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This 19th account of SCOPP days notes increasing contact with Jagath Jayasuriya who was in charge of operations from Vavuniya. I knew him well from the days when he had been Commandant at the Military Academy at Diyatalawa, when I had been told that he was certain to become Army Commander. He was a very civilized and efficient officer as were his colleagues in Vavuniya with whom I worked, in particular Sudantha Ranasinghe, who was unfortunately passed over for the post of army commander which he deserved, and also Chamila Munasinghe, now Brigadier.

I also mention the good relations I had with the American Ambassador Bob Blake, who thought I was one of the best friends of his country, which indeed I was though his successor made me persona non grata after I exposed the machinations of her political counsellor, Paul Carter, who had tried to suborn the military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe. And there is a brief account of a dinner for Sir John Holmes when we faced an incursion from the LTTE air force.

19 International support

The following week I was touched when the US Ambassador Bob Blake invited me for the very small party he gave to view Barack Obama’s inauguration, declaring in his speech that he had only asked close friends of his country. And so I was, though a few years later I was about the only person in government made persona non grata by the Americans. But I had been a good friend when they were on our side but when they changed – Bob telling a friend that he was not different because he served a new administration – I had to be firm with them and very critical when they tried to use insidious means to undermine us.

The following weekend too I had to miss the cottage, what with interviews and UN meetings, an intensity that continued into the following week when Basil unveiled his plans at a meeting at the Intercontinental. That was on Thursday and then on Friday I left for Manila for a CALD meeting, though I had to face an Al-Jazeera interview on a hotel rooftop there on the Sunday.

Back in Colombo on the Wednesday night, I was able finally to get to the cottage after work on the Friday, February 6, and stayed till Monday though I had another Al-Jazeera interview there on Sunday. The next weekend I went on the Saturday to Vavuniya to check on preparations for the refugees, staying again I think with the forces, and seeing Jagath Jayasuriya on Sunday morning and then going in a personnel carrier to see the refugees in town and then looking for the first time at the Manik Farm site that was being got ready. Lunch was at the kachcheri and I then met UN and our officials before seeing Jagath again and then returning to Colombo.

The following week we had a visit from John Holmes who headed the UN Office for Coordinating Humanitarian Assistance in New York, the agency with which the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Right coordinated the Common Humanitarian Action Plan. Mahinda Samarasinghe had a dinner for him on the Friday, in the course of which we had to face the LTTE’s last hurrah, an air raid on Colombo. Sir John remained calm in the blackout we had to undergo, which reminded me of Colonel Fazackerly and how he treated a rather ridiculous ghost, to which I likened the LTTE now in a piece I wrote on the incident.

Rajiva Wijesinha

October 2020
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