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A book replete with bias, deception and fibs
by Sachi Sri Kantha, July 25, 2012
C.A.Chandraprema: Gota’s War – The Crushing of Tamil Tiger Terrorism in Sri Lanka. Ranjan Wijeratne Foundation, Colombo, 2012, 507 pp, 4 maps and 13 photos.
On May 5, 1938, Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) wrote a letter to his editor Maxwell Perkins (1884-1947). In it, he used the ‘gigantic masterpisses’ phrase as a pejorative to ridicule Andre Malraux (1901-1976), a French novelist and later France’s first Minister for Cultural Affairs under Charles de Gaulle, for bogus posturing. Yes, that’s my choice phrase for this book entitled ‘Gota’s War’; a gigantic masterpiss, by C.A.Chandraprema.
This review of mine, is probably the only dissenting review you may read about this book! If I had to respond to all the fibs and deceptions sprinkled in this book, I would need over 200 pages. To be brief, I have written this review in 20 pages (nearly 5,100 words). Another reason: I have also answered quite a few fibs in my recent nine part series, ‘Prabhakaran’s Tigers and Mandela’s Spears’, which appeared in this site.
I believe that the plot described by Chandraprema in this book, has been presented more than 415 years ago, by none other than Shakespeare in his play The Merchant of Venice.
Shakespearean scholars have agreed that the Bard combined two stories (the Bond of Flesh, and the Casket Choice, both with long folklore traditions. The Bond of Flesh story, according to Sandra Clark (1994), seems to have originated in India, from a version found in its oldest epic Mahabharata! Isn’t it time now to bring back to Orient, what Shakespeare had borrowed from Mahabharata?
Merchant of Colombo
With apologies to Shakespeare, I present The Merchant of Colombo, and the dramatis personae appearing in it. The seven major characters in the story are introduced below. Scenario: Months before the November 2005 Presidential Election
Go Ra Anacondaio (Gotabhaya Rajapaksa): a merchant of Colombo is dejected, but knows not why, and protests that anxiety about his ventures in the USA is not the cause. On hearing that Bastardio desires ready money in order to make an appearance befitting a suitor of Porkia, bids him ‘try what my credit can in Colombo do’ and promises to inquire ‘where money is’.
Ma Ra Bastardio (Mahinda Rajapaksa): Anacondaio’s elder sibling, suitor to Porkia. He approaches terror-lender Thurailock with the view of obtaining 3,000 Grands in Tamil votes, on Anacondaio’s security, during the 2005 presidential elections.
Terror-lender Thurailock (Velupillai Prabhakaran): He is asked by Bastardio for a loan of 3,000 Grands in Tamil votes, Anacondaio being surety; he refers to the precarious nature of Anacondaio’s ventures; refuses Bastardio’s invitation to dinner.
Tootall (Pottu Amman): A confidant of Thurailock.
Porkia (Indian heiress of Italian Origin): the rich heiress, fumes at the galling conditions of her mother-in-law’s will, by which she is obliged to accept the suitor who chooses the right casket of three.
Neronissa (Narasimhan Ram): waiting maid to Porkia. Converses with her mistress on the obligation Porkia is under to wed the chooser of the right casket and rehearses the names of the suitors present.
Korona the Clown (Karuna Amman): Servant to terror-lender Thurailock. Seems perplexed whether to quit his services to Thurailock or not; eventually he resolves to ‘run’.
Humor aside, the story of Sri Lankan civil war deserves to be told candidly with all the numbers involved (including the military budget for each year since 1977, recruitment figures to the SL armed forces, foreign mercenaries who plied their trade in Sri Lanka and how much they were paid, and the commissions earned by Sinhalese arms merchants) in how Gota and his elder sibling MaRa achieved their pinnacle in 2009. But, Chandraprema’s book is not a one in which we can look for such information. Because, the prime objective of the book appears to me as a response the question: Was Gota a war deserter? This question was raised when his elder sibling Mahinda Rajapaksa ran against General Sarath Fonseka in the January 2010 Presidential election. While other heroic Sinhalese military men were struggling in the field to save the mother country, what was Gota’s motives and impulse in resigning from the army post he held in 1991, after he reached 42? For the next 14 years, until the latter half of 2005, Gota was leading an immigrant life in USA. It is my proposition that Gota lost hope about his future career in the SL army during President Premadasa’s period for two reasons. Around that time, (1) his elder sibling Mahinda Rajapaksa had antagonized Premadasa by his extra-parliamentary deeds; and (2) LTTE was entrenched firmly in the North and East provinces, as cartoonist Wijesoma had depicted in a period cartoon. That’s why he opted to quit in late 1991.
Bias, Deception and Fibs
The subtitle of this review, ‘a book replete with bias, deception and fibs’ also aptly fits to it. I provide a few examples of fibs, deception and bias. Outrageous fib 1, appears in page 16. “When Mahinda took the suggestion [of Lt.Colonel Sepala Attygalle, the amiable commander of the Army] to Gota who had just finished his schooling at the leading Buddhist boy’s school in Colombo, Ananda College, the young man was overjoyed.” [Italics added by me, for emphasis] Let me dissect this outrageous fib here. Nowhere in the book, birth date of the protagonist Nandasena Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is mentioned. Why this has to be so? Was his birth unrecorded? From J.R. Jayewardene’s reply offered in parliament on October 4, 1977, I found out that Gota’s birth date was June 20, 1949. The same source tells about his educational qualifications. He had completed General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level), which is 10th grade. If one continues two additional years at high school, he should complete General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level), which is 12th grade and would qualify for university entrance. By then, he would be 18 years. But, Gota would have left school between 16 and 18 years. Simple calculation makes it that Gota completed his schooling between 1965 and 1967. He must have been loafing around for four years or more, until he was hired into the SL army on April 26, 1971. His highest academic qualification was GCE Ordinary Level. JVP insurgency which began on April 5, 1971 permitted him to enter the army without much fuss, as he was a younger sibling of a rookie MP.
Elder Rajapaksas and Bandaranaike
S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike (1899-1959) receives prominent mention in Chapters 3 to 6. Gota’s father D.A. Rajapaksa (1905-1967) was one of the few MPs who crossed from the UNP lines to form the SLFP under Bandaranaike in 1951. Chapter 10 of the book presents information that Gota, before he set foot in Jaffna, became familiar with Tamil culture “because Jaffna had come to his village in the Hambantota district many years ago in the form of Kamalan Rockwood, a Jaffna Tamil lady who was married to his much older cousin Lakshman Rajapaksa” (p.64). Inner thoughts of this nasty Lakshman Rajapaksa about Tamils transpired in parliament during the 1958 Sinhala-Tamil riots. He was chided by Bandaranaike himself for his racist taunt. Tarzie Vittachi had recorded it in Emergency ’58 book. Here are the details:
The problem with Chandraprema is that he simply weeds out unpleasant facts from Emergency ’58 book, when it fails to support his anti-Tamil agenda.
Comprehensive Account: What Nonsense?
In the introduction, the author proclaims “This book spans the entire period from 1956 to 2009 and seeks to provide a comprehensive account of the Sri Lankan conflict.” (p.12). The key phrase in this sentence is, ‘comprehensive account’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘comprehensive’ as, “characterized by comprehension; having the attribute of comprising or including much; of large content and scope.” It is my main finding that the contents of this book are neither comprehensive nor non-partisan. As anyone could have guessed, the key word which has been used ad-nauseam is ‘terrorism’ and its equivalent ‘terrorist’. Thus, the primary villain in the book is Prabhakaran. Chandraprema also adds the name of S.J.V. Chelvanayakam as the chief villain, prior to Prabhakaran’s period. If Chandraprema had balanced his description of LTTE terrorism with that of state terrorism perpetrated by army, navy, air-force and home guards, then one could infer that this book is a non-partisan work. [see the scan from Time magazine, Feb.11, 1985, as one example]. Sadly, the pro-SL army bias shows up.
I list below a sample of vital incidents (or trends) in the Ceylon/Sri Lankan history, which occurred between 1956 and 2009. These do not receive mention in the book. This list is not exhaustive.
Why Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike had to lose his life to bullets from Somarama Thero on September 26, 1958?
Why was there a Sri Lankan army coup (January 1962) against Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s government?
Why is the recruitment of Sri Lanka service personnel (army, navy and airforce) 98 percent or more Sinhalese, since 1962?
Who were the other 19 recruits who joined the Ceylon army on April 26, 1971, along with Gotabhaya Rajapaksa? How many were Tamils and Muslims among these 19 recruits?
What was Gota doing in the USA, between 1992 and 2005?
How much of the Sri Lankan defense budget was spent on recruiting foreign mercenaries (Indian, Pakistani, Israeli, Ukranian etc.)?
Since 2001, how much has the Sri Lankan army spent on purchasing Viagra to boost the morale of Sri Lankan servicemen? (see the AFP newsreport from Colombo, scanned nearby)
Wasn’t Sri Lanka affected by the big tsunami on December 26, 2004? And wasn’t there some hanky-panky in the funds collected under the name ‘Help Hambantota’? Wasn’t his sibling Mahinda, who was then the prime minister, accused of mishandling tsunami relief aid?
Why the author had ignored the deal Gota made with post-Prabhakaran LTTE’s ‘100-days leader’ Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP), after the extra-ordinary rendition served to the latter in August 2009?
Why the author was reluctant to inform who assassinated Joseph Pararajasingham MP on December 25, 2005 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Batticaloa? Gota should have known the assassins of Pararajasingham, as this event happened after he assumed his administrative duties under his elder sibling.
Who were Gota’s companions in 1971 recruitment?
The first sentence of Chapter 1 (page 14) begins with, “Gotabhaya Rajapaksa joined the Ceylon Army as an officer cadet on 26 April 1971 at the height of the insurgency launched by the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP).” Page 16 provides this sentence: “At the army headquarters in Colombo, Gota joined 20 other officer cadet recruits who were to be taken to the army training school in Diyatalawa…” As the book does not provide any details about these other recruits, I provide them here, culled from the answer by J.R. Jayewardene (Appendix to the National State Assembly Debates on October 4, 1977). Gota was one of the 20 who joined the army on April 26, 1971. Other 19 were (their date of births and highest academic qualifications shown within parenthesis)
N.R. Marabe (24 Aug 1950; GCE Ord. Level)
M.D.S. Chandrapala (30 Oct 1950; GCE Ord. Level)
H.D. Fernando (8 Dec 1948; BA Arts)
H.B. Wickremasinghe (18 Sep 1947; GCE Ord. Level)
J.L. Weerasinghe (19 Nov 1951; GCE Ord. Level)
N. Mallawarachchi (3 Aug 1951; GCE Ord. Level)
L. Weerakkody (27 Sep 1950; GCE Ord. Level)
S.D.K. Wijesuriya (3 Feb 1950; GCE Ord. Level)
H.R. Stephen (25 Dec 1948; GCE Ord. Level)
S.J.S. Dissanayake (17 Dec 1949; GCE Ord. Level)
W.M.S.S. Dharmaratne (31 Jan 1952; GCE Ord. Level)
L. Herath (7 Apr 1950; GCE Ord. Level)
D. Aluvihare (23 Jul 1948; GCE Ord. Level)
R.M.B.P. Ranasinghe (20 Aug 1950; GCE Ord. Level)
S.K. Hulangamuwa (19 Apr 1951; GCE Ord. Level)
P.G. Charles (04 Jul. 1947; GCE Ord. Level)
W.P.P. Fernando (19 Sep 1952; GCE Ord. Level)
W.A.D.G.A. Gunasekera (25 Oct 1948; GCE Ord. Level)
Among the other 19 listed, one had completed a BA (Arts) degree, while the other 18 had only GCE Ordinary Level qualifications. Onomastic facts indicate that all were Sinhalese. The truth is that the recruits for the SL army were all Sinhalese in 1971. And this remains so, even now. What Chandraprema has hidden in his book is that the SL army and other service divisions (Navy and Air Force) are 98% Sinhalese! This racist recruitment policy does not reflect the ethnic ratio of the island. The civil war could have been avoided if such a racially-biased recruitment was not practiced since 1958. Prabhakaran and his gang would have joined the army, and as one of the past Commander in Chiefs (President R. Premadasa) had jested, he would have made a good SL army general! Chandraprema has failed the readers in not exploring this theme in depth.
Outrageous fib 2 appears in page 72: that the Sri Lankan state supported the 4th International Tamil Conference held in Jaffna in January 1974. Chandraprema glibly writes, “The state too supported it.” Merde! The then Sirimavo Bandaranaike government and her cabinet minions were totally opposed to the conference being held in Jaffna. The much delayed Kankesanthurai by-election was held on February 6, 1975, and not in June 1975, as noted in page 75. Too much hosanna is sung to Alfred Duraiappa, the Tamil collaborator. Chandraprema writes, “Duraiappah was a popular figure in Jaffna. The SLFP-led government he represented had benefitted farmers in Jaffna enormously so he was a formidable force to be reckoned…” (p.75) If he was so popular among Jaffna Tamils, as asserted by Chandraprema, why did Sirimavo Bandaranaike fail to sponsor him as the SLFP candidate for this Kankesanthurai by-election to contest against Chelvanayakam? Remember that Chelva resigned his Kankesanthurai seat on October 2, 1972, and the SLFP government delayed this particular by-election for over two years, and ultimately chose the Communist V. Ponnambalam, as its candidate. This indicates that Chandraprema has relied too much on the Lake (Fake) House news reports on Jaffna. For more on Lake (Fake) House journalism, see below.
Slighting Prabhakaran’s Fame
What is grating in Chandraprema’s partisan story telling is that, he is so blinded by racist instinct that he couldn’t even view favorably what the LTTE did to ‘protect’ Sri Lanka’s independent existence. If not for the LTTE’s courageous stand, Sri Lanka might have been transformed into a subjugated, vassal state of India, like Bhutan. Mervyn de Silva recognized this fact and anointed Prabhakaran as the ‘Man of the Decade’ for the 1980s.
Chandraprema writes, “By the end of March 1990, the IPKF had withdrawn completely from Sri Lanka. On 1 April 1990, Prabhakaran issued a statement gloating: ‘We have successfully foiled the Indian military intervention. Now the Indian occupation forces have completely withdrawn from our homeland…’ ” If Prabhakaran gloated, he had reason to gloat over his army’s record between 1987 and 1990. The Sri Lankan military was so weak-willed that they refrained from engaging the Indian army, when called upon by its Commander in Chief, in 1989. And where was Chandraprema’s hero Gota? He was hiding in the USA, of all places! “In January 1990, he [Gota, that is] applied for three months leave and went to the USA to see his family.” (p. 177). Chapter 30 begins with Mahinda Rajapaksa’s fears: “When Gota went to the USA on overseas leave, Mahinda thought he may not come back, and he confided his fears in Brigadier Wimalaratne.” (p. 184).
Then, Gota’s pal Brigadier Wimalaratne had to coax Gota and his wife Ioma, to return. The only letter which is presented in the book tells us,
The astrological reference to ‘movement of saturn’ adds a humorous touch to this letter. Despite the current fad of myth making in Colombo, Gota’s military career was not so exemplary. If it was, Mervyn de Silva would have made Gota ‘The Man of the Decade’, right? His accurate, non-partisan evaluation of Prabhakaran’s military achievement has been outrightly ignored by Chandraprema. To quote Mervyn’s words:
Among the 79 chapters of the book, 16 chapters (those from 32 to 47) cover the period from 1992 to late 2005. In these 93 pages, Gota had nothing to dol with Sri Lanka, as he was living in the USA. I consider that these pages were merely added to inflate the page count.
Presidential Election of 2005
Mahinda Rajapaksa won the November 2005 presidential election with a whisker-thin margin. Chandraprema mentions it only as “the closest fought presidential election ever”. That’s all. No numbers are presented. How close was it? Among the registered voters of 13,327,160, Rajapaksa received 4,887,152 valid votes (50.29%). His main rival, Ranil Wickremesinghe received 4,706,366 valid votes (48.43%). If LTTE’s decision makers had not prevented the Tamil voters in North and Eastern provinces by a forced boycott, Rajapaksa would certainly have lost that election to Wickremesinghe. And there wouldn’t have been an opportunity to present this Gota’s War book! There had been floating rumors in Colombo air (originating from the loser’s camp), that LTTE was paid a handsome amount by the winner’s agents for blogging the Tamil votes which would have definitely gone to Wickremesinghe. Once Rajapaksa established his grip at the presidential throne, such rumors lost their momentum.
Many Eelam Tamils retroactively blame Prabhakaran for digging his own burial pit on November 19, 2005. After all Prabhakaran was a human and his calculation went awry. Didn’t the great Napoleon make mistakes? If Prabhakaran had some specific reasons for deserting Wickremesinghe at the last moment, he didn’t openly pronounce it. I guess the deciding point was the UNP-instigated Karuna-split that happened in March 2004. During the election campaign platforms, some prominent UNPers (especially the Milinda Moragoda) took credit for dividing the LTTE, and Prabhakaran wanted to teach a lesson to those who stabbed in his back. In this Gota’s War book, if anyone expects background details for such a ‘miraculous’ victory by Rajapaksa, they will be sadly disappointed. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s 2005 election result is summed up in only one paragraph. Even no mention is made of that ear-jarring phrase ‘Mahinda Chintana’ [Thoughts of Mahinda]
I quote verbatim from what Chandraprema provides in one paragraph: “At that time Gota’s intention was to help his brother in the election campaign and go back to his job in the USA. The morning after election day, all the results were in except for the results of the Amparai district. There was much tension at the prime minister’s official residence Temple Trees, from where the election campaign was run as this was the closest fought presidential election ever. In the morning, Mahinda Rajapaksa came down to the operations room and he called the coordinator of his campaign in the Amparai district and was told that the result had been finalized. This was the confirmation that Mahinda Rajapaksa had won the presidential election.” [p. 290] In fact, Rajapaksa (122,329 votes) lost to his UNP rival Wickremesinghe (159, 198 votes), by 36,869 vote difference for that Amparai district!
On that FBI report of January 10, 2008
The backcover blurb for the book, cites the American FBI’s designation of LTTE as the dangerous terrorist organization, as if FBI is the God! To Colombo’s partisan journalists like Chandraprema, it may appear so. I’d infer that FBI is only an institution that minds the bureaucratic morals and not the public morals. In criticizing that FBI report of 2008, I wrote the following in this website. “In its 100 years of existence, the celebrated folks who have been named, targeted and harassed by the FBI as “subversives” for their beliefs and deeds surely make a Dream Team of 20th century’s ranking thinkers, literati, scientists, social activists, artists and entertainers. For a sample, I provide the following names who were identified by the FBI as “subversives”: Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Charlie Chaplin, Sinclair Lewis, Carl Sandburg, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Arthur Miller, Jonas Salk, John Steinbeck, Aldous Huxley, Paul Robeson, John O’Hara, Tennessee Williams and Martin Luther King Jr. Now, what would you say? Isn’t the LTTE and Pirabhakaran in great company?” If FBI was correct, then by corollary the views and contributions of all these guys to the society at large had to be wrong!
Outrageous fib 3 appears in page 335. “International Institute for Strategic Studies in London announced that the LTTE and Al Qaeda were cooperating with one another in drug trafficking and the exchange of technical knowhow.” Last year’s killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, by America’s Special Forces Military Unit revealed that more than LTTE, it was Pakistan military circles (Sri Lankan army’s chief sponsor of anti-Tamil terrorism) that was so close to Al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden was found to be living for years near the Pakistan military academy. And Gota’s War book itself provides ample details about Gota’s links to Pakistan’s military circle and “exchange of technical knowhow”, beginning from his first military training. There isn’t a shred of evidence linking Prabhakaran to Pakistan’s military!
Outrageous fib 4 appears in page 359. “Karuna had wanted to be with his children in London, and against Gota’s advice, he went. In Britain, he was jailed for some months for violating British immigration laws.” Merely ask the question, how Karuna could have obtained a forged diplomatic passport, without Gota’s help. Who would have helped him? In the very next page (page 360), the author let the secret out: “The Ranil Wickremesinghe and Chandrika Kumaratunga governments had treated Karuna so shabbily….Both Gota and Mahinda wanted to send a completely different message to those in the LTTE, by demonstrating that those who defect from the LTTE and join the mainstream would be treated well.”
Some Redeeming Aspects
Gota’s War is not without some redeeming qualities though. One of my favorites is the list of ‘Operations’ conducted by the Sri Lankan army to decimate, truncate and destroy LTTE, between 1990 and 2001. Chandraprema provides a list of 45 Operations in pages 201 and 202, and infers, “This is by no means an exhaustive list. There were dozens more bearing various names such as Bhoomi Kampa (1992), Bambara Chakara (1994), Quick Strike (1996), Royal Flush (1996) etcetera. All the operations conducted by the army against the LTTE are too numerous to mention here.” The 45 Operations mentioned are,
1990: OP Gajasinghe – to reinforce Elephant Pass and evacuate the Kilinochchi camp.
1990: OP Trivida Balaya – to relieve Jaffna Fort.
1991: OP Vanni Vickrama I – to destroy LTTE bases in Mannar.
1991: OP Vanni Vickrama II – same as above.
1991 OP Balavegaya I – to relieve besieged Elephant Pass camp.
1991 OP Asakasena – to divert LTTE from Elephant Pass.
1991 OP Akunupahara – to destroy LTTE camps in jungles of Welioya
1992 OP Sath Bala – to capture Alampil (a Sea Tiger base)
1992 OP Balavegaya II – to link Elephant Pass with Vettilaikerny
1995 OP Thunder Strike – to clear launching pad for the Riviresa operation.
1995 OP Riviresa I – to liberate Jaffna town.
1995 OP Riviresa II – to liberate Tenmarachchi
1995 OP Riviresa III – to liberate Vadamarachchi
1996 OP Sathjaya I, II, III – to capture Paranthan and Kilinochchi
1996 OP Edi Bala – to link Mannar-Vavuniya road with Cheddikulam
1997/98 OP Jayasikurui – to open a land route to Jaffna
1998 OP Rivibala – to capture the Oddusudan area
1998 OP Ranagosa I – to expand western army defence line in the Vanni
1998 OP Ranagosa II – to capture Madhu
1998 OP Ranagosa III – to capture Palampiddy
1999 OP Bunker Buster – to destroy enemy bunkers in Elephant Pass and Paranthan
1999 OP Ranagosa I (contd.)
1999 OP Ranagosa II (contd.)
1999 OP Ranagosa III (contd.)
1999 OP Ranagosa IV – to secure coastline south of Vidathaltivu
1999 OP Ranagosa V – more operations in the Mannar district
1999 OP New Year Strike – to hit enemy points beyond Paranthan
1999 OP Team Spirit – same as above.
1999 OP Whirlwind – same as above.
1999 OP Side Thrust – to destroy enemy defence lines on the western flank
1999 OP Ralapahara I – to secure Kandavilai eastern flank
1999 OP Ralapahara II – to destroy enemy defence lines on the eastern flank
1999 OP Watershed I – to capture east of Ampakam
1999 OP Watershed II – to consolidate hold over Ampakam
2000 OP Rivikirana I, II – to capture Ariyalai and outlying areas
2000 OP Kinihira I – to capture Chavakachcheri area
2000 OP Kinihira II – to capture Sarasalai –Madduvil area
2000 OP Kinihira III – same as above
2000 OP Kinihira IV – to capture Madduvil and Chavakachcheri areas
2000 OP Kinihira V – same as above
2000 OP Kinihira VI – same as above
2000 OP Kinihira VII – to secure Ariyalai Gamuduwa site
2000 OP Kinihira VIII – to capture Muhamalai
2000 OP Kinihira IX – same as above
2001 OP Agnikheela – to recapture Elephant Pass
Then, in the Epilogue section, Chandraprema had cumulated the life losses to SL armed forces. “Over a period of nearly 30 years, the army had suffered 23,391 deaths. The number of army deaths in the final war against the LTTE from July 2006 to the end of May 2009 alone was 5,876. During the 30 year war, the navy had suffered 1,142 fatalities and the air force 404. The commando unit of the police, the Special Task Force lost 430.” Why either the Missing in Action, or the limp amputees were not tallied, is anybody’s guess! Considering that, LTTE was accused of employing child soldiers by Lakshman Kadirgamar and his ilk in the 1990s, that LTTE was able to inflict such heavy losses to the Sri Lankan army (trained in Pakistan, India, and all over the world) in all these listed Operations, soon after tackling the Indian army, tells something about the bravery of LTTE leadership and those who served in LTTE’s army.
Reflecting on the observations of Bandaranaike and Sivanayagam
As Chandraprema is a journalist, Bandaranaike’s view on the quality of journalism that has been practised in Sri Lanka is of some relevance. Though he made the following observation on H.A.J. Hulugalle (1899-1981) of Lake House in a speech he made on the Second Reading of the Tamil Language Special Provisions) Bill, at the Parliament on August 5, 1958, it applies equally to his professional descendants 54 years later - the ilks of Chandraprema (The Sunday Island political columnist), Prabath Sahabandu (The Island editor), Sinha Ratnatunge (Sunday Times editor):
“This Lake House Press has been set up by its founder, the late Mr. D.R.Wijewardene, with the request that they should support the government in power. When, for a short time I assumed office as Leader of the House in 1946, Mr. D.R.Wijewardene said he must have a talk with me on the principle he follows and said he was sending Mr. H.A.J. Hulugalle to see me. Mr. Hulugalle came driving in a car. He felt so nervous that he nearly broke my gate at Silversmith Street, while getting in. He said Mr. D.R. Wijewardene sent him with a message; I listened to him, offered him a cigarette and patted him on the back and he went away. The next thing I noticed was that he was praising me to the skies in the following day’s paper. But, during the previous week, they compared me to a skunk. You know that small animal, that skunk that stinks! I who was a skunk the previous week, became metamorphosed, as Leader of the House, into a person of outstanding merit. I wonder how they are observing his precepts after his death? The poor old gentleman will rise from his grave if he knows that the little pigmies of Lake House are up to these tricks today.”
I provide one recent example to what Bandaranaike described in 1958. The Island of July 31, 2002 carried an editorial welcoming the arrival of General Pervez Musharoff, then dictator of Pakistan. It complemented the dictator for sending the relevant military equipments to SL army during the 2001 siege of Jaffna by LTTE. “…It is with this equipment that Generals Janaka Perera and Sarath Fonseka fought back with the besieged troops and halted the enemy. If Pakistan did not respond to Sri Lanka’s SOS the country’s history may have taken a different course…” Then, Janaka Perera (siding with UNP) and politically non-committed Sarath Fonseka were the heroes. Nothing was mentioned about the Rajapaksa clan in this editorial. Why? The militarian Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was living in USA, having retired from the army in 1991, as a war-deserter. His elder sibling Mahinda Rajapaksa was far from the political power center then. After November 2005, Janaka Perera was ignored and Sarath Fonseka turned out to be an untouchable!
I’ll let S.Sivanayagam, one of the brave journalists who recorded the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict for many decades, to have the last word. After the March 28, 1984 rioting by the Sri Lankan airforce men at Chunnakam market, in which 8 Tamils lost their lives, he wrote “In their fight against Sinhala state terrorism and state oppression of Tamil people, the Tamil youth militants have killed policemen, soldiers, airforce men, collaborators, spies, informers and other ‘anti-social elements’. But I would rather think that the biggest damage they have done is to make Sinhala politicians and Sinhala newspaper men turn into a pack of liars! If one were to trace the genesis of barefaced public lying in Sri Lanka, one will find that public lying became acceptable and got ‘institutionalised’ as a result of the Sri Lanka government’s battle against what they have been calling ‘terrorism’.” Gota’s War book by Chandraprema proves splendidly what Sivanayagam did observe 28 years ago!
Sandra Clark (ed): The Shakespeare Dictionary, National Textbook Company, Lincolnwood, Ill., 1994.
National State Assembly Debates [Hansard] Official Report, appendix to vol.23, no.10, October 4, 1977. [J.R.Jayewardene’s answer on State Officers appointed by the President, to the question posed by V.N.Navaratnam]
Mervyn de Silva: Prabhakaran – The Eye of the Storm. Lanka Guardian, January 1, 1990, vol.12, no.17, pp.3-4.
S. Sivanayagam: The enthronement of falsehood in Sri Lanka. Tamil Times (London), April 1984, vol.3, no.6, pp. 3 & 15.
Tarzie Vittachi: Emergency ’58, Andre Deutsch, London, 1959.