by Sachi Sri Kantha, October 10, 2014
I wanted to write this item on Dr. Rohan Gunaratna in last February or March, after the verdict by a Canadian court, which awarded $53,000 to the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) against Gunaratna in a defamation lawsuit. Seven months have lapsed since then. If one googles ‘Rohan Gunaratna’, as I did now (morning of Oct.10), 105,000 items appear. Among these, my previous profile of him entitled “On Rohan Gunaratna – Ilankai Tamil Sangam” with the date line Aug.12, 2003, appears as the number 2 item, next only to his entry in Wikipedia! This is somewhat a reflection on the caliber of Dr. Gunaratna’s career, and how many folks were curious to find out about his professional background from a non-Wikipedia source. Occasionally, due to his popularity or notoriety, I have received email solicitations from some searchers about Dr. Gunaratna, even though I have changed my work locations more than once.
Before I provide an update on my latest findings about Dr. Gunaratna, I reproduce verbatim my ‘Introductory Note’ and the ‘End Note’ of that 2003 expose, which I had given a subtitle, “the ‘Temple Drum’ of the Terrorism Industry”.
“The phrase ‘Temple drum’ (the English translation of a spicy colloquial phrase Kovil Melam in Eelam Tamil lingo) loses much in translation, unless one bothers to fathom the derisive bite it carries in the Tamil language. Kovil Melam refers to an inferior quality item of local origin – regularly seen ad nauseam, in contrast to a superior quality performer, invited specially as a guest for the occasion. The phrase originated in the realm of men musicians and women dancers of a voluptuous variety, who provided daily service to the local temples. On festive occasions, the audience thronged the festival grounds in anticipation to listen to specially invited ranking artistes from Southern India, and they would be irritated and least interested in listening and observing their own ‘Temple Drums’.
In the international world of Intelligence analysts, Sri Lanka-born slick performer Rohan Gunaratna had transformed into the ‘Temple Drum’ of Terrorism industry. Until recently, he had been a staple contributor to the parochial press in Colombo (the Island newspaper) and Chennai (the Frontline magazine) spewing his intelligence on LTTE activities like a camel which spits when it is irritated. Thus it is heartening to see that in a few cities, investigative journalists have begun to size up the quality of ‘intelligence’ delivered by Gunaratna. The camouflage and cloak of this slick artist had been scrutinized and Gary Hughes had produced an expose for the Melbourne Age newspaper on July 20th.
One should give the devil his due. The expose by Gary Hughes reveals that Gunaratna has some peculiar talent for (a) social climbing, (b) academic imposturing, (c) name dropping, and (d) vita forgery, by puffing his vita with non-existing positions. To appreciate the expose of Gary Hughes, it would be helpful if one first reads how the Temple Drum of Terrorism Industry paraded himself as the Emperor of the Terrorism Analysts. A good example of such a performance was Gunaratna’s interview, which appeared in Hugh Hefner’s Playboy magazine of November 2002. Thus, in this assembled anthology on Rohan Gunaratna, I provide the following publicly available material in series, and follow it with an end note on Sri Lanka’s other con persons who made some wave in the past.
Item 1: A Playboy magazine interview by Rohan Gunaratna [A Conversation with Rohan Gunaratna by Leopold Froehlich; Playboy magazine, November 2002, pp.72-74 & 147-150]
Item 2: The expose of Rohan Gunaratna’s credentials by the Melbourne Age newspaper (July 20, 2003)
Item 3: Rohan Gunaratna’s response to Melbourne Age’s expose in Channel News Asia com of July 21, 2003.
Item 4: Excerpts from the commentary by Michael Isikoff & Mark Hosenball on Terror Watch, in Newsweek Web exclusive feature, datelined July 8, 2003.
Due to the prominent role played by Rohan Gunaratna as a ‘know-all pundit’ on Pirabhakaran and LTTE, I believe that these items are of interest to the readers of sangam website. About his jaundiced views, I have openly criticized him in my Pirabhakaran Phenomenon series (parts 1-53). I had felt for long that Gunaratna do possess credentials as a certified Intelligence operative (for the Sri Lankan government), but is an academic impostor. Now, I’m somewhat relieved to see that my criticism on Gunaratna is substantiated by other Australian and American observers.”
End Note (written in 2003)
“According to this Newsweek web exclusive commentary by Isikoff and Hosenball, Dr. Gunaratna ‘claims to have had access to top-secret U.S. intelligence debriefs of captured Al Qaeda terrorists’. Then, how come the CIA spokesman contradicts the testimony of the Temple Drum of terrorism industry? Is it unreasonable to assume that either Gunaratna or the CIA spokesman is finagling with truth? Or could it be that the U.S. intelligence operatives initially fed Dr. Gunaratna with not so-accurate ‘debriefs’ so that he ‘being a media-friendly analyst’ could disperse some misinformation for mutual benefit of both parties? In my thinking, Gunaratna’s cryptic response [‘Yes, that is entirely possible,’ came the surprisingly candid reply. ‘I am only human after all.’] to the question of correspondent of Channel News Asia Com. Whether ‘has he been used by governments to push their agenda, as suggested in the article?’, hides much truth than what has been revealed.
Let me put things in perspective. Whatever Sri Lanka lacks, occasionally it produces charlatans and forgers who make some wave at the international scene. Rohan Gunaratna is not the first one in this game. In 1951, J.R. Jayewardene (then, a young Cabinet minister) made a wave as the ‘benefactor of Japan’ at the San Francisco Peace Treaty, and plodded this nugget laboriously to his Sinhalese audience and local journalists for decades. In reality, his role was a minor one – that of a bucket-carrier to the then U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles (1888-1959), and spewing mud at Andrei Gromyko (1909-1989), the then chief Soviet delegate at the United Nations, in the U.S. – Soviet Cold War games. There were two reasons why Jayewardene was not exposed as a con man. One is that Dulles, the mastermind behind Jayewardene’s podium act had died in the 1950s, before Jayewardene gained power in Sri Lanka. Secondly, the majority of the Japanese (even the politicians, diplomats and journalists) hardly read the English press in which Jayewardene had bragged about his big role as the benefactor of Japan.
In 1960s, there was one Dr. Emil Savundra, the infamous insurance swinder. He was caught and legally punished in Britain. In 1982, there was a con man Sepala Ekanayake, who hijacked an Alitalia plane in Bangkok, by fooling the airport security personnel and airline passengers with the message that he had bomb strapped to his body. Ekanayake was even successful in receiving 300,000 US dollars for his con act, and when he landed in Colombo received a ‘hero welcome’ from the gullibles for his stupendous feat.
In 1990s, none other than the current Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga was ‘caught’ for her vita forgery of embellishing her ‘Paris period’ by the vigilant editor of the Sunday Leader. If Chandrika Kumaratunga, like one of her predecessors J.R. Jayewardene, did the vita forgery for impressing her dim-witted local fans, it was left to Rohan Gunaratna to trick the international press and emerge as an academic impostor at the global podia. Isn’t it somewhat ironic that because he was busy browsing with all the ‘intelligence materials’ and posturing as a world-class intelligence analysts, Gunaratna had hardly bothered to take to his heart – an unblemished gem of an intelligent advice offered by Abe Lincoln, which is available in any standard quotation book: ‘You can fool all the people for some time; some people for all the time; but you can’t fool all the people all the time.’ ”
A Wikipedia entry on Dr. Gunaratna was created in October 2, 2005 [409 bytes]. It merely contained two sentences.
“Rohan Gunaratna is a researcher based in Singapore whose field of specialisation is terrorism, particulary Islamic terrorism, and especially groups in South East Asia such as Jemaah Islamiya ( Indonesia ) and Abu Sayyaf (Phillipines ). He is the authour of “Inside Al-Qaeda” as well as many other publications. Rohan has links throughout media, academic and policy making circles.”
The biggest expansion on Dr. Gunaratna’s profile appeared on Aug 13, 2006 [13,731 bytes], with the following details. Only some excerpts are included below:
“a review of his background and credentials raises significant questions about his reliability and “expertise”.
Gunaratna, 42, was born and educated in Sri Lanka. Between 1984 and 1994 he worked in the office of the Science Adviser to the Sri Lankan President, whilst also doing research and consultancy work for the World Bank and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
During the 1980s and 90s he wrote six books on the Tamil Tigers and numerous articles on the political crisis in Sri Lanka, drawing extensively on his links with the government and intelligence services from inside Sri Lanka. From the outset of his career, he made no secret of his support for the war and his opposition to the Tamil struggle and the LTTE, which he labelled a terrorist group since the early days without much international sympathy.
In 1997, Gunaratna claimed that the LTTE had developed a new body suit that was specifically designed for suicide bombings. The new suit, he declared in an article published in Scotland, U.K., ensured that the terrorist’s head would survive the explosion, becoming a “lethal projectile sometimes travelling as far as two hundred yards”. No evidence was provided, and in the ensuing six years nothing more has been heard of the deadly suit.
Gunaratna also made allegations that the LTTE used Phuket Thailand as a base to ship weapons from Phuket to Sri Lanka and that the Tamil Tigers had a mini submarine based in Phuket. In addition, Gunaratna alleged that LTTE ships had been sighted in Australian waters and that Australian Tamils were exporting “mini-helicopters” to Sri Lanka for attacks on government troops. His claims, which again were made without evidence, were condemned at the time and have since been quietly dropped.
The biggest coup took place in June 2002: the publication of his book Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror, by Columbia University Press. Promoted heavily in the media, it went on to become a best seller around the world. Inside Al Qaeda received universal media acclaim. “A remarkable new study,” enthused the Times (London), “Excellent,” declared Peter Bergen from the Washington Post, while Thomas Powers, in the New York Review of Books, called it “a careful and methodical account” that “does the work of many tomes”.
But it was not long before several of the book’s claims were vigorously challenged.
The Malaysian government attacked the book’s assertions of links between the ruling Barisan Nasional party and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of the Philippines, and through the MILF to Al Qaeda and threatened legal action. Interviewed on Singapore television about the controversy, Gunaratna backtracked, changing his allegation to a link “between MILF operatives and a few individuals in the Barisan parties” [emphasis added].
In one of the book’s more sensational accounts, Gunaratna described in detail an Al Qaeda plot to hijack a British Airways plane on September 11, 2001, and crash it into the houses of parliament. Only the grounding of all aircraft after the bombing of the World Trade Centre supposedly prevented the London attack. The source was an alleged Al Qaeda member, Mohammed Afroz, who had been arrested in Bombay, India in October 2001. Afroz had also allegedly claimed he had planned to fly a plane into Melbourne’s Rialto Towers. After his release by an Indian court in April 2002, New Delhi police declared the claims to be a fabrication by the Bombay police force. An investigation by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation into the alleged Melbourne plan assessed it “to be lacking in credibility.”
Inside Al Qaeda also fudged the record of its author. The book claimed he was “principal investigator of the United Nations’ Terrorism Prevention Branch”, and that after the September 11 attacks, he “was called to address the United Nations, the US Congress and the Australian Parliament”. After several media outlets conducted an investigation into his biographical details, Gunaratna apparently admitted that there was, in fact, no such position as “principal investigator” at the UN’s Terrorism Prevention Branch, and that he simply “worked there in 2001-02 as a research consultant.” He also confirmed that, rather than directly addressing the UN, Congress, and the Australian Parliament, he had actually spoken at a seminar organised by the parliamentary library, given evidence to a congressional hearing on terrorism and delivered a research paper to a conference on terrorism organised by the UN’s Department for Disarmament Affairs.”
The British publisher of Inside Al Qaeda about possible legal repercussions arising out of the unreliability of its assertions, that it published an extraordinary disclaimer under the heading “Publisher’s note” advising the reader to treat the book’s contents as mere “suggestions”.”
The most recent revision of Wikipedia entry (July 12, 2014) on Dr. Gunaratna stands with 8,874 bytes, with a warning note, “This article needs attention from an expert on the subject….”
Dr. Gunaratna’s currently updated (Sept.2, 2014) profile at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technology University, Singapore reveals that he is the “author of 15 books”. Well, after my 2003 critical commentary on Gunaratna as an academic impostor, I was keen to read his early books and did buy three books authored by him, covering his period as in intelligence analyst in Colombo. These were, War & Peace in Sri Lanka (1987), Sri Lanka – a Lost Revolution? – The Inside Story of the JVP (1990), and Indian Intervention in Sri Lanka – The Role of India’s Intelligence Agencies (1993). In my past writings to this website, I had included segments from the last mentioned book about the activities of India’s RAW agency in Sri Lankan politics. As such, I refrain from commenting about this book here. But, Gunaratna’s two early books (published in 1987 and 1990) deserves some comment.
One of my curiosities was to find out where did Gunaratna receive his first degree. Was it from a Sri Lankan university or was it from a university beyond Sri Lanka? I have yet to find answers to this question. Usually in a non-fiction book, the author’s academic credentials are noted. Nothing of this sort was mentioned in these two books. The publisher of these two books was identified as Institute of Fundamental Studies.
For this book, even the publisher’s address is missing. It’s a pretty slim book of only 83 pages. An introduction was written by Ralph Buultjens. His credentials were as stated:
“Ralph Buultjens is Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Fundamental Studies. He is Professor at the New School for Social Research and at New York University. Professor Buultjens was awarded the Toynbee Prize for the Social Sciences in 1984 and is the author of several books.”
Buultjens was effusive on Gunaratna’s talents. To quote, “One of the first non-Tamil analysts to visit the Jaffna peninsula after the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord of 29th July 1987, he has been able to synthesize his observations into an absorbing firsthand report from the North….Mr. Rohan Gunaratna is emerging as one of Sri Lanka’s leading popular historians – able to present complicated and intricate linkages and ideas in ways which the informed general public can digest…”
To deflate such effusive praise, Gunaratna’s brief ‘Author’s Note’, datelined Sept.4, 1987, began with the self-deprecatory lines, “This report is neither an indepth analysis of Sri Lanka’s national question nor is it a scholarly work on the background to the Sinhala-Tamil crisis. This report reflects the personal views and the experiences of the author.” If only, Gunaratna had maintained this posture for his subsequent publications, he wouldn’t be ridiculed later as an academic impostor. The book contained only five chapters, and three appendices. The appendices were publicly available documents of three pacts; namely, Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact of 1957, Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Pact of 1965, and Indo-Lanka Peace Accord (popularly known as Rajiv Gandhi-Jayewardene Pact of 1987 & Annexure. The total text pages (only 83) was further diluted with 27 photographs of prominent LTTE guys of the 1980s and LTTE activities. One of these was that of Prabhakaran, a low quality-snap taken by Gunaratna!
This book has 366 pages. The publisher’s address is given as, ‘Institute of Fundamental Studies, Hantana Road, Kandy’. The disclaimer notice above the Publisher’s detail indicates, “The responsibility for facts and opinions expressed in this publication rests exclusively with the author and his interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views or the policy of the Institute.” Like that of the previous book, Professor Ralph Buultjens had written a 5-page “Introduction”. In addition, the book also contained a brief ‘Foreword’ by Professor Cyril Ponnamperuma, who was then serving as the Director of the Institute of Fundamental Studies, and Science/Technology advisor to H.E. the President of Sri Lanka. Ponnamperuma had written, “His (Gunaratna’s) present book, a distillation of his studies over a period of several years, provide the reader with a wealth of information and the student of history with an understanding of the anatomy of a revolution. Mr. Gunaratna has been associated with the IFS for several years. I am personally aware of his commitment to scholarship and the high level of intellectual integrity he brings to his efforts.”
In a one page ‘Author’s Note’ for this book dated July 1, 1990, Gunaratna had described, “This study seeks to document the tragic events which have deprived Sri Lanka of peace since 1987. It is a sequel to an earlier book, War and Peace in Sri Lanka…”
The surrounding mystery of Gunaratna’s First Degree
What is peculiar is that neither Ralph Buultgens nor Cyril Ponnamperuma mention anything about Gunaratna’s first degree in any university. Nor details were provided about the birth year of Gunaratna in these two books. Later, it was revealed that he was born in 1961. If so, he would have entered a university around 1979 or 1980. To which university he entered is a mystery. Assuming that he graduated from a Sri Lankan university in 3 years (if a 3 year Bachelor degree course was followed) or 4 years (if a 4 year Bachelor degree course was followed), Gunaratna would have gained such a degree in 1983 or 1984, when he was around 22 or 23.
One version of Gunaratna’s profile which I was able to access mentions that “Gunaratna worked for the Sri Lanka Government between 1984 and 1994. Recently, on my own, I attempted to find out from one of Gunaratna’s mentors Bruce Hoffman. On Oct.4th, I sent the following email to him.
“Dear Prof. Hoffman,
Greetings from Japan. While reading your Georgetown University profile, I found out that you had done fieldwork in Sri Lanka for your research speciality. I’m a Sri Lankan. I also read that you were the Ph.D. advisor to Prof. Rohan Gunaratna at the University of St.Andrews.
Currently, I’m compiling a profile on Prof. Gunaratna. I find it difficult to get information on Prof. Gunaratna’s first degree in Sri Lanka. Thus, this mail inquiry to you. Can you let me know, when (year) and at which university, he received his first degree? I believe that as an academic advisor, you should know this information. Thanks in advance for the courtesy.”
I did receive a surly two sentence response from Prof. Hoffman the following day. It began with, “Dear Sachi Sir Kantha, You should ask Dr. Gunaratna himself…”. To this, I replied with a second email, why his suggestion cannot elicit a proper response. Here is the text of my email.
“Dear Prof. Hoffman,
Thanks a lot for your prompt response to my query. I appreciate it very much. There are two reasons I wanted to cross-check this information with you are that, Dr. Gunaratna had been caught by many academics, intelligence analysts and journalists in the past for inflating his credentials. I’m pretty sure that you are aware of this disinformation on the part of Dr. Gunaratna. Another reason is that, when I checked your webpage details, you provided you had provided your first degree credentials as A.B.(1976) Connecticut College. But, your disciple’s webpage prominently displayed do not provide this first degree credentials. That’s why I wanted to check with you.
The simple fact that you mention in the last segment of your 2nd sentence (“nor for me to furnish it without Dr. Gunaratna’s permission”) probably allows me to infer that the answer to my question is negative at best. Anyway, thanks for your kindness.” (Oct.6th)
Unless evidence to the contrary is presented by either Dr. Gunaratna or by any of his fans, one is tempted to infer that he did not receive a first degree in 1980s from any recognized university. I’m more than willing to correct my inference when appropriate supporting evidence is presented. Then, the mystery deepens. How he managed to get a MA degree from the University of Notre Dame, without a bachelor’s degree? Was he an exceptional student to gain entry into the graduate program, without a valid bachelor’s degree? Isn’t it time that Dr. Gunaratna comes clean about his academic record in Sri Lanka? One is also reminded of a December 2001 episode of George O’Leary, the newly hired head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, who had to resign after 5 days after falsifying his academic background. [see, ‘Notre Dame coach resigns after 5 days and a few lies.’ by J.W. Fountain and E. Wong, New York Times, Dec. 15, 2001]. I reiterate that there is no shame in not earning a bachelor’s degree. There are many who had earned laurels in their chosen disciplines without a university degree. But, in case of Dr. Gunaratna (who had earned a living by endangering the lives of many by his exaggerations, innuendos and media-finger pointing acts) he has to explain how he earned his MA and PhD degrees through a valid route.
A 2006 Inteview by Rohan Gunaratna
I was able to pick up the Spring 2006 issue of IO Sphere (The Professional Journal of Joint Information Operations, San Antonio, TX) – a US Department of Defense publication. Gunaratna was interviewed by John Whisenhunt, the editor of the journal. The box item, providing the profile of Gunaratna provided the following details. “Dr, Rohan Gunaratna is Head, International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore. A fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (UK), he holds a master’s degree in International Peace Studies from Notre Dame, and a Doctorate in International Relations from the University of St. Andrews, UK. He has over 20 years of academic, policy, and operational experience in counterterrorism, and is the author of 12 books.”
Wow! “Over 20 years of academic, policy, and operational experience in counterterrorism”. But note, no mention about his Bachelor’s degree in any university! If we backdate his record, Gunaratna would have begun his “operational experience in counterterrorism” in 1980s in Sri Lanka. His answer to one question provides some personal detail about him being a computer illiterate in late 1980s, which I reproduce below.
“I will tell you my own experience. My first visit (to the U>S.) was in 1989-90. I came via the State Department International Visitor Program. The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka asked me, ‘What would you like to see?’ And I said ‘I want to visit the biggest library in the world – the U.S. Library of Congress.’ So I went there, to the South Asia section, and there was a librarian, who I asked ‘Do you have this book?’ Then he showed me a computer and said ‘You can do a computer search.’ So I said ‘I’m sorry, but I do not know how to use a computer.’ When I went back to Sri Lanka I bought an inexpensive South Korean Kaypro computer, and I learned. And using that computer I wrote two books. So you can see how travel to the U.S. was so important….I only spent one month in the U.S… And the group I traveled to the U.S. with, we created a group called SANOCR (South Asian Network on Conflict Research). It operated for about 10 years. But those people I came with, they were all South Asians, and we still keep in touch.”
This SANOCR was tagged as the publisher of Gunaratna’s book Indian Intervention in Sri Lanka – The Role of India’s Intelligence Agencies (1993).
A Guy with Ultra- Chutzpah
The dictionary defines chutzpah as ‘shameless audacity; impudence.’ Sri Lankans are not short of guys who have chutzpah in their blood and brain. Those whom I have identified as con men in my 2003 commentary on Gunaratna (the likes of J.R. Jayewardene, Dr. Emil Savundra, Sepala Ekanayake and Chandrika Kumaratunga) belong to this tribe. But, Rohan Gunaratna’s persona is a degree above these all, as the guy with ultra- chutzpah!
Last year, he gave an interview to Hasitha Kuruppu, which appeared in Ceylon Today website [http://www.ceylontoday.lk/59-47140-news-detail-pottu-amman-shot-his-wife-and-shot-himself.html], dated November 10, 2013. When one reads Gunaratna’s answers to the ‘set-up questions’, you will know what I mean by ‘a guy with ultra-chutzpah’. He prides himself as interviewing Prabhakaran, Prabhakaran’s cook, Prabhakaran’s doctor, Prabhakaran’s parents while they were in Sri Lankan government custody! He don’t identify the name and age of Prabhakaran’s cook and Prabhakaran’s doctor. Whether these guys are still alive, no one knows. Whether they were “really” Prabhakaran’s cook or Prabhakaran’s doctor are also not clear. Whether all these persons (including Prabhakaran’s parents) who were linked to Prabhakaran did answer Gunaratna’s questions sincerely or with contempt is a moot question. Whether they trusted Gunaratna for his sincerity or wisdom is also a serious question.
Here is a gem of his answer to a question, “What had Prabhakaran told his father when he met him last?” Gunaratna’s answer: “Prabhakaran’s father had lived in Karavamullivaikkal. The LTTE had taken him to Nanthikadal to meet Prabhakaran. That was their last meeting. The father had asked the son what to do next. Prabhakaran had told him it was no time to argue, but to proceed. I recalled Hitler when I heard this. It was Hitler’s mindset.”
One cannot cross-check the validity of this answer now, because Mr. Veluppillai had died under Sri Lankan government custody in January 2010. Whether Mr. Veluppillai thought ‘Why should I answer this jerk’s questions correctly now?’ cannot be verified. Dr. Gunaratna appears not to possess the maturity to comprehend the feelings of a father (kept under captive conditions) who had lost his son to such irritating questions.
Then, punch line value judgment of Gunaratna, seems humorous at best and exposes the intellectual nudity of Gunaratna as a Sinhalese at worst. Gunaratna brags, “I recalled Hitler when I heard this. It was Hitler’s mindset.” It was simply meant to insult Prabhakaran, by equating him with Hitler’s mindset, because he had gone against the wishes of his peace-loving father! First, it indicates that Gunaratna is always dreaming of Hitler, to gain brownie points from his current sponsors, and no other Sinhalese heroes appear in his brain. Secondly, he is such a dim-wit not to know that there was a Sinhalese hero who went against the wishes of his father, long before Hitler. Thirdly, Gunaratna is utterly clueless about Sinhalese history of the island.
For Gunaratna’s benefit, I quote from the Mahavamsa book, which Buddhist Sinhalese believe seriously.
“Afterwards Prince Gamani, sent to announce to his father the king: ‘I will make war upon the Damilas.’ The king, to protect him, forbade him, saying: ‘The region on this side of the river is enough.’ Even to three times he sent to announce the same (reply). ‘If my father were a man he would not speak thus: therefore shall he put this on’. And therewith Gamani sent him a woman’s ornament. And enraged at him the king said: ‘Make a golden chain! With that will I bind him, for else he cannot be protected.’ Then the other fled and went, angered at his father, to Malaya, and because he was wroth with his father they named him Dutthagamani.” [Wilhelm Geiger’s translation of Pali text of Mahavamsa, originally published 1912, chapter 24, page 164]
This incident describes the activity of Dutthagamani, who ruled Ceylon between 161 – 137 BC. He went against the wishes of his father Kavan Tissa (the ruler of the southern Ruhuna kingdom), who advised him not to antagonize the Tamils (Damilas), and rule only the south side of Mahaveli Ganga. After disobeying his father, Gamani fled to the hill regions of the island (then called Malaya), and returned only after his father’s death. The Mahavamsa passage indicates why he received the ‘Duttha’ (bad or wicked) moniker in front of his name Gamani. This was because, he disobeyed his father’s words.
Isn’t time that Professor Gunaratna brushes up his Sri Lankan history, before pontificating on counterterrorism technology and Al Queda from his Singapore perch?