Army Chief does some plain speaking | Page 3 | Daily News

Army Chief does some plain speaking

Army Commander Lt. Gen Mahesh Senanayake has stressed on the importance of differentiating between the true war hero and a murderer. Perhaps the vernacular version of his remark made to the Sinhala Service of the BBC would be better nuanced and drive the point home. Responding to the interviewer Lt.Gen. Senanayake said api ranaviruvage saha minimaruvage venasa vataha gatha yuthui. He said the army was prepared to investigate any allegation of war crimes by his men and there was no need to sweep anything under the carpet. They should not fear anything and if any specific charges are brought there is no reason why these should not be looked into, he said. Lt. Gen Senanayake also stated that it was regrettable that the term war hero was used loosely these days and even those seen on roadsides are classed as war heroes.

The Army Chief's remarks comes at a time when the arrest of security forces personnel for abductions and other human rights violations have raised a furor among Joint Opposition politicians and Bikkhus allied to the Rajapaksas. Perhaps, the Army Commander's assertion would allow the public to come to their own conclusions with regard to this song and dance made by JO politicians over the arrest of forces personnel. We say this because Lt. Gen. Senanayake had commanded troops in the North during the height of the war and he has no reason to betray his men out of hand, as the JO is giving character certificates to those members of the forces arrested, out of hand. Lt. Gen. Senanayake is not the only one who has hinted of the possibility of atrocities committed by members of the forces.

There is Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka who had specifically named a former Army Commander as having a direct hand in certain incidents and wanted these investigated. Sarath Fonseka, it could be assumed, being a government politician, is answering critics of the regime who accuse it of carrying out a witch-hunt against members of the security forces. But the present Army Chief has no political stake in the matter and may sound credible for this reason. By the same token he cannot also be blind to the fact that the arrest of forces personnel could not have been without basis and the arrests are been exploited by Opposition politicians for political gain. Else they could have protested more vociferously against the incarceration of war winning Commander Sarath Fonseka who was unceremoniously dragged away and thrown behind bars. Where were these patriots and great defenders of the war heroes then, one may ask?

The Army Commander's remark that the term ‘war hero’ was being used haphazardly and those seen on the streets too have been attached the same honorific, no doubt, is pregnant with meaning. His remark cannot be anything but a reference to those who directed the war from their air-conditioned rooms and has been tagged war hero, or, those participating in street protests at the behest of opposition politicians. True, those directing the war, away from the battlefield, may have been responsible for strategising and drawing up battle plans and the tag ‘war hero’ could not be termed undeserving in their case. But taking to the streets to further the political agendas of others, certainly does not do credit to the army and those involved cannot be described as war heroes but as mere pawns in a political game.

The Army Chief could not be faulted for taking a dim view of such conduct on the part of his former charges which only brought shame on all combatants and more so, the genuine war heroes.

It is time the JO stop using the ranaviruvas in their political games and bring dishonour to the army. The JO has even used disabled soldiers as candidates in their LG elections. Here, on the one hand they are shouting hoarse urging the public to elect dynamic and energetic youth to serve the villages and on the other hand forwarding disabled soldiers for this task. This alone exposes the shameless manner in which the JO is preying on the emotions of the public and using the ‘war hero’ card to win votes.

Be that as it may, it goes without saying that the law cannot be applied selectively. There cannot be one law for war heroes and another for the ordinary citizens. The media is full of accounts of serious crimes committed by former members of the security forces, such as murder, rape and robbery. The JO is weeping buckets for former Navy Commodore D. P. K. Dassanayake who had allegedly been involved in the abduction of Tamil youth for ransom. They want him released from detention and have charged the government with pandering to the Tamil Diaspora, in continuing to hold him. These same actors were very much in the political scene when Fonseka was jailed for a much lesser offence. But we didn't hear even a whimper from the likes of Udaya Gammanpila or Rear Admiral (Rtd.) Sarath Wijesekera who is today busy shuttling between Colombo and Geneva to espouse the cause of war heroes. Can there ever be a more hypocritical duo?


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