Right to Reclaim – Part Five

Right of the Sri Lanka government to reclaim its historical sovereignty over North of Sri Lanka

Read Part Four

My experiences

by. PBS. Hemachandra

(November 01, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) I want to write a few of my experiences in the navy relevant to the current problem in Sri Lanka and why actions of UNP leaders allowed it to become a problem beyond control, allegedly supported by two super powers namely India and the US.

In the navy there were two Tamils among 16 of us, who did the Sub Lieutenants course in India in 1971 and 1972 with me. Both are very good friends of mine. One was a direct entry officer who joined with me and was my roommate during training and who later became an Admiral. I was made to understand that he stills works for the Government after retiring from the navy. The other always complained about discrimination. Even when he got a slightly older jeep for his travelling he complained that it was because he was a Tamil. I am sure had he remained in the Navy he would have reached the rank of Admiral. But he later ran away to Canada. I have served under a number of Tamil navy officers and at no stage did I get any advantage over a Tamil officer by being a Sinhalese.

In the Navy, being a Sinhalese I did not get any special privileges or promotions over the Tamils. There were a lot of Tamil officers and sailors in the navy. Although I have seen preferential treatment to favourite officers from senior officers irrespective of race, I haven’t seen any Sinhalese officer getting preferential treatment over their Tamil counterparts certainly I did not get any.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, the Navy was completely neglected by successive governments. No recruitments were done for about 10 years. No Patrol crafts were purchased. Therefore during late 1970s, apprehensions of smugglers, illicit immigrants etc between India and Sri Lanka were reduced to a great extent. In 1977 I analysed and wrote a paper to the Navy command that this was directly due to reduction of sea hours by patrol boats between India and Sri Lanka to about 40% compared to sea hours in early 1970. Only six cheveton class Patrol boats purchased were not sufficient to supplement frequent breakdowns of old thonycroft fleet. Repeated requests by northern command to purchase boats were ignored by Navy high command and UNP government in power. Trial to build boats in Colombo Dockyard Limited took its time to produce acceptable craft, but by the time these crafts were deployed smugglers had more advanced faster crafts.

During 1977 communal problems, I was coordinating providing of boats for the disembarkation operation of all the Tamils from Colombo transferred in Shipping Corporation ships to KKS harbour. Many Tamils lost their jewellery during the voyage from Colombo to Jaffna. We were fortunate to recover every piece of jewellery lost when every one disembarked. There was one point of disembarking, therefore it was very easy to search and recover and stolen items. The jewellery was robbed by Tamils who took passage in the ships. As all the jewellery was recovered, Mr Amirthalingam and TULF members who were personally present there did not want us to hand over the culprits to the Police to charge the culprits. In Mr Amirthalingam’s words he said that they have suffered enough. But I am sure the story would have been different if the jewellery was robbed by Sinhalese people. Probably it would be headline news in all developed countries, Amnesty International and Red Cross. For a few years I used to get Christmas and New Year cards from the Tamils who lost jewellery in this voyage to Karainagar navy camp, which I have shown to a few navy people.

It was very hard to convince the Navy command and the UNP government of the importance of having an effective naval blockade between India and Sri Lanka. However, when the naval command realised necessity for this requirement in 1984, the naval command and UNP government came up with this funny mothership daughter craft concept to accommodate the purchase of 3 container cargo ships MV Fransisca, MV Carenia and MV Delicia laid up in Trincomalee harbour. Unfortunately I was one of the first commanding officers appointed when these ships were commissioned as surveillance command ships. It took me around 55 hours to bring these ships from Trincomalee to Colombo for refitting accommodation for around extra 50 sailors who were going to man the daughter crafts these ships were going to carry. The concept was to use the 40 ton crane in the ship to unload the daughter crafts when a terrorist boat was sighted so that the daughter craft can chase and apprehend the terrorist boat.

Then National Security Minister Mr Lalith Athulathmudali and Admiral HA Silva who decided to purchase the 3 container ships came on board my ship SLNS Wickrama with a TV crew from Rupavahini to show this concept to poor Sri Lankans. Only then did the navy high command and Mr Athulathmudali realise that a 40 ton crane can only be used in calm waters inside the harbour, it stops working out at sea when the ship rolls and pitches as a safety precaution. The crane stoped working when we tried to unload a boat outside the harbour due to roll and pitch and the boat got almost crushed banging on the ships hull. But to hoodwink the people of Sri Lanka, a lifeboat of the ship was lowered inside the harbour and shown in the Rupavahini (around March / April 1984) that fast boats were purchased to apprehend terrorists. Believe me, the speed of that fast boat shown in the TV was less than 5 nautical miles per hour.

Mr Jeff Long, Engineering Superintendent of Sea Containers London Limited, who hosted all navy officers for a dinner at Hotel Oberoi when the ships were handed over, told us that a 0.5 million US dollar commission was paid to sell the 3 container ships to Sri Lanka. I wrote to then President Mr JR Jayawardena about this and he wrote back to me informing that the matter was referred to Ministry of Defence for further inquiry, though I did not hear about any more Inquiries.

Then the navy purchased 3 more Kota class scrap ships from Singapore for this mother ship daughter craft concept. These six ships became navigational marks for terrorist groups going to India for training and escaping after attacks in Sri Lanka. They also created a massive human resources problem for Sri Lanka Navy. I have written to the commander of the navy that the efficiency or the KPIs of the surveillance zone in 1984 and 1985 was less than 5%. This efficiency was calculated by finding out the percentage of terrorist boats apprehended and destroyed by sighted terrorist boats taken from situation reports from all units in the surveillance zone.
To apprehend terrorists crossing between Sri Lanka and India as we were trying to do, by deploying 12 boats and ships stationed in the northern surveillance zone, was very similar to placing 12 police cars stationed between Colombo and Galle and trying to catch dogs crossing as the distance between Talaimannar to Point Pedro is similar. Of course this could have been done if we had state of the art detection capabilities and destruction capabilities.

In 1985 I personally told Mr Ranil Wickramasinghe on one occasion out of three occasions I met him to beg a school for my son before I took him to supreme court for violation of my son’s fundamental human rights by not giving him a government school, that the Indian Army trains the terrorists and if the governments does not give the navy adequate crafts to stop terrorist traffic between the two countries, Sri Lanka will have a lot of problems from terrorists. He laughed at me. I passed this information to Mr Lalith Athulathmudali and also wrote to President JR Jayawardena.

After leaving the navy I tried to publish these facts in newspapers but only Ravaya newspaper on 25th August 1991 published my discussion on how we could create an effective naval blockade to prevent gun running by terrorists. Had the UNP listened and acted on my advice we would not have this problem today. Therefore before Mr Ranil Wickramasinghe starts calling Mr Gotabhaya Rajapakse or anyone else a traitor he should go before a mirror to see the biggest traitor of Mother Lanka ever produced. Further, only a traitor would sign a cease fire agreement with a terrorist group fighting against a democratically elected government and give world wide recognition.

Unfortunately the UNP government, which was in power, was only interested in making money out of defence procurements as I mentioned earlier. UNP government’s failure to provide equipment capable of stopping terrorist traffic between India and Sri Lanka, to prevent terrorists being trained and armed by RAW of Indian defence on instructions by then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, created this unresolvable problem in Sri Lanka.

Now I want write about my experience of political victimisation in Sri Lanka. I had to take Mr Ranil Wickramasinghe, the present leader of the Opposition (then minister of education) to Supreme Court for violation of my son’s fundamental human rights by failing to offer him a school to study in 1985. At that time I was the Commanding Officer of SLNS Jayasagara, which was deployed in the North Surveillance Zone as a task group commander. The very next day after filing the case, the Defence Ministry sent me on compulsory leave (probably on Mr Ranil Wickramsinghe’s instructions). My navy identity card was taken and I was thrown out of the navy camp. I had to catch a fish lorry to come to Colombo. I had to run away from Sri Lanka to protect my family from thuggery and intimidations my family had to face with Mr Wickramasinghe’s circle of thugs (with his knowledge or not) even after withdrawing the case. Somebody almost kidnapped my son from the school. I was compelled to retire from the Navy. I was found fit for senior appointments before the case, but after the case it was a different story. I was not given CDC, which was a requirement to find a job in the Merchant Navy. I was not given the medal given to people who worked in the Surveillance Zone though I was the first Commanding officer SLNS Wickrama started the surveillance zone. My request to grant my pension as I was politically victimised was turned down by the Ministry of Defence. We were not allowed to live peacefully in Sri Lanka by Mr Ranil Wickramasinghe’s circle of thugs (with his knowledge or not) because I produced to the Supreme Court an admission of a child of a relative of this thug from Kiribathgoda to support my case. I was not paid my legitimate reward money for apprehensions done in the north. My request to Admiral Ananda Silva to include my name for an apprehension done in the surveillance zone was refused. I had to transfer everything I had to my wife as I was told by Admiral Ananda Silva that he is going to recover nearly Rs 400,000.00 reward money already paid to me for the apprehensions done in the north. Mr Nimal Siripala de Silva was the lawyer who wrote the transfer deed.

I am grateful to the Australian government for allowing my family to migrate to Australia. I had to study again for a new profession start my career all over again in Australia.

My understanding of Tamil aspirations

Therefore my understanding of aspirations of racist extremist Tamils (not all the Tamils) are as follows. If they think I am wrong I would like them to correct me with evidence it is not so.

1. Tamil Extremist Leaders want exclusive right to North and East of Sri Lanka and only Tamils should live there.

2. Tamils should have the right to work in all other parts of Sri Lanka. But they do not want any one else to come to the North and East to work or do business. LTTE has achieved this in the North. Probably would have achieved this in the East had the government failed to take control of the East.

3. Tamil Extremist Leaders want the right to wage a war against the government of Sri Lanka and destroy everything, but they also want the Sri Lanka government to provide all facilities, pay wages to government servants and spend money to reconstruct what they destroy.

4. Tamil Extremist Leaders want Tamils to study in all universities in Sri Lanka but do not want any Sinhalese student to study in Jaffna University. The last Sinhalese student is still in a wheel chair after being attacked.

5. Tamil Extremist Leaders wants Tamil doctors, engineers and other professionals to pass out from university to work in all parts of Sri Lanka where Sinhalese (74% of the population of Sri Lanka) live but do not want to learn the Sinhalese language to work there. They want 74% population of Sri Lanka to learn Tamil for them to work.

6. When these professionals get experience they should have the right to migrate to affluent western countries and say loud and clear that they are discriminated against by the majority Sinhalese. Even Tamils who reach the level of Attorney General or ambassadors do that.

My appeal to Tamils

At no stage I am trying to say that Tamils did not live in Sri Lanka in the past. All I am saying is that according to the available historical evidence there was no Independent Tamil Kingdom in north or east of Sri Lanka. Majority of the Tamils migrated from South India and integrated with the Sinhalese like Mr Bandaranayake’s great grandfather. Our Royal families also got married to Tamil royalty. Even our last king was a Tamil. Therefore I want to appeal to all the Tamils to read following history books written by Portuguese, Dutch, English and Tamil Historians so that you will know that Sinhalese and Tamils lived in the north under the Sinhalese Emperor of Sri Lanka (and on a few occasions a Tamil Emperor like Elara who invaded Sri Lanka). There were occasions that chieftains or vanniyars in Jaffna disobeyed the Emperor and tried to take control. Sunkilli was one such vanniyar.

1. “A true and Exact description of great island Ceylon” by the Dutch priest Baldaeus in 1672.

2. Fatal History of Portuguese in Ceylon” by George Davison Winius

3. 'The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon' by Father Fernao de Queyroz

4. 'An Historical Relation of Ceylon' by Robert Knox

5. 'An Account of the Island of Ceylon' (1805) by Captain Robert Percival

6. “Ancient Jaffna” by C. Rasanayagam

7. “Laws of Ceylon” by K. Balasingham

8."Thesis for the Ph.D.” by Dr. Karthigesu Indrapalan, submitted to the University of London in 1962 (Unpublished S.O. 15.1. 84).

9. Buddhism Betrayed by D. Tambiah

Therefore my appeal to Extremist Tamils and migrated professionals who fund LTTE and try to destroy Sri Lanka and to all developed foreign countries including India that were taken for a ride by LTTE:

1. To think about Jaffna in the 1970s and to bring that glory back to Jaffna. Please do not send your money to buy arms and ammunition but send money to start universities and technical colleges for Tamil students to qualify and have a decent life or migrate to affluent western countries if they wish, rather than spending their time in bunkers defending no brain leaders.

2. Not to create more and more angry generations of Tamil and Sinhalese by writing fiction about history without any historical evidence but to educate them about peaceful coexistence.

3. To start integration by forcing organisations like TRO to let all Sinhalese and Muslims who lived and did business in Jaffan to come back and start their businesses in the same way that majority Sinhalese looked after Tamils and helped them to come back and start there lives in other parts of Sri Lanka.

4. To understand that once the LTTE disarms, Sri Lankan forces will go back to do their normal duties such as anti smuggling and anti illicit immigrant duties in the north. As there will not be any fear among every one in Sri Lanka about suicide bombers and car bombs, all the road blocks will disappear and searches, arrest and registration of Tamils on suspicion will cease. I am sure in the 1970s we did not have these problems.

5. To remind Tamils who live in Western countries and fund LTTE that they should elect a leader who will not destroy Tamils in Sri Lanka like the present Mr Prabhakaran. If these Tamils who fund LTTE want to fight for a separate state, please send their children to Sri Lanka to fight but please don’t fund to get poor Tamil children in north and east of Sri Lanka to fight and die.

6. To all missionaries of all denominations to help all other poor people in Sri Lanka by providing the same facilities that they provided to Jaffna Tamils.

7. To British Government to provide assistance with housing and educational facilities to the Indian Tamils they abandoned.

8. To all Western developed countries to stop blood dollars flowing into hands of LTTE through accepting refugees. These governments should understand that refugee traffic could be minimised to a greater extent by controlling LTTE refugee traffic.

Finally I want to appeal to Indian Tamils in Sri Lanka not to blame the Sinhalese for the problems they are facing because our British Masters abandoned them, and for them to consider class action against the British government for compensation similar to French compensation to Libya.

Concluded -
Sent your comments: slglanka@gmail.com

(PBS. Hemachandra, M. Com, Post Grad Dip in Bus, MCP, MACS, is a retired. Lt. Commander of Sri Lanka Navy)
- Sri Lanka Guardian
jean-pierre said...

Excellent and informative set of articles, even if one may not agree fully with the political thrust of the articles. Tamil claimants to "traditional homelands" need to address the very real issues raised in this article.