LankaWeb – Who Insults Our War Heroes the Most? – Lankaweb
A defence analyst, in his column of 5 January 2022, in a national newspaper, highlighted the ignominy Major General Udaya Perera underwent, recently, at the hands of US foreign policy and Sri Lanka’s insufferable silence over such conduct. Despite the enormous service rendered to the country, as observed by him, neither the Sri Lankan authorities nor the people blinked as the war veteran was treated as a criminal – even before he left the shores of his country.
Major General Perera is a professional and a highly-qualified soldier. He was awarded the esteemed United States Army War College Alumni Award at the US Army War College graduation ceremony for his academic performances and in recognition of his services as the International Fellow Class President. This grants him a life time membership of the US Army War College Alumni Foundation.
In 2019, the US gave him a multiple entry visa with five-year validity. Yet, in December 2021 he was barred at the BIA from boarding the plane bound for America. The retired soldier was accompanied by his wife and son on his way to visit his granddaughter in the US. He was unaware that he had been categorised by the US as a war criminal until he was prevented from boarding the flight.
This categorisation comes 12 years after the conclusion of the war against terrorism. The reasons that precipitated this denouncement are unclear. Neither the Foreign Ministry nor the Defence Ministry sought clarification from the US authorities about this matter nor have they shown any solidarity with Major General Perera.
The Targeted List – so far
The Defence Secretary General Kamal Gunaratne is unofficially a persona non grata with Australia. When he sought to get a tourist visa to Australia to witness his only daughter’s graduation, the embassy warned him that he risked arrest if on Australian soil. The Chief of Staff and Army Commander General Shavendra Silva including his family are also denied entry into the US. Sri Lanka’s most successful Army Commander Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka has also been denied entry into America. In 2010, the Obama Regime was angered over the Mahinda Rajapaksa Administration’s refusal, to halt the war and hand over Prabhakaran to US authorities. Ironically in the 2010, Election, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka was the common Presidential Candidate, when the Obama Regime placed a lot of emphasis in trying to oust President Mahinda Rajapaksa from being elected and install him in his stead. Outspoken Major General Chagi Gallage is also included in the US debarred list.
The basis on which War Heroes have become War Criminals
To date, none of their accusers – mainly the UNHRC, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch or Yasmin Louise Sooka, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa had been able to specifically pinpoint a war crime. Their allegations are hinged on a mere guesstimate of civilians that might have had perished during the final onslaught. Interestingly, none of these accusers had been able to even agree on this statistic.
Conversely, evidence showed the Sri Lankan military were both professional and humane in their operations. Most of this supporting evidence has surfaced from communication between western diplomats as revealed by Wikileaks and Lord Naseby’s findings from the British Home Office. Yet, none of the Sri Lankan Governments had utilised these to defend its military.
This is in stark contrast to India’s reaction when one of its diplomats was arrested by the US authorities and strip searched. Both the Indian Government and the people reacted sternly. The Indian Government rattled their US counterparts with an almost tit-for-tat reaction. When the Indian diplomat was eventually allowed to return home, she received a heroine’s welcome.
MI’s Mission to save the Tamil youth
Major General Perera played a much more critical role than this Indian diplomat, especially in the international circuit, both during the war and thereafter. It was he, as the deputy High Commissioner in Malaysia (from 2009 April to 2011), who was responsible for the extradition of Kumaran Pathmanathan, alias KP – the chief procurer of arms for the LTTE, who ran a global network of LTTE offices handling the procurement and logistics of weapons and the money laundering operations for the terrorists.
When the LTTE’s ground operations were crushed, KP was tipped to be Prabhakaran’s successor. However, before the disarrayed LTTE could reorganise themselves, the Military Intelligence (MI) in a clandestine operation managed to nab KP, who was hiding in Malaysia. Instead of the execution KP expected or any form of legal persecution, the authorities led by then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa worked with him to redress the issues suffered by the Tamils in the war-torn areas. Full kudos go to Sri Lanka for having rehabilitated the top terrorist mastermind to give up violence. With the full support of the then Government, KP embarked on social services to help those who were deeply affected by the war. Despite the enemy he was to the State of Sri Lanka and its people, KP did not spend even one day behind bars. KP was not the only to escape western-style justice. Many of the LTTE cadre ended working hand in hand with the MI to ensure that Tamil youth would never again be misled to their own destruction.
The ‘Double Edged’ Operation was one such strategy. Forming a shadow organisation, the former LTTE cadres worked with the MI to identify persons and organisations attempting to revive the LTTE. Shamefully, the so-called Tamil Diaspora would pay the Sri Lankan Tamil youth a paltry sum of Rs 10,000-15,000 for a subterfuge activity as blasting bombs. Capitalising on those images, they would then collect thousands of USD in the name of the Tamil Homeland. The attempts by the LTTE international network to brainwash the new generations of Tamil expatriates domiciled in the West in the guise of teaching culture and language was also uncovered by this operation.
The West-backed persecution of the MI
After the Yahapalana Government came to power with the West’s support, the entire MI team that was behind this double edged operation was detained by the CID over the un-established disappearance of tabloid journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda. To this date, it is unknown whether his sudden disappearance was voluntary or enforced. Only Eknaligoda’s links with the LTTE and his dubious lifestyle came to light. However, his importance to the MI or MI’s need for him to disappear was never founded – especially when the MI spared the lives of those cadres who played a more pivotal role in the LTTE. However, the identity of this MI team was exposed and the CID detained them. Though these valiant men were cuffed and dragged in and out of courts in regular succession the CID was unable to even file a B-report. Eventually, these officers and men were released without a single charge filed against them.
Since then, the chief investigator the then CID Director Shani Abeysekara’s political agenda behind these arrests as well as other arrests made during the Yahapalana Government has unwittingly come to light. The entire telephone conversations with former MP Ranjan Ramanayake, now serving a four-year prison sentence for contempt of court, exposed Shani Abeysekera’s repugnant role. The ongoing investigations into Shani’s conduct, misuse and abuse of power and position is being deliberately misconstrued by the West as State sponsored intimidation. As such, the Government is receiving much flak from the UNHRC and the EU.
The position taken by the West must be taken in conjunction with the over-the-counter asylum received by Shani’s deputy IP Nishantha Silva – just days after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected into Office. Despite his connection to an ongoing murder investigation, the Swiss Authorities granted asylum to him and his immediate family.
This is a grave injustice to those victimised by him as well as the country as a whole. For instance, by exposing the identity of the double edge MI operators, not only that operation was sabotaged but the military careers of these diligent officers and men were also destroyed. At the same time, the indoctrination of LTTE ideology into the new generations of Tamil expatriates now continues unabated.
Sri Lanka’s apathy
The analyst observes the hypocrisy of the US to denounce Major General Perera as a war criminal and labeling our war heroes with war crimes. Iraq, Syria, Libya and Palestine are just few of the countries that have fallen victim to US’s war mongering in recent history – especially over ‘red flag operations like the one staged on entirely staged weapons of mass destruction that supposedly Saddam Hussein had.’ It is true the US hegemony is the biggest threat before global peace. However, before we fault the US or the West it is important that we examine our own attitude. We had a war against terrorism for over 30 years. Until 2005, the successive Governments and political forces failed. During the Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Administration when the war was conducted in earnest, the Opposition then who are the current Opposition, were determined to halt the military intervention underscored the extent the war had got politicised.
Despite this great obstacle it was the Security Forces that held the fort. For a long time, the LTTE held superior war technology and sympathy from the West. Time and again, due to various peace packages brokered by India and the West, our military was repeatedly humiliated and even confined behind barracks while the terrorists continued unabated to drag the country into an abyss. Yet, we survived intact because of the military’s determination and fortitude.
During the war’s final phase, with defeat imminent, the world witnessed the worst of the LTTE. While trying to smuggle their own families out of the Island, the LTTE held over 300,000 civilians as hostages against the advancing armies. The hostages, included pregnant women who were enslaved into strengthening bunkers and other defences. They were not only allowed to move into the Government designated No Fire Zones (NFZ), but increased child conscription to force families’ support, installed military hardware and discarded their uniforms to blur distinction. These are all war crimes. Adapting a zero civilian casualty policy, rescuing the hostages became the foremost priority to the military. Thus, after breaching the LTTE’s defences, the soldiers stood between the terrorists and the civilians as a human parapet wall, allowing these Tamil civilians to escape without being gunned down by the LTTE’s. These bullets were absorbed by the soldiers of the Sri Lankan Army.
Most unfortunately, it is not only the successive Governments that ignored this act of heroism but the Media and entertainment industry as well. At the very least, there is not even a proper documentary about these incidents. School curricula do not discuss the sacrifices made by our people for our future.
Recently, the a Sinhala newspaper editorial, compared the Madagascar Minister of Police and Security with the Sri Lankan counterpart. This editorial highlighted a misadventure faced by the Madagascar Minister when the helicopter he was travelling had a mechanical fault. The Minister had jumped to the seas below and had swum for 12 hours before reaching ashore. This editorial was extremely skeptical that if Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera had to face a similar misadventure, would he have been able to meet the challenge without a luxury boat or security personnel to swim with him.
Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera – A true son of the soil
Maybe it might have escaped this editorial’s writer, but Rear Admiral Weerasekera is a valiant war hero and played a significant role in the Navy to combat terrorism. He has even accompanied the Red Cross to the thicket of LTTE infested areas to bring back the bodies of Sri Lankan soldiers who were captured and tortured to death by the terrorists. It was under his leadership that the ragtag Civil Defence Force (CDF) was transformed into a formidable strength. Before, town dwellers derisively called these poorly dressed, trained and armed men Gambatta’s. After they were transformed into a professional unit, no one dared insult them again.
With their dedicated services, villagers finally received the much needed protection from the marauding terrorist gangs who brought their young recruits into an exercise known as ‘blooding’. This was when innocent villagers were indiscriminately chopped and hacked to death. Living in fear for years, these villagers sought shelter in the jungles in the night. This was ended by the CDF and that credit belongs to Rear Admiral Weerasekera.
Even after he fully retired from the services, he continued to defend our country. After the Yahapalana Government cosponsored the UNHRC Resolution 31/1 against Sri Lanka he was the first Sri Lankan and the only military officer to travel with all the necessary documents to Geneva to present the true facts concerning the war to the UNHRC and the international audience. There, he confronted accusers as Sooka who was unable to substantiate her own accusations against the Sri Lankan military.
Not a single Government official nor Sri Lankan had been able to engineer such a showdown. He did this with his own funds. He travelled extensively – in and out of the country, defending our military and our sovereignty. He even directed a film highlighting the experience of infringed villages and the transformation of the CDF.
Today, he is the Cabinet Minister of Public Security and is one of the few lawmakers who is not playing politics with national issues. Instead of recognising the services he rendered and continues to give to the Nation, this editorial has sought to degrade and humiliate him. When we treat our own war heroes in such a despicable manner, the behaviour of the West is not surprising. To put matters in perspective, when America lost the Vietnam War, the American film industry created cardboard heroes as Rambo. In Sri Lanka we have real heroes. Tragically, at best we ignore them and at worst we humiliate them. Where do we stand as a Nation and what values we hold is a serious question before us.