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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2525

Lalin’s Column: ‘Traitors’ in SL

By Major General (Retd.) Lalin Fernando

‘Apparently there are many traitors in SL today -according to the Prime Minister (PM). They are supposed to be in the media and the GMOA among other places too. A traitor is a betrayer and is commonly thought to have committed treason. Treason is an act of betraying or attempting to over throw the government.

When the Forces were finally winning in the East in 2006 and the PM was Leader of the Opposition, at some event in Batticaloa, he said that those who had left the army to go abroad had ‘abandoned’ it. He said they could be called traitors too! What was the betrayal or treason in that? He was probably hinting at the then Defence Secretary (DS) who had retired from the Army after 20 years of service, as allowed by regulations and gone to the USA. The DS had served as a commanding officer in an Infantry battalion of the crack Gajaba Regiment. He had been wounded in action too. But this did not prevent the PM from tossing his customary derisive if not derogatory remarks.

Curiously this particular definition of ‘traitor’ came from a man who had never served in any capacity in the Armed Forces. Further being a Government Minister he had not lifted a finger against the humiliating Indo SL agreement (1987), brought about by the behavior and actions of the Government he served. It was an act of appeasement much similar to the Munich Agreement in 1938 that allowed Hitler to annex Czechoslovakia. It allowed the ‘invasion’ of SL by the IPKF. Fortunately the sound battering the LTTE gave the IPKF, precipitated the IPKF withdrawal. It may possibly not have occurred otherwise. The arrival of the IPKF had, amongst other deleterious effects, resulted in many excellent officers of combat regiments seeking early retirement. None would have believed it was they who would be labeled ‘traitors’ by a former PM, when PM again, 20 years on.

During the 26 years of terrorist conflict with the LTTE and the JVP over 160,000 died in 26 years. Those who opposed the Government were condemned as ‘traitors’. Tens of thousands of such ‘traitors’, all Sinhalese, were killed (196 in Hambantota in one day) in 1988/9. Those who supported the LTTE were so condemned too, like the TNA. They at least were open about it. One President even gave weapons and ammunition etc to the LTTE. His ministers did not object. What was he? What were those who fearing political ramifications when the tide had turned against the LTTE, ridiculed the Army? They equated the soldiers to cattle and mocked and scorned the sweeping military victories at Elephant Pass, Killinochchi and Toppigala that turned defeat into victory. Thousands of soldiers died. Earlier thousands of soldiers were sacrificed in vain under politically promoted Army Commanders who toed the government line that the LTTE could not be defeated. What cumulative effects these pernicious appointments, defeatist attitudes and combat disasters had on SL should be considered when the word ‘traitor’ is scattered around from on high.

Today, with a overwhelming parliamentary majority in the absolute peace that the PM never even dreamed was possible, he has spoken of many who do not agree with him, as ‘traitors’. This apparently includes the media, some of whom he has said in Sinhala ‘do dog like deeds’, whatever that means. He has threatened them all with dire consequences. His Minister for Higher Education has apparently gone one better profusely and repeatedly abusing a journalist in unadulterated Billingsgate.

Earlier a state minister when taken to task by a police sergeant, called the officer a ‘drunkard’. The former Sports Minister Dissanayake called 2 officials of the SL Cricket ‘traitors’. The new head of SL Cricket who is also the Deputy Speaker said cricketing legend Mahela Jayawardene’s 10 day contract with the England team nearly 2 years after the last T20 championships ‘unethical’ and suggested it was unprincipled. Sumithipala, a former book maker who was apparently also apparently charged with misuse of SLC office when he was President earlier, was straining his own credibility to the limits. He would be better advised to know what is happening to the SL cricket team since he took over. Having won the last World T20, SL looking utterly demoralized, has been able to beat only the UAE in the ongoing Asian T20, finishing one but last!

The PM has also thought fit to call the GMOA President and other members, lackeys of the former President Rajapakse for questioning the need for the ETCA.

These mounting incidents may appear to show signs of desperation, frustration, maybe even an uneasy conscience or worse among SL’s new political elite.

Dinesh Weerakoday, (Island 1/3/16) nephew of a Minister, supporting the PM says ‘he is a genuine patriot’ and ‘his lifelong political mission is to make SL a better place’ etc. He however cautions that taking the issue to the streets to oppose the GMOA may not be the best solution to criticism of the ETCA. Weerakody thinks the ETCA will be good for SL but that it has been marketed badly, hence the criticism.

The PM who about 10 months ago wanted the Navy to ‘shoot’ Indian poachers in the Palk Straits (they have not done so) can suddenly become a dangerous man even if not roused. But contradictorily he did sign a CFA with the LTTE terrorists too, which shows some confusion in his ‘life long political mission’ etc. But roused he is now. He has threatened to take to the streets and with tens of thousands more than the GMOA can produce. So is SL to undergo the trauma of street battles between tens of thousands of the PM's men and the membership of the GMOA who are arguably the most respected and virtually indispensable professional class in SL?

There’s something also about Indian Ambulance services for SL. The GMOA said it was in the dark about this too. The PM challenged the GMOA to get a better ambulance service provider from within SL if they can. Is this a job for the GMOA or the subject Minister now in a Singapore hospital? That the GMOA is in the dark even about such a plan with the Indians is not one of the PM’s concerns. Maybe the GMOA if not the PM remembers the IPKF, with or without Indian ambulances, that attacked the Jaffna hospital staff amongst many other vile things it did in SL.

The PM by his actions seems to be implausibly unaware of how brilliantly the medical services performed during the years of LTTE terror (1983-2009) not only in saving lives of thousands of people with bodies torn apart after bombings and shootings. They were brought to hospitals in record time, helped by volunteers including 3 wheel drivers while police and citizens cleared the streets of traffic. If the ambulance services were good then, what has happened since? He should contrast this with what happened in Bombay when Islamic terrorists struck. Both the medical and security services of the Indians were virtually useless, if not paralyzed. So what is this about the Indians and their ambulances that SL does not know or needs?

The PM should also be reminded that during the tsunami, the performance of the Medical services was magnificent. They reached the affected areas however remote by land, sea and air within a few hours and brought succor to the affected. He should be made aware of the SOPs, standing orders, plans and procedures that helped provide timely and expert medical services to the affected. The international medical missions that arrived were hugely impressed and soon found they were virtually redundant.

The PM should also go to any Government hospital now. It will be a revelation. The staff is far more professional, dedicated, effective and caring than ever before and a proud tribute to an independent nation where many other institutions the PM knows have failed the test. The doctors today are overwhelmingly from a less distinguished back ground than his. They identify easily and caringly with the sick, many of them terribly poor. Can they also be ‘traitors’?

What do the people sense about the PM’s increasing frustrations? Are they internal or external? Is there covert opposition from his ‘unity’ government? Who can they be? Should the GMOA, media or ordinary citizens who do not agree with him, therefore be threatened, caught in the crossfire, called MR’s stooges and live in fear for what ails the PM and his minions?

The GMOA ominously says that they had cordial relations with the President when he was Health Minister just over 15 months ago. What do they mean to convey to the PM? Is this about the interests of the nation or a political party?

Before the PM takes his ‘tens of thousands’ on to the streets he should consider just one thing. Do the people in their millions need tens of thousands of politicians and their followers on the streets or the doctors of the GMOA in the hospitals? As for the PM’s ‘traitors’ let’s not have ‘hybrid judges’ from the ‘whole (white) world’ to decide who is what in SL. The people know. But they are powerless, threatened and confused. He knows that.

- Asian Tribune -

Lalin’s Column: ‘Traitors’ in SL
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