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An (apparent) military coup in Sri Lanka - Part One

"True that though Sri Lankan Security Forces managed to defeat the LTTE militarily there were some helpful military or otherwise reasons I can elaborate more on but I will limit myself to mention just a few for the starters".

Written By Day

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards?

(November 29, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) I am totally convinced and absolutely positive that a military coup will not happen in Sri Lanka. I have elaborated more on or rather sliced-and-diced the reasons elsewhere, but check the following story out first. During the 1987-1989 Reign of Terror in Sri Lanka then Brigadier Ananda Weereasekara, now Buddangala Ananda thero, the elder brother of CDF Chief S Weerasekara used to come to Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) to record discourses/appeals to public on behalf of the President Premadasa government. It was in the Studio 2 of SLRC prior to a recording session, he told this story;

“One day in the hell there was sort of unrest and the hell men were all flustered and the entire crowd of non-Sri Lankan hell mates have risen in sort of an uprising against the discriminatory treatment meted out to the ones except from Sri Lanka. The Chief Hellman was informed about this, and He called everybody to attention and inquired into. Everyone except the Sri Lankans complained in one voice that they are kept shackled all day long except for small breaks, and the Sri Lankan mates have total freedom of movement and gathering in hell. The Chief Hellman burst into a loud laughter and told the angry hell mates if you scale the wall to flee to freedom no one alerts us. But if one Sri Lankan hell mate scales the wall in his attempt to escape to freedom all the other Sri Lankan hell mates alert my hell men either shouting at the one trying to escape or come running to my hell men to tell about it. So my hell men have no problem in pulling down him by his leg back to hell. In the hell’s history no one from Sri Lanka has ever been able to escape. But I SHOULD SAY it would be a totally different story if non-Sri Lankans in hell are not shackled!” That is the reputation Sri Lankans have even in hell! If you think I made up this story, just ask ex-employees of the SLRC Jagath, who was a lighting tech and Mohotti an audio tech.

This story, if one really analyses, tells the very reason why a military coup would not happen in Sri Lanka the way it has happened in Pakistan, Thailand, the Philippines, some African country, or a banana republic. I am quite sure that it will not happen in Sri Lanka due to the psychology of present day tri-service Officer Corps and the way rank and file is used and misused and abused and handled. Sri Lankans in general and military personnel in particular are not reticent. It is evident from what is published in the print and electronic media, especially in Defence Columns.

Nevertheless the Defence Columns that are published, mostly on Sundays, are not hundred per cent correct alpha to omega there is enough details that should not be in the public domain in the first place. Disclosing details of sensitive military or national security nature compromises the operators and future operations. This is a result of quest for personal glory or blowing one’s own trumpet. Rather than being reticent they become loose cannons with their ‘war stories’ to impress girlfriends, friends, and/or everyone within earshot. Loose lips sink ships and Mother Lanka has paid dearly for that in the past, and will in future if not prevented or being circumspect! Take a look at the sorry state of affairs in the military no sooner a general rightly or wrongly decided to take to politics; what happened to sort of compact or understanding they had among officers to fight the war together keeping the ‘trust’ of the community about sensitive operations. What became of ‘One Team One Fight’ and ‘We are all in this together!’? Now, an officer is set or contracted against another to pry in to their personal lives to find the dirty linens, detailed to find the smoking guns, ordered to trace the wheeler dealings, retained to check for leads leading to bribes and kick backs taking. Irony is such in this case that both generals, made adversaries by the rascals with vested interests, are from the same school, same army unit, have the same name if ‘n’ is replaced with ‘r’ and were facilitated on the same stage as war heroes by the old boys. How come a friend among friends and a hero among heroes a few weeks back became all of sudden an enemy among friends, a traitor/villain among heroes!

This is not an exercise to disparage, or a smear campaign to further polarize or cause low morale in the Sri Lankan military. I implore you to understand that this a genuine attempt to put the truth, facts and reality out there so that everyone in the Sri Lankan military can read it and realize the irreversible, irreparable and irretrievable damage being caused by further politicizing and polarizing the military on trivial or puerile matters I have mentioned elsewhere. I beg you, in the absence of spontaneous and deliberate action on top brass’ part, a self-criticism and ‘course correction’ on your own volition for the good of Sri Lanka and her military. If one thinks even for a fleeting moment that I am on a mission with a hidden agenda or ulterior motives he or she prefers to remain in denial because, otherwise, she/he would have to look in the mirror and decide whether she/he has the courage or potency to put Sri Lanka military, contributing in his own little way, in order. By all means stay tuned until the Presidential Election that has been declared reaches a feverish pitch.

It promises to be an interesting January. Indications and preparations are any measure; a lot of dirty linen will be washed in public in the run up to the Presidential Election. But my worst fears are that the enemies of possible candidates will bring to public domain the national secrets of military operations in the past against the terrorists and enemies of the State in an attempt to disgrace and discredit the candidates and administration officials to whatever camp they may belong and provide much sought after ammunitions rather a treasure trough of incriminating evidence or intelligence to the persons and organizations with vested interests. They are dying to get it from the horse’s mouth. The darkest day of Sri Lanka will be the day those forces converge in step and unison on Sri Lanka to haul her to a ‘show trial’ based on he said this, and she said that in the media for the consumption of a worldwide gullible and ill-informed audience and then to manufacture the consent, sympathy, or empathy for an undue separatist cause in Sri Lanka. So Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Policemen think again, again and again not to compromise the national secrets and national security when you open your mouth in support of a party or a politician in any Sri Lankan Election. Politicos do promise you elephants and tigers but you will only be thoroughly disappointed during their tenure in office. Unfortunately all the signs and indications are such it promises a Presidential Election whose outlook is going to be very gloomy and bleak for Sri Lanka.

The situations that necessitate a military coup or take over;

Situation A: A political system or administration of a country has failed miserably, that will manifest in widespread demonstrations, strikes, trade union demands and very restive population, due to her very corrupt politicians and maladministration of the country. First the Administration or Party in power will ask for Military-Aid-to-Civil-Power (MACP) to manage the situation, and if the situation so deteriorates to unmanageable levels leading to violence on the streets, death and wanton destruction, if chaos is the order of the day. Then the military will have to intervene and accept the responsibility in the name of national security, territorial integrity, and peace and stability of the region. A couple of examples are the Philippines and Thailand,

Situation B: When a nation has more trust and respect for the military establishment than an administration whose governance is unstable, unpreditictable, and ridden with corruption then the nation tacitly approves her military and its powerful intelligence agencies to takeover or grabbing power in a bloodless coup. A Pakistan has been an example of sort.

Situation C: A military coup may be engineered, and a strongman emerges when a condition arises for tribal supremacy or its survival or else for plundering or controlling the wealth and the vast resources of a country. Some African nations fall into this category.

Situation D: Due to geo-political reasons a big brother or a super power installs friendly military juntas in a country that is politically unstable, dependent on limited agriculture (e.g. banana), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, and corrupt clique. A Latin American country (sort of a banana republic) falls into this category.

Gone are the days that a change in government or administration affected only her people or population. During those days there was no dwindling stocks or deposits of fossil fuel or natural gas. Now the situation is such man eats man for energy resources or there is a fierce competition or all out war to create energy cartels.

Once upon time everybody walked, bicycled or used mass transit. They were, then, physically fit and healthy. Now everyone wants to drive in a gas guzzling Sport Utility Vehicle or a pick-up truck. They are, now, fat and obese. Now superpowers and economic powers install friendly governments in countries in order to facilitate plunder by force or charm and safe passage of the energy resources across national borders or through sea lines of communication (SLOC).

To a military coup to be staged there should be a very professional military whose officers and men are very disciplined and beholden only to its Chain of Command. When I say ‘professional’ I do not mean the ability to ‘SHOOT, MOVE and COMMUICATE real well! The recent vanquishing of LTTE militarily is a fine example to that process. Sri Lankan Security Forces have shown or proved to the wider world without a vestige of doubt that they are very good at that. The Sri Lankan military personnel armed only with AK-47s without advance scopes, optical, laser and/or. Night Vision Goggles/Devices etc attached to his weapon and using only iron sight managed to close in, shoot and kill the most ruthless terrorist leaders and cadre in a short span of 2 years and 8 months. Though the Sri Lankan military managed to finish the three decade old scourge of terrorism there has been infighting, cliques, clans, and factions since 1970s. The reasons I see as the factors that inhibit or preclude the SL Military from staging a bloodless or bloodletting coup are as varied as infighting or internecine warfare, jealousy, personal glory, politicking, advances in miniature electronics devices such as digital camera and cell phones, wider use of internet or cyber space for e-mail, news, views or propaganda and the venality.

True that though Sri Lankan Security Forces managed to defeat the LTTE militarily there were some helpful military or otherwise reasons I can elaborate more on but I will limit myself to mention just a few for the starters; firstly, due to nearly three decade old military experience not only Infantry units, SF and Commandos but Service Units, Women’s Corps, Pioneer Corps, Civil Defence Force etc became formidable, combat ready, or battle-proven. In other words there was no necessity to depend on the traditional infantry units for their legacy task. The other units, traditionally looked down upon by the fully trained and battle hardened infantry, showed or proved their mettle in combat! Secondly; Late Lt Col Lalith Jayasinge and the members of his unit brought in a lot of information about the LTTE defenses and their disposition after every secret forays into the LTTE-held areas. With 2nd SF working the ‘Dark Side’ very effectively the LTTE was dazed, confused and panicky. Thirdly Gen SF broke away from tradition and hand-picked and appointed clever, the battle proven and relatively young officers as Combatant Commanders. Fourthly, soldiers finally saw a clear and proper military leadership, a consensus from a patriotic nation, a political will and a weakened LTTE due the Global War on Terror (GWOT) efforts worldwide. So they were motivated to finish off the scourge of terrorism in Sri Lanka once and for all. Fifthly, UAV feeds ….. Sixthly….and so on.

To be continued ……
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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