A comedy of sorts is about to being enacted in Geneva, where the self appointed guardian of Sri Lanka’s security forces, Rt. Real Admiral Ananda Weerasekera, will unfold a dossier containing material exonerating our war heroes of any wrongdoing, while likeminded colleague from the army Rt. Major General Kamal Gunaratne has scored an own goal, giving out details, liberally, of atrocities committed by the security forces during the Eelam war, in his recently released book, titled , “Road to Nandikadal”. This, at a time when the government has received much needed breathing space in the form of a two year extension to fulfill its commitments made on the UNHRC joint resolution. According to an English Weekend publication, quoting Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, the Tamil diaspora has gone into overdrive, distributing copies of the book to buttress their claim of atrocities committed by the security forces against Tamil civilians and also circulated volumes in Geneva during the UNHRC sessions. Samaraweera told journalists at his ministry last week, the 741 page volume gives explicit details of atrocities committed by the forces against Tamils in the North and the tone and tenor of the commentary of the author suggests that he took a perverse pleasure in inflicting pain on the Tamil civilians.
It goes without saying that considerable damage had been done to the military by the exposures in the book by the very people who portray themselves as protectors of the country’s war heroes, holding them sacrosanct and even accusing the government of victimizing members of forces by arraigning them for various criminal acts. What is more, the carefully thought out efforts by the government to counter the allegations made against the war heroes, has, no doubt, been blown into smithereens by the contents of this book which was launched under the stewardship of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. MR apparently had not read the contents or it would have been doubtful if he would have graced the event, if one is to go by his rhetoric, disporting himself as the champion of our security forces.
It cannot be a coincidence that the Tamil National Alliance has stepped up its call for a hybrid court, inclusive of foreign judges, to try our war heroes, now that the contents of the book has become public. It also cannot be a coincidence that TNA, and Opposition Leader, R. Sampanthan has claimed that over 150,000 Tamils were killed during the war and nearly 50% of the Tamil population fled the country during the three decades conflict, addressing a function in New Delhi last week. One also recalls TNA MP P. Sumanthiran insisting on a hybrid court, on the grounds that justice will not be served to the Tamils under Sri Lanka’s courts, following the verdict of a Sinhala speaking jury exonerating the accused in the Raviraj murder. Now the contents of the Rtd. Major General’s book may come like manna from heaven to Sumanthiran, and the more militant Tamil politicians such as Sivajilingam, to press their claims for a hybrid court. The book may also go onto buttress their long held claim that over 40,000 Tamils civilians perished during the war at the hands of the security forces.
One also cannot help coming to the conclusion that the Rtd. Major General’s book has not served the cause of the war heroes, whom the author is so passionate about. Nay, the conclusion will be inescapable that the allegations against the so called war heroes, now being held for various criminal acts, are indeed not without foundation. Hence, Rt. Major General Kapila Gunaratne has dealt a double whammy on the security forces, while trying to garnish his book with explicit details he would have been well advised to have left out.
The Rtd. Major General’s revelations have certainly upset the apple cart for the Joint Opposition, which have been defending the record of the security forces with a vengeance and accused the Yahapalanaya Government of engaging in a witch-hunt of the country’s war heroes at the behest of the West and the Tamil Diaspora. Now, one of their own agents has handed over the necessary evidence on a platter to the enemies of the state. Besides, as a head of a military unit during the war years, in the eyes of the international community, there would be no reason to doubt the Rtd. Major General Gunaratne’s claims. The damage has been done and no amount of rhetoric from the Joint Opposition could reverse the thinking planted in the minds of the interested parties that the forces had indeed committed atrocities against civilians.
The government, for its part, should take measures to scrutinize books written on the war. We are not aware if there is an appointed authority to inspect the contents of books, like the Public Performance Board for films. We are also not aware if “Road to Nandikadal” was subjected to vetting. More books on the war are in the pipeline. It would be prudent if these books are not released willy nilly but subject to close scrutiny, even though, it must be said, that the horse has already bolted.