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Doc 3Dayan’s point then was that Lalith too was part of the group around Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, that had decided after the 2010 election that the President should not make too many concessions with regard to a political settlement. This did not mean Lalith would set himself up consciously against the President, as even Gotabhaya was to do with regard to the issues noted above. When he was ordered to move, he did so, as when he produced swiftly an Action Plan for the LLRC Recommendations, which Mohan had held up, presumably again on Gotabhaya’s instructions. But he did not see any need to embark on any initiatives on his own that would take forward the commitments the President had made with regard to devolution or accountability.

And on occasion he went even further than Gotabhaya in putting forward a mindset that seemed at odds with the official position of the government. Thus, at the launch of a book called ‘Gota’s War’, which suggested the primary responsibility of the Secretary of Defence for the victory against the Tigers, Lalith launched into a vast attack on India for its part in strengthening the Tigers during the eighties. And just before the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva in 2014, having been sent to lobby in the West, Lalith attacked what he termed the excesses of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in the eighties, and claimed that, were investigations of abuse in Sri Lanka to proceed, the IPKF atrocities too should be gone into.

Our High Commissioner in Delhi, the normally placid career diplomat Prasad Kariyawasam, complained sadly about what seemed an unnecessary alienation of India at a crucial time. He did not tell me who was responsible, but Indian officials were more forthright. When they brought up the question of criticism of the IPKF which had come to Sri Lanka at the request of the Sri Lankan government, and fought against the Tigers, they met the excuse I made, that there were extremists in the government who did not represent the views of the President, with the information that the assertion had been made by the President’s own Secretary.

If Lalith thought that this was a way of pressurizing India to oppose any resolution that referred to War Crimes, he obviously had no idea of the way international relations worked. But I cannot believe that he had so crude a view of the world. Rather it would seem that, like those in the Ministry of External Affairs who still resented the Indian intervention of the eighties, he thought that old Cold War Games could still be played, and we should affirm our commitment to the West by indicating how different we were to the Indians. Read the rest of this entry »

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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

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