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Midweek Review

The day Mangala issued a warning to P’karan



Mangala Samaraweera left an unforgettable mark in politics

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The late Minister Mangala Samaraweera, on Sept. 8, 2006, warned the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of dire consequences,unless the group returned to the negotiating table. The LTTE quit the negotiating table, in April 2003, during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s tenure as the Premier. The warning was issued in his capacity as the Foreign Minister, at a meeting with the Colombo-based diplomatic community.

Reiterating the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s readiness to consider proposals for a comprehensive and verifiable cession of hostilities, Samaraweera warned the LTTE that military aggression, on their part, would entail, what he called, military costs to them.

The Minister said so when he addressed a section of the diplomatic community in the wake of the successful Army assault on the LTTE first-line of defence across the Kilali-Muhamalai frontline a few days before the military recaptured Sampur in the East on August 4 (Forces seize Tigers’ Jaffna frontline with strapline …any military aggression on their part would entail military costs to them-Foreign Minister, The Island, Sept 11, 2006)

Matara district lawmaker, Mangala Pinsiri Samaraweera, who first entered parliament at the 1989 general election, received the vital foreign affairs portfolio in the wake of the then Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa’s triumph at the 2005 presidential election.

Samaraweera, 65, succumbed to Covid-19, at Lanka Hospital, last week.

Rajapaksa won narrowly against UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who lost by fewer than 200,000 votes. The polls boycott ordered by the LTTE caused Wickremesinghe’s defeat; he lost the Northern Province Tamil vote, which is traditionally cast in favour of the UNP. Interestingly, the announcement of the undemocratic act of telling the Tamil people not to vote was done by the Tamil National Alliance.

Following the presidential election, the LTTE resumed its offensive action in the Jaffna peninsula, in the first week of Dec. 2005. The LTTE launched a spate of claymore mine attacks in the North in spite of the Oslo-arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) still in place with Peace Co-Chairs, namely the US, Japan, EU and Norway, engaged in the process, in a supervisory role. It looked as if the self-appointed co-chairs were there more to wink at the LTTE as it staged hundreds of CFA violations.

 Following the failed attempt to assassinate the then Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, in late April 2006, Mavil-aru battle, in June-July 2006, the LTTE launched large scale offensives, in both the northern and eastern theatres, simultaneously, in the second week of August 2006. The LTTE made some rapid territorial gains, though the armed forces gradually stabilised the situation, on both fronts. Having survived a suicide attack, in late April 2006, and flown to Singapore, where he received specialised treatment, Fonseka was obviously back, wanting to atone for what the LTTE did to him. Back at his heavily fortified headquarters in Colombo where he vowed to finish off the LTTE once and for all.

The LTTE strategy suffered another serious setback when then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, too, survived an LTTE suicide attack in the first week of Dec 2006.

Foreign Minister Samaraweera issued the warning to the LTTE, ahead of the LTTE assassination attempt on Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Samaraweera received his first ministerial portfolio in 1994, thanks to President Kumaratunga, who accommodated him in her Cabinet as Posts and Telecommunications Minister. Kumaratunga also rewarded Samaraweera with Urban Development, Construction and Public Utilities.

 A cocky LTTE leadership felt confident that its formations could overwhelm the Army in the Jaffna peninsula, having disrupted the Trincomalee- Kankesanthurai Main Supply Route (MSR). Their plans eventually went awry. However, at the time Samaraweera issued the warning, in early Sept 2006, the LTTE was in a commanding position, with the West openly and repeatedly singing hosannas on its behalf claiming that the security forces were incapable of defeating it. A section of the diplomatic community, as well as various experts, believed the LTTE had the wherewithal to bring offensive actions, in the northern theatre, to a successful conclusion. But, by May 2009, just two years and 10 months after the LTTE resumed hostilities, its fighting cadre was left annihilated.

Mangala receives Foreign portfolio

President Rajapaksa rewarded Samaraweera with the Foreign Affairs portfolio, though the latter hadn’t been his first choice. Rajapaksa-Samaraweera duo emerged as a team during the second JVP-inspired insurgency (1987-1990) when they functioned as key spokespersons for the Mothers’ Front. The group represented the interests of those who had been at the receiving end of the military campaign, backed by UNP death squads. The late Anura Bandaranaike, too, expected the President to reappoint him as the Foreign Minister after his failure to secure the premiership with the JVP’s backing. Bandaranaike was sworn in as the Foreign Minister immediately after the assassination of Lakshman Kadirgamar on the night of August 12, 2005, at his private Bullers Lane residence.

It would be pertinent to mention that the JVP contested the 2004 parliamentary election on the UPFA ticket, following the short-lived so-called parivasa administration.

The JVP achieved the unthinkable by securing 39 seats, including three National List slots. In the immediate aftermath of the 2004 polls victory, the JVP, in a letter dated April 5, 2004, addressed to the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, demanded that Lakshman Kadirgamar be made the Premier.

JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva emphasised that their second choice was Anura Bandaranaike and the third Maithripala Sirisena, the then General Secretary of the SLFP.

However, Maithripala Sirisena strongly advised Kumaratunga against the move, widely believed to have had the backing of staunch Kumaratunga loyalist Samaraweera. Son of the late Minister Mahanama Samaraweera and Khema Samaraweera, outspoken Mangala, a fashion designer by profession, was known for his controversial statements. Samaraweera daringly backed LGBT rights when such things were never even openly discussed here and was at the forefront of such campaigns.

If the JVP strategy succeeded, Mahinda Rajapaksa would have been deprived of the premiership in 2004 and the opportunity to contest the presidential poll in the following year. President Kumaratunga quite wrongly asserted that she could continue till 2006 as the presidential poll scheduled for 2000 under her watch was held in 1999. However, the Supreme Court torpedoed her move. With the collapse of Kumaratunga’s strategy, Samaraweera backed Rajapaksa’s candidature due to failure on her part to secure the backing of party seniors. Samaraweera played a significant role in the overall presidential polls campaign, though both Kumaratunga and Anura Bandaranaike skipped the campaign and more or less worked against Mahinda Rajapaksa, covertly.

Samaraweera had been among several SLFP seniors invited by President Rajapaksa on the evening of Nov 19, 2005 to inform them of the allocation of Cabinet portfolios. The late Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, Maithripala Sirisena, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Mangala Samaraweera, Rohitha Bogollagama, Basil Rajapaksa (not a member of Parliament at the time) and Lalith Weeratunga had been present. Dullas Alahapperuma, too, had been present, though he didn’t sit at that meeting.

“President Rajapaksa didn’t consult anyone as regards allocation of portfolios. He simply informed those who were seated around an oval shaped table what they were going to get. UNPer Rohitha Bogollagama, who switched his allegiance to the SLFP during Kumaratunga’s tenure was offered the Foreign Affairs portfolio. Bogollagama, who held the Foreign Investment portfolio at that time, inquired whether he could retain the same in addition to the foreign affairs. However, the allocation of portfolios quite clearly irritated some party seniors. Shortly, thereafter, only Rohitha Bogollagama sat with President Rajapaksa for dinner whereas others left,” a source familiar with the Temple Trees discussion told the writer.

“Subsequently, the Rajapaksas reached a consensus with Samaraweera by offering him the Foreign portfolio, originally offered to Bogollagama, who accepted the reality.

 Some believed Samaraweera expected the premiership and was quite disappointed when he was told he couldn’t retain the Urban Development portfolio. Samaraweera couldn’t maintain peace with the Rajapaksas and was unceremoniously stripped of the Foreign portfolio, in January 2007, in the wake of him pursuing an agenda opposed to that of the then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

President brought in Bogollagama as the Foreign Minister. One-time UNPer handled the Ministry during the most challenging period with the West exerting tremendous pressure to undermine the war effort.

Ousted from SLFP, Mangala joins UNP

In spite of losing the foreign portfolio, Samaraweera antagonised the Rajapaksas by pursuing an agenda which the latter considered was severely inimical to the overall war effort. President Rajapaksa also felt that Samaraweera’s strategy undermined the ruling party, particular at a time the military was engaged in a desperate battle with the LTTE. Finally, President Rajapaksa sacked Samaraweera, along with Anura Bandaranaike and Sripathy Sooriyaarachchi, in the second week of Feb 2007.

However, within days after declaring war on the Rajapaksas, Bandaranaike backtracked and quietly reached an agreement with the ruling clan. President removed the trio after they skipped the vote on the state of emergency. Bandaranaike re-joined what he called ‘Carnival of Clowns’ much to the dismay of Samaraweera, who didn’t receive the support pledged by his colleagues.

A dejected Samaraweera formed the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (Mahajana) Wing. Samaraweera couldn’t secure the much expected backing required to sustain his campaign and finally disbanded his unregistered party, in August 2010, to accept the UNP membership. However, by then Samaraweewa had re-entered Parliament, from the Matara district, on the UNP ticket. Samaraweera had no option but to accept Ranil Wickremesinghe’s leadership and worked diligently for the UNP’s victory, five years later.

Samaraweera played quite a significant role as an Opposition UNP member (2010-2015) and member of the yahapalana administration (2015-2019) before he switched his allegiance to Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) leader Sajith Premadasa.

However, Samaraweera deserted Premadasa in next to no time ahead of the last parliamentary election in August 2020. In an obvious bid meant to undermine the SJB, Samaraweera declared he wouldn’t be in the fray though he handed over nominations as the leader of the Matara District SJB.

Role in 2010 prez poll

In his capacity as the Foreign Minister, Samaraweera clashed with Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s strategy. One of the major issues of disagreement between the two was Samaraweera’s push for the re-opening of the Kandy-Jaffna road, at Muhamalai, to pave the way for the resumption of overland traffic to and from the Jaffna peninsula. Gotabaya Rajapaksa dismissed the suggestion. Rajapaksa asserted that Muhamalai wouldn’t be re-opened through negotiations with the LTTE. Instead, the re-opening would be done by clearing the LTTE fortifications across the Kilali-Muhamalai-Nagarkovil line.

 The then Defence Secretary Rajapaksa told the writer of his decision not to re-open the Muhamalai entry/exit point in agreement with the LTTE, under no circumstances. They also disagreed on the deployment of SLAF choppers to move LTTE leaders around (this was done in terms of the Oslo understanding) and the handling of international NGOs. The Foreign Ministry asserted the military would antagonise Western powers whereas the Defence Secretary emphasised that nothing could be allowed to undermine the war effort.

As promised, the government re-opened the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road, only after the eradication of the LTTE in 2009.

Having ridiculed Fonseka as a person not even capable of commanding the Salvation Army, Samaraweera had no qualms in accepting the challenging task of being the Opposition candidate’s campaign strategist. In fact, Samaraweera, on behalf of Fonseka, assured the US of his good intentions. One such meeting took place on January 6, 2010, a few days before the then US Ambassador in Colombo, Patricia Butenis, in a leaked diplomatic memo, named the Rajapaksa brothers, Mahinda, Gotabaya and Basil and Sarath Fonseka, as war criminals. The massive defeat suffered by Fonseka, at the January 2010 presidential election, revealed serious shortcomings in the overall strategy. The Fonseka campaign suffered due to foolish attempts to placate the Tamil electorate by blaming the Army for battlefield executions during the last phase of the Vanni east offensive. Samaraweera played a significant role in forming the US backed alliance which included the Tamil National Alliance, onetime cat’s paw of Velupillai Prabhakaran. Samaraweera also facilitated the JVP’s participation in the high profile project, spearheaded by the UNP.

Having defeated Ranil Wickremesinghe, by 180,000 votes, at the 2005 presidential election, the President secured a second term by polling over 1.8mn more votes than the war- winning Army Commander. Obviously, Samaraweera’s strategy didn’t work, though many, including some sections of the diplomatic community, strongly believed the former Foreign Minister could turn tables on Mahinda Rajapaksa. At the end, the UNP-led camp made a ridiculous bid to blame the humiliating defeat Fonseka suffered on what bankrupt JVP called a computer jilmaart (fraud)

Mangala as yahapalana FM

 Samaraweera who enjoyed excellent relations with the JVP at politically crucial periods, played strategic roles in both the SLFP and UNP-led camps. At the 2005 presidential poll, Samaraweera threw his weight behind Mahinda Rajapaksa and five years later the electorate saw him spearheading Fonseka’s presidential campaign. Samaraweera proved again in politics there were no permanent friends or enemies.

 Perhaps, one of Samaraweera’s major successes was his ability to secure the support of the powerful Tamil Diaspora. Samaraweera was quite satisfied with the way he handled the Diaspora in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election. The writer, who accompanied the government delegation to London, led by President Sirisena, had an opportunity to discuss the matter with the then Foreign Minister Samaraweera during the visit a couple of months after the presidential election.

Samaraweera facilitated the TNA’s backing for Sirisena that made his triumph over Mahinda Rajapaksa a reality.

The writer sought GTF’s spokesperson Suren Surendiran’s comment on Samaraweera’s demise Surendiran said that his first ever interaction with the late lawmaker had been in 2007 in his personal capacity. However, as the GTF spokesperson, Surendiran had interacted with Samaraweera, in 2011, and again when he visited the UK, in 2012, over dinner at his place with fellow colleagues of GTF. Surendiran said: “In September 2013 we formally met along with other politicians and civil society activists from Sri Lanka, and overseas, in Singapore. We, as GTF, have met him several times in the UK, Germany, Washington, Switzerland, Australia and Singapore.”

Responding to another query, Surendiran said that Samaraweera had been instrumental in arranging the GTF’s first meeting with the then President Maithripala Sirisena, in 2015, in London. Yes, I met you (the writer) downstairs after that meeting). “Mangala was not just a fellow Sri Lankan and politician, he was a great friend. Mangala spoke to several of us from GTF, from various countries, at a virtual meeting, on 17 July 2021. My last personal interaction was on 06 August, 2021, via texts. Under normal circumstances he would have wished me on my birthday but that wasn’t to be as he was moved to ICU a couple of days before.”

Unlike many of his colleagues in the government and the Opposition, Samaraweera never hesitated to take a public stand on the post-war national reconciliation process. Samaraweera openly contradicted President Sirisena’s frequent claims that he hadn’t been aware of the finalisation of the Geneva Resolution on Oct 1, 2015.

Responding to the strong criticism of his role in the Geneva process, Samaraweera included the following section in a bigger statement he issued during the yahapalana administration: The final text of the resolution was largely negotiated over the phone, with the President and I at the same hotel in New York, and the Prime Minister in Colombo, accompanied by the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the time, and the Ambassador of the US and High Commissioner of the UK. Once consensus was reached , the Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the time, who was in Colombo, had coordinated with Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva and conveyed the decision of the Government of Sri Lanka to the Human Rights Council.”

What Samaraweera didn’t say was that Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ravinatha Aryasinghe, had rejected the draft just over a week before, during informal discussion with the Sri Lanka Core Group, headed by the US. Whatever the likes of Samaraweera said the UNP earned the wrath of the people for what was called Geneva betrayal. The treachery in Geneva proved to be as bad as the Treasury bond scams, in Feb 2015 and March 2016, leading to the humiliating defeat at the Feb 2018 Local Government polls. Although President Sirisena switched portfolios, held by Samaraweera and Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, in May 2017 in consultation with UNP leader Wickremesinghe, the rot continued unabated. The Wickremesinghe-Samaraweera led strategy that pushed the country towards the US-led Quad alliance with Sri Lanka entering into a Comprehensive Partnership with Japan in the first week of Oct 2015, in addition to talks on SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) and MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) agreements also with the US against the backdrop of President Sirisena entering into ACSA (Access and Cross Servicing Agreement) didn’t help the then government at all.

Finally, Samaraweera abandoned the UNP and joined the newly formed SJB soon after the 2019 presidential poll only to quit the parliamentary election at the eleventh hour. Following the SLPP’s sweeping victory at the general election, Samaraweera launched a political campaign with the involvement of some civil society activists. His office, situated at T.B. Jayah Mawatha a little distance away from SLFP main office, was called ‘Freedom Hub’, where he addressed his last media briefing on July 25.

Samaraweera warned the current leadership of the dire financial crisis experienced by the country not only due to the raging Covid-19 epidemic but waste, corruption, irregularities and negligence as well. At the time Samaraweera served as the Finance Minister (May 2017 to Nov 2019) the government revenue surpassed Rs 1,900 bn. The shortsighted policy of the SLPP that did away with a range of taxes and duties, immediately after the presidential election resulted in the loss of over Rs 500 bn in government revenue, which too contributed to the current messy financial situation. Perhaps one of Samaraweera’s major achievements was the transformation of the telecommunications sector though he too couldn’t absolve himself of being part of an utterly corrupt and ruinous political party system.

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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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