Looking back at a hard fought victory and men of courage

Book facts: Winning an Unwinnable War. A tribute to our war heroes by J. F. Ranjith Perera.

The North-East war continues to be talked about. Books continue to be written about it. The war heroes continue to be remembered. The recently launched book, `Winning an Unwinnable War' is "A tribute to our war heroes". To its author J. F. Ranjith Perera, the most outstanding historical achievement of the 21st century was "the final annihilation of the ruthless terrorism of the LTTE by the heroic Security Forces."

Who is a national hero? Ranjith Perera identifies a hero as "a person who has distinguished himself by being supremely courageous, strong, illustrious and charismatic, and who is admired and acknowledged by the people, and who has used these exceptional talents for the benefit of the nation at times of crisis". Thus a person who dedicates his life courageously for the national cause of safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of his country, and the safety of the life and liberty of his people, and works for their betterment, could be considered a national hero, he says.

After devoting the opening chapter to tracing the historical background of Sri Lanka, the author does an evaluation of Prabhakaran and the strength of the LTTE. Saying that we cannot disregard the talents and abilities of the man, he describes him as "an extraordinary character, though wicked." He considers him to be an "Asura, a cyclic emanation and visitation familiar in Indian mythology – a spectre of evil that arises time and again to plague the world."

The author identifies the LTTE as the only terrorist organization in the world which had a fleet of commercial and naval vessels and a rudimentary air force. He also says that the LTTE was one of world's largest dealers in narcotic drugs, which was one of its major sources of income.

Referring to the highly organized network for the collection of funds from the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in all parts of the world, he says that offices were established in Western capitals and elsewhere which were networked through advanced computers and communication system. They were ruthless in collecting funds. Some were voluntary contributions whilst others were by way of compulsion and extortion. The funds were mainly used for the purchase of arms, ammunition and other military hardware and to carry on their other illegal activities.

"The LTTE also handed out large amounts of their funds to win over certain key decision-makers in certain governmental and non-governmental organizations," says the author, who does not elaborate or mention any names. Neither does he identify the media organizations which he says received funds from the LTTE to espouse the cause of the LTTE and carry out false propaganda relating to the denial of human rights in Sri Lanka.

The author then moves on to discuss "the heroic leaders who successfully accomplished the mission." As an introduction to the subject, he stresses that "there is no doubt that it was the leadership given by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa that enabled the security forces to destroy the LTTE and wipe out terrorism from our motherland."

Just as much as the deployment of additional personnel and the qualitative and quantitative improvement in the armaments and equipment supplied to the security forces, the author sees the political determination to resist foreign pressure intended to derail the ongoing operations as an important aspect of the success of the campaign to defeat the LTTE.

In an evaluation of the contribution made by President Rajapaksa in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the author outlines the President's political career and discusses his vision to bring lasting peace to the nation even before he was elected President. After highlighting the efforts made to settle the dispute through negotiations, the author emphasises that it is not reasonable to criticise the President for embarking on a military solution. Such criticism could be due to misinformation by interested parties or the lack of authentic information, he points out.

He cites the appointment of tried and tested commanders, leaders who were brave and had combat experience, purchasing of new weaponry, and an accelerated recruitment and training programme as the key aspects of "the new radical and pragmatic approach" to win the war. He stresses that the appointments made were not on political or other considerations, but "on the basis of accepted criteria for selection, namely experience, knowledge and skills."

He also mentions the winning over of the LTTE Eastern Province leader, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna and his chief accomplice, Pillayan as "a key political achievement" of the President. While acknowledging that the two of them were responsible for planning and executing major attacks perpetrated by the LTTE, he concludes that by bringing them to the democratic path, the President greatly enhanced his strength while weakening the LTTE. He calls it "the beginning of the end for the LTTE as a terrorist organization."

He goes on to discuss issues like relations with India, overcoming external pressures, minimal casualties among civilians and the President's role in global politics. In his assessment of the contribution made by Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the author sums up that he was "certainly the guiding force that drove the valiant troops to achieve the final goal while playing a pivotal role in the humanitarian operation that wiped out the LTTE."

"Gotabhaya Rajapaksa will go down in our history as a person who not only made a vital contribution to the destruction of the LTTE, but also as one of the main liberators of the Tamils in the North and East and the country as a whole," he concludes.

At a time when many prefer to forget or play down the role played by General Sarath Fonseka, the author devotes a chapter to "the man, who had fought in the trenches, led his troops from the front and was attacked by a suicide bomber."

He makes reference to General Fonseka restructuring the army to meet the contemporary challenges, introducing new concepts and strategies to combat terrorism, appointing young officers to lead the battlefront, and making the army a more professional and motivated fighting force. "His commitment, experience, knowledge and also the way he performed was very important in the whole campaign. Therefore selecting General Fonseka was an extremely important decision," he points out.
He also refers to the post-war developments relating to General Fonseka.

The author has devoted separate chapters to evaluate the roles played by the Chief of Defence Staff, Commanders of the Sri Lanka Navy & Air Force, IGP and Director General of the Civil Defence Force during the war. He concludes with a chapter on the liberation of Wanni and recognises the Field Commanders who made victory possible.

Now that peace prevails, he reiterates the need to work for greater productivity and eliminate various other obstacles for development as a nation.

The 210-page Sarasavi publication is a commendable effort to capsule the success story in crushing the most ruthless terrorist organization the world has known in recent history.


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