by Sachi Sri Kantha, June 21, 2023
This is my review of a book with a very long title -34 words! It is,
‘Prabhakaran’s Ruthless Terrorism in the guise of Liberation – Are the Sri Lankan Security Forces guilty of Genocide? – How the LTTE violated Human Rights by intentionally committing genocide – The Success story of Rehabilitation & Resettlement’
This book was authored by J.F. Ranjith Perera, with a blurb noting that he was a ‘former director general of the Ceylon Tourist Board’. This shows up in the title itself! After 13 years, finally ’a monument’ to Prabhakaran and LTTE has been built, in the form of an E-book in English, by the Sri Lankan (Sinhalese) Army. The publication ceremony of this 852 page E-book was held on Dec 15, 2022.
Sadly, this SLA Gospel does injustice to the warrior traditions set by the Buddhist king Dutugemunu (date for his reign now fixed as 161 BC – 137 BC). What was done by the Rajapaksa rascals-led Sri Lankan military in desecrating the tombstones of fallen LTTE soldiers in 2009 is NOT a display of Sinhalese chivalry, akin to that of the Mahavamsa chronicle’s hero Dutugemunu. The chronicle’s verses 69 to 74 in chapter 25 were translated into English by Wilhelm Geiger in 1912 as follows:
“Near the south gate of the city [Anuradhapura, that is] the two kings fought; Elara hurled his dart, Gamani evaded it; he made his own elephant pierce (Elara’s) elephant with his tusks and he hurled his dart at Elara; and this (latter) fell there, with his elephant.
When he [Gamani] had thus been victorious in battle and had united Lanka under one rule he marched, with chariots, troops and beasts for riders, into the capital. In the city, he caused the drum to be beaten and when he had summoned the people from a yojana around he celebrated the funeral rites for king Elara. On the spot where his body had fallen he burned it with the catafalque and there did he build a monument and ordain worship. And even to this day the princes of Lanka, when they draw near to this place, are wont to silence their music because of this worship.”
This was the situation in 4th century AD (more than 5 centuries after the real event) when the chronicle was written in Pali language by Mahanama Thera. James Emerson Tennent, British official, writing in 1859, about this respect paid to King Elara’s tomb on the orders of King Dutugemunu noted the following:
“…In the final struggle for the throne, in which the Malabars were worsted by the gallantry of Dutugaimunu, a prince of the excluded family, the deeds of bravery displayed by him were the admiration of his enemies. The contest between the rival chiefs is the solitary tale of Ceylon chivalry, in which Elala is the Saladin and Dutugaimunu the Coeur-de-lion. So genuine was the admiration of Elala’s bravery that his rival erected a monument in his honour, on the spot where he fell; its ruins remain to the present day, and the Singhalese still regard it with respect and veneration. ‘On reaching the quarter of the city in which it stands,’ says the Mahawanso, ‘it has been the custom for the monarchs of Lanka to silence their music, whatsoever procession they may be heading, and so uniformly was the homage continued down to the most recent period, that so lately as 1818, on the suppression of an attempted rebellion, when the defeated aspirant to the throne was making his escape by Anarajapoora, he alighted from his litter, on approaching the quarter in which the monument was known to exist, and although weary and almost incapable of exertion, not knowing the precise spot, he continued on foot till assured that he had passed far beyond the ancient memorial.” (Ceylon, vol. 1, 1859, part III, ch. V, p. 354)
This meant that, for almost 1,979 years, Dutugemunu’s command was obeyed faithfully by the natives. This was class (i.e., distinction or high quality) shown by a real hero to his defeated rival of distinction. But, this book sponsored by the Sri Lankan army cannot even hold a candle to Dutugemunu’s class. Towards the end of the book, Perera provides a list of incomplete ‘References’, containing citations to about 30 books. But, specifically missing are the two works (that of Geiger’s 1912 translation of Mahavamsa, and Tennent’s 1859 book) which I quoted above. Prabhakaran’s life is simply plagiarized from the earlier writings of Prabhakaran’s two biographers, M.R. Narayan Swamy and T. Sabaratnam.
It certainly is a fact that the victory of Sri Lankan army over LTTE in 2009 was NOT a victory on its own, for a chest-thumping boast. As Jon Lee Anderson had recorded, “China, in the last year of the war, supplied a billion dollars’ worth of military aid, including fighter jets, air-surveillance radar, and anti-aircraft batteries; Russia and Pakistan provided artillery shells and small arms; Iran supplied fuel. Unofficially, the United States had provided some help. Sri Lankan diplomats and military officers acknowledged to me privately that US satellite intelligence had been crucial when, in 2008, Sri Lanka’s Navy sank seven Tiger ships loaded with military cargo…” (New Yorker, Jan 17, 2011, pp. 40-55). A few omissions by Anderson include Ukrainian pilots hired to man the Sri Lankan bombing planes, and the tactical intelligence assistance offered by the India’s bureaucracy and gumshoes.
What is nauseating is the unverified assumption by Ranjith Perera that almost every assassination (even those of Lalith Athuladmudali in Apr 23, 1993, Kumar Ponnambalam in Jan 5, 2000! and Lakshman Kadirgamar in Aug 12, 2005) as well as attempted assassinations (for example, that of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in Dec 1, 2006), bank robberies, damages to Buddhist vihares, temples, mosques and churches that occurred in the island between 1975 to 2009, can be attributed to the LTTE. As to the LTTE’s ‘attempted assassination’ of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Gen. Sarath Fonseka (a non-contradictable source, who should know!) came out with the truth in May 2016. In the Sri Lankan parliament, he confirmed that this “bomb attack blamed on separatist Tamil Tiger rebels had been stage-managed by the [then] President’s brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa, then Defence Secretary. ‘No terrorist will set off a suicide bomb 25 meters away from the intended target,’ Mr. Fonseka told parliament during a debate on scaling down military security to the former strongman leader.” [source: The Hindu, Chennai, May 4, 2006]
Thus, this 852 page compendium is nothing but scapegoating of Prabhakaran and the LTTE for all the sins committed by Sinhalese politicians, their fart-catchers and collaborators in the twentieth century. Declan Quigley once observed, ‘where scapegoats are actually killed, they must first be killed symbolically, to be made to appear as non-human in some sense.’ (Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute, 2000, vol. 6, 237-254). Thus, author Perera simply transforms Prabhakaran into the Vedic mythological ‘Asura’ (anti-God or demon) of great strength. Of course, everyone knows that Prabhakaran was a human, born in November 26, 1954, to the Tamil middle class family of T. Veluppillai and Parvathy.
The question then arises, suppose Prabhakaran was an ‘Asuran’, how about the standing of the 12 Sinhalese military commanders (D.S. Attygalle, J.E.D. Perera, T.I. Weerathunga, G.D.G.N. Seneviratne, H. Wanasinghe, L.D.C.E. Waidyaratne, G.H. De Silva, R. De S. Daluwatte, C.S. Weerasooriya, L.P. Balagalle, S.H.S. Kottegoda and G.S.C. Fonseka) who struggled with Prabhakaran’s army, from 1976 to 2009? Were they humans or Prabhakaran’s mirror-image Asuras?
Conveniently omitted in the book were the killings of thousands of Tamils irrespective of age and sex, as well as the willful destruction of Tamil properties (libraries etc.) including temples and churches, perpetrated by the bombings of Sri Lankan army and air force, spearheaded by these mirror-image Asuras? The glaring sin in this book is the complete omission of records of necrosadism (defined in the Dorland’s Medical Dictionary as, ‘mutilation of a corpse for the purpose of exciting or gratifying sexual feelings) committed by the Sri Lankan army in 2009. Only an example is presented in page 841 of the book.
My verdict about this book is this. Finding neutrality in the history produced by Sri Lankan army’s scribe Ranjith Perera is as ludicrous as searching for a milligram of gold in a bucket of excrement. Here is an example, from a paragraph in the Conclusion of the book.
“[W]hen ex-combatants surrendered to the Government Forces in May 2009, their future was determined on Buddhist principles observed by the government. As the military and political leadership of Sri Lanka were predominantly Buddhist, it was not the rule of law but the tenants of Buddhism that applied to the defeated ex-combatants. They were Metta – the wish that all sentient beings, without any exception, be happy, Karuna – the wish for all sentient beings to be free from suffering, Muditha – the wholesome attitude of rejoicing in the happiness and virtues of all sentient beings, Upekkha – not to distinguish between friend and enemy or stranger, but regard every sentient beings as equal. These Buddhist concepts were applied to their defeated enemy by the political leadership and the Security Force personnel, in its endeavour to transform them to be useful citizens of the country.” [Words in bold font, are as in the original.]
The quoted Buddhist concepts are gratifying to read and think about. But, was they really enforced by the Sinhalese army in May 2009, or before that? The answer is definitely NO. I provide proof from Prof. Bruce Hoffman (a mentor of Prof. Rohan Gunaratna, Sri Lankan army’s terrorist ‘expert’). In an article Hoffman wrote for the Atlantic monthly in 2002, following details appear, about a torturer in the Sri Lankan army. He was simply identified as ‘Thomas’. To quote,
“I sat in that swank hotel drinking tea with a much decorated, battle-hardened Sri Lankan army officer charged with fighting the LTTE and protecting the lives of Colombo’s citizens. I cannot use his real name, so I will call him Thomas. However, I had been told before our meeting, by the mutual friend—a former Sri Lankan intelligence officer who had also long fought the LTTE—who introduced us (and was present at our meeting), that Thomas had another name, one better known to his friends and enemies alike: Terminator. My friend explained how Thomas had acquired his sobriquet; it actually owed less to Arnold Schwarzenegger than to the merciless way in which he discharged his duties as an intelligence officer. This became clear to me during our conversation. ‘By going through the process of laws,’ Thomas patiently explained, as a parent or a teacher might speak to a bright yet uncomprehending child, ‘you cannot fight terrorism.’ Terrorism, he believed, could be fought only by thoroughly ‘terrorizing’ the terrorists—that is, inflicting on them the same pain that they inflict on the innocent. Thomas had little confidence that I understood what he was saying. I was an academic, he said, with no actual experience of the life-and-death choices and the immense responsibility borne by those charged with protecting society from attack. Accordingly, he would give me an example of the split-second decisions he was called on to make. At the time, Colombo was on ‘code red’ emergency status, because of intelligence that the LTTE was planning to embark on a campaign of bombing public gathering places and other civilian targets. Thomas’s unit had apprehended three terrorists who, it suspected, had recently planted somewhere in the city a bomb that was then ticking away, the minutes counting down to catastrophe. The three men were brought before Thomas. He asked them where the bomb was. The terrorists—highly dedicated and steeled to resist interrogation—remained silent. Thomas asked the question again, advising them that if they did not tell him what he wanted to know, he would kill them. They were unmoved. So Thomas took his pistol from his gun belt, pointed it at the forehead of one of them, and shot him dead. The other two, he said, talked immediately; the bomb, which had been placed in a crowded railway station and set to explode during the evening rush hour, was found and defused, and countless lives were saved. On other occasions, Thomas said, similarly recalcitrant terrorists were brought before him. It was not surprising, he said, that they initially refused to talk; they were schooled to withstand harsh questioning and coercive pressure. No matter: a few drops of gasoline flicked into a plastic bag that is then placed over a terrorist’s head and cinched tight around his neck with a web belt very quickly prompts a full explanation of the details of any planned attack…[‘A Nasty Business’, The Atlantic, Jan 2002]
Only Lord Buddha knows how many ‘torturing Thomases’ were recruited by the Sri Lankan army, and how many Tamils became innocent victims in their hands? So, what is the real purpose in releasing this book? It is to rehabilitate the battered image of the Sri Lankan armed forces, which has received negative press and publicity internationally for their nefarious deeds, such as the 2007 sex abuse scandal by the Sri Lanka’s peace keeping army in Haiti. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_abuse_scandal_in_Haiti] Gen. Shavendra Silva received public designation by the US Secretary of State in Feb 14, 2020., while Chandana Hettiarachchi and Sunil Ratnayake received public designation by the US Secretary of State in Dec 10, 2021, for gross violation of human rights. After the release of this book in Dec 2022, another prominent name in the Sri Lankan military circles, Wasantha Karanagoda (then, Naval commander) also received the same public designation by the US Secretary of State in Apr 26, 2023.