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C A Chandraprema’s book on the war against the LTTE is an immensely interesting read. I had wondered how effective he would be as a writer of a sustained narrative, for his columns, though informative, can sometimes be turgid and repetitive. But his book combines a racy narrative with convincing detail, and I think makes clear the immense achievement of the government in dealing with the LTTE.

He also makes clear the reason for his title, and the importance of Gota, as he calls him, being in the right place at the right time. There were several innovations Gota introduced, which proved crucial, such as

  1. Ensuring the forces were well manned and well equipped
  2. Providing leadership that developed and maintained confidence
  3. Introducing innovative strategies and encouraging flexible tactics in the field
  4. Establishing mechanisms for cooperation and the sharing of information
  5. Streamlining procurement and preventing wastage and corruption

The last of these was particularly important, because the forces had been demoralized previously by the corruption that had become endemic, with officials responsible for procurement using companies run by their families. This had begun with Mr Menikdiwela, Secretary to President Jayewardene, whose son dealt in arms, but succeeding governments were no better. Unfortunately Chandraprema does not always name names, but I believe a schedule of arms dealers with relationships to government officials, should be made public. The way in which Gota changed the system was impressive, and I recall the tremendous surge of confidence which officers at Diyatalawa, generally amongst the brightest in the army, evinced when it became clear that arms were being bought for the soldiery, not the dealers and their chums in the forces.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

June 2012
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