the resultant curse from the materialistic benefit they accrued at the cost of life, limbs and hard labor of the rank and file of brave men and women of ‘Mother Lanka’.