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Midweek Review

Playing politics with national security



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Security of a country did not depend on its Defence Secretary. There were various structures and it was a matter of collective action, one-time Defence Secretary, Austin Fernando, told the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) on Saturday (26).

The P CoI, appointed by former President Maithripala Sirisena, is inquiring into the Easter Sunday attacks. Sirisena named the Commission several weeks before the end of his five-year term.

Fernando further said: “It is not mandatory for the Defence Secretary to have an intimate knowledge of the role played by the Ministry. If that is the case, a fisherman should be the Secretary to the Ministry of Fisheries, and the Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture should be a farmer.”

Let me examine Austin Fernando’s statement, taking into consideration the direct talks between President Ranasinghe Premadasa and the LTTE, during the period 1989-1990 (the late General D.S. Attygalle served as the Defence Secretary from 15.08.1983 to 16.02.1990), outbreak of Eelam War II (General S.C Ranatunga served as the Secretary Defence from 16.02.1990 to 01.05.1993) and the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) with the LTTE entered into by Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe (Austin Fernando functioned as the Secretary Defence from 21.12.2001 to 03.11.2003).

Hemasiri Fernando, who served as Secretary Defence in the run-up to the April 21, 2019, Easter Sunday attacks, is under investigation for criminal negligence. In all four above-mentioned instances, the government apparatus collectively failed, though the circumstances were different.

The only difference is in the case of the disastrous 2002 CFA. The then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga cannot be faulted as Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe blindly signed the catastrophic Oslo-drafted 2002 peace initiative, keeping even his cabinet in the dark.

Austin Fernando is absolutely right. Security of a country does not depend on its Defence Secretary. In fact, a single person cannot guarantee national security, regardless of political clout he or she wielded. However, one person can cause irreparable damage, through irrational and unilateral actions/decisions, as in the case of the CFA. The appointment of retired military officers certainly cannot guarantee national security. The late Gen. Attygalle and Gen. Ranatunga facilitated President Premadasa’s ill-fated strategies that weakened the military. Taking Fernando’s assertion into consideration, it would be pertinent to examine how President Premadasa (1989-1990), Premier Wickremesinghe (2002-2003) and President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe (2015-2019) jeopardized the national security. Those who served under them, too, equally contributed to the rapid deterioration of security by simply giving into political dictates, thereby providing tacit support to despicable political agendas.

Sri Lanka paid a huge price for political and military miscalculations. The political environment, created by Sirisena-Wickremesinghe, cannot be scrutinized without taking into consideration previous situations. In the absence of detailed study, the public tend to consider the Easter Sunday security failure as an isolated case. But, the extraordinary Easter Sunday terror project, perhaps, is part of an insidious political strategy to keep Sri Lanka in perpetual anarchy. Those who had perpetrated nearly simultaneous suicide attacks, in three administrative districts, certainly deliberated the political environment before going ahead with the operation. Who exploited the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) to deliver such a devastating message? Did NTJ succumb to external elements? When did India actually infiltrate the NTJ and what is the status of the Indian intelligence gathering operation in Sri Lanka? Why didn’t Indian intelligence share information on NTJ (Zahran Hashim’s gang) much earlier? And, most importantly, why were both Sinhala and Tamil communities targeted?


Defence Chiefs play ball with Ranasinghe Premadasa

Having secured the presidency, in January 1989, President Premadasa sought an agreement with the JVP. The UNP leader also made an attempt to reach a consensus with Tamil groups, including the LTTE. The President succeeded in reaching an understanding with all armed Tamil groups, except the LTTE. The presence of one-time militant Douglas Devananda, leader of the EPDP (Eelam People’s Democratic Party), in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s cabinet of ministers, is evidence of Premadasa’s successful political strategy. In addition to the EPDP, Premadasa brought the EPRLF (Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front), TELO (Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization) and PLOTE (People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam) into the political mainstream. However, Premadasa’s bid to reach an understanding with the LTTE ended disastrously, in the second week of June 1990.

At the time, Premadasa initiated direct negotiations with the LTTE, the late Gen. Attygalle had been the Secretary, Ministry of Defence while Lt. Gen. Hamilton Wanasinghe served as the Commander of the Army (16.09.1988- 15.11.91). Did the President consult the Defence Secretary and the Commander of the Army before initiating negotiations with the JVP and the LTTE? Did they approve of releasing from custody of over thousands of JVP suspects in early 1989? Their release resulted in an immediate stepping up of violence though the police, the military and the government-sponsored civilian death squads crushed the JVP, by the end of 1989.

Having captured JVP leader, Rohana Wijeweera, at Ulapane, in the second week of Nov. 1989, he was brought to Colombo, interrogated and executed. Premadasa knew what befell Wijeweera, who led two insurrections, in 1971 and 1987-89.

However, Premadasa’s apparent unilateral decisions, in respect of the LTTE, caused immense harm. Believing in the possibility of successful conclusion of negotiations with the LTTE, Premadasa, hastily announced the hotly disputed decision to request New Delhi to terminate its military mission in the North-East Sri Lanka. Did Premadasa genuinely consult the Defence Secretary, Commander of the Army or at least his Prime Minister, the late D.B. Wijetunga, before demanding the pull-out of the Indian Peace Keeping Force? Premadasa, obviously didn’t believe in consultations. In his capacity as the leader of the UNP and the President, Premadasa largely believed in unilateral decisions. The catastrophic handling of direct negotiations with the LTTE paved the way for terrorists to launch devastating attacks on the Army after obtaining from the then naïve government military supplies, money, as well as building materials. Clearly, the Secretary Defence and the Commander of the Army played ball with Premadasa. In fact, all cooperated with Premadasa. Officials bent backwards to appease the all-powerful President. The then Election Commissioner, the late Chandrananda de Silva, overnight recognized the PFLT (People’s Front of Liberation Tigers) as a registered political party. The writer was among several local and foreign journalists, invited by the late LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham, to the Colombo Hilton where he made the announcement. Chain-smoking British passport holder Balasingham declared proudly that their emblem would be a Tiger in a red flag of rectangular shape. Premadasa, or late Chandrananda de Silva, had no qualms in the PFLT receiving political recognition in spite of it being armed. The LTTE received political recognition a couple of months before Velupillai Prabhakaran resumed Eelam War II.


Prez playing with fire

Did Premadasa consult the Defence Secretary and Commander of the Army before lifting restrictions imposed on the Northern Province, abandoned Point Pedro and Valvettiturai army detachments, pardoned convicted Maradana bomber Manouri Daniels, along with over a dozen other LTTE cadres, held under the PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act), and provided weapons and funds to the LTTE. Premadasa did what he wanted to do. The UNP leader was not bothered about security implications. Obviously, his security chiefs remained mum. President felt confident in his political strategy. He was so confident, he ordered law enforcement personnel to surrender after the LTTE surrounded police stations in the East. Premadasa’s decision resulted in the deaths of over 400 officers and men. Did the President consult Gen. Attygalle’s successor Gen. Cyril Ranatunga and the Commander of the Army before the government reached an agreement with the LTTE?

The Army in the East averted a calamity by refusing to surrender, in spite of the senior leadership directing them to do so. General Gerry H. de Silva, who served as the Commander of the Army (1994-1996) in his memoirs titled ‘A most noble profession’ commented on Premadasa’s strategy/the government’s failure to recognize the threat posed by the LTTE. First published in 2011, two years after the successful conclusion of the war against the LTTE, De Silva acknowledged: “We failed to see through the emerging trends and LTTE machinations. Despite constant threats and humiliation meted out to security forces and the police by the militants, the politico-military hierarchy preferred to put up with the ignominy in order not to ‘rock the boat.’

The LTTE capitalized on the situation. A rejuvenated LTTE ‘called the shots,’ and quickly moved into a position of strength, politically and militarily. They were riding the crest of a wave and must have felt that the time was opportune to achieve their goal of Eelam.”


The Gemunu Watch officer is the only Commander of the Army to author a book on his career.

Within a week after the resumption of hostilities, in the second week of June 1990, the ill-prepared Army lost the Overland Main Supply Route (MSR) to the Jaffna peninsula. Premadasa’s ‘honeymoon’ with Prabhakaran lasted 14 months. The Tiger Supremo resumed the war, at lightning speed, just two months after India terminated its military mission here. Sri Lanka was left high and dry after the series of follies by Premadasa, at peace making, and the military couldn’t regain the MSR, till January 2009. Premadasa’s Generals turned a blind eye to what was happening on the ground. When fighting erupted, the Army had just one battalion, plus troops in the Jaffna peninsula. In spite of continuing to build up, the top brass ignored the growing threat until it was too late. So, the mere appointing of a retired General as Secretary Defence cannot guarantee rationale thinking. Premadasa’s strategy was nothing but a massive and unprecedented collective failure that almost resulted in capitulation of the Northern forces. Premadasa turned a Nelsonian eye to the LTTE evicting the entire Muslim population from the Northern Province, in Oct 1990. At the behest of Premadasa, the then Army Commander facilitated coordinated LTTE attacks on rival Tamil groups. The LTTE massacred hundreds of people. The response of Premadasa and his chief negotiator, the late A.C.S. Hameed, to the LTTE threat, caused quite an embarrassment to the government, undermined the State and, basically, allowed the LTTE to transform itself to a conventional fighting force. The then Higher Education Minister Hameed never realized ground realities.

Retired General de Silva’s assessment can be applied to all Presidents. except war-winning Mahinda Rajapaksa, who had faith in his younger brother Gotabaya’s capacity to coordinate the war effort against the LTTE.

Generals Attygalle and Ranatunga certainly owed an explanation as regards their failure to prevent the catastrophe in the North. Obviously, no one dared to challenge Premadasa’s dangerous strategies. Having served as the Commander of the Army, for a decade, and Defence Secretary, General Attygalle received appointment as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in London where he facilitated Kittu’s (Sathasivam Krishnakumar) arrival there. On the orders of Premadasa, the SLAF brought Kittu to Colombo where the British High Commission made arrangements to send the former LTTE Jaffna Commander to receive treatment for his amputated leg. The Generals had no say and Premadasa had his way.

Can you imagine a government facilitating a terrorist’s travel to London where he took over the LTTE’s International Secretariat responsible for running a massive extortion racket? The funds ultimately ended up with arms suppliers who provided the LTTE a range of weapons, T 56 assault rifles to shoulder fired missiles. General Ranatunga, too, received appointment as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in Canberra and then London. Presidential nominees to top diplomatic posts always received parliamentary approval.


Security fiasco in 2002

Not having learnt from Premadasa’s stupidities, Ranil Wickremesinghe too plunged headlong into a similar folly with Austin Fernando et al in tow.

Ranil Wickremesinghe picked experienced administrative service officer Austin Fernando as Secretary Defence within days after winning the Dec 2001 parliamentary election. Wickremesinghe also brought in one-time Attorney General Tilak Marapana on the National List as the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence. Wickremesinghe adopted a simple strategy. The UNP leader advocated a policy of appeasement, thereby jeopardizing the entire security apparatus. The LTTE brazenly exploited the situation to its advantage. Prabhakaran stepped up training, recruitment of fresh cadres, as well as forcible conscription of children. The government did nothing. The LTTE intensified protests opposite security forces bases, restricted/interfered with police and military movements whereas the government repeatedly reiterated its commitment to the Oslo-led peace process like a mantra. Wickremesinghe dismissed intelligence assessment as regards the rapid LTTE built up. Wickremesinghe told a hastily arranged Temple Trees meeting, attended by senior officers responsible for intelligence services et al their assessment of the LTTE training 6,000 cadres at the onset of the CFA was wrong. The Premier contradicted his own intelligence apparatus on the basis of what the Indians told him. The then Defence Advisor Senior DIG Merril Gunaratne, who had been among those invited by the Premier, had the strength to stand by his report, based on information/analysis provided by all services. Obviously, Wickremesinghe hadn’t been in a mood to listen to anyone who questioned Prabhakaran’s motives though the continuing LTTE build up was evident.

Wickremesinghe followed his policy of appeasement. In his capacity as Secretary Defence Austin Fernando had no option but to go along with the Premier who authorized the finalization of CFA without proper consultations with the military top brass or the intelligence services.

The then Defence Secretary also provided some hilarious side shows like carrying a basket of fruits to a terrorist receiving treatment at a Colombo hospital.

Fernando himself claimed at the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in August 2010 that he hadn’t been involved in the process leading to the finalization of the document. However, top SCOPP (Secretariat for Coordinating Peace Process) Dr. John Gooneratne subsequently revealed before the LLRC how Norway rejected four proposals made by Sri Lanka. Had those proposals been accommodated in the CFA perhaps Eelam War IV could have been avoided, Gooneratne told the late C.R. de Silva’s Commission. The writer covered the entire LLRC proceedings. Gooneratne revealed the hitherto unknown proposals namely (a) CFA to pave the way for a negotiated settlement (b) prohibition of smuggling of arms, ammunition and equipment (c) freedom of movement for other political parties in areas under the LTTE control and finally (d) halt to forcible recruitment. Sri Lanka never received the backing of Peace Co-Chairs, the US, Norway, EU and Japan to get those just proposals included in the CFA.

The UNP never revealed rejection of its proposals until Gooneratne took advantage of the LLRC to set the record straight. Austin Fernando and SCOPP Chief Bernard Goonetilleke, who appeared before the LLRC could have revealed the truth. The UNP remained mum. Throughout the CFA period, Premier Wickremesinghe tried to suppress information that may have caused embarrassment to his government, the Norwegians and the LTTE. Obviously there hadn’t been any proper consultations among members of the cabinet, parliamentary group or the military top brass regarding the Oslo-led process.

Austin Fernando cannot absolve himself of the responsibility for the UNP government’s actions during the CFA. The person who served as Secretary Defence cannot claim lack of knowledge of a particular situation. The same applies to the Defence Minister. During Marapana’s tenure as the Defence Minister Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI)-run operation was exposed to the whole world with media scenes. In spite of strong protests by the Army, the UNP went ahead with its political project. The exposure of the operation led to the deaths of several operatives. The LTTE also hunted police officers engaged in anti-terrorist operations. When Defence Advisor Merril Gunaratne blamed the LTTE for the killing of Inspector Thabrew at the Dehiwela police station, Premier Wickremesinghe himself questioned the veteran law enforcement officer’s assessment.

The UNP allowed the LTTE to bring in undeclared cargo via the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). LTTE delegations returning from negotiations with Wickremesinghe’s delegations from various foreign venues and others brought large packages. The foolish government provided air transport. The LTTE brazenly used the opportunity to its advantage. The CFA provided the organization required protection. The LTTE exploited the Oslo arranged CFA, the same way it used direct talks with Premadasa to achieve its targets. High profile assassination of TULF leader Appapillai Amirthalingham is a case in point. Prabhakaran moved a hit team in an SLAF chopper that brought LTTE delegates from the Vanni to Colombo in 1989.

Both political and military leaderships should accept responsibilities for lapses. During Austin Fernando’s tenure as the Defence Secretary, the military was ordered to stop issuing situation reports, suspended ‘Wanni Sevaya’ (special radio that catered to the military and the police), subjected military reports to civilian approval and basically succumbed to LTTE tactics. While closing down ‘Wanni Sevaya’, the government permitted the LTTE to import state-of-the-art radio equipment to upgrade its own propaganda and communication facilities.

If not for the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s intervention in late 2003, the UNP could have allowed the LTTE build up to continue until it was too late to take counter action. The UNP permitted the deterioration of the situation to such an extent, the LTTE by early 2003 felt confident enough to brazenly quit the negotiating table. The LTTE quit talks in late April 2003 to set the stage for an all-out war. By late 2005, the LTTE was confident it could overwhelm the Army in a large-scale conventional confrontation. The assassination of much-loved Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, in early August 2005, indicated their readiness to take on the government. Had the LTTE succeeded in assassinating Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in late April and early Oct, 2006, the LTTE, perhaps could have achieved Eelam. There cannot be any dispute as regards the role played by the Army Commander and the Defence Secretary to bring the war to a successful conclusion. There had never been previous attempts on the lives of the Army Commander and Secretary Defence. The LTTE knew the government strategy could be aborted by assassinating the two most important men. Their failure brought the war to an end three years later with the LTTE militarily annihilated. If the LTTE succeeded, Sri Lanka’s unitary status could have been jeopardized by now. The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe coalition proved the danger in pulling in different directions, lack of vision and strategy as well as pursuing of political agendas inimical Sri Lanka State.

Midweek Review

Parliament reels as Easter Sunday accusations tarnish members’ credibility



The LTTE used to mark 'Lt. Col.' Thileepan and Vaithilingam Sornalingam aka Col Sankar remembrance event together. The founder of the Tamileelam Air Force (TAF). Col. Sankar was killed by the Army on September 26 in 2001. (Tamil Net pic taken on Sept 26, 2008)

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Parliament last week wasted two days on a much hyped debate on national security and the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage carried out by local Muslim extremists radicalized by ISIS ideology. The debate didn’t help political parties represented in Parliament to reach consensus on the post-Easter Sunday reconciliation plan.

But, the ruling ‘Pohottuwa’ party and the solitary UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena defended the handling of the Easter Sunday investigations, whereas those who were in the Yahapalana Cabinet, that ruled the country at the time, attacked the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government over its alleged failure.

A careful consideration of speeches made on September 21 and 22 clearly reflected the fact that political parties remained committed to their original positions, though the political landscape has changed. The exchange between former President Maithripala Sirisena, MP, and war-winning Army Commander Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, MP, on the first day of the debate, underlined the pathetic state of affairs.

Polonnaruwa District ‘Pohottuwa’ lawmaker Sirisena’s claim that the war veteran wouldn’t have received the Field Marshal’s rank without his intervention proved again he didn’t have any sense of what he was talking about. If not for Fonseka’s strategic, courageous, ruthless and relentless leadership in pursuit of his goal to destroy the Tigers, the LTTE wouldn’t have collapsed in less than three years (Aug 2006-May 2009) though the successful war effort hinged on the combined forces commitment, and leadership in their respective fields.

MP Sirisena owes an explanation as to why wartime Navy and Air Force commanders, Wasantha Karannagoda and Roshan Gunathilake, respectively, were denied honorary ranks of Admiral of the Fleet and Marshal of the Air Force when Fonseka was awarded the rank of Field Marshal in March 2015. Karannagoda and Gunathilake finally received their due honours in Sept. 2019, several months after the Easter Sunday carnage, the subject of the two-day debate that didn’t achieve anything.

Lawmaker Sirisena should be reminded that he held the public security portfolio as the then President and Commander in Chief at the time of the Easter attacks. Sirisena steadfastly refused to swear in an UNPer as Public Security Minister though he reluctantly swore in Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Premier after the Supreme Court thwarted his constitutional coup. In fact, an influential section of the Yahapalana setup wanted Fonseka appointed as the Public Security Minister, though the proposal didn’t find favour with Premier Wickremesinghe.

While Parliament debated the Easter Sunday carnage, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who served as the Premier at the time of the near simultaneous suicide attacks, was away in Washington to attend the 78th sessions of the UN General Assembly in New York. Let me reproduce verbatim the assessment made by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday carnage. “Upon consideration of the evidence, it is the view of the CoI that the lax approach of Mr. Wickremesinghe towards Islamic extremism, as the Prime Minister, was one of the primary reasons for the failure on the part of the then government to take proactive steps towards Islamic extremism. This facilitated the build-up of Islamic extremism to the point of the Easer Sunday attack.” (Final report, Vol

01, p 276-277).

Against the backdrop of lawmaker Sirisena seeking UN intervention following the Channel 4 allegations, based on Hanzeer Azad Maulana (ex-aide to State Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan aka Pilleyan) over claims of complicity of Maj. Gen. Suresh Sallay in the Easter Sunday plot, it would be pertinent to point out the CoI’s assessment on the then President Sirisena. “Upon consideration of evidence of facts before 4th April 2019, the CoI is of the view that President Sirisena has failed in his duties and responsibilities and that his failure transcends beyond mere civil negligence.” (Final report, Vol 01, p 263)

CoI suggested: “….based on the evidence, the CoI is of the view that there is criminal liability on his part for the acts or omissions explained above. The CoI recommends that the Attorney General consider instituting criminal proceedings against President Sirisena under any suitable provision in the Penal Code.” (Final report, Vol 01, p 265)

Supreme Court Justice Janak de Silva chaired the CoI. The other members of the CoI were Court of Appeal Judge Bandula Karunaratne, retired Court of Appeal Judge Sunil Rajapaksa, retired High Court Judge Bandula Atapattu and retired Justice Ministry Secretary W.M.M.R. Adikari. The CoI commenced its hearings on Oct. 31, 2019 and sat on 214 days in total, holding 640 sittings and interviewing 451 witnesses.

The ‘Pohottuwa’ caused suspicions among the Catholics by appointing a six-member team to study the report prepared by such an eminent group. The group, headed by Chamal Rajapaksa, and included Johnston Fernando, Udaya Gammanpila, Ramesh Pathirana, Prasanna Ranatunga and Rohitha Abeygunawardena, was named on Feb. 19, 2021. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa received the report on Feb 01, 2021.

The Catholic Church repeatedly pointed out that none of the recommendations made by the CoI had been implemented.

Retired AVM doubts C4 claims

Air Vice Marshal [retired] A.B. Sosa V S V, psc, emphasized the pivotal importance of what he called maximum possible legal punitive action against those responsible for the attacks and security failure at all levels.

The former coordinating Officer of the Hambantota District at the height of the JVP-inspired insurgency (1987/88) and Mahiyanganaya in 1989 where the JVP declared a curfew to sabotage President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s Gam Udawa project explained how various interested parties exploited the developing situation to their advantage.

Declaring that the Easter Sunday carnage is a crime against humanity, Sosa examined the sequence of events as presented by C4, based on Hanzeer Azad Maulana, ex-CID Officer Nishantha Silva, who sought political asylum in Switzerland a week after Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election as the President in Nov. 2019, and an anonymous Sri Lankan Government Official.

C4 accusations pertained to the period about four years prior to the Easter bombings. They rely on the accusations of Maulana and Nishantha Silva. C4 dealt with circumstances Pilleyan’s involvement in the murder of a sitting Member of Parliament Joseph Pararajasingham while attending holy mass on Christmas day 2005. That killing took place in Batticaloa.

One-time LTTEer and sidekick of Karuna Amman who served Mahinda Rajapaksa’s parliamentary group had been entrusted with the task of eliminating those opposed to the Rajapaksas, according to Moulana, who lucidly explained the role played by his former boss over the years.

Sosa questioned Moulana’s claim that Pilleyan’s group had been accommodated at the former Tripoli market premises and was named the ‘Tripoli Platoon.’ The former Director of Operations and Training declared: “This is an outrageous claim. As there had been an Army detachment therein, a motley crowd of civilians couldn’t have been positioned there under any circumstances. Such a situation is not possible in any disciplined military organization.”

Reiterating his concerns over the failure on the part of successive governments to punish those responsible for the assassination of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunga in January 2009, the Air Force veteran said that Moulana’s claim that the wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa directed the so-called Tripoli ‘platoon’ to eliminate the eminent journalist is nothing but a blatant lie.

Sosa said that the ex-CID officer’s unsubstantiated claims regarding the Wickrematunga assassination and his removal from the investigation should be examined against the backdrop of his failure to produce any documents or incriminating tapes. The retired AVM emphasized decisions couldn’t be made or consensus reached merely on a statement. Reference was made to an unprecedented Swiss Embassy ‘drama’ that followed the CID officer leaving the country along with his family.

During his career, Sosa, who had received training in the UK and Pakistan, held several command appointments, including as the Commander of the Katunayake Air Force Base.

Commenting on the alleged meeting arranged by Moulana between Sallay and the would-be Easter Sunday suicide bombers in a coconut estate called Lactowatta in the Puttalam district in Feb. 2018, Sosa emphasized this allegation should be examined taking into consideration the officer concerned was based in Malaysia as Sri Lanka’s Minister Counsellor. Sallay is on record as having said that he never left Malaysia in 2018 to visit Sri Lanka or any other country. Sosa stressed that Sallay, who had served as head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) at the time of the 2015 presidential election, was removed and sent out of the country. Malaysia could help Sri Lanka and other interested parties to establish/ascertain the then Minister Counsellor’s movements. Sosa said: “Sallay could not have been simultaneously in two countries.”

The retired AVM also disputed C4 claim that Moulana had received instructions from Sallay on April 19, 2019, over the phone on the basis the officer was on a National Defence College, India, course. The government and other interested parties could easily verify this with Indian authorities, Sosa said, pointing out that both Malaysia and India must have examined claims.

The retired officer said: “In such circumstances, it is obvious that some ill-considered notions had been accepted by C4. Did C4 engage in a deliberate project to discredit Sri Lanka? I hold no brief for anyone. I have never met those who had been interviewed by C4 or persons mentioned, including Maj. Gen. Suresh Sallay. There is absolutely no doubt that the heinous Easter Sunday attacks and other allegations must be thoroughly investigated and perpetrators punished. However, it is necessary to sift out red herrings such as the farcical so-called C 4 hatchet job meant to discredit Sri Lanka. Perhaps, C4 is among those who pursued a different agenda as they couldn’t stomach our victory over terrorism.”

Sosa retired in Aug. 1990 on reaching the mandatory 55 years, several weeks after the eruption of Eelam War 11. Having successfully met the JVP challenge in the hotbed of subversive activities, where he served as CO for a year, Sosa received appointment as Base Commander, Karunayake, even though the Security Council wanted him appointed as CO, Kegalle. Sosa recalled how President Ranasinghe Premadasa, having succeeded JRJ, sent him to Mahiyangana to neutralise the JVP threat to facilitate the holding of Gam Udawa there. “Immediately after I took over security at Mahiyangana, President Premadasa met me there. We had a very cordial one-to-one meeting. The President told me to ensure that power supply was not interrupted and normalcy restored. The JVP had sabotaged the entire fleet of around 30 buses in the depot. I flew down motor fitters and mechanics from Katunayake air base who got the buses going by cleaning the sand spiked gear boxes and oil tanks. Army troops were placed on 24-hour patrols to ensure the power pylons were not destroyed by the JVP. These troops had to be maintained by helicopters as the area was not accessible by road. During the Gam Udawa period, President Premadasa met me every morning. The Gam Udawa drew a large crowd and everything went off well except for a minor incident after closing time on one occasion. When leaving in the morning after the final day the President said “Thank you, see me in Colombo.” Sosa said that he opted to get back to Katunayake air base and remained there until retirement.

The Thileepan affair

Amidst the ongoing controversy over the Easter Sunday carnage and ahead of the two-day debate in Parliament, a vehicle carrying a portrait of Thileepan was attacked by villagers at Shardhapura, Uppuveli.

Thileepan died of a hunger strike at Nallur Kandasamy Kovil on Sept. 26, 1987. His fast lasted 11 days. A section of the media reported that National List MP Selvarajah Kajendran (a member of the Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam led Ahila Illankai Thamil Congress) accompanying the vehicle was also attacked. It would be pertinent to mention that Kajendran first entered Parliament in 2004 on the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) ticket. The one-time President of the Jaffna University Students Union received the backing of the LTTE at that election in the wake of the TNA recognizing Velupillai Prabhakaran as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people, amidst the shocking split caused by then LTTE Eastern Commander Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan aka Karuna Amman defecting to the government.

The portrait-carrying vehicle began its journey at Pottuvil and was on its way to the Jaffna peninsula, where the final remembrance was to be held. A section of the media depicted Thileepan as a person who died for the rights of the Tamil speaking people.

Let us examine the circumstances 26-year-old Thileepan died following the 11-day fast after Velupillai Prabhakaran ‘deployed’ him as a suicide bomber. Actually, Thileepan’s fast unto death was meant to cause mayhem in the Jaffna peninsula. The LTTE mounted its first suicide attack on July 05, 1987, on the Nelliady Army detachment.

Former LTTE terrorist Niromi de Soyza (adopted pseudonym) dealt with Thileepan’s fast unto death, in her debut as a writer. ‘Tamil Tigress’ first published two years after the Sri Lankan military decimated the LTTE’s conventional military capability, the writer, who had been 17 at the time she joined the group in 1987, discussed Thileepan’s death against the backdrop of Velupillai Prabhakaran’s decision to take on the Indian Army. Sri Lanka was forced to accept the deployment of the Indian Army in late July 1987.

The writer ‘Niromi’ questioned Velupillai Prabhakaran’s choice as Thileepan was physically fragile and too intelligent to be sanctified. She had been one of those assigned for crowd controlling duties at Nallur Kandasamy Kovil where she witnessed Thileepan being welcomed onto the makeshift podium. The LTTE’s No. 02 at the time Mahattaya had been with Thileepan at the launch of his fast. ‘Niromi’ had been at the scene of the hunger strike on many days and experienced the LTTE propagating the lie that the dying man’s wish was for the LTTE to defeat the Indian Army. Recalling the opportunity she received to get onto the podium, the writer translated four lines of a Tamil song heard about a week after Thileepan launched his much advertised action.

A sweet-smelling flower is withering

It cannot speak, it cannot walk

Will Thileepan anna’s desire be satisfied?

Won’t the foreign army flee?

The writer named Thileepan as the person who conscripted her, handed her first assault rifle as well as a cyanide capsule which the writer called kuppie.

She had been present when a doctor who examined Thileepan on Sept. 26, 1987, pronounced him dead.

‘Niromi de Soyza’ wrote: With his life Thileepan had paved the way for war (Chapter 09: There’s still time to change your mind).

Less than 10 days after Thileepan’s death, the Sri Lanka Navy intercepted a trawler carrying a group of hardcore LTTE terrorists in the northern seas. Their detention and their subsequent mass suicide in Sri Lankan custody led to the resumption of war in the second week of Oct. 1987.

Niromi de Soyza quoted Velupillai Prabhakaran as having told a group of cadres, including herself, soon after the mass suicide at Palaly, “The Indian government engineered the so-called peace process as a plot to gradually eliminate us.”

Propaganda war will continue unabated until Sri Lanka countered lies. Fifteen years after the conclusion of the war, Sri Lanka is still struggling to counter various narratives. There cannot be a better example than the bid to exploit deliberately caused Thileepan’s death to launch a fresh rift between the Sinhalese and Tamil speaking people. The vehicle convoy that had been launched from Pottuvil was meant to cause maximum harm to these yet fragile relations. Unless the government takes tangible measures against such exploiting tactics to create fresh wounds between the two communities, the day the country erupts again is not far off.

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Midweek Review

The Masked Gentry



By Lynn Ockersz

In the Lil Isle’s survival saga,

Desperation, dark and subtle,

Is now starkly visible,

And ponder we must on this duality,

For, out of humans given to avarice,

The worst explodes to the surface,

Drive-by killings being a proof of this,

But elders walking the streets,

Teeming with bargain hunters,

Out of neglect and dire need,

Their Covid masks proving handy,

To hide their genteel identity,

Are a sound measure as well,

Of the nation’s state of health,

For, in their frail persons they carry,

An indictment on a society past caring.

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Midweek Review

How shoddy handling of accountability issues facilitated anti-Sri Lanka Geneva project



Sri Lanka’s failure on the Geneva front has facilitated a high profile project to undermine the country’s unitary status. The Geneva role in the controversial bid to introduce a brand new Constitution during the Yahapalana administration with the involvement of the rebel UPFA group (now SLPP) has been quietly forgotten. At one point, Wimal Weerawansa quit the process, warning the then Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa to leave the UNP-led operation or face the consequences.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

In the absence of a cohesive and holistic effort on the part of Sri Lanka, till now, to counter unsubstantiated war crimes allegations, the country remains enmeshed in the Geneva trap.

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009 in spite of Western efforts at scuttling it, even at the eleventh hour, by dispatching a powerful team of foreign Ministers from the UK and France to prevail on the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa to halt the war when we were on a certain winning path, proving many a pundit wrong.

With such a powerful Western delegation, comprising French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Dr. Bernard Kouchner and Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom David Miliband trailing President Rajapaksa he even conveniently fled to Embilipitiya to avoid them but they pursued him there and pleaded their case in late April 2009. The President simply rejected their plea. So, no wonder, the West left no stone unturned to destroy that government and the Rakapaksas! That is not to say that we consider the Rajapaksas’ to be lily white; they were far from it.

The basis for the continued harassment, and humiliation, of war-winning Sri Lanka, is the report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts (PoE) on Accountability here, released on 31 March, 2011. It was authored by Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia), Yasmin Sooka (South Africa) and Steven Ratner (US).

On 01 October, 2015, Sri Lanka became the first country to betray her own armed forces by co-sponsoring UN Human Rights Council’s Resolution 30/1 that ostensibly promoted reconciliation, accountability and human rights. Since then Geneva has gleefully engaged in bashing Sri Lanka annually.

The ongoing 54th Geneva sessions (11 Sept. – 23 Oct., 2023) is no exception. Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva Himalee Arunatilaka rejected the latest Geneva statement (written update). The career diplomat also strongly disputed the reference to the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage. That reference, obviously, was based on UK television station Channel 4 allegation that wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa engineered near simultaneous Easter Sunday suicide attacks which claimed the lives of 269 persons, including 45 foreigners, based on an allegation levelled by a sole individual, while trying to seek political asylum in Switzerland.

On the basis of Geneva claims, some of those who successfully spearheaded what was repeatedly dubbed an unwinnable war, have been harshly dealt with. Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Shavendra Silva is one. Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage, who retired in late 2018, is another. The list is long. When the writer raised the issue with Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, a year ago, he didn’t mince his words when he declared that not only individuals but the entire fighting formations have been condemned.

Sri Lanka never made a genuine effort to address accountability issues. The Rajapaksas unashamedly exploited the Geneva threat to their advantage, whereas other political parties played politics with the issue. Defeated LTTE’s sidekick, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) threw its weight behind the Geneva project.

Arunatilaka who previously served as our Ambassador to Nepal (Oct. 2019 to Dec. 2022) succeeded C.A. Chandraprema in January this year following the election of Ranil Wickremesinghe as President. Parliament elected Wickremesinghe on July 20, 2022, a week after Gotabaya Rajapaksa, elected with a thumping 6.9 mn votes, was forced to flee the country, following an unprecedented public protest campaign over the disruption of basic services, with lavish funding from both local and foreign sources angry with the Rajapaksas. In the latter case they were angry at them for delivering a crushing defeat to the LTTE. The declaration of bankruptcy by the Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, during the tail end of Gotabaya Rajapaksa presidency, was long overdue. In January, this year, Dr. Weerasinghe said that Sri Lanka had been bankrupt much earlier but didn’t acknowledge the reality.

But the irony is Sri Lanka has gone bankrupt with a foreign debt of little over USD 50 billion, a sizeable amount out of it had been borrowed at high interest rates during the Yahapalana regime (2015-2019). The situation had been exacerbated by that regime loosening exchange controls by doing away with the time-tested Exchange Control Act that had been in place since the early 1950s. As a result, Sri Lanka has been made open to unscrupulous elements to steal valuable foreign exchange from the country. To make the situation worse, even according to Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, some unscrupulous exporters have parked export proceeds abroad to the tune of about USD100 billion that should have been legitimately brought back to Sri Lanka. So in actual fact our bankruptcy is entirely an artificial one created by interested parties! So the billion dollar question is why the government is not taking action to bring back the money that legitimately belongs to this country, or at least name the culprits in public.

At the time Sri Lanka co-sponsored resolution 30/1, career diplomat Ravinatha Aryasinha (currently Executive Director, Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute) served as Permanent Representative there (19 July, 2012 to 31 March, 2018), according to our mission website. The late Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera directed Aryasinha to go ahead, regardless of serious concerns raised by him. At the behest of the then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, Aryasinha was simply overruled.

Another career diplomat A.L. Azeez succeeded Aryasinha. Azeez and served there from 12 April, 2018 to 31 January, 2020, also according to the website. Therefore, at the time Sri Lanka declared its withdrawal from the Geneva process, on 26 February, 2020, the Geneva position remained vacant. That silly announcement was meant to deceive the gullible people as the ongoing Geneva session reminds Sri Lanka of the tightening noose laid by the West.

Veteran bilingual newspaper columnist Chadraprema served as our PR there 10 Nov., 2020 to 31 Dec., 2022, and was replaced by Arunatilaka, who joined the Foreign Service in 1998.

A pathetic response

Whoever had been at the helm, the Government of Sri Lanka was determined not to set the record straight, both locally and internationally. The war-winning Rajapaksa administration and the Wickremesinghe-Sirisena government, that co-sponsored the treacherous 30/1 US-led resolution in Oct. 2015 against one’s own country, refrained from addressing specific issues. The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government was definitely the worst. Instead of mounting a proper defence, it merely declared the country’s withdrawal from that resolution.

It would be pertinent to mention that Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government hired US-based WR group and a private equity fund manager Imaad Zuberi at a cost of USD 6.5 mn (approximately Rs 1.31 bn) to influence US policy. The payments made over a period of five months, in 2014, were meant to divert US attention from Sri Lanka, ahead of the 2015 Geneva sessions. With the change of government, Sri Lanka joined the US in co-sponsoring a 30/1 resolution against her own armed forces.

In February 2021, Imaad Zuberi was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion, foreign influence-peddling and campaign finance violations.

Five years before the endorsement of the 30/1 resolution, the Tamil speaking people, living in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, declared their faith in the warwinning Army Commander, Gen. Sarath Fonseka, for President. The US, too, affirmed her confidence in the SLA by throwing its weight behind Gen. Fonseka, who contested the first national election after the eradication of separatist Tamil terrorism. The Tamil electorate voted for Fonseka against the backdrop of the TNA’s endorsement of the General, whose ruthless tactics brought the LTTE down to its knees within three years. Then why did the Tamil electorate overwhelmingly vote for Fonseka? Had they really despised General Fonseka for Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE, the electorate could have boycotted the poll, regardless of the TNA’s intervention. Let me stress that all those Tamil speaking people, who voted for Fonseka and Commander-in-Chief of armed forces Mahinda Rajapaksa, in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, did so because they appreciated the eradication of the LTTE. That is the truth.

Unfortunately, no government ever referred to this fact in Geneva. Sri Lanka should have taken up this matter with the Sri Lanka Core Group,comprising the US, the UK, Canada, Malawi, Montenegro and North Macedonia, at the UNHRC.

Having endorsed Fonseka at a national election, less than a year after his Army crushed the LTTE, it would be quite absurd for Tamil representatives in Parliament to press for an international inquiry. And those demanding for external intervention are silent on the origins of terrorism. The TNA, instead of demanding an international investigation, should make a public apology for its recognition of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran as the sole representative of the Tamil-speaking people, way back in 2001.

Sri Lanka shouldn’t hesitate to declare a sordid relationship between the TNA and the LTTE before the UNHRC as well as to bring it to the notice of the UN, officially. TNA lawmaker M.A. Sumanthiran, PC, attended meetings on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York. For some strange reason, successive governments refrained from placing all facts, officially, before the international community, thereby allowing all those interested in hounding Sri Lanka for defeating LTTE terrorism, especially in the West, along with their cronies like Malawi, exploit a hapless country.

In fact, there is no point in blaming the Western powers, and India, for Sri Lanka’s pathetic failure to set the record straight no doubt because of their international clout. In addition to the far reaching disclosure made by Lord Naseby in the House of Lords in Oct. 2017 that disputed the very basis of the Darusman report, there were a number of other instances/developments which could have been utilized to build Sri Lanka’s defence. But irresponsible political leadership ignored such developments. Sri Lanka’s first major mistake was its failure to use the overwhelming Tamils’ recognition of General Fonseka at the 2010 presidential election.

Key factors

Having faulted the SLA, on three major counts, the PoE (Panel of Experts) accused Sri Lanka of massacring at least 40,000 civilians. Let me reproduce the paragraph, bearing No. 137, verbatim: “In the limited surveys that have been carried out in the aftermath of the conflict, the percentage of people reporting dead relatives is high. A number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths. Two years after the end of the war, there is no reliable figure for civilian deaths, but multiple sources of information indicate that a range of up to 40,000 civilian deaths cannot be ruled out at this stage. Only a proper investigation can lead to the identification of all of the victims and to the formulation of an accurate figure for the total number of civilian deaths.”

Those in authority should have paid attention to the following cases. The writer, on numerous occasions, underscored the responsibility on the part of the government to explore ways and means of exploring the following matters as part of overall strategy to build a solid defence (1) Dismissal of war crimes accusations by wartime US Defence Attaché Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith in Colombo. The then US official did so at the May-June 2011 first post-war defence seminar in Colombo, two months after the release of the PoE report. The State Department disputed the official’s right to represent the US at the forum though it refrained from challenging the statement. (2) Examination of the US statement along with Lord Naseby’s Oct. 2017 disclosure based on the then British Defence advisor Lt. Colonel Anthony Gash’s cables to London during the war (Jan.-May 2009). Sri Lanka never used Lord Naseby’s disclosure to her advantage. (3) WikiLeaks revelations that dealt with the Sri Lanka war. A high profile Norwegian study on its role in the Sri Lanka conflict examined some of these cables. However, the Norwegian process never strengthened Sri Lanka’s defence. Instead Norway merely sought to disown its culpability in the events leading to the annihilation of the LTTE. One of the most important WikiLeaks revelations disputed Sri Lanka deliberately targeting civilians. The cable proved that our ground forces took heavy losses by taking the civilian factor into consideration. (4) Wide discrepancies in loss of civilian lives claimed by the UN and various other interested parties. The UN estimated the figure at 40,000 (March 2011) whereas Amnesty International (Sept, 2011) placed the number at 10,000 and a member of the UK Parliament (Sept. 2011) estimated the death toll at 100,000. (5) Disgraceful attempt made by Geneva to exploit the so-called Mannar mass graves during the Yahapalana administration. The Foreign Ministry, under the Yahapalana rule, conveniently remained silent on the Mannar graves, while Western diplomats played politics, only to be proved utterly wrong. Acting at the interest of those hell-bent on blaming Sri Lanka, the then Geneva Chief Michelle Bachet faulted Sri Lanka before the conclusion of the investigation. The then Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran (Jaffna District MP now) rejected scientific findings of the Beta Analytic Institute of Florida, USA, in respect of samples of skeletal remains sent from the Mannar mass grave site. Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet went to the extent of commenting on the Mannar mass grave in her report that dealt with the period from Oct. 2015 to January 2019. We come to wonder whether she was actually a victim of Gen. Pinochet or a mere manufactured victim. Had the US lab issued a report to suit their strategy, would they have accepted fresh tests in case the government of Sri Lanka requested? The following is a relevant section bearing No. 23 from Bachelet’s report: “On May 29, 2018, human skeletal remains were discovered at a construction site in Mannar (Northern Province), Excavations conducted in support of the Office on Missing Persons, revealed a mass grave from which more than 300 skeletons were discovered. It was the second mass grave found in Mannar following the discovery of a site in 2014. Given that other mass graves might be expected to be found in the future, systematic access to grave sites by the Office as an observer is crucial for it to fully discharge its mandate, particularly with regard to the investigation and identification of remains, it is imperative that the proposed reforms on the law relating to inquests, and relevant protocols to operationalize the law be adopted. The capacity of the forensic sector must also be strengthened, including in areas of forensic anthropology, forensic archaeology and genetics, and its coordination with the Office of Missing Persons must be ensured.” (6) Wigneswaran, in his capacity as the then Northern Province Chief Minister in August 2016, accused the Army of killing over 100 LTTE cadres held in rehabilitation facilities. Wigneswaran claimed the detainees had been given poisonous injections resulting in the deaths of 104 persons. The unprecedented accusation made by the retired Supreme Court judge had been timed to attract international attention. Wignewaran is on record as having said a US medical team visiting Jaffna at that time would examine the former rehabilitated LTTE cadres, who he alleged had fallen sick because they were injected with poisonous substances at government detention or rehabilitation centres.

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