Secretary Defence - the man of the hour
The morale of the Security Forces is very high. The Troops are aware
that they are being looked after. The Navy and the Air Force are
performing in a highly professional manner not to mention the Army
and this has been possible only because of the leadership extended
by the Secretary Defence and the Defence Establishment.
Patriotic citizen: I have read with great interest the article
written by Chandragupth S. Mudannayake titled â€śDefence Secretary
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa: An icon of dedication, commitment and service to
the Nationâ€ť which appeared in the Daily News of Monday April 09, 2007.
At the outset I wish to emphatically state that I totally agree with
the sentiments expressed by Mudannayake in this article which obviously
is devoid of any political affiliations, and is an exercise by a
patriotic citizen who has put down his thoughts in a very clear logical
and concise manner so that the ignorant and biased critics who have
demanded Gotabhaya Rajapaksaâ€™s removal and resignation have been
unobtrusively put to shame.
The military gains we have witnessed recently is centred around two
paragraphâ€™s of his article which I quote â€śHe is uniquely placed in that
being the brother of the President, Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa could
talk to the Commander in Chief unreservedly and forthrightly on matters
concerning the military.
He does not have to sugar coat defence policies, concerns of service
Commanders or mellow down disappointing news enamating from the battle
field to appease the Head of State. He can be open and forthright, and
The previous Secretaries did not have that privilege. Unreservedly
they had to be cautious in saying things politically unsavoury or
unpleasant. Thus the truth was sometimes not conveyed as it should have
â€śGotabhaya Rajapaksa is ought to be commended for successfully
exploiting the unique military political advantages he has for the
benefit of the Armed Forces and the nation.â€ť
The average reader must be convinced that the writer possess the
knowledge experience and the stature to express his views on a subject
which is now being bandied around by disgruntled politicians and all and
sundry to suit their own political agendaâ€™s and that of the political
party they represent.
Sad to say they belong to two political camps - the LTTE represented
by the TNA and the UNP who are closely linked by common interests with
I joined the Army way back in 1950 during the first year of its
formation (1949-1950) and is a recipient of the Ceylon Armed Services
Inauguration Medal, there being less than ten Officers who are amongst
the living - is a product of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst UK
and was commissioned as a Second Lt.enant in the prestigious Regiment,
The Ceylon Light Infantry in 1950.
I retired as a Major General in 1985 having served 35 years in every
operational Station including Jaffna once as Commander Security Forces -
is a recipient of the Vishista Seva Vibhushanaya awarded for
â€śExceptional, Distinguished and Loyal service in the Sri Lanka Army
where I have had an unblemished record of moral and military conduct
during a period of 33 years of continuous and uninterrupted serviceâ€ť.
During my period of service I have had the privilege and the good
fortune of witnessing the performance of Defence Secretaries since the
Premiership of the late Rt. D. S. Senanayake to President Mahinda
Many distinguished personalities from Sir Kanthiah Vaithanadan,
Gunasena de Soysa, Ratnavale and N.Q. Dias have occupied this chair -
one of whom looked after the interests of the minority communities to
the detriment of the majority community whilst another was destined to
reverse this position after the UNP sponsored attempted coup in 1962.
With J. R. Jayewardene coming to power in 1978 the country witnessed
the appointment of a former Volunteer Force Colonel and Ex MP from the
South as the Secretary Defence.
To sustain him in this appointment there was a former volunteer Force
Colonel whose main duty was to answer the Telephone, and a former Army
Commander who was well known as a man for all seasons answering for the
Secretary Defence who by all accounts was a mere figure head.
Thus began the politicalisation of the Army and the creation of an
Army mafia whose main task was to identify and eliminate everybody whom
they thought were an obstacle to their progress and who were not openly
supportive of their political role. Only â€śYesâ€ť men were tolerated.
Those who conducted themselves as professional soldiers were labelled
as Anti-Govt. and undependable and banished to appointments in
â€śSiberiaâ€ť. During our time Siberia was located in Jaffna, Mannar and
Diyatalawa. Anybody with even remote connections to an opposition
politician was banished forthwith.
At about this time my batchmate, the ever smiling, genial officer and
Gentleman the late Brig. S. B. Miyanadeniya whispered to me that
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa a young and upcoming officer was being or has been
posted to Diyatalawa - a â€śSiberianâ€ť appointment in keeping with UNP
policy which boastfully they proclaim never changes.
May be Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was too young (23 years) and inexperienced
to realize what happened to him. This may be news to him even today.
The branding of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as a man to be dispensed
commenced when he was posted to Diyatalawa as a Captain and the UNP, in
keeping with its policy, which reportedly never changes, at present
calls for his resignation and the removal.
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is no longer young and inexperienced. He has been
a frontline soldier tried and tested in the battlefield unlike perhaps
all his predecessors. He is indeed a real threat to the LTTE and more so
the UNP who will never be able to achieve their treacherous and
unpatriotic objectives as long as Gotabhaya Rajapaksa continues as of
The Defence Establishment during the J. R. Jayewardene and R.
Premadasa rule could easily be described as the darkest period of its
existence since Independence - torture, killings, abductions,
disappearances were the order of the day.
A Deputy Minister of Defence who was a Volunteer Force Lt. Colonel
belonging to the Plantation Community took the Law into his own hands
and eliminated all opposition to the Govt. in power.
He went from camp to camp with lists of those to be eliminated. The
lists had been provided by Govt. MPs. The officers-in-charge of the
Camps were ordered to eliminate all those named in these lists. We know
some who refused to carry out these illegal orders and instead decided
to quit the Army in disgust.
The Army lost a sizeable lot of middle rung officers most of whom
were above average and highly qualified. I distinctly remember one of
them being transferred to Maduru Oya, a God forsaken place then almost
overnight. The Secretary Defence at the time Lt. General D. S. Attygalle
was silent. This exercise would have been carried out either with his
connivance or with his knowledge.
Those eliminated were political opponents mainly from the SLFP, JVP
and other leftist oriented parties.
The perpetrator of this crime himself was eliminated on the high road
by the LTTE near the BRC grounds along Havelock Road. For the services
rendered by this Deputy Minister who was a Lt. Col. in the Volunteer
Force was posthumously promoted to a Four Star General an unusual and
unprecedented step in the Armyâ€™s 50 year old history at the time - five
steps up the ladder.
Lt. Col. to Colonel, to Brigadier, to Maj Gen, to Lt. General and
four Star General - a world record. I remember very clearly a former
Army Commander who commended the Army after Weeratunga openly
disagreeing with his move. Fortunately we still have amongst us a
handful of such persons who will continue calling a spade a spade.
Reading the Daily News of April 9, I gathered some important
information which otherwise I would have missed. In an article titled
â€śsome bleeding hypocritesâ€ť written by Maj Gen. Lalin Fernando (Retd) a
former colleague, he states â€śArmy officers including three Generals were
responsible for handing over weapons and ammo to the LTTE.
According to the Army Act this is treachery and the punishment is
death. What happened? The three continued without hindrance to hold
State posts and even got appointments after leaving State service. They
appear at select Military functions without any sense of shame. Some are
even called Sir.â€ť
Two of them were rewarded with Diplomatic appointments. How many are
aware that these three Generals were Defence Secretaries during UNP
Siripathy reportedly a Danapathy with his Military (Naval) knowledge
which could not fill even the nail of his little finger after a tryst
with a failed conspiracy to oust Mahinda Rajapaksa attempted to display
his total ignorance of how the war effort should be executed.
A person no less than Gotabhaya Rajapaksa himself took Siripathy to
task and demolished his theories in a very simple and effective manner
at Temple Trees recently when the President met the media to brief the
country on the progress made by the Government over the last year.
The other critic a UNP politician from the Kurunegala District cut a
very poor figure when he too called for the resignation and removal of
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as Secretary Defence after the Air attack by the
The latest critic is none other than the Leader of the Opposition
Ranil Wickramasinghe who has called for the resignation and removal of
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. His flirtations with the LTTE and how supportive he
is of LTTE is known by all and sundry.
Enough has been written about him by HLD Mahindapala and nothing more
adverse could be written by anyone else. Ranil Wickremasinghe of course
is free to call for the resignation of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa although he
is not qualified in any way to do so. The giddy limit however is that he
has taken upon himself the liberty of naming a successor.
May be he is guided by his horoscope which apparently predicts the
fall of the Government in April, 2007. Although April is still not over
he has jumped the gun and thinks he is already in the saddle. He has
however not stated how the Govt. will fall.
Anyway he could hope to come to power only through a conspiracy with
the assistance of Prabhakaran and not by popular vote. The people have
rejected him at 13 or 14 Elections and he has the brass to name
The successor he has named is Maj. Gen. Janaka Perera who he states
is well experienced and talented. When he was in a position to do so as
Prime Minister in 2001 he opted for retired Civil Servant Austin
Fernando as Secretary Defence who has not fired a shot even in anger.
Janaka Perera is no fool to realise this and as a professional
soldier would realise that this is not the time to dislodge somebody
equally experienced and talented and who has proved himself as a very
capable Defence Secretary. Gone are the days when we heard of only
reversals of the Security Forces be it the Army, Navy, Air Force or the
The LTTE was depicted as an invincible Force capable of overrunning
the Armed Forces in all areas of conflict. The Govt. has identified the
enemy and all steps are being taken to neutralise and defeat them in all
areas of conflict.
Retaliatory action is being taken in all instances of LTTE attacks.
The Security Forces are being deployed to pursue the Enemy compelling
them to withdraw to tiny pockets.
The morale of the Security Forces is very high. The troops are aware
that they are being looked after. The Navy and the Air Force are
performing in a highly professional manner not to mention the Army and
this has been possible only because of the leadership extended by the
Secretary Defence and the Defence Establishment.
Those who demand the resignation and removal of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa
have their own vested interest and agendas. The people by and large are
very appreciative of the manner in which the war is being prosecuted.
In passing I would like to state that I had my third posting to
Diyatalawa in the appointment of Commander South East Command and
Commandant Army Training Centre.
When I moved to my office in Diyatalawa I found Gotabhaya Rajapaksa
in my HQ as a Staff Captain. Nobody could say that I have no knowledge
of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. From Diyatalawa I was appointed Inspector
General of Field Forces a unique appointment in that I could be moved to
any location where there is trouble.
The only other place where there could be trouble was Jaffna where I
found myself. I retired prematurely having been deprived of my due place
as Chief of Staff and Commander of the Army.
Although these injustices could have been corrected certain higher
ups in the Defence Establishment in the PA Govt. that followed found it
inimical to their interests if they were corrected, although it is not
too late to do so even now.
Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga retained all the UNP appointed
Senior Assistant Secretaries in all the Ministries hoping that they
would reform themselves.
The Deputy Ministers chaired the Political Victimisation
Investigating Committees. Most of them relied entirely on the UNP
appointed Senior Assistant Secretaries to help them to sort out cases of
political victimisation when in fact these cases should have been
investigated by impartial Judicial Committees.
Instead these crimes and injustices were investigated by perpetrators
of these crimes themselves. These officials who were retained by
Chandrika were found to be sabotaging all activities of the Govt. and
they were all removed.
I have attempted to trace the history of the Defence Establishment
since Independence and in particular the performances of the major
personalities who have occupied the chair of Secretary Defence.
It is my considered opinion that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa outshines all
his predecessors as being the best Defence Secretary we have had since
Independence and is imminently suited to continue to hold office as the
elected President Mahinda Rajapaksa wishes.