Gota in the title of this commentary refers to Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the younger sibling of ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The other word, ‘glossitis’ is a medical term, referring to inflammation of the tongue (Gk. Glossa = tongue). The Feb.12th issue of the Colombo Daily Mirror carried an interview with Gota by Lakna Paranamanna. The caption read, ‘No one will be able to replace me – Gota’. To 14 questions asked, Gota had talked big.
One is reminded of John Wilmot (1647-1680), an English satirist poet and a courtier of King Charles II (1640-1685). Wilmot’s epigram was,
We have a pretty witty King
Whose words no man relies on,
Who never said a foolish thing,
Nor ever did a wise one.
Among the 14 questions asked, only three relate to the LTTE specifically. These I provide below, and Gota’s answers to them.
“Q: What is your response to the accusations being levelled at you and your brother’s regime concerning the course of action followed regarding top LTTE leaders such as KP?
Gota: Again, the accusations they are making with concern to this issue are baseless. If you could speak to the intelligence officials on these matters you would realise it. I believe the governing politicians should investigate without simply making allegations. I have already stated this – whatever possible steps to take we have taken but the most important thing was getting the man. No one is commenting on that. Instead unnecessary facts are highlighted and they are not true. The most important factor is that he claimed he was the next in line for LTTE leadership and we managed to take him into our custody.
Q: But why wasn’t he prosecuted after being taken into custody?
Gota: There were different schools of thought during the time regarding the course of action to be taken concerning him. When hundreds of the LTTE cadres surrendered, there were two options available either to imprison them or rehabilitate and reintegrate them. Both choices have pluses and minuses but it became obvious that imprisoning such a large number would definitely be disastrous. So during the time all the responsible officials including the president, the Security Chiefs decided that they should be rehabilitated. Likewise, when this person was brought in, the war was over so he was handed over to the intelligence in order to obtain the information they required. If we had arrested him and put him behind bars, he would not have cooperated. My aim was to get him to fully cooperate with the intelligence officials. So he did not remain scott-free – he was under the military intelligence and that in turn helped gather so much of information on the LTTE businesses and the networks run by the terrorist group. If the incumbent government wishes to act responsibly, they can speak to those who have conducted the inquiries and access the intelligence the relevant officials managed to obtain, provided it is done in a way that does not jeopardise national security.
Q: You are accused of taking control over his fleet of ships and the vast wealth that he had accumulated for the LTTE. What is your response and what became of this wealth?
Gota: This is why I am stating that this information should be inquired into by the intelligence agencies. They would be able to clarify whether there was any wealth, what properties included that wealth etc. All these agencies are under the Government and I don’t wish to speculate on anything. The information is easily accessible to the present Government and they should inquire into it.!
Uhm! You can tag Gota’s answers, by whatever word. I’d suggest, you better read American philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s short book, ‘On Bullshit’ (2005), to analyze his answers. For clear perspectives, read again his answers. First, KP, his then-pal had now turned into “this person”! Secondly, he doesn’t identify the names of “intelligence officials”. Thirdly, Gota says, “hundreds of the LTTE cadres surrendered”, but omitted saying how many of those surrendered ‘LTTE cadres’ were killed like Col. Ramesh. He also had glossed over the fates of other prominent LTTE leaders like Yogaratnam Yogi, V. Balakumaran and poet Puthuvai Rathnathurai.
I submitted the following brief comment to this story to the Colombo Daily Mirror website, under my own name, on Feb.13th. I doubt it will be posted. As such, I present it for the record.
“Mr. Gota Rajapaksa, it’s nice to hear from you, after a month following the defeat of your elder sibling. To a question on KP, you had answered, “The most important factor is that he claimed he was the next in line for LTTE leadership and we managed to take him into our custody”. How about the other Tamil folks, who didn’t brag like the foolish KP, that “he was the next in line for LTTE leadership.”? How about Prabhakaran’s father Mr. T. Veluppillai, who didn’t brag that he will be the next leader of LTTE. You got this old man into custody, and he died in your detention. How will you answer this?”
I also emphasize that (by design) the questions asked by Lakna Paranamanna were soft questions. Nothing was asked about the forged passport affair of Kokila Gunawardena (aka Karuna aka Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan) of 2007-2008 in which Gota was implicated. Check the commentary by one Ranjith Jayasundera (alleged pseudonym of Lasantha Wickramatunga, the ex-editor of Colombo Sunday Leader weekly) in Sunday Leader of January 27, 2008. Nothing was asked about the eviction notice of Tamils from Colombo lodges in 2007.
The same issue of Sunday Leader (Jan.27, 2008), also carried an interesting character profile of Gota, written by Sonali Samarasinghe, the wife of assassinated Lasantha Wickramatunga. The title of this profile was, “ Meet Gota – the ‘Ugly American’” Gota’s 15 years of life in USA, as a war deserter, had done him a favor. His American passport (as a naturalized American) will be a talisman against the calls to prosecute him as a war criminal. American diplomacy will see to it that Gota will have crypto-immunity. Otherwise, it will set precedent for other American war criminals (such as Henry Kissinger – another naturalized American) to be prosecuted.
I allow philosopher Frankfurt to have the last word on Gota’s glossitis. “What bullshit essentially misrepresents is neither the state of affairs to which it refers nor the beliefs of the speaker concerning that state of affairs. Those are what lies misrepresent, by virtue of being false. Since bullshit need not be false, it differs from lies in its misrepresentational intent.”
Harry G. Frankfurt: On Bullshit, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2005.