Goodbye to a brave general, eloquent diplomat, popular politician and patriotic friend

I have known brave generals, eloquent diplomats, popular politicians and patriotic friends in my lifetime, but I can confidently say that there was only one person known to me who possessed all these qualities and that person is none other than the late Major General Janaka Perera. The country has lost a patriotic and dedicated military and political leader. He risked his life over and over again because he had a vision to regain the lost paradise in this country by defeating the LTTE both militarily and politically. The LTTE succeeded in assassinating him on October 6, 2008 at Anuradhapura in the most cowardly way through a suicide bomber, before he could make his vision a reality.

His military efforts to defeat the LTTE are numerous and among them his victory at Weli Oya is among the greatest, wherein nearly four hundred LTTE cadres were killed, while the losses on his side were only one soldier and one home guard. He was sent to defend Jaffna at a time the political leadership in Colombo were making preparations to withdraw the Security Forces from Jaffna, with the assistance of India. His leadership turned defeat into victory. While the whole country is well aware of these two victories of his, there are many other victories he achieved as a military officer that perhaps only those in the Security Forces would know.

The liberation of the east when the late D.B.Wijetunga was President, where he was one of the front line Commanders and the subsequent successful march via Elephant Pass to Kilinochchi, which was implemented with him as the Operations Commander and his role in the capture of Rohana Wijeweera to end the last JVP insurrection are just a few that I can recall from memory.

The Major General Janaka Perera that I knew was ambitious and nothing short of becoming the President of this country would have enabled him to make his vision a reality. In an article that was published in The Sunday Times of July 20 2008, I said, “However if this is his aim, the path ahead is pitted with many obstacles. The LTTE will not be the only enemy he will have to contend with. He survived the LTTE threat when he was a serving officer in the army because he had the necessary security. As an opposition nominee to the post of Chief Minister who is considered a threat to the governing party, his security will never reach the level that he enjoyed while serving in the army.

Therefore the question is whether he will be ever allowed to work his way up…” He was not allowed to work his way up, because the government failed in providing him with the necessary security and has to now take the responsibility for allowing the LTTE to assassinate such a valuable person. Let this be a lesson to the government to make an independent analysis of the threat assessment on very important persons, without considering political affiliations.

As a close friend I tried to persuade him not to take to politics at this point of time, but he was too strong willed to heed my advice. He even declined an offer by the President to be appointed as a Governor and made the mistake of taking to politics by joining the UNP and being nominated as the candidate for the Chief Minister’s post in the North Central Province. It was this mistake that paved the way for his assassination.

Major General Janaka Perera was very confident of victory and said on the political platform that he had never lost a battle and would therefore be victorious at the provincial council elections. However, though he was the candidate who polled the highest amount of preferential votes, his party the UNP was defeated and he was appointed to the post of the Leader of the Opposition in the North Central Provincial Council. He was preparing himself to serve the people in his new appointment when the LTTE assassinated him.

As an army officer he stood by his men because he valued the lives of those under his command more than his own promotions. Therefore he refused to dance to the tune of politicians and as a result possibly even lost the chance of becoming the Army Commander. As a diplomat he succeeded not only in Australia and Indonesia but at all international diplomatic gatherings to eloquently show that the problem in our country was a terrorist one and not ethnic. As a politician he won the hearts of the people in record time and became the most loved politician in the North Central Province. Finally as a true friend of mine he went beyond the call of duty when he was in the army to help me when I was in difficulty.

Though he is no more there are many in the army who were trained by him and who served under him to follow in his footsteps. Therefore, I am certain that the LTTE has made another great blunder in assassinating Major General Janaka Perera, because though they were able to kill him, they will never be able to kill his vision of defeating the LTTE both militarily and politically.

His determination to do so I hope will gather immense strength in the days to come with the support of both the government and the opposition. This, however, is unlikely to happen if the opposition tries to use the assassination of Major General Janaka Perera to gain petty political mileage, without keeping in mind that the common enemy responsible for death and destruction is the LTTE. May the late Major General Janaka Perera, his wife Vajira and all his supporters who were killed by the LTTE in Anuradhapura on October 6, 2008 attain the bliss of Nibbana. I also take this opportunity to convey my heartfelt condolences to his children and his family.

Lt. Col. Anil Amarasekera

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