Lankan President Set To Bring Out Comprehensive, Unbiased History Of The War
Sirisena said that it was time a comprehensive, data based, unbiased official account was written
COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena proposes to get a neutral non-military person or a team of non-military persons, to write a comprehensive and unbiased history of Sri Lanka’s 30 year war against the Tamil separatist guerillas, it is reliably learnt.
At a meeting attended by present and most of the past commanders of the army, navy and air force on August 6, the President said that though some Generals and journalists had written about the war, these accounts did not cover the entire period and had been written from their individual points of view.
There is, as yet, no comprehensive and unbiased account, he pointed out. Sirisena said that it was time a comprehensive, detailed, accurate, data based, and unbiased official account was written. He then sought the advice of the commanders in attendance.
Various views were aired and it was finally agreed that the account should be written not by an insider or any Sri Lankan with a military background, but by an outsider to ensure neutrality. But no names were shortlisted.
There were some 25 persons present at Sirisena’s meeting, according to The Sunday Times. But notable non-invitees were Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka (the Army commander who finally gave the death blow to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and won the war) and Lt.Col.Rtd Gotabaya Rajapaksa who was Defense Secretary during the last phase of the war named Eeam War IV (2006 to 2009).
Though both Fonseka and Gotabaya are recognized war heroes, they are mired in controversies and very antagonistic to each other. Fonseka and the then navy chief Adm.Wasantha Karannagoda did not see eye to eye during Eelam War IV and were trying to outdo and denigrate each other sometimes to the detriment of the coordinated operations.
President Sirisena himself is reportedly not in good terms with Field Marshal Fonseka though the latter is a Cabinet Minister of Regional Development.
The involvement of mutually antagonistic persons could stymie the effort to write an unbiased account.
Adm. Karannagoda has written on his experience of fighting the LTTE in the sea, and another former navy chief, Adm.Jayanath Colombage, has a PhD.thesis on asymmetrical naval warfare. Though Gotabaya Rajapaksa himself has not written about Eelam War IV, journalist C.A.Chandraprema has written an account of his work entitled: Gota’s War.
According to sources, President Sirisena also wanted the non-military factors which led to the war and shaped its course and outcome to be included in the account to make it comprehensive and holistic.
However, the military community in Sri Lanka is yet to hear of any further progress in the book project. Be that as it may, observers say that President Sirisena might follow it up fairly quickly for political reasons.
He has to meet the criticism from the majority Sinhala-Buddhist community that the post-Rajapaksa ‘Yahapalanaya’ coalition government which he heads as the Executive President, has not been as sympathetic to the military as it should be.
Sri Lankan or Sinhalese nationalists feel that the government should not have arrested and detained military officers for alleged human rights violations during the war, as after all, they were only doing their duty in a difficult and extraordinary situation in which they were locked in conflict with a wily,tough and ruthless guerilla outfit, the LTTE.
There is also resentment over the government’s agreeing to the UN’s and the Western world’s demand to set up a judicial mechanism to try cases of “war crimes” against the personnel of the tri-forces, excluding war crimes committed by the LTTE.
Of course, President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have time and again declared that no Sri Lankan military person will be allowed to be tried for war crimes and that such charges are baseless. But the possibility of being dragged before a court, which could include foreign judges and prosecutors, does hang like the Sword of Damocles over Lankan military officers and men.
The President’s need to re-affirm his credentials as a Sri Lankan nationalist arises also from the fact that his rival in the next Presidential election in January 2020, could be the war hero and former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is backed by the war-winning former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Given the political urgency, the proposed comprehensive and unbiased history of the 30 year war is expected to come out well before the January 8, 2020 Presidential election.