By Dayan Jayatilleka –
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe wants to appoint a Commission into the issuance of bonds by the Central Bank during the second Rajapaksa term, when Ajith Nivard Cabral was the Chairman. Good. Excellent, in fact. I have a bigger matter into which I suggest he institutes an inquiry. It is about a wicked, unconscionable man who holds high public office, who could have pre-empted the death, disabling and suffering of tens of thousands by a single act—an act he did not have to commit, but only to permit or not prevent.
Anyone who fails to prevent suffering and cruel death of a single innocent person when he can, is a criminal and an evil human being. Anyone who can end or shorten a long, bloody rampage and the slaughter of innocents by a monster, by permitting its decapitation, is an irresponsible human being.
Here is the evidence, and not from a Sinhala ultranationalist or a Sinhalese at all but from a former lecturer at Sandhurst, perhaps the world’s most prestigious military academy:
“…On 20th December 2001 a Special Forces team was in place in the Vanni jungle. For once it knew for certain where the elusive Tiger leader was. The assassination team was due to strike on Christmas Eve. The team leaders were just ready to press the start button when they were countermanded, despite fierce intelligence arguments that Prabhakaran’s death would end the war…
The Special Forces operatives were stood down temporarily in a safe house in Colombo. In one of the biggest intelligence own goals of the war, the house was raided by Special Branch police from Kandy. The highly secret operation was exposed. It was not a case of overzealous detectives…The heads of military and national intelligence were overridden when the police arrested the operatives and jailed them in Kandy. They were released after two weeks and, as a scapegoat, a middle-ranking police officer was suspended, temporarily. It didn’t end there: the intelligence leadership was accused of using the safe house as a base to assassinate the Prime Minister. Once again, the Tiger leader was unscathed.”
–Paul Moorcraft, ‘Total Destruction of the Tamil Tigers: The Rare Victory of Sri Lanka’s Long War’, Pen & Sword Military, UK, 2012, pp. 38-39.
Prof. Moorcraft is, among a great many other interesting things, a former Senior Instructor at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and the UK Joint Services Command and Staff College.
This evidence must be seen against the backdrop of reinforcing testimony by an alumni of Sandhurst, a man who topped the batch of foreign students which included fellow officer Denzil Kobbekaduwa. This is General Gerry de Silva, former Army commander who liberated Jaffna in 1995 and had been overall commander during the Vadamaarachchi operation in 1987, with Brigadiers Kobbekaduwe and Vijaya Wimalaratne commanding the two prongs. While generously praising General Sarath Fonseka for his role and sterling contribution, Gen. Gerry de Silva (former Josephian and hardly a Sinhala-Buddhist triumphalist) puts the historical record absolutely straight:
“Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa were the persons behind the military victory. They gave the Army all the facilities including the increase in manpower strength (approximately 300,000 in the Army alone and the Navy and the Air Force had corresponding increases), state of the art weaponry ammunition and communications, even ships and aircraft respectively for the Navy and the Air Force, to fight the war. Having insufficient strength was always an issue. When I commanded the Army, it was 120,000 and it was not possible to fight in the North and the East simultaneously. This is probably why the campaign and the war went on for so long.
…We got the strength and the combat supplies was during the Mahinda Rajapaksa Government because Gotabaya Rajapaksa had operational experience (part of the Vadamarachchi campaign). He had knowledge of what was required to finish the war (and what we lacked) and also about the measly treatment given to us.
…When Chandrika Kumaratunga became President, we briefed her. Then she told the BBC that we were warmongers and that as she had come on a platform for peace, let us negotiate. The LTTE had the same organization operating in Kilinochchi. I said if you do not allow us to go to Jaffna, at least allow us to take Kilinochchi because our troops were in Elephant Pass and also even if one wanted to negotiate with the LTTE, having Kilinochchi would leave one in a better bargaining position. She said “I will let you know next week,”, and came back and said ‘sorry’.
…The biggest drawback for the LTTE was the Deep Penetration Patrol (DPP) Units, which they called Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols, which is a misnomer because reconnaissance personnel do not fight. These guys secretly went behind enemy lines and knocked off a lot of the LTTE leaders. So much so that they were so scared to come out, they said ‘We are not going to come out.’ Then the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) signed by Wickremesinghe came in 2002. Wickremesinghe never referred the matter to the Army or didn’t let us know. Even Kumaratunga did not know. We were kept in the dark about the CFA. In the CFA, one of the clauses was that we had to stop all these DPPs…
…The people who are propagating this theory of war crimes, like the Western powers such as the United States of America (USA), are the ones involved in the most number of war crimes.” (Interview by Ruwan Laknath Jayakody, Ceylon Today, Dec 6th 2017)
Anyone who ends or shortens a long rampage by a monster, is by universal norms and any tradition of literature, a hero. We still have evil men and women among us, men and women who didn’t stop the suffering when it was in their power to do so. And among us we still have men who did. We still have heroes. How do we treat them? Who do we choose to reward?
Let me leave the reader with an example. SWRD Bandaranaike’s Finance Minister was the monocled ‘toff’, Stanley de Zoysa, whose daughter Roma, an unforgettable and irrepressible personality, was at age 20, his secretary. Richard de Zoysa and Prof Kumari Jayawardena are her cousins. In 1956 Auntie Roma, just out of her teens married one of SWRD’s Cabinet Ministers, Benny Jinadasa. She still has the handwritten copies of the founding documents of the SLFP, of which her father was one of the founders, together with “Uncle Solomon”.
Living, appropriately enough in LA for over 30 years now, she celebrated her 80th birthday at the 80 Club in Colombo, and in her birthday speech she was gracious enough to name my father Mervyn, second only to her own, as the two people who have had the most important influence in her life. I knew they’d been very close friends on and off for a quarter century, before they weren’t. The California fires have made it impossible for Auntie Roma to make her usual call to me, but I know at least one note she’ll strike because she always does. And she’s given me written permission to quote her.
She vividly recalls the Rajapaksas, including young Mahinda, from 1956. And she knew Gota from the Sri Lanka Foundation (of which she was founder-president) in California. Auntie Roma gets pretty testy, pretty quick, when any Colombo socialite even begins to sound stroppy about the Rajapaksas. “I’ll always owe Mahinda, and all of us will always owe Mahinda. It is because of him that my two granddaughters can roam around this town and this country without being blown up, and I can be free of the fear I lived in for twenty five years, of them being blown up by an LTTE bomb.” Her constant telephonic query to me from LA is: “what are these people trying to do to Gota?” Auntie Roma just hates Donald Trump and was pro-Hillary Clinton, so her stand on Gotabaya is most interesting.
Having conquered several challenges to her health her constant recent refrain has been: “my one wish is to see Gota become President before I die. I’ll come back and campaign for him, but in the meantime, what can we do for him over here? We need to organize.”
Perhaps it takes a cultured and classy person like Auntie Roma, to eschew social opportunism and selfishness, to remember a debt owed and be grateful, and be able to make the right ethical –not moralistic or fastidiously faddish—choice, for the right reasons.
In what kind of land do we remove the heroes and persecute them, while elevating to power irresponsible, unconscionable evil men and women? What kind of people do that? Look into the mirror. Then ask yourself “what kind of signal do I wish to give at this election, what example does that set, and what message does that send out about me?”