War Heroes as political pawns | Daily News

War Heroes as political pawns

State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene has hit out at the Joint Opposition (JO) for accusing the Government of mistreating members of the Security Forces. Speaking at a recent function he rejected JO allegations that the Government was undermining the Security Forces adding that, on the contrary, it was this Government, more than any other administration in the past, which had done much for the welfare of the Security Forces. He said that 70 percent of the pension issues of the Forces personnel have been resolved in addition to the provision of housing.

The State Minister, no doubt, was responding to the strident criticism against the government for its alleged neglect of the Security Forces personnel by the likes of Major General (Rtd.) Kamal Gunaratne who is a leading light of Eliya (Light), a movement comprising so called professionals and retired members of the Armed Forces, seen as the launching pad for the promotion of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as the next Presidential candidate from the JO.

Speaking at an event organised by Ravana Balaya, whose members act as storm troopers of the Rajapaksas, the retired Major General, while bemoaning the lack of recognition by the Government towards the sacrifices made by members of the Armed Forces, directing the attention of the audience to a group of disabled soldiers among them, added that though their physical incapacity could not be set right they will be looked after well and their lost dignity restored to them under a new government that will be a reality “very soon”.

Where was Major General Kamal Gunaratne who is today weeping buckets on behalf of members of the Security Forces who he claims are being stripped of their dignity and honour, when his own colleague on the battlefield the then Lt. General Sarath Fonseka was dragged away like a common criminal and thrown in the slammer after a Kangaroo Court trial read Court Martial.

One cannot also not recall the Major General rising up to assert the dignity of a group of soldiers who were protecting Fonseka, who was billeted in a Colombo hotel, following the latter’s defeat at the Presidential Election, when they were ordered to kneel along the hotel driveway by handpicked soldiers dispatched there by Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

Nor was Major General Gunaratne anywhere to be seen when our War Heroes were forced to perform domestic chores in the homes of Rajapaksa siblings and also put on kennel duty, to indulge the whims of a Rajapaksa progeny. Perhaps the good Major General may have been vacationing abroad and cutoff from the happenings in Sri Lanka when our War Heroes were made to sell vegetables at various locations in the City and also made to do menial jobs in furtherance of Gotabhaya Rajapaka’s city beautification project.

Far from upholding the dignity of members of the Security Forces, the Major General stands accused of compromising our War Heroes, when, in his book “Road to Nandikadal,” he reveals in vivid detail alleged attacks committed by certain soldiers against residents in the North during the height of the war.

There is today no complaint by serving or retired soldiers about being neglected, ignored or shortchanged except by some disabled soldiers employed by the Rajapaksa camp to stage demonstrations on the roads or certain retired Army top brass, who once served as Ambassadors, expecting further plum posts in the event of a return to power by the Rajapaksa clan. For them, even taking legal action against members of the Security Forces for the alleged murder of journalists and carrying out white van abductions is tantamount to a witch-hunt against War Heroes.

All citizens of this country are subject to the law and members of the Security Forces are no exception. Our soldiers were engaged in a profession, that of employing their skills on the battlefield, a most noble one and one for which this nation should be ever grateful. However, that can no means be a license to commit murder and other criminal acts. Bringing such elements to justice, by no stretch of the imagination can be construed as a witch hunt against War Heroes. To do so will only be at the risk of plunging this country into lawlessness and anarchy.

In fact, as Finance and Mass Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera explained recently, it is this Government that saved Mahinda Rajapaksa and the War Heroes from a protracted investigation by the international justice mechanisms. He recalled that when this Government came to power in January 2015, sections of the International Community had already laid the ground work to take unilateral punitive action against Sri Lanka citing accountability issues arising from the conflict. However, the Government engaged with the global community and managed to prevent any such foreign interference. This was a wise of course of action, rather than antagonizing friendly countries. Indeed, in his address to UN General Assembly last week, President Maithripala Sirisena too pointed out that Sri Lanka needs the time and space to resolve its problems domestically without undue foreign influence. Engagement, not hostility, is the way forward.


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