Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 80

Lalin's Column : Carte Blanche –Attempted vilification of Mrs. Bandaranayke

By Major General (Retd.) Lalin Fernando

An article titled ‘Of war heroes and war crimes’ in the Sunday Island of 20 Jan 19 makes a slanderous attack on President Sirisena together with a call for international jurisdiction to try SL’s soldiers on war crimes charges. It also adds on an attempt to blacken the late PM, Mrs. (Sirima) Bandaranayke with completely fabricated accusations of granting ‘carte blanche ‘to police officers to commit acts of ‘brutality’ in the 1971 insurrection. This is clearly a febrile attempt to deceive western envoys who would have known little of the events of 1971. Mrs. Bandaranayke’s daughter who was President twice nor President Sirisena have bothered to respond.

The article states that the Police, but very significantly not the Army, were “given carte blanche’ (freedom of action etc) by Mrs. Bandaranayke to quell the 1971 JVP ‘rebellion’ better known as an insurrection, brutally. It is the Army that had the fire power. No such illegal order was given by her to the police or the armed forces. No proof to support this sweeping statement is given other than ‘bodies floating down rivers’ as if any dead body floating down any river was an act of police brutality. The troubled writer in a single sentence of over 100 words describes the dead with macabre and gross humor as ‘decorations’.

The JVP insurrection took the country by surprise by its intensity and rapid initial successes. It was the police that took the brunt of the onslaught with nearly 100 stations being attacked, 40 being abandoned and 5 over run in the South, mostly on the first night. It took over 50% of the security forces casualties of 53 dead. The police response as expected would not be cautious as in normal times. (In London when buses were bombed, the police shot a Brazilian in a tube station about 20 times as they thought he looked like a terrorist!). The total country dead was probably more than the official figure which was given as just over 1,200.

Whatever ‘brutality’ that took place did not in any way have Mrs. Bandaranayke’s imprimatur or ‘carte blanche’ as the writer imputes. Violations of HR where ever they occurred were the responsibility of the commanders on the ground and their superiors. Very senior police officers now retired, when contacted emphatically denied that they had even heard of such a monstrous instruction or order.

Military officers and men who served in 1971, many co located and all working in close cooperation with the police, especially in the ‘black’ areas from Wellawaya to Kegalle, never heard of any such ‘freedom’ granted by Mrs. Bandaranayke or the government either. This is not to say dark deeds were not done but if they were, it was in full awareness of the reach of the law and the Army, Navy and Air Force Acts that govern all actions of the armed forces. No illegal order can be carried out.

Those who however took the law into their hands in 1971 were brought to trial. This was ordered by Mrs. Bandaranayke herself as stated by a witness at JRJ’s ‘Commission’. All allegations were investigated. No police or forces officer pleaded ‘carte blanche’ if he had done wrong.

The very high profile Kataragama Beauty Queen murder case was one among several others that resulted in convictions. The accused included 2 army reservist officers, one of whom together with an army sergeant was found guilty of murder. PM Premadasa later put up a monument at Kataragama to the murdered girl Manamperi in 1978. The inscription on it had a sentence condemning the army too. Ironically in 1989-90 atrocities on a massively shocking scale took place against suspected JVP when he was President. It is very intriguing to see the UNP and the JVP leaders virtually embracing each other now.

Mrs. Bandaranayke’s surrender appeal to the JVP in May 1971 within one month from the start of the insurgency was unique and a master game changer. The JVP even if hesitantly at first placed their faith in her government’s assurance that no harm would be done to them if they surrendered. They may have also wanted to escape vigilante justice that may have been contributed to the many ‘dead bodies in rivers’ the writer crudely and without any sympathy described as ‘decorations’.

Virtually the entire JVP strength surrendered. This led to its sudden collapse except for some sporadic incidents over the next 2 months in the North Central province jungles. The majority were rehabilitated and or released. The others including the captured were tried by the courts. They included Thomian and Cambridge University educated Susil Siriwardene CCS, Mrs. B’s nephew and a SD Bandaranayke MP a relative too. Both were jailed. Carte blanche must sound very foreign, false and strange if not ridiculous given these facts.

In 1971 officers like Lieutenant (later Major General) Janaka Perera refused orders from their senior officers to shoot prisoners in police cells. Clearly the police were not doing that despite the writer hallucinating about ‘carte blanche’. It appeared that ‘carte blanche’ to the army may have been issued by someone else but had no takers. The Army Commander at that time was Major General (later General) DS Attygalle.

Were the killers in 1971 all simply ‘carte blanche’ certified? Did long standing revenge, vendettas, domestic and land issues and gang rivalry have no place in the killings and other crimes? The murder rate in SL is about 2.5 per 1,000 during normal times. In 2008 when the conflict was on, it was over 10. When an insurgency takes place, the lack of police on routine duties leads to a marked increase in serious crime. The writer himself gives as examples, 3 of his own neighbours. He freely describes many of his neighbours’ community as ‘thieves and parasites’ indicative of his relations with them. Are these feelings mutual as may appear when reading other articles by this writer? Murderers and rapists as the writer must well know are hardly foreign to SL, be they in Galle, Colombo, Jaffna or Kandy, and in broad day light too.

There was an attempted coup d’état in 1962 when Mrs. Bandaranayke was PM. The judges of the Trial at Bar that tried them accepted the objection of the defence that the court was not legally appointed. They were tried by yet another court but it too was dissolved and it was a third court that finally tried the accused. At that time and after, in many other recently independent countries, coup plotters were shot at dawn the next day. The decision of the first court was hailed as a classic in the Commonwealth. Clearly carte blanche was not in operation even under such a threat.

In 1915 when ‘martial law’ (there is no such law) was declared in ‘Ceylon’ by the British, the officer in charge of the firing squad wrote that he used to watch the executions (of the Sinhalese) while having his breakfast. That was an example that died with the exit of the colonial ruler. That exit may be mourned by some yet.

Why then has the writer made this absolutely false, utterly reprehensible, totally unfounded allegation nearly 50 years on? Mrs. Bandaranayke died nearly 20 years ago and is unable to defend herself. What is this cowardly sub agenda especially as his article ostensibly targeted President Sirisena and the Armed Forces? It must now give readers a very good idea of the writer’s state of mind if not also his values and credibility.

Is it a wonder then that a cabinet minister from Kandy has responded to the writer that some allegations the writer made on the web (Telegraph 2017 ) about rubber subsidies were ‘false, baseless, misleading and malicious’. This is about a man who speaks loftily of the ‘international court of decency’ whatever that is.

Mrs. Bandaranayke enacted the monumental land reform bill restricting ownership to 50 acres. It empowered the vast landless poor but made many ‘enemies’. They included her close relatives too. Did the writer, who was not a relative, lose some rubber and other land too? For someone to settle personal scores under the cloak of public interest is hypocritical at best.

Post 1977 with Mrs. Bandaranayke comprehensively defeated, JR Jayewardene had a Presidential Commission. It was basically an act of revenge to nail her. No allegation of any ‘carte blanche’ action in the insurrection was made.

Many elitist English speaking civilians profited most when peace and normalcy returned in 2009. They did not share or bear the human cost of conflict. They did however in their drawing rooms justify extreme extra judicial measures as was horrifyingly seen in 1989-90. No trials followed. The writer has ignored the worst. Why? Is it ‘Carte blanche’?

The article libelously targets PM Wickremasinghe’s own back blasting choice, President Sirisena. It takes the C in C to task for defending his own forces as any other C in C would do. Whatever Sirisena’s reasons are they appear to disturb the writer. Does US President Trump not come out with extraordinary reasons to defend his troops (and everything else he does?).

The Forces are bracketed with the C in C for reasons not too difficult to understand from the writer’s western oriented point of view. The writer’s clapped out title will no doubt attract the envoys of fading imperial cruises. Their ancestors committed genocide, plundered, introduced venereal disease and a few other horrible things massively in their former colonies. Incredibly there is a minority that moaned their exit.

Western countries that dragooned the SL government to book its army at Geneva do not however allow international jurisdiction of its own soldiers’ battlefield conduct. The writer is on a crusade for the opposite in SL. He says it is to support ‘validity and credibility’. His concern for both is a bit thick given his own credibility is in pieces and his accusations against Mrs. Bandaranayke are totally and completely false.

He also wishes for ‘jurists without any connection …… to those involved in the conflict’. Where will they be found? In the same place he unearthed lies about Mrs. Bandaranayke? He, after giving gratuitous back handed compliments selectively to ’a senior part of our judiciary’ has the gumption to write them off. Is there not something personal in this too?

What right has a man who makes blatantly false allegations against another who is unable to defend herself, to plead for ‘international jurisdiction’ and only for SL’s war winning troops? Especially and probably when it is out of pure self-interest concealed behind a façade of morality?

The writer was not to know that on 31 Jan 2019 a judge of the International Criminal Court in Hague, Christopher Flugge, resigned as the USA had threatened to punish any judge who investigates war crime allegations against US forces in Afghanistan. Maybe the writer can’t figure out why SL should accept the ICC if the great USA threatens such extreme action that may include imprisoning ICC judges if they set foot in the USA? Who knows whether special snatch teams will be ready too? Food for thought for SL, if not the writer.

In 1983 however what could pass for ‘carte blanche’ was for all intents in force. Mobs killed hundreds of people on the streets in day light in the capital. Other towns followed, Badulla being the worst. The mobs were encouraged if not licensed by ruling politicians. A speech by the President the day before ‘Black Friday’ unleashed the worst killings ever. The entire cabinet that had come into power with a 5 /6th majority played invisible man for nearly 2 weeks. There was no Mrs. B then to take charge. She had lost her civic rights, thanks to JRJ.

JVP leader Wijeweera who was arrested before the 1971 insurrection began, not only lived to tell the tale without a scratch, but faced trial, survived imprisonment, received a reprieve after 2 years, (in exchange for political support for the UNP including deserting the 1980 strikers). He finally contested a Presidential election, coming fourth. He then showed his JVP gratitude by leading the most genocidal terrorist campaign ever in 1989/90.

The JVP nearly brought the country to a standstill. Sixty thousand (60,000) Sinhalese were killed in about one year at over 200 a day. Wijeweera, captured alive, was murdered in custody during Premadasa’s rule. Yet no Presidential ‘carte blanche’ was even suggested. The killers acted on their own. They were all well known. They had taken for granted that Premadasa would not dare question the minister in charge. Ranjan Wijeratne, a former tea planter was manufacturing SL’s security policy and strategy.

Premadasa did not interfere as he did later (1990) to help the LTTE with weapons, ammo, and dollars. This then was Wijeratne’s own carte blanche’ in block capitals. No one was arrested or charged. Indeed, those involved in that particularly odious crime were later feted and promoted. Wijeratne was blown up in Colombo by a LTTE IED later! He was posthumously promoted General. Three Generals agreed to Premadasa’s treachery.

’Carte blanche’ was operative everywhere in the South in 1989-90 with lists of people to be disposed of given by politicians to the security force officers. A few, some of the very best, refused point blank. They, like Lt Colonel Vipul Botejue were summarily dismissed without charges. Others were threatened, abused and insulted. This was the work of Wijeratne not Premadasa. The writer is strangely silent about this most horrible time in SL and the actors.

Carte blanche had also been given earlier to Jaffna command by JRJ to his nephew in 1979 when habeas corpus was suspended.

The writer could be more objective when hunting for war criminals in SL. He should look at western legal interpretations after WW2. It ended when 2 atom bombs (they were all the US had), one with uranium (Little Boy) and the other with plutonium (Fat boy) were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in mid 1945. Their explosive power was that of 12,500 and 22,000 tons of TNT respectively. The bombings were ‘justified’ to save American lives. The Japanese lost over 100,000 people in seconds and much more as the years went by.

Napalm and canister were standard for the USA in Korea and Vietnam. Murder and rape took place regularly as in Mai Lai. There was the sinking of the Argentinean cruiser ARA Belgrano by a nuclear armed RN ship that was outside Britain’s own self declared maritime exclusive zone (1982). There were over 200 deaths, half the number suffered by the Argentinean forces in the entire Falklands (Malvinas) war. Then there was also ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Northern Ireland where 22 unarmed civilians were killed. Iraq (over a million killed), Afghanistan, Syria and Libya followed in bloody order. Almost all killings were justified or covered up.

Any level of force was acceptable to save western troops’ lives. The UN, unlike in the case of SL, did not have a ‘panel of experts’ to report on the USA led ‘Coalition’s’ criminal war in Iraq. There were no international courts for them as their leaders had strong spines. Does the stark incongruity escape the writer?

Contrast it to Nandikadal in 2009. SL troops took 6,000 casualties by restricting the use of its MBRLs, artillery, mortars, tanks and aircraft to minimize casualties to Tamil civilians used as human shields by the LTTE. This has been officially confirmed by the US military. The army rescued 295,000 hostages. Yet it is now being accused of killing thousands. There are no dead bodies to support the figures. Yet the writer stridently endorses international courts to try SL troops.

SL’s rehabilitation of captured or surrendered JVP and LTTE cadres respectively in 1971 and 2009 was a classic example to the world. It appears to be lost on this writer. However after 1989/90 there was no JVP left to rehabilitate.

Yet the writer has skillfully avoided reference to the attempted genocide of 1989/90 and concentrated as his fashion on Mrs. Bandaranayke and politicians and others he feels have done him by.

Among the rehabilitated 1971 JVP are professors, editors, bankers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers and one of the most successful and richest building magnates (an ex-army captain). They are a living example to refute ‘carte blanche’ which their own leader Wijeweera had given them to commit acts of terror.

Ask any African American about the white man’s justice. A Westminster London UK magistrate’s order for the arrest without bail of SL’s former military attaché in UK violates article 31 of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. The ruling is to be rescinded according to Dauris the UK envoy who was summoned to our Foreign Office. What made the London magistrate ignore its provisions? Would he dare to do it to a western national even if the GTF supported it? What if pathetic SL had not woken up and objected?

There is also the ridiculous comparison of the SL army with that of Russia in terms of troop levels. He thinks SL has half a million troops. He has convinced himself the Russians have the same. SL has 200,000 while the Russians have 1,902,758 all military personnel, of them 1,013,628 soldiers. This is from the best source and not from the internet which misled him. Russia also has the world’s biggest stock of nuclear war heads ((7,000) v USA (6,800). What on earth was his info and side swipes brought forth for?

Maybe the writer granted himself ‘carte blanche’ to cook up and spread spectacular lies and deceive. Was he hoping to distort history? Maybe he deserves exposure for what he is actually, really and diabolically.

- Asian Tribune -

Lalin's Column :  Carte Blanche –Attempted vilification of Mrs. Bandaranayke
diconary view
Share this