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Midweek Review

Eelam conflict: In memory of fallen combatants

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Prabhakaran, 54, at 'Lieutenant' Shankar commemoration on Nov 27, 2008 at an undisclosed location in the Vanni east. It was the last such event before the Army brought the war to a successful conclusion six months later (pic courtesy Tamilnet)

Sri Lanka’s economy is in shambles. The recent Supreme Court ruling set the record straight though silly attempts are being made to divert public attention. Regardless of the continuing economic crisis despite going to the IMF on the advice of pundits, the government and the Opposition should at the same time pay close attention to unresolved accountability issues as Lankan Tamil Diaspora with the subtle backing of the West will step up pressure with an eye on the outcome of the next Geneva session early next year. Perhaps, they should be reminded that Tamils here cleared the military by overwhelmingly voting for Fonseka at the 2010 presidential poll though he lost the contest by a staggering 1.8 mn votes.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Fifteen years after the successful conclusion of the war against separatist terrorism, Sri Lanka is still embroiled in a simmering controversy over how to remember fallen members of the armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), despite the latter resorting to raw terror tactics virtually throughout the conflict, especially with the wide use of brainwashed suicide cadres to mount senseless attacks in pursuit of their dream.

Recently retired IGP C.D. Wickremeratne, who had received three extensions in spite of the steadfast refusal of the Constitutional Council to endorse President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s repeated recommendation to grant him extensions and the Director of the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) last Friday (24) assured the Court of Appeal that action would be taken in terms of the Criminal Procedure Code against LTTE supporters who celebrated what they called ‘Great Heroes Day’ (Maveerar Naal). But events were underway in the North regardless of previous rulings issued by courts over there against such commemorations.

The assurance was given by Senior State Counsel Shaminda Wickrema, on behalf of the IGP and the Attorney General, in respect of a petition filed by a retired Warrant Officer of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI).

Maveerar Naal events are celebrated both here and abroad with the participation of politicians even after the LTTE’s total military defeat.

Fallen members of the Indian military, too, are remembered in annual events at Palaly, in the Jaffna peninsula, though there hadn’t been memorial events whatsoever for members of other Tamil groups killed during the conflict. Some of them died while fighting for the Tamil National Army (TNA) formed by New Delhi ahead of the withdrawal of the so-called Indian Peace Keeping Force from the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka after they were asked to leave unceremoniously by the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa.

Event in London

Front organizations of the LTTE on Nov 27, 2008 celebrated their leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s (VP) birthday in London while a relentless combined security forces offensive against the group was underway in the Vanni east.

Fifty-four-year-old VP had been in command of sufficient fighting cadre to sustain offensive action, though the area under his control was shrinking rapidly on the Vanni east front. By then, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s Army had taken the upper hand and was gradually advancing on the enemy held territory in one-time LTTE bastion Mullaitivu, under his personal supervision, as he directly gave fighting orders to his individual field commanders, down to the rank of lieutenant colonel, from Colombo using CDMA phones almost on a daily basis.

With the capturing of Pooneryn on Nov 15, 2008 – 12 days before VP’s birthday, the Army turned eastwards and Paranthan was regained on January 01, 2009, Kilinochchi on January 02 and Elephant Pass on January 09. That brought the entire Vanni west back under military control.

Regardless of the LTTE being in a much disadvantaged position by late 2008, Diaspora Tamils still felt confident that the group could still turn around the situation, as they had done on countless occasions previously, hence the celebration in London, where the LTTE operated its so-called International Secretariat years ago even after they had assassinated former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi as he campaigned in Tamil Nadu in May 1991.

Three weeks after the London celebrations, Canada-based columnist D.B.S. Jeyaraj claimed that the LTTE had the wherewithal to defeat the Army on the Vanni front. Close on the heels of DBS’s declaration, the LTTE suffered successive battlefield defeats and four months after the London celebrations, the LTTE received an unprecedented reversal at Anandapuram, Mullaithivu. The five-day Anandapuram battle (March 31-April 04, 2009) sealed the fate of the group, once considered invincible. Over 600 LTTE cadres, the majority from its elite units, along with senior commanders, were killed. Hundreds of others suffered injuries.

Let us discuss the situation then and the developments against the backdrop of wartime Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama (January 2007 to April 2010) recently assuming responsibilities as our High Commissioner in London.

The Sri Lankan mission in London failed, in 2008, to thwart Prabhakaran’s birthday celebrations in spite of the then High Commissioner, retired Supreme Court Justice Nihal Jayasinghe (May 2008-Dec 2010) efforts to prevent the event. Jayasinghe succeeded top career diplomat Kshenuka Senewiratne, as our next High Commissioner designate in New Delhi.

On the instructions of the then Foreign Minister Bogollagama, the mission in London unsuccessfully asked for the UK’s intervention to stop it. But, Diaspora Tamils were allowed to organize a public event at ExCeL London, 1, Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Dock, London E16 1XL. The UK permitted the event in spite of the LTTE being a proscribed terrorist organization under the UK Terrorism Act. That is how London fights terrorism with their double standards as can be clearly seen from what is happening in Gaza now.

Five months later, Prabhakaran was dead. On May 19, 2009, a pro-LTTE website denied the death. “I wish to inform the global Tamil community distressed witnessing the final events of the war that our beloved leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran is alive and safe”, tamilnet.com quoted LTTE Selvarajah Pathmanathan aka KP as having said. A few months later KP ended up in Sri Lankan custody, thanks to Malaysia.

Reappraisal of strategy necessary

The government shouldn’t interfere with Maveerar Naal commemorative events held in honour of the fallen members of the LTTE though originally it was meant to remember the first cadre to die in Tamil Nadu on Nov 27, 1982 following a confrontation with Sri Lanka Army. Sathiyanathan alias Shankar also known as Suresh was his name. The LTTE had moved the wounded Shankar across the sea to Tamil Nadu for treatment.

Later the LTTE combined its leader’s birthday with Maveerar Naal to declare a week of ‘celebrations’ and commemorative events. It was part of their strategy meant to attract public attention, whip up the fighting spirit of its cadres and also win international recognition. VP used to declare his policy speech on his birthday on Nov 26. Since the death of VP in May 2009, the event has lost much of its significance and today bankrupt politicians sought to take advantage of these events.

The government and the Opposition should reach a consensus on the issue at hand to prevent those who supported and tolerated terrorism from exploiting the gullible Tamil population. Why should organizers of politically-motivated Maveerar Naal events be allowed to exploit the deaths of fallen LTTE cadres? Both politicians and law enforcement authorities should realize that unnecessary interference in Maveerar Naal events would be counterproductive and only facilitate Diaspora propaganda. Let them recollect the failed murderous Eelam project and how well over 200,000 civilians were held hostage as a human shield by the LTTE for its survival when it was well and truly cornered. Even the much maligned Hamas that has been ruling the Gaza after being democratically elected has done no such thing though they continue to be vilified by the West, while forgetting the fact that Israel kept the Palestinian territories like open concentration camps as pointed out by many independent observers.

The government should launch an initiative to remind the people of the use of child soldiers. The despicable practice of using children as cannon fodder continued until the military brought the war to an end in May 2009. Even during the last few months of the conflict, the LTTE made desperate efforts to recruit children from among the civilians they held as a shield.

Cancellation of Victory Day parade

In the aftermath of Maithripala Sirisena winning the January 2015 presidential election, Sri Lanka cancelled the annual Victory Day parade. President Sirisena, who also served as the Defence Minister, in addition to being the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, made the decision in agreement with its coalition partner, the UNP.

The government declared that May 19, which was marked as the Victory Day will be celebrated as the ‘Remembrance Day’ instead, to commemorate all who died in the war.

This should be examined against the backdrop of Western governments criticizing the Victory Day parade. On behalf of all those who had been pursuing war crimes allegations since the conclusion of the war against the Sri Lankan military, Canada in 2014 demanded the cancellation of the parade.

Sri Lanka quite rightly rejected that blatant Canadian interference declaring that the issue is purely a domestic matter. In the run-up to the 2014 Victory Day parade, in Matara, Canada publicly declared that it wouldn’t be represented. It was the fifth Victory Day parade held amidst stepped up international pressure.

Several years later Canada accused Sri Lanka of perpetrating genocide, whereas in actual fact it was the white colonisers of North and South America who committed numerous acts of genocide often to grab natives’ lands in the new world. Acts of genocide were even committed in Church-run schools for native children where they were kept by force often against the wishes of their parents and communities even up to mid-1990s, more than two thousand unmarked graves of those children were discovered on grounds of those schools recently. And what about dozens of native women there who have disappeared without a trace in recent years and have the Canadian law enforcers made any genuine effort to trace their fate? Despite all that, the Ottawa government has the temerity to level genocide accusations against Sri Lanka and those accusations conveniently surfaced a few months before a public protests campaign allegedly backed by the US forced the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to quit office. In spite of Sri Lanka’s outright rejection of unsubstantiated allegation, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continued to reiterate genocide took place, hence May 18 declared as ‘Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day.’

However, the Canadian Foreign Affairs Ministry has acknowledged that they never made such a finding. When the writer sought a clarification regarding Trudeau’s claim, the Canadian HC in Colombo reiterated that the Premier’s stand remained the same. However, Kelum Bandara in an exclusive Daily Mirror report headlined ‘Canada informs SL that no genocide took place in SL, Trudeau says otherwise for political ends’ posted on June 16,2023, exposed the Canadian lie.

Bandara pointed out that Canada’s official position contradicted the allegations pertaining to genocide propagated by some of its leaders, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as such belated accusations does not hold water. According to the DM report, the Canadian Foreign Ministry had responded to the Sri Lanka regarding concerns raised on March 21, 2021 by Brampton’s City Council’s reference to genocide.

Having pointed out that municipal and provincial governments enjoyed independence from the federal government of Canada, the Canadian Foreign Affairs Ministry acknowledged “the Government of Canada has not made a finding that there was genocide in Sri Lanka.”

But even after that, the Canadian Prime Minister repeated genocide allegations on May 18, 2023, a day prior to the 14th anniversary of Sri Lanka’s war victory against the LTTE.

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion when LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was shot through his head on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon. That finally ended the scourge of terrorism.

Undeniable truth

On May 18, Tamils mark Mullivaikkal Memorial Day, in remembrance of those who died in the final phase of the fighting.

Actually how many civilians died as more than 200,000 were held as a human shield by the retreating LTTE? Would it be possible ever to identify the number of civilian and LTTE deaths as it was also not unusual to find Tigers who fought in civilian clothes, unless the Tamil community accepted the status of the dead?

If those who had been genuinely concerned about accountability issues and wanted to establish the number of dead, wounded, disappeared and those who secured foreign citizenship under assumed names, a proper census should be conducted with the assistance of the international community. Diaspora groups can play a significant role in carrying out an accurate survey. The census of the LTTE dead should begin with Sathiyanathan alias Shankar also known as Suresh (the first Great Hero in their parlance).

The census should be able to establish the number of ex-LTTE personnel living abroad to ensure they are not categorized here as war dead or disappeared. Perhaps South African Yasmin Sooka, a member of the UN Secretary General’s panel of experts on Sri Lanka accountability issues, can help conduct the survey as she, a Tamil of Indian origin, already had done a limited survey in the West.

The writer dealt with this issue in a report headlined ‘Sooka’s latest report to UNHRC: Glaring omissions’ posted on June 29, 2016.

The expensive survey had been carried out by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP), affiliated to the Foundation of Human Rights in South Africa. Based on that survey ITJP released ‘Forgotten Sri Lanka’s exiled victims.’ The release of the report coincided with the commencement of the 32 sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2016. The report unintentionally revealed the existence of clandestine networks, facilitating Sri Lankans of Tamil origin, including former members of the LTTE, reaching Europe, through illegal means.

The Sooka study disclosed that LTTE personnel, including those who had been with Shanmugalingam Sivashankar alias Pottu Amman’s dreaded intelligence service, had secured citizenship in European countries, including the UK. Obviously, the report was meant to intensify pressure on Sri Lanka on the Geneva front, and justify the demand for a hybrid war crimes court on the basis of exaggerated and unsubstantiated accusations directed at the Sri Lankan military.

The report dealt with information obtained from 75 Tamils, living in the UK, France, Switzerland and Norway. Almost all of them had fled Sri Lanka after the conclusion of the war, in May, 2009 often after bribing local officials both civilian and military as alleged by some.

Sooka functions as the executive director of the foundation as well as ITJP. The report: “She is a former member of the South African & the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and was a legal advisor to Ban Ki-moon on Sri Lanka. She was the Soros inaugural Chair at the School of Public Policy and recently sat on the Panel investigating sexual violence by French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic.”

The writer sought a clarification from UNSG’s deputy spokesperson, Farhan Haq, regarding Sooka’s tenure as a Legal Advisor to UNSG on Sri Lanka. The Island received the following response from Haq: “Yasmin Sooka has been on high level panels, including on Sri Lanka, but she has not been the legal adviser to the Secretary-General.”

A proper survey cannot be carried out unless stakeholders pay attention to the following matters: (1) Combatants and civilians killed before July 23, 1983, killing of 13 soldiers at Thinnavely, Jaffna, that triggered attacks on the Tamil community. (2) Combatants and civilians killed between August 1983 to July 29, 1987 (3) Combatants (Indian Army included) and civilians killed during July 29, 1987 to March 1990, when India ceased its military presence here. Accountability issues cannot be addressed unless India’s role is fully investigated and (4) combatants and civilians killed during June 1990 to May 2009.

The survey should also focus on (1) number of Indian and locally trained Tamils killed in clashes among groups (2) those killed during weapons training in India and hunted down and eliminated by Indian police and security forces after the LTTE assassinated former Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991, PLOTE cadres killed during Nov 1988 raid on the Maldives and those killed by the Indian Navy while they were fleeing the Maldives in a commandeered merchant vessel (3) Sri Lankan Tamils given refuge in India after the collapse of the North-East Provincial administration 1989/1990, and finally (4) Members of political parties and Provincial Council killed during the conflict. At least few of them had been killed by Tamil groups at the behest of Indian intelligence. Current MP Dharmalingham Siddharthan (TNA/PLOTE) is on record as having said that TELO killed his father, a then MP in Sept 1985 on the orders of the Indian intelligence.

The late Jayantha Dhanapala, the much respected diplomat raised the accountability on the part of the international community. Dhanapala did so when he appeared before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in Aug 2010 but successive governments conveniently ignored his submissions. They never did until the great man passed away.

Finally, it must be asked why there is no proper accounting by the UN types to illegal wars fought by the West and its proxies in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Palestine, Syria, etc., often on false pretexts that have caused millions of deaths, injuries, destruction and also millions of refugees since 1948.



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Midweek Review

Controversy over Katchatheevu ahead of Indian polls and Sirisena’s bombshell claim

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Indian Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi at St. Anthony's Church, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on June 09, 2019. The then Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is also seen. (pic courtesy India PM office)

Selection of targets, four in Colombo, one at Katuwapitiya, Negombo and one in Batticaloa, too, should have been investigated. The PSC never bothered to probe as to why the NTJ deliberately targeted a church in Batticaloa and the Tamil service at St. Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade. Over 60 Tamils worshippers perished in the Batticaloa and Kochchikade bombings. Over 100 received injuries. The deliberate targeting of the Tamil community was even ignored by the largest Tamil coalition, led by Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK). Its spokesman and Jaffna District lawmaker M.A. Sumanthiran, a Christian, went to the extent of justifying the Easter Sunday carnage. President’s Counsel Sumanthiran did so at a public event held on April 29, 2019, at the BMICH. Why did the NTJ target both Sinhala and Tamil communities?

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lanka shouldn’t have been overly surprised by Indian Premier Narendra Modi’s declaration that Congress callously gave away the Katchatheevu Island to Sri Lanka.

Obviously, Premier Modi, eyeing a third term at the forthcoming general election (April 19 to June 1, 2024), wants to influence the crucial Tamil Nadu state. Modi lashed out at the Congress on March 31.

“Eye opening and startling! New facts reveal how Congress callously gave away Katchatheevu. This has angered every Indian and reaffirmed in people’s minds – we can’t ever trust Congress,”

Modi wrote on X obviously playing to the gallery, especially in Tamil Nadu. So, like most politicians, PM Modi, too, will stoop to any level.

The Bharathiya Janatha Party (BJP) leader also accused the Congress of weakening India’s unity. “Weakening India’s unity, integrity and interests has been Congress’ way of working for 75 years and counting,” Modi added.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar reiterated Premier Modi’s concerns on the following day.

The Indian media reported that the issue at hand reemerged after a media report, based on an RTI reply received by Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai on the 1974 pact.

It was a meticulously planned propaganda project meant to influence the Tamil Nadu electorate, ahead of the general elections next week. Tamil Nadu goes to poll on April 19. The decision on the part of the BJP, in power since May 2014, to rake up this issue now, suggests that the BJP is under tremendous pressure.

Whatever errors the Gandhis may have committed during their long rule, yet no one can doubt their own zeal to hold a disparate country like India together, while still guarding its democratic foundations, unlike the unscrupulous West paying lip service to such ideals, while destabilizing any country that do not toe their domineering imperialist line. Nor can anyone deny the solid foundation they laid for India to become a global giant today in the fields of education, technology, industry, etc., despite its vast poverty.

The actual truth is that the BJP is clearly facing defeat once again in Tamil Nadu, where the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-Congress alliance is expected to comfortably secure the majority of 39 Lok Sabha (Lower House) seats there and the one seat from Puducherry.

At the last general election, the DMK-led alliance won 38 out of 39 seats. Therefore, in spite of the Premier himself, and the much-respected and admired External Affairs Minister leading the BJP’s Tamil Nadu campaign, the outcome is very much unlikely to be in the ruling party’s favour.

India under Premier Indira Gandhi ceded Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka, in 1974, when she had such a good working relationship with our then PM Sirimavo Bandaranaike. It was several years before it began recruiting, training, arming and deploying Sri Lankan Tamil community against us, obviously to spite our then leader J. R. Jayewardene, known as Yankee Dickie because of his ardent pro-American views. JRJ was so arrogant, with his party commanding a 5/6 majority in our Parliament, he became blind to emerging regional realities and foolishly offered the Strategic Deep water Trincomalee harbour to the US, while his government members mockingly compared Mrs. Gandhi and her son Sanjay to Mrs. B. and her son Anura. When finally New Delhi militarily intervened here with an airdrop to force a halt to the first big ground operation at Vadamarachchi by the Lankan security forces to crush the Tigers in what was considered their lair, the Yankees failed to lift even a finger to save the JRJ government from humiliation. It would be pertinent to mention that India intervened here years before Sri Lanka’s conflict exploded, following the killing of 13 Lankan soldiers at Thinnaveli, in Jaffna, in July 1983. The often repeated claim that the war erupted, following the killing of ordinary Tamils, consequent to the Thinnaveli attack, is nothing but propaganda meant to justify separatist Tamil terrorist campaigns that at one time threatened to overwhelm Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka should be ashamed of its failure to protect Tamil civilians. Instead of taking immediate measures to quell the violence, the then President J.R. Jayewardene, in his own wisdom, allowed killings and destruction of Tamil property.

The Indian intervention (Indian role in the killing of 13 soldiers by providing expertise and weapons) shouldn’t be used, under any circumstances, to justify attacks on the Tamil community, following the Thinnaveli attack, the first such ambush of a military patrol by Prabhakaran’s fast growing terrorist outfit, the LTTE.

Let me reproduce what late J.N. Dixit, who had served as Indian High Commissioner in Colombo (1985-1989) at the height of the Indian intervention here, said in his memoirs ‘Makers of India’s Foreign Policy: Raja Ram Mohun Roy to Yashwant Sinha’, launched in 2004, regarding the terrorist project here. Dixit didn’t mince his words when he found fault with the then Premier Indira Gandhi for two Indian foreign policy decisions. The relevant section verbatim: “…her ambiguous response to the Russian intrusion into Afghanistan and her giving active support to Sri Lankan Tamil militants. Whatever the criticisms about these decisions, it cannot be denied that she took them on the basis of her assessments about India’s national interests. Her logic was that she could not openly alienate the former Soviet Union when India was so dependent on that country for defence supplies and technologies. Similarly, she could not afford the emergence of Tamil separatism in India by refusing to support the aspirations of Sri Lankan Tamils.” (emphasis mine).

Dixit, hailing from neighbouring Kerala state, like so many of India’s top bureaucrats, served as Foreign Secretary (1991-1994) and National Security Advisor (May 2004-January 2005) before his sudden death. Dixit was 68 years old at the time of his death.

In hindsight, Indian military intervention in Sri Lanka cannot be justified under any circumstances. India and Indira Gandhi paid a huge price for that foolish decision to train terrorists. Likewise, Indian rhetoric over Katchatheevu Island shouldn’t be condoned though all know the BJP is playing politics to woo the fishing community vote there.

The boycotting of the two-day annual St. Antony’s Church festival at Katchatheevu, in late February this year, by Indian devotees, perhaps was influenced by interested parties in Tamil Nadu. Who would benefit from Tamil Nadu fishermen’s boycott of the religious event?

An absolute bombshell

Maithripala Sirisena

Just over a week before Premier Modi’s attack on Congress over the Katchatheevu affair, former Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena declared that he was aware of the identity of the masterminds of the 2019 Easter Sunday massacre.

Sirisena, now an MP who represents the SLPP, told the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), a few days later, that he believed India engineered the Easter Sunday attacks. Sirisena, notorious for various unsubstantiated claims over the years, has asserted that the Easter carnage was meant to influence the Indian electorate during the previous general elections, conducted from April 11 to May 19, 2019.

At the time of the near simultaneous Easter Sunday blasts, Sirisena, his wife Jayanthi Pushpakumari, and other members of the then first family, were in Singapore. Controversy still surrounds whether the President was on a holiday or visiting Mount Elizabeth Hospital for a medical check-up, or both.

The President and members of his family flew to Singapore following a private visit to Tirumala, in Andhra Pradesh, to offer prayers at the hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara Swamy. Sirisena visited the shrine in February 2015 and August 2016, and the 2019 visit was his third.

What really prompted MP Sirisena to accuse India of masterminding the Easter Sunday terror project? Or who influenced the now beleaguered SLFP leader to make that accusation in Kandy?

Now the matter is before Maligakanda Magistrate Lochana Abeywickrema, who, on April 4, directed the CID to report the progress of the investigation to her Court on May 10. Pending the investigation, the statement recorded by the CID will remain confidential.

Did the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks have a bearing on the Indian general elections? Perhaps an examination of the 2019 election results, and comparison with previous polls, may help us to understand the post-Easter Sunday developments. Against the backdrop of MP Sirisena’s still unsubstantiated allegation, shouldn’t we examine whether the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) suicide bombing campaign helped the BJP?

The NTJ struck amidst India’s staggered general election that began on April 11 and continued till May 19.

Did the NTJ operation influence the Indian electorate? Sri Lanka cannot afford not to examine every possibility to prevent the NTJ, or its affiliates, undertaking fresh terror projects. Who really provided the wherewithal to the perceived leader of the terror project Zahran Hashim?

The Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) that probed the Easter Sunday massacres conveniently failed to probe the external factors. However, the PSC had an opportunity to seek the opinion of those who provided evidence, in camera, as regards external factors. The PSC, perhaps, never bothered to vigorously inquire into external factors or it lacked the mandate or the capacity to do so.

The PSC consisted of its Chairman Ananda Kumarasiri (UNP/Moneragala District), Ravi Karunanayake (UNP/Colombo), Dr. Rajitha Senaratne (UNP/Kalutara), Ashu Marasinghe (UNP National List), Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka (UNP National List), LSSPer Dr. Jayampathy Wickremaratne (UNP National List), M.A. Sumanthiran (TNA/Jaffna District) and SLMC Leader Rauff Hakeem (UNP/Kandy District).

The government proscribed the NTJ, on May 13, 2019 – 23 days after the Easter carnage. The Jamaathe Millaathe Ibrahim (JMI), and the Willayath As Seylani (WAS) were also banned in terms of regulation 75(1) of the emergency regulations.

The NTJ struck between the second and the third phases of the Indian elections. The first phase, conducted on April 11, covered 91 constituencies in 20 States. The second (95 constituencies in 13 States) and the third (117 constituencies in 15 States) were held on April 18 and April 23, respectively. The remaining four phases were held on April 29 (71 constituencies in 09 States), May 06 (51 constituencies in 07 States), May 12 (59 constituencies in 07 States) and May 19 (59 constituencies in 08 States).

Modi condemns

Narendra Modi was the first foreign leader to condemn the Easter Sunday attacks. The Indian leader condemned the Easter Sunday attacks on the same day, two days before the Islamic State claimed responsibility. However, no less a person than Senior DIG Ravi Seneviratne, the senior officer in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), declared, before the PSC, that there was no evidence to link the Islamic State, thereby contradicting the much publicized government claims. Seneviratne appeared before the PSC on July 24. Perhaps, the CID’s opinion should be sought on this matter.

Addressing an election rally in the Western State of Rajasthan, just hours after the serial blasts in Sri Lanka, Narendra Modi played politics with the issue. The media quoted Modi as having said the electorate should give him a second term as only he could beat the terrorists threatening India.

“Should terrorism be finished or not?” he asked. “Who can do this? Can you think of any name aside from Modi? Can anybody else do this?”

“In our neighbouring Sri Lanka, terrorists have played a bloody game. They killed innocent people,” Modi said.

At another rally, in Rajasthan, also on Sunday, Modi again mentioned the attacks in Sri Lanka and said that India, too, continues to suffer because of militants.

“India has now ended its policy of getting scared of Pakistan’s threats,” Modi said, “‘We have a nuclear button, we have a nuclear button’ they used to say.”

“What do we have then?” he said, to cheers from the crowd.

The Easter Sunday carnage certainly influenced a section of the Indian electorate. Modi directly blamed Muslims for the Sri Lanka attacks.

Having comfortably secured a second term, Modi visited Colombo, on June 09, on his way to the Maldives. President Maithripala Sirisena is on record as having said that he requested Modi to visit in the wake of many countries issuing travel advisories. During his four-hour stopover, Modi visited St. Anthony’s Church, Kotahena, where many Tamils perished in the Easter Sunday carnage.

A week after Modi’s visit, the then Indian High Commissioner here, Taranjit Sandhu, assured the prelates of Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters India’s commitment to Sri Lanka’s security.

The Indian High Commission issued the following statement, following Sandhu’s visit to Kandy: “High Commissioner of India Taranjit Singh Sandhu paid respects at Sri Dalada Maligawa and received the blessings of the Most Venerable Thibbatuwawe Sri Sumangala Mahanayake Thera of Malwatte Chapter and Most Venerable Warakagoda Sri Gnanarathana Mahanayake Thera of Asgiriya Chapter in Kandy on May 17.

“High Commissioner conveyed greetings on the auspicious occasion of Vesak to the Most Venerable Mahanayake Theras and recalled the visit of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to Sri Lanka for the International Vesak Day celebration in 2017 and the exposition of the sacred Sarnath Relics in Sri Lanka in 2018.

“High Commissioner also discussed the prevailing security situation with the Most Venerable Mahanayake Theras and offered India’s full support to Sri Lanka in dealing with the common threat of Jihadi terrorism.

“Both the Mahanayake Theras deeply appreciated India’s unconditional and strong support for Sri Lanka, including in the security sphere.

“High Commissioner Sandhu also reviewed the progress of the Kandyan Dancing School, being constructed with Government of India’s assistance of around 150 million SLR at the Sri Lanka International Buddhist Academy (SIBA) campus in Pallekele, Kandy.”

It would be a grave mistake, on Sri Lanka’s part, to assume Zahran Hashim and his band of brainwashed terrorists carried out the Easter Sunday attacks on their own. Zahran and his colleagues couldn’t have handled the logistics alone. Zahran was used by those who exploited the political chaos in Sri Lanka. In fact, the NTJ operation caused much more harm to the Muslim community, in Sri Lanka, than any other post-independence event.

The PSC proceedings revealed negligence on the part of the political leadership, law enforcement authorities, intelligence services and the Attorney General’s Department. The PSC proceedings also revealed how the Finance Ministry weakened the Central Bank vis-a-vis its regulatory powers in respect of foreign financial transactions. However, so far no effort has been made to inquire into possible external factors. Did the planners of the NTJ operation take into consideration the Indian election? That is an issue which required serious attention.

Let us hope the proposed three-day debate on the Easter Sunday carnage, in the last week of this month, would pave the way for all political parties, represented in Parliament, to reveal their position in the wake of Sirisena’s bombshell.

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Midweek Review

Ex-SLAF officer sheds light on developments leading to Aragalaya

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Against the backdrop of Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena’s quite belated (but better late than never) public confirmation of external interventions in Aragalaya, that led to the overthrow of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government in mid-July 2022, former cashiered Flying Officer Keerthi Ratnayake, with a never-say-die attitude even when odds are overwhelmingly stacked against him, asserted that he was the first to alert the then government regarding the impending chaos.

Ratnayake disclosed that he realized the unprecedented threat and got in touch with Shermila Rajapaksha, the then head of Social Media at the Presidential Secretariat. She conveyed the information to the relevant authorities though, to the unfortunate detriment of the country, they chose to turn a blind eye to the stunning disclosure, Ratnayake said, in an interview with The Island last week.

Responding to the writer’s query as to how he obtained such information and whether he could verify the same, Ratnayake revealed that a female Indian diplomat, based in Colombo, explained to him how a frightening situation could develop over a period of six months in case Sri Lanka failed to procure the essentials. This happened in mid-2021 as the country was beginning to experience economic difficulties but the government remained adamant that it could overcome whatever the challenges ahead, Ratnayake said.

The Island decided to withhold the diplomat’s identity though Ratnayake had no objections to us disclosing her name. “I was flabbergasted when she explained how a sharp and simultaneous drop in foreign remittances from Sri Lankan workers employed overseas, income from tourism and exports could overwhelm the government of the day. Unfortunately, instead of acting on the information provided by me, the government targeted me,” Ratnayake claimed.

Ratnayake alleged that, ironically, the powers that be found fault with Shermila Rajapaksha for being in touch with him. “The government shifted her from the Presidential Secretariat to the National Zoological Gardens, in late Oct 2021, as those in authority discarded my timely warning,” Ratnayake said.

Asked to clarify, Ratnayake pointed out that telephone records didn’t lie. “I have passed the information regarding some high profile incidents/developments over the years to authorities. Whatever I have done can be easily verified with telephone records as well as recorded conversations, in addition to statements taken from me,” Ratnayake said.

The writer got in touch with Ratnayake on Good Friday (March 29) after having watched his explosive interview with Chamuditha Samarawickrema that dealt with the sordid operations undertaken by a section of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

‘The Truth with Chamuditha’ discussed clandestine operations undertaken by certain corrupt powerful elements in the CID against the backdrop of an alleged plot to assassinate Fort Magistrate Thilina Gamage. Ratnayake revealed that the ongoing investigation into the targeting of the Fort Magistrate was prompted by information provided by him to Public Security Minister Tiran Alles regarding the alleged plot.

The issue at hand is whether the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government could have averted the political-economic-social crisis even if his administration acted on the information provided by Ratnayake. Why should a government react to such unsubstantiated claims? It wouldn’t be fair to find fault with the government for disregarding Ratnayake’s alert received in September 2021 but when violent public protests started on March 31, 2022, outside President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s private residence at Pangiriwatte, Mirihana, someone in authority should have immediately realized the validity of the warning received six months earlier.

Unfortunately, the ruling Sri Lanka Podujuna Peramuna (SLPP), possibly overwhelmed by the snowballing situation, simply failed to inquire into the warning received in Sept 2021. Less than four months short of two years since President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s ouster, the high profile operation remained uninvestigated.

CBK withdraws commission

Having passed out in 1998 from the SLAF training academy after he successfully completed training there, as an officer cadet, during Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s first tenure as the President, Ratnayake got into serious trouble quite early in his career after he exposed an unprecedented racket in gold smuggling allegedly carried out by corrupt elements in his own service, but the then President withdrew his commission for cooperating with the then Ravaya Editor Victor Ivan in the writing of ‘Chaura Rajina’ (Sri Lankan bandit queen), clearly accusing the then Head of State and the Commander-in-Chief of high level corruption.

Ratnayake justified the support provided to Victor Ivan. “I have no qualms about furnishing information at that time,” Ratnayake said, identifying himself as the one who was arrested over the death threats issued to The Sunday Times defence correspondent Iqbal Athas and W.G. Gunarathna of Lankadeepa in the Lankadeepa editorial in late August 2007. Ratnayake acknowledged that he did so over the inaccurate reportage of questionable acquisition of MiG-27s from Ukraine at the onset of Eelam War IV.

Ratnayake disclosed how the relevant MiG-27 file had been surreptitiously removed from Air Force headquarters by a senior officer (name withheld), now retired, during Air Marshal Roshan Goonetilleke’s tenure as the Commander of the Air Force.

Responding to queries, Ratnayake explained how he served the government in spite of losing his commission during Kumaratinga’s administration. The case was quietly settled by granting Ratnayake bail.

There had been a previous case involving Air Force personnel. The accused-appellants H.M. Rukman Herath (gunned down near his home) and Don Pradeep Sujeewa Kannangara who had been convicted for intimidating and assaulting The Sunday Times defence columnist Iqbal Athas and his family in 1998 were acquitted by the Appeal Court Justice S.I. Imam and Sarath de Abrew in Dec 2008.

They were earlier sentenced by the High Court for a period 10 years RI each and fined Rs. 10,000 each for intimidating and threatening them. They were found guilty, by the Colombo High Court on February 7, 2002, of several charges including intimidation and criminal trespass.

Reference was also made to para-military operations undertaken at the time by renegade LTTE field commander Karuna in support of the then government. Ratnayake complained bitterly how successive administrations conveniently failed to reinstate him though the Court of Appeal quashed the SLAF Commander’s decision to recommend the withdrawal of his commission following the exposure of gold and computer spare parts smuggling by some of its personnel.

An angry Ratnayake said that he asked for a Court Martial as he was confident of proving his innocence. “There were altogether 13 serious charges,” Ratnayake said, adding that the Court of Appeal observed that the procedure followed by the Air Force to withdraw his commission was entirely contrary to the stipulated process.

Ratnayake recalled how those who had been involved in the gold and computer spare parts smuggling operation made an attempt to do away with him. “Having abducted me, they assaulted me before making an attempt to drown me in the sea off Negombo in the first week of March 2022. But I was lucky to be rescued by some fishermen,” Ratnayake said, producing the front-page of the Lankadeepa report of March 3, 2002, revealing the incident.

“All print media, both Sinhala and English, reported the attack on me. They exploited Defence Ministry approval to deploy aircraft to fly in spare parts from abroad required by the Air Force to smuggle in gold and computer parts. We are a corrupt country. Corruption is a way of life here and both civilians and military alike rob at all levels,” he said as a matter of fact.

Developments in Aug 2021

Ratnayake said that several weeks after he passed the information to the Presidential Secretariat official regarding the impending economic catastrophe, a very interesting and significant development took place.

Having heard of a clandestine operation to attack Indian diplomatic mission in Afghanistan or in this region, including Colombo, Ratnayake sent a WhatsApp message to the Indian diplomat who shared information regarding the impending chaos in Sri Lanka. “As soon as I sent the message, internal security system incapacitated her phone. This happened on August 11, 2021, morning. Two hours later, the Kollupitiya Police contacted me and requested me to come over regarding an inquiry. However, the OIC there, at that time, wasn’t aware of what was going on. I then got in touch with Senior DIG (WP) Deshabandu Tennakoon and shared with him the developments taking place”.

Ratnayake asserted that the particular diplomat arranged a vehicle for him to safely reach the Kollupitiya Police where he found intelligence officers from different units, including State Intelligence Service (SIS) and Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) present. Asked why he first contacted the diplomat instead of local security authorities, Ratnayake explained that the information received by him suggested that the attack was to take place on August 15. Therefore, he first alerted the diplomat as the Indian interests were under threat and then the police at the highest level. Having questioned Ratnayake at the Kollupitiya Police station, a team of senior officers had put him into a white van and were on their way to Homagama to collect his laptop and some other personal belongings. “On the way to Homagama, one of the officers received a call. I was told of instructions received from higher authorities to take me into custody immediately. I sought an explanation and was told they couldn’t under any circumstances disregard the orders of their superiors.”

Later, Ratnayake had been taken to the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD), Dematagoda, where, after being held for several hours, arrangements were made to take him to Kandy around midnight. Ratnayake had opposed the move as he felt that the police were planning to get rid of him. Meanwhile, someone who had been at the CCD at that time contacted Saliya Peiris, PC, and the swift intervention made by him saved Ratnayake’s life.

Ratnayake said that he was granted bail on Feb 11, 2022, a few weeks before “staged” public protests erupted demanding President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation.

Responding to Chamuditha Samarawickrema, Ratnayake revealed that during the time he was held at the Magazine Prison he was able to contact the Indian diplomat as two persons held in custody there had hand phones. The two were identified as a drug dealer and a politician. Following a short stint here, the diplomat received an appointment to a key Indian mission in a Commonwealth country. Her transfer happened just two days short of one year after the Pangiriwatte incident. “I could contact her freely and she knew what was happening,” Ratnayake said.

The Island sought an explanation regarding the current status of the investigation into the Aug 15, 2021, threat against the Indian mission here. Ratnayake said that the Indian High Commission never furnished a statement requested by the local police though its First Secretary, in a note simply identified my telephone number as the one from which warning was issued over an impending attack. The Indian High Commission owed an explanation why it didn’t assist an investigation, Ratnayake said, revealing the role played by the same diplomat during the Norway-led peace process though, at that time, she hadn’t been with the Indian Foreign Service.

An incident in Nov 2019

In spite of the eradication of the LTTE in the battle field, in May 2009, successive governments never sought to restore normalcy. In fact, they worked overtime to cause turmoil. The constitutional coup caused by then President Mairithipala Sirisena, in late October 2018, plunged the country into an unprecedented crisis. Both Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe claimed to be the legitimate Prime Minister, Ratnayake said, claiming that he was based in Dubai at that time. Ratnayake, with the intervention of an interested party, had received lucrative employment from an affluent Indian there.

During this period, widely described as a 52-day government, there had been talk of a military take-over and Ratnayake acknowledged that he played a role and was to explore ways and means of securing support from various parties. However, at the last moment, Ratnayake alerted President Sirisena as well as Basil Rajapaksa through an academic (name withheld) regarding the plot. Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, had been alerted and on the orders of the President the military guard at the President’s House was replaced by the Special Task Force (STF).

Ratnayake said that he believed a military take-over could have caused a catastrophe. The former Air Force officer said that the killing of two policemen at Vavunathivu, Batticaloa, in late Nov, 2018, destruction of several Buddha statues in the Mawanella police area, in Dec 2018, recovery of explosives at Lactowatte (Wanathawilluwa, Puttalam), and shooting of the then Minister Kabir Hashim’s Coordinating Secretary Mohamed Naslim at Danagama, Mawanella, in early March 2019, should have been properly investigated. Had that happened the Easter Sunday plot could have been averted, Ratnayake said, asserting that perhaps former President Sirisena, too, has now decided to reveal an external hand in the Easter Sunday carnage.

Sirisena’s statement to the CID that India engineered the Easter Sunday carnage has raised eyebrows. Perhaps Sirisena hasn’t anticipated a swift intervention by Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, thereby paving the way for the Maligakanda Magistrate to record Sirisena’s statement tomorrow (4). Did Sirisena seek political advantage for him and his party in the run-up to the presidential poll scheduled for later this year.

But the issue at hand is whether the 2019 Easter carnage here helped the BJP polls campaign in neighbouring India, Ratnayake queried, calling for an investigation with an open mind. Perhaps, the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) and the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) failed to go deep enough to ascertain foreign interventions.

Speaker Abeywardena’s recent declaration regarding direct external intervention to overthrow Gotabaya Rajapaksa and make him interim President as a patsy of the conspirators didn’t result in the anticipated response. The government and the Opposition alike simply ignored that statement whereas the Speaker himself asserted that there was no point in looking into that matter, obviously due to the influence and power of those behind it. Seeing what is blatantly happening in Palestine before the entire world since the October 07 attack on Israel by Hamas, we, too, won’t blame Speaker Abeywardena for his assertion.

It would be a grave mistake on Sri Lanka’s part to be influenced by assertions made by foreign governments regarding the 2019 terrorist attacks though there is absolutely no harm in securing their assistance.

President’s Counsel Dappula de Livera, who declared, on the eve of his retirement as the Attorney General, that the Easter Sunday massacre was a grand conspiracy for there is clear evidence of a grand conspiracy linked to Sri Lanka’s 2019 Easter carnage, the privately owned NewsFirst network that quoted Attorney General Dappula De Livera as having said so on May 18, 2021.

In an exclusive comment telecast by it, the AG said that information by the state intelligence service, “with times, targets, places, method of attack and other information is clear evidence there was a grand conspiracy in place with regard to the April 21, 2019, attack.”

The identities of those involved in the grand conspiracy must come by way of evidence, the AG has said, adding that there were multiple suspects connected to the attack, including Maulavi (Islamic preacher) Mohamed Ibrahim Mohamed Naufer, “the person that the Sri Lankan government ruled as the mastermind of the attacks.”

But, De Livera declined to be subjected to police investigation, having clearly recognized the peril he was putting his retirement into by being a party to any such investigation.

Five years after the Easter Sunday carnage, the country remains in the dark as to police investigations and legal proceedings as regards the heinous crime that claimed the lives of nearly 270 and wounded approximately 500 other innocent people. The dead and wounded included foreigners.

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Midweek Review

Peace and Plenty

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on

By Lynn Ockersz

Off the beaten track,

Amidst Nature’s bounty,

‘Far from the Madding Crowd’,

And spared thus far,

The calculating wiles,

Of the real estate magnate,

There thrive in glorious green,

In the Isle’s Southern wilds,

Places of heavenly refuge,

That afford the Pilgrim,

Trudging wearily back home,

Rest, renewal and Peace.

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