FM Samaraweera v General Guneratne
By A Patabendige
(By Courtesy of Asian Tribune)
Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera (FM Sam) has a reputation for launching surprise attacks as any Biswal could vouch for. He has done so again when with sanctimonious concern for the Army, he launched a desperate, much convoluted and belated attack on Major General Kamal Guneratne’s book ‘Road to Nandikadal’.
He broadcast that it has served as “a dossier for war crimes” for “anti SL activists” at Geneva in 2017 (Sunday Island 19 March 2017). His statements may serve to subvert the morale of the Armed Forces while it definitely causes anger and pain to the majority of the nation.
This comes from the man who co sponsored a resolution at Geneva that if effected could throw our war winning soldiers to the justice of the white eyes, heirs to nuclear bombing, defoliants and WMD cock and bull tales. FM Sam has played gallantly to the White Eyes and hybrid gallery at Geneva but nearly a year late. Why so late? Who is the controller? Is this a response to or a rebuke of the President’s statement that he will not allow SL war heroes to be tried for war crimes? Wheels within wheels.
Most in SL would consider his outburst utter humbug and drivel. SL knows who has ‘served’ ‘Anti SL activists’ well for ages.
There is a riddle here. When the SL Army was taking its highest toll of casualties to turn the tide of war against the terrorist LTTE in 2008, FM Sam, then in the Opposition, said Lt Gen Fonseka (SF) was not fit to be even the Salvation Army Commander. Is this the same man who pours his heart now out for SL’s Army? Is he not an utter hypocrite?
Where in the world has a nation’s Foreign Minister attacked a retired hero General for having written a book on his experiences as a military leader in his country’s defining war? Especially one in the Opposition who mocked the then Army Commander then.
Gen Guneratne was awarded the Weera Wickrama Vibushana for gallantry in the face of the enemy in addition to the RWP and RSP too. It was the first book by anyone who fought in the war from the first day of his service as a commissioned officer (second lieutenant) (1982) and in most of its deadliest battles for 27 years, until victory, (2009), when he was a Major General. The General never doubted for one moment that the LTTE could be defeated unlike certain politicians and their stooges who misled the nation. Is this what drives FM Sam nuts?
The General also has an M Phil (Kelaniya) too. FM Sam, on the other hand was a former fashion dress merchant (Mangala ‘Innocence’) and design consultant. The Foreign Ministry website says he has a BA (Hons) in that field from St Martin’s (UK) where the degree course was ‘legalized’ only in 1993.
The book’s authenticity and credibility made it the fastest selling book on the SL war. Thirty thousand (30,000) copies were sold in the first month in Sinhala and English. If anti SL ‘activists’/LTTE flotsam lapped it up, it includes the atrocities of the LTTE in detail too it is its credibility that attracted them. The book is the nearest to the truth about the war that Geneva, leagues from it before, will ever get.
FM Sarath Fonseka (SF) the war time Army Commander and a minister now wanted the Army to take action on Gen Guneratne as apparently ‘no one can write fabricating lies about the war’. The army did not.
FM Sam on the other hand says Gen Guneratne’s book was “a catalogue of atrocities committed by Government forces since early 1980s”. As SF is now a minister can the government clear the contradiction in these opposing views especially about ‘atrocities’?
In 2008 when SL was on the verge of defeating the LTTE, FM Sam with card board commandos of Royal Diyawanna’s Madawachchi bin Grandpass, Onay Gonek and the Horticulturist Legion jeered the Army. SL appeared to have produced its own brand of Quislings and Lord Haw Haws. The local Sonder Commando had with impunity murdered and looted and nearly gutted Colombo in July 1983, forcing the Northern insurgents to drift from insurgency to terrorism with devastating consequences. The anti SL Activists were born then and not in 2017 after reading Gen Guneratne’s book. Does FM Sam deny any of this?
FM Sam must learn that a ‘dossier’ is a bundle of documents relating to a person or case. Gen Guneratne’s is a 741 page book, an unmatched personal history of the counter terrorist war that was fought from 1979 to 2009. If its credibility has made FM Sam go berserk, one may conclude the truth hurts the guilty.
If there was a catalog and dossier for Anti SL Activists (read fanatics) anywhere, this would probably head both lists. It worked directly against the Army while over 2,600 soldiers died fighting the terrorists between mid 2006 and 19 May 2009?
The General’s book came at a time when malignant efforts had been made to blacken SL’s army in order to neutralize their annihilating military victory over the terrorists. The present government is composed of people who resolutely believed and spread the word to their ‘whole world’ the terrorists could not be defeated .They were often labeled as traitors. Due to U turns in their commitments to Geneva it is SL government’s word not Gen Guneratne’s that is now being labeled as dubious, false and deceitful. It alone and not his book agitate the ‘activists’ from the NPC to the GTF.
FM Sam clutching at straws covers a haphazard range of subjects that includes Gen Guneratne being criticized by some of his seniors for “understating their contributions”. To begin with why have Gen Guneratne’s ‘seniors’, not taken this up with Gen Guneratne personally? After all the FM is not even the Defence Minister far less C in C to be thrilled by this triviality.
He says Gen Guneratne has done nothing to discipline his soldiers. It is as though he was the Adjutant General, a Col Martinet reborn. Is it the contention of FM Sam that an officer who commanded several Divisions that included the crack 53 Air Mobile Division with the finest troops the Army had and fought in the biggest killing field of the war in Muhumalai for a very long time until the LTTE retreated, and finally commanded a Division that did some very hard fighting in the culminating battles of the war, lead a rabble? Does FM Sam know senior officers who were sent to stuff votes at elections in the North and East? This exposure may have hurt and led to FM Sam being chosen to launch a flanking attack on Gen Guneratne’s book. SF’s frontal attack had failed earlier. FM Sam’s was a push over for the General. Does he think that anyone who was not present when an incident happened can be punished for not being there? He uses this extraordinary and ridiculous example to pour scorn on and mock the Gajaba Regiment, which without the least shadow of a doubt was SL’s finest in battle. This is SL’s FM!
FM Sam also had time to spend on the dead body of the biggest scourge SL ever had but significantly has no comment on ‘white flag’ surrenders? SL’s FM!
FM Sam may realize his attempts to blacken Gen Guneratne do not lessen the unspeakable crimes of the terrorists about which FM Sam has never even dared comment.
FM Sam even objects to the ‘thrust of the language’ because the author apparently ‘derived pleasure” in some of the violence in it like the deaths of terrorist cadres and “political leaders”. Would he have been happier if Gen Guneratne hypocritically like a politician said he grieved for those like Prabakaran guilty of heinous crimes and attended their funerals?
FM Sam may not know that Gen Guneratne unlike politicians did show respect and concern for many fallen enemy who had fought bravely and honorably. He mentions Sornam among others. Military officers unlike SL politicians attend commemoration ceremonies for those who have fallen in battle whatever party governs. FM Sam and his cronies having burned their boats cannot follow Gen Guneratne’s example of being an officer and gentleman.
He of all people comments on ‘betrayal of the SL military’. He must make up his mind as to whether the telling the truth of the evils committed by both sides since the 1980s that were well ‘catalogued’ in ‘dossiers’ , by the worlds’ media decades before the book was published, is a ‘betrayal’ and not what happened in Geneva. Did the candid comments of Gen Guneratne’s own experiences on the other hand not add credibility to the book?
It also appears that FM Sam is wholly ignorant of the availability of a surfeit of books on SL’s war that gives all the details of gore, glory and evil as in any war, long before ‘Nandikadal”. ’ There was Chandraprema’s ‘Gota’s War’ that graphically showed what the Army was during the time FM Sam and Ranil W and others, clueless, taking counsel of their fears and foreign masters were messing around, while thousands died. ‘Nandikadal’ alone however has driven FM Sam nuts. Was it because it exposed the political leadership, the naked truth about the war and the incompetence of some of its commanders. Did the defeat of the LTTE also weigh in?
US academics like Meghan Sullivan opined that “civil wars end when the stronger side crushes the weaker or when an outsider intervenes to force a truce’. SL just escaped the latter by doing the former. Has this truth unhinged him?
Now D Weerakody has published a second biography on Prime Minister Ranil W. What will FM Sam call it? Book, dossier or catalogue? Will they be credible and clear the air about Ranil’s performance during the last phase of the war, CFA, IPKF invasion, US and Norwegian interference and the defeat of the LTTE? Or will undiluted servility come to the fore? Will it be judged by FM Sam’s anti SL activists too?
If FM Sam wishes to educate himself on discipline in counter insurgency operations in SL or any war he could begin by reading from pgs 144-154 (Discipline and morale) – of IPKF’s Lt Gen Sardeshpande’s ‘Assignment Jaffna’. Or he can read about Mai Lai (Vietnam), in the book ‘The Generals’ by Thomas Ricks (pgs 293-314) and Dixit’s ‘Assignment Colombo’ to understand how the world’s biggest armies face monumental disciplinary problems in counter insurgency. Dixit was accused by maverick Maj Gen Hakirat Singh of wanting to have Prabakaran shot when he came to surrender! There are also many books in Sinhala by other SL Generals and Admirals and by civilians like Malith Jayathileke (‘Alimankada’) to come to grips with the true face of war. One can be sure that unlike FM Sam the ‘Anti SL Activists’ have devoured them all. Terrorist supporters do.
Of course he can instead consult colleagues like the Minister of Education for a second opinion. He spluttered in 2015 that Napoleon fought in WW1, 200 years after Waterloo.
The Megapolis Minister too, not to be outdone, wrote in lightning haste a 78 page pamphlet with about 25 pages of pictures, (published in Oct 2009) titled the ‘Charge of the Lion Brigade’. He introduced Prussian General Clausewitz who wrote the classic ‘On War’ as a German philosopher!
(Taking liberties with great historical figures and truth seems to be an occupational necessity for SL’s ‘politicians’. (Clausewitz joined the Prussian army as a Corporal and fought on the side of the Russians against Napoleon. He was at Waterloo under Prussian General Blucher”).
The Minister also stated that Ranil W “after coming to power (2001?) Showed his inherent hatred towards the Sinhalese and especially the Sinhalese Buddhists” (pg 16) too. That’s a blinder for Yahapalana yuppies.
FM Sam should know that it was President JR Jayawardene (JRJ) in 1987 who when questioned by the BBC about ’ill discipline’ in Jaffna, admitted after much stone walling, to a ‘few cross fire’ incidents by some ‘ill disciplined soldiers’. Did he do wrong even if it was done to absolve his government and protect his credibility? History, FM Sam must know, keeps repeating itself. Lalith Athulathmudali a great nationalist and facile debater, when cross examined by the BBC never admitted to any bad behavior by the forces. The BBC gave up and accused him of procrastinating .Was he too wrong?
Then there was burning of the Jaffna library (1981). Has anyone forgotten the depravities of 1983? Is Gen Guneratne to blame for mentioning the truth of these horrors together with atrocities of the LTTE beginning with the mass killings at Kent and Dollar farms, the killings and rapes at Nayaru and other places in SL over 30 years?
What then makes FM Sam trumpet in panic and confusion that Guneratne’s book allegedly exposes that very Army that SF commanded as being guilty of war crimes, disappearances and killings of journalists? Nandikadal is not a fairy story.
The book specifically refers to those who acted like SL equivalents of Quislings and Lord Haw Haws. This was while the soldiers died in hundreds in battle especially when the tide was turning irrevocably against the terrorists. All SL knows who these are and were. Treachery has no escape in history.
FM Sam’s endeavours at Geneva have caused a mounting, unbearable anger and disharmony among the majority of SL. Shamelessly and with Dutch courage post 2015, attacking Gen Guneratne’s book now exposes the fear that is spreading among those responsible for 30 years of continuous misery. It doubles the anger. The book also serves to strengthen the case against all traitors, saboteurs and liberal white eye worshippers and expose them.
The people grieve honour and remember the men and women who died and fought gallantly for them and defeated the LTTE.
They will not forget the 80,000 innocent civilians who were killed all over SL, due to LTTE terrorism.
The book is dedicated to them. FM Sam’s act show cases some other cause.