Wednesday, 28 June 2017

A significant post-war achievement



Batticaloa, June 21: Minister Swaminathan (left) with US Amb Keshap, British HC Dauris and Australian HC Hutchesson at an event to declare the Batticaloa district free of mine risk (pic courtesy Hindu Affairs Ministry)
By Shamindra Ferdinando

The successful conclusion of mine clearing operations, in the eastern Batticaloa district, was announced at the US Embassy Iftar, in Batticaloa, on the night of June 20, 2017.

US Ambassador Atul Keshap, made the announcement after having addressed the contentious issue of ongoing Sinhala extremists attacks on the Muslim community, US support as well as the long standing US relationship with the Muslim community. The announcement was made the day before the official statement, issued by the Prisons Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Affairs Minister, D.M. Swaminathan, on behalf of the government.

The US Embassy, quoted Ambassador Keshap as having said: "Ladies and gentlemen, it is a delight to see all of you today, especially during this very holy month of Ramadan. Even as we are all gathered here tonight for this iftar, I’m reminded that all across the United States there are millions of Muslim Americans who are also gathering to celebrate iftar with their family and friends, to enjoy a month that brings together the community with a focus on family and charity. From the bottom of my heart, and behalf of all the women and men of the American Embassy, in Colombo, who are here today, I bid you welcome and Marhabikum!

But, US President Trump unceremoniously ended a two-decade old tradition of hosting an iftar meal at the White House during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The move drew criticism.

A US embassy statement, issued following the US Embassy Iftar in Batticaloa, quoted Keshap as having said: Tomorrow I will join our partners to complete mine clearance operations in Batticaloa, making it the first district, in Sri Lanka, to achieve "residual risk" status. This is a very important milestone to be the first district in Sri Lanka declared mine-impact free. And, we will continue working to ensure that all of Sri Lanka become mine-impact free, allowing people to recover after decades of war."

The Indian-American joined a delegation comprising Minister D.M. Swaminathan, British High Commissioner James Dauris, Australian High Commissioner Bryce Hutchesson, and diplomatic representatives from Canada and Japan, at an event at the Batticaloa District secretariat where Batticaloa was declared mine free, after eight years, since the successful conclusion of the war in May, 2009.

Interestingly, none of the members of parliament, representing the Batticaloa district, attended the event.

Minister Swaminathan, accompanied by envoys of countries which backed mine clearing effort, flew in commercial SLAF flight from Ratmalana to Batticaloa on the morning of June 21 to join Keshap who had reached Batticaloa on the previous day.

Sri Lanka has received Rs 8 bn in US assistance to carry out de-mining operations in Sri Lanka. The US support amounted to be the largest single foreign sponsorship. The Army cleared 83 per cent of mine-affected land, whereas the INGOs and NGOs cleared the rest. Overall, 26 per cent of mine-affected territory in the northern and eastern districts remained to be cleared, with Ampara and Trincomalee expected to be declared free of mine risk next.

The armed forces brought Batticaloa district under government control two years before the conclusion of the war, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.

Batticaloa district had been one of the worst affected with some of the bloodiest fighting during the conflict. A substantial number died due to fighting among once – Indian sponsored terrorist groups as well as clashes between the LTTE and the IPKF formed Tamil National Army.

Even after the entire Eastern Province, consisting of Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee districts, had been liberated, in mid 2007, a section of the international community, as well as the media, propagated the invincibility of the LTTE. They believed the armed forces lacked the wherewithal to sustain large scale Vanni offensive on multiple fronts though the offensive got underway a few months before the liberation of the Eastern Province.

AS Deputy Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at the US Embassy in New Delhi, during 2005-2008, Keshap couldn’t have been unaware of what was happening in Sri Lanka.

South Asia expert Keshap presented his credentials to President Maithripala Sirisena in August 2015, a few days after the formation of the UNP-SLFP coalition on the basis of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

US Amb survives LTTE fire

In the wake of war-torn Batticaloa being declared mine free, it would be pertinent to examine the situation there, a decade ago, with the focus on a deliberate LTTE artillery attack, on Batticaloa air field, seconds after an SLAF chopper carrying a group of Colombo based diplomats, including the then US Ambassador Robert Blake landed. Ambassador Blake and Italian ambassador Pio Mariani received minor injuries. The LTTE artillery attack on Feb 27, 2007, was meant to discourage the UN, EU and Western powers from throwing its weight behind the then government’s rehabilitation and reconstructions efforts in the Eastern Province.

Clearing the Batticaloa district of mines wouldn’t have been a reality if the armed forces failed to achieve their military objectives. In spite of the vast majority of the Batticaloa District LTTE cadre switching its allegiance to renegade commander Karuna, in early 2004, Western powers, India, civil society and a section of the media remained confident the LTTE still could thwart the armed forces.

Less than a month after the LTTE artillery attack, on Batticaloa air base, online Bloomberg news agency quoted defence and political analysts as having said that Sri Lanka’s war couldn’t be won by either side.

March 22, 2007, datelined story headlined ‘Sri Lanka, Tamil Tiger Rebels Fight a War That Can’t be Won,’ by Colombo based Anusha Ondaatjie, quoted head of terrorism research at Singapore’s Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Rohan Gunaratna as having asserted: "Continuing the current spate of violence is not going to bring about a different outcome or change the status quo. Both parties have developed significant support to be able to recover from losses, but this type of warfare is protracted." Gunaratna declared: "What is needed is a negotiated settlement to the conflict."

The website also quoted Gunaratna as having claimed: "The two parties have decided to fight each other", hence conveniently forgotten the circumstances leading to eelam war IV in Aug 2006.

The then President Mahinda Rajapaksa reluctantly responded to the LTTE military challenge, after making a desperate bid to revive the Norwegian initiative. President Rajapaksa made both overt and covert efforts to reach an understanding with the LTTE. Sri Lanka’s efforts should be examined against the backdrop of Western powers steadfastly refusing to pressure the LTTE to return to the negotiating table. The LTTE quit the negotiating table, in April 2003, during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s premiership to facilitate the change of government in early 2004.

Just three months after Dr. Gunaratne called for a negotiated settlement, the military liberated the entire Eastern Province. By then, ground operations were underway on the Vanni west front with the newly raised 57 Division struggling to make headway.

Commenting on the split caused by Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan, alias Karuna, Sanjana Hattotuwa, a senior researcher at the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), was also quoted by Bloomberg as having said, "Karuna’s departure was a major debacle to the LTTE, in the East, but it will be a stretch for the government to think they can liberate Jaffna using Karuna."

The renegade LTTE cadre hadn’t been involved in the nearly three-year long high intensity northern campaign.

At the time of the LTTE attack, on the Batticaloa air base, President Rajapaksa had been away in China. The then Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, accompanying President Rajapaksa, issued the following statement: "The government of Sri Lanka condemns this attack by the LTTE in the strongest terms. This is a reminder for the international community to take effective measures to eliminate fund raising and weapons procurement by the LTTE in foreign countries."

Many an eyebrow was raised when Ambassador Blake sort of defended the LTTE when he had met Bogollagama and the then Foreign Secretary Dr. Palitha Kohona a few days after the incident. Ambassador Blake had asserted that the LTTE wouldn’t have launched artillery attack on the Batticaloa air base if they were aware of his presence. The US envoy declared the LTTE might have been aware of the presence of his diplomatic colleagues though the group was certainly not unaware of his presence (LTTE would not have attacked us if they knew I was there – Blake, The Island, March 6, 2007). The then French ambassador Jean-Bernard de Vaivre, Japanese ambassador Kiyoshi Araki, German ambassador Juergen Weerth, UN Resident Coordinator Frederick Lyons and UNHCR Representative Amin Awad had been among those accompanying Ambassador Blake. The US embassy never contradicted The Island story.

A few years later, after the conclusion of the war, Wiki Leaks released a confidential diplomatic cable that dealt with the LTTE attack on the Batticaloa air base. The released cable revealed the pathetic US response to the LTTE attack. Ambassador Blake has decided not to join delegations led by the then Human Rights and Resettlement Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe in the wake of two separate attacks.

Wiki Leaks released a spate of revealing cables originating from the US mission, in Colombo, as well as the US mission, in New Delhi, during the war as well as the post-war period. Unfortunately, the Rajapaksa government lacked foresight to study Wiki Leaks cables pertaining to Sri Lanka. Foreign Ministry neglected its duty to ensure the best possible defence for Sri Lanka in the face of unsubstantiated war crimes accusations directed at political and military leaderships until the Yahapalana government co-sponsored the Oct 1, 2015, Resolution to pave the way for hybrid judicial mechanism.

The US forced Sri Lanka to accept the Oct 1, 2015 Resolution in spite of Sri Lanka rejecting the draft resolution at the first informal session called by the "Core Group’ pursuing the matter. Ambassador Keshap had been present at that meeting along with US Ambassador in Geneva Harper.

US cable on LTTE attack

The following is the relevant sections of Ambassador Blake’s classified cable in verbatim on the LTTE attack on the Batticaloa air base:


1. (S) SUMMARY: On February 28, Ambassador Blake received a faxed letter (full text para 2) dated February 27, 2007,from S.P. Tamilselvan, Head of the Political Division, LTTE, apologizing for the February 27 artillery attack on the delegation in which the Ambassador was traveling to Batticaloa. Comment: Since this is now the second delegation led by Samarasinghe that has come under fire from the LTTE, we will likely refrain from joining similar missions in the future. While we do not believe the LTTE intentionally targeted the Ambassadors, the LTTE clearly was aware that a high level GSL mission would be coming to Batticaloa to meet with civil society and other representatives. Their decision to shell a group that was seeking to address the same humanitarian and human rights problems that the LTTE claims to be concerned about, reflects the ruthless and cynical attitude of the LTTE. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Begin text.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam


HE Robert Blake, The Ambassador of United States, Colombo.

Yours Excellency,

I write to express my deep sadness and shock that you were slightly hurt in an artillery fire on 27 February 2007, as the aircraft carrying you and others landed in military air bases in Batticaloa. We truly regret the unfortunate incident.

Please allow us to explain the circumstances that led to this unfortunate incident. The two landing sites where the aircraft, carrying you and other ambassadors, landed are Sri Lankan military artillery positions. Early on that day, Sri Lankan military launched artillery shelling into our areas, in Batticaloa, provoking us to fire back. Such shelling into our area occurs regularly and is continuing to create new IDPs on a daily basis.

We like to inform you that we have well established and effective channels of communication with UN and ICRC for informing us about the movements of foreign diplomats and delegates into war zones. This arrangement has worked well to ensure the safety of diplomats who have to travel into war zones in the course of their duties. Indeed, foreign diplomats, UN and INGO staff regularly fly to the Palaly military air base in Jaffna after informing us through this well established channel.

The failure of the Sri Lankan Government (GoSL) to follow this well established practice is criminal negligence on their part. We are forced to think that GoSL deliberately avoided this practice and put your safety and the safety of the other ambassadors in jeopardy in order to ruin the relationship of the Tamil people with your country.

Fortunately, prompt action by UN staff and our staff at our Head Quarters in Kilinochchi has avoided serious harm to the foreign diplomats.

Please allow me to use this opportunity to say how much the Tamil people and LTTE value the good relationship with your country and recognize the concerns you show for the welfare of the Tamil people.

Thanking Your,

Yours Sincerely,

(S.P. Tamilselvan) Head of Political Division, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam

End text.


3. (S) We have confirmed that there was an outgoing artillery barrage from the Sri Lankan military into the jungles west of Batticaloa on the morning for February 27th. This is not an unusual occurrence; the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) has told us that artillery barrages into the jungles west of Batticaloa are practically a daily occurrence. The LTTE letter does not specifically allege that the fire came from the helicopter landing sites. (Note: It is not likely that the Tigers have a technical ability to locate the source of the incoming fire, but they may very well have spotters with radios or cell phones in the vicinity. This appeared to be the case in this instance, as the incoming mortars landed progressively closer to the arriving delegation.) To avoid recurrences of this unfortunate incident, RSO plans to set in place a notification procedure to either the UN security liaison or the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission liaison in Kilinochchi for future Ambassadorial and high-level visits to the conflict zone.

4. (S) The idea for this trip was originated by Human Rights and Resettlement Minister Samarasinghe, who is making a good faith effort to address humanitarian and human rights problems. However, this is now the second delegation led by Samarasinghe that has come under fire from the LTTE. The first was a mission to Jaffna several weeks ago that the US did not participate in. We will likely refrain from joining similar missions with high level GSL officials in the future. While we do not believe the LTTE intentionally targeted the Ambassadors, the LTTE likely was aware that a high level GSL mission would be coming to Batticaloa to meet with civil society and other representatives. Their decision to shell a group that was seeking to address the same humanitarian and human rights problems that the LTTE claims to be concerned about, reflects the ruthless and cynical attitude of the LTTE. BLAKE"

Boastful Thamilselvan was killed eight months later in an SLAF strike on Kilinochchi. A pair of aircraft comprising Kfir and Mig 27 bombed Thamilselvan’s underground hideout. The LTTE suffered a debilitating setback due to Thamilselvan’s killing.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Sri Lanka’s 2009 triumph over terrorism misinterpreted




By Shamindra Ferdinando

Those who had implicit faith in the LTTE’s prowess never envisaged a negotiated political settlement. They always endorsed solutions proposed by the LTTE on the basis the group can never be militarily defeated, therefore an agreement on its terms is a necessity. They strongly believed in the invincibility of the LTTE, one of those Indian sponsored terrorist groups operational since early 80s.

A section of the media, too, repeatedly reinforced the theory that the LTTE had the wherewithal to withstand the Army under any circumstances. The media propagated that the combined armed forces lacked the capacity to conduct large scale operations, simultaneously, on multiple fronts to bring the LTTE to its knees. They expressed confidence in a massive LTTE counter attack in late Dec 2008 before the government liberated Kilinochchi in early Jan 2009.

Eradication of the LTTE had never been seriously considered as a solution by the UNP and the SLFP until Velupillai Prabhakaran took on Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2006. Newly appointed Defence Secretary, Gajaba Regiment veteran Gotabhaya Rajapaksa spearheaded meticulous efforts to militarily defeat the enemy. On a number of occasions, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa explained that a negotiated settlement would never be a reality as long as the LTTE believed in its capability to achieve objectives through war. Rajapaksa told top Norwegian delegation on April 6, 2006 in Colombo that ethnic and political problems in Sri Lanka could be solved by military means. What Rajapaksa really meant was the national issue couldn’t be resolved as long as the LTTE retained its military capability. Although the LTTE’s defeat paved the way for direct talks between the government and the TNA, the latter sabotaged negotiations by following the LTTE’s path.

LTTE-TNA coalition

At the behest of the LTTE, R. Sampanthan led Tamil National Alliance recognized the former in Oct 2001 as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people. The TNA remained in LTTE’s ‘captivity’ until the armed forces brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009. Had President Mahinda Rajapaksa succumbed to Western pressure and called off the offensive in early 2009, the TNA would have remained Prabhakaran’s proxy. That is the undeniable truth.

MR’s efforts to reach consensus with LTTE

Having secured the presidency at Nov 2005 polls thanks to the LTTE depriving UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe the northern Tamil vote, President Rajapaksa, too, has been initially hesitant to face the LTTE challenge and sought various ways and means of reaching a consensus with the group. President Rajapaksa sought to initiate a dialogue with the LTTE through one-time Norwegian funded NGO guru Dr Kumar Rupesinghe. President Rajapaksa also requested assistance of head of Seva Lanka Foundation Harsha Kumara Navaratne to establish direct contact with the LTTE. The LTTE spurned both offers as it felt inexperienced Rajapaksa can be easily overwhelmed.

President Rajapaksa went to the extent of having talks with the LTTE in Geneva twice under the auspices of the Norwegians in 2006 even after Prabhakaran resumed hostilities.

Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP explained to the writer in late July 2010 how the LTTE had planned to overwhelm President Rajapaksa at the onset of the eelam war IV. None of those who had been shedding crocodile tears for the Tamil community dared to request the Prabhakaran not to quit the negotiating table in April 2003. Prabhakaran withdrew from Norway led talks that month to pave the way for then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to call early general election. Having helped the TNA to take control of the Northern and Eastern electoral districts at April 2004 general election, the LTTE ordered the Tamil community to prepare for final war. The LTTE’s Vanni leadership had been so confident that it could defeat the government in spite of unprecedented split caused by Karuna in early 2004.

The LTTE resumed eelam war in Aug 2006 with multi pronged simultaneous offensives in the northern and eastern theaters. The enemy furiously engaged the Army on both fronts for several weeks until the government managed to bring the situation under control.

In early Oct 2006, the Army suffered a debilitating setback on the northern front at Muhamalai. Although, Muhamalai offensive went awry with catastrophic results, the Army bounced back within weeks. The ground offensive would never have succeeded if the Navy and the Air Force failed. The Navy and Air Force provided significant support to the overall campaign in addition to their independent strategic actions that caused severe damage to the LTTE.

The LTTE was brought to its knees in two years and ten months on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.

Post-war politics; Fonseka factor (May 24, 2017) dealt with contentious issue of Sri Lanka’s right to annually celebrate LTTE’s annihilation with a spectacular armed forces victory parade. The writer’s assertion that there couldn’t be any dispute over Sri Lanka’s right to continue with annual Victory Day Parade received mixed reactions. Those who had been opposed to victory day parade propagated the lie that such an annual event severely undermined post-war national reconciliation process.

Perhaps, the Tamil lobby may soon demand cancellation of annual military-led events at a memorial at Palaly for Indian Army personnel killed in Sri Lanka fighting the LTTE. The long-forgotten memorial inside the Palaly high security zone was built in 2012. The memorial pays homage to 33 men of the Indian elite special forces, the 10 Para Regiment, who were cremated there. It comprises seven structures and has the names of all the soldiers.

Sri Lanka maintains another monument for the Indian Army near Parliament at Pelawatte. Indian leaders have paid floral tributes at the memorial. Sri Lanka should earn the respect of the international community for maintaining memorials for those Indian officers and men killed in battles here with Indian trained Sri Lankan terrorists. India lost 1,200 officers and men while over 3,000 received injuries. Interestingly, India never put up a memorial for them and those who commanded the ill-fated mission here, too, never demanded that those who fought the LTTE on Sri Lankan soil should be honoured with a monument in India.

Daya Gamage, the author of Tamil Tigers’ Debt To America challenged the writer’s assertion in respect of Victory Day Parade.

In a piece titled Sri Lanka facing consequences of ‘Victory Parades- Triumphalism’, Gamage faulted the writer for asserting the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK)-led Tamil National Alliance, foreign-funded civil society organizations, as well as a section of the international community resented the Victory Day parade as they believed such celebrations hurt the feelings of the Tamil speaking people.

Gamage also questioned the writer’s observation that those who were opposed to victory day parade acknowledged the LTTE and consisted of almost all Tamil speaking Sri Lankans hell-bent on driving out the Army from the Northern Province.’ Gamage blamed the Rajapaksas style of post war governance for influential diaspora elements creating an environment overseas hostile to Sri Lanka. Subsequently, Gamage issued a clarification in respect of Sri Lanka facing consequences of ‘Victory Parades- Triumphalism following contrary views expressed by various others.

There is absolutely no point in denying the fact that the LTTE as well as about six other terrorist groups sponsored by India in early 80s consisted of entirely Tamils. That is the undeniable truth. Driving the military out of the Jaffna peninsula had been their dream and they relentlessly pursued that objective though the peninsula was brought under government control in 1996, a few years after Indian Army pulled out of Sri Lanka. Even eight years after the LTTE’s defeat, the TNA, civil society as well as a section of the international community had been pushing for further reduction of military presence in the Northern Province. Of course, some Sinhalese, including some in police as well as armed forces had been on the LTTE’s payroll and provided crucial support to LTTE intelligence.

If Gamage genuinely felt that the ITAK-led TNA, foreign funded civil society organizations and a section of the international community had no issue with Sri Lanka having Victory Day Parade, why on earth Yahapalana rulers cancelled the 2015 event. Gamage has conveniently refrained from commenting on Canadian High Commissioner Shelly Whiting’s 2014 demand that Sri Lanka should stop military celebrations.

Different kind of celebration

Having cancelled the Victory Day Parade, the government organized a cultural spectacle, ‘Sanhindiyawai – Sangrama Shakthiyayi’, on June 14 at the Independence Square to celebrate Sri Lanka triumph over the LTTE and post-war developments. For some reason yahapalana government celebrated the restoration of GSP plus facility denied to Sri Lanka in 2010. The EU move was meant to pressure the Rajapaksa administration. Those who couldn’t stomach Sri Lanka’s victory over the LTTE resorted to various tactics to undermine the war winning government. The British went out of their way to harass Sri Lanka to appease UK nationals of Sri Lankan origin. The British turned a blind eye to the LTTE issuing statements from UK regarding its operations. The British gave the LTTE a free hand. Thanks to Wiki Leaks, the world got to know about how UK played politics with the Sri Lankan conflict.

Gamage also found fault with the writer for describing nearly 30-year-old conflict as a war between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. Whatever the explanation and positions articulated by various parties, the fighting had been between the majority community and minority Tamils. The writer had absolutely no reason to describe the conflict in any other term than one between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. The vast majority of the Muslim community threw their weight behind the Sinhalese. Muslim youth joined the armed forces, faithfully served the intelligence services and essentially supported the war against the LTTE. The LTTE drove the Muslims out of the Northern Province in Oct-Nov 1990.

The 1971 and 1987-1990 insurrections divided the Sinhala community with the JVP comprised almost 99.9 Sinhalese Buddhists challenging the hugely Sinhala Buddhist dominated armed forces.

It would be pertinent to keep in mind that Tamils, too, contributed to the LTTE’s defeat. Those Indian sponsored Tamil groups namely TELO, PLOTE, EPDP and EPRLF which had been militarily weakened by the LTTE in the late 80s were recruited by the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa. They proved useful. At the behest of the LTTE, the then UNP-led UNF government disarmed them in accordance with Norway arranged Ceasefire Agreement signed in Feb 2002. Whatever the so called Tamil lobby here and abroad propagated, the US and European powers fully comprehended the extreme danger posed by the LTTE and the world’s solitary superpower provided required intelligence to Sri Lanka Navy in 2007 to hunt down floating LTTE arsenals in international waters. Let me stress that it was a personal achievement for the then Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda whose determined leadership proved crucial in eelam war IV.

Sri Lanka’s right to celebrate her victory over the LTTE with a Victory Day Parade shouldn’t have been a domestic or an external issue. Tamil lobby here and abroad easily succeeded in convincing the US and other European powers that Tamils living in the Northern Province felt conquered. Tamil lobby succeeded because they (Western powers) wanted to exploit the situation and use that lie to create an environment to undermine the Rajapaksa administration. The EU decision to do away with the GSP plus facility in early 2010 as well as prohibition of fish exports to EU member states in January 2015 were meant to undermine President Rajapaksa. Western powers cleverly exploited the post-war resentment expressed by the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to form a coalition capable of ousting the Rajapaksasa.

Australia took a different position, at least publicly in respect of post-war Sri Lanka due to its close relationship with war winning government. Australian stand here is largely influenced by bilateral partnership aimed at halting would be illegal immigrants from Sri Lanka.

US backing for SF

In spite of calling war winning Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka a ‘war criminal’ in January 2010, the US embassy in Colombo worked overtime to arrange a coalition to ensure Fonseka’s victory at January 2010 polls. The US played an important role in forming the coalition. Sri Lanka certainly benefited from the exposure of confidential US diplomatic cables originating from Colombo. Unfortunately, the Rajapaksa administration never bothered to examine those cables, thereby lost chance to exploit them. The US guaranteed the TNA support to Fonseka. Although, the US-led plan went awry in January 2010, almost identical project succeeded in January 2015 to oust President Rajapaksa. It would be pertinent to keep in mind that then staunch Rajapaksa loyalist Maithripala Sirisena had held the defence portfolio at a crucial stage of the final battle (May, 2009 third week) on the Vanni east front where unsubstantiated accusations were made in respect of battlefield executions.

Gamage asserted that the Rajapaksas had failed to ‘emotionally connect to the Tamil people in the North’ following the annihilation of the LTTE and the Tamil lobby succeeded in convincing the US and other Western powers Tamil people in the North felt conquered. Had the Tamil community really felt conquered and overwhelmed by military presence in the Northern Province, they wouldn’t have exercised their franchise in support of General Fonseka. All northern and eastern districts overwhelmingly voted for Gen Fonseka and Maithripala Sirisena at 2010 and 2015 presidential polls.

In January 2010, Tamils voted for Fonseka amidst widespread wild allegations that the armed forces had massacred over 40,000 civilians on the Vanni east front and substantial number of LTTE cadres executed. Whatever the TNA leadership said, northern Tamils wouldn’t have voted for Gen. Fonseka if they really resented him and held him accountable for civilian deaths.

The US exploited the situation to get rid of President Rajapaksa due to his growing post-war relationship with China. This should be examined against the backdrop of US-India-Japan partnership against China. Let me emphasize that US regime change project hadn’t been influenced by the previous government response to the Tamil community.

The US nor TNA never explained the circumstances under which they backed Gen. Fonseka at 2010 presidential poll. The civil society, too, never asked why Sri Lanka’s best Army Commander was backed against the war winning Commander-in-Chief.

Those Sinhalese who still believed Tamils felt conquered in the wake of the LTTE’s defeat in may 2009 should peruse Subramanium Sivagami alias ‘Colonel’ Thamilini’s Thiyunu Asipathaka Sevana Yata (In the Shadow of a Sharp Sword), the Sinhala translation of Oru Koorvaalin Nizhalil. Thamilini intimately dealt with the final phase of the war on the Vanni east front. Thamilini’s memoirs launched after her death due to cancer in Oct 2015 depicted the miserable situation caused by the LTTE.

In fact, the writer sought an explanation from top lawyer Kandiah Neelakandan,  President of the All Ceylon Hindu Congress during a ceremony in Vavuniya in the run up to January 2010 presidential poll how he felt Tamils having to choose between Gen Fonseka and President Rajapaksa whose political leadership made Sri Lanka’s victory possible. President Rajapaksa was there to personally release some rehabilitated LTTE cadres and top ACHC representatives were among those invited to participate at the event. Neelakandan acknowledged paradox of the situation. The then Minister Milinda Moragoda played a pivotal role in securing the support of the ACHC in a bid to dispel fears among the Tamil community that those who had surrendered and captured on the Vanni front were to be executed.

The Rajapaksa administration paid a very heavy price for not countering lies. The previous government squandered massive amount of taxpayers money on ‘media projects’ both here and abroad. Those who had received public funds lacked knowledge and the expertise to counter propaganda though they continued to deceive the government until the very end in January 2015.