The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

The most telling tale of a war that almost tore us apart

Book facts | Gota’s War by C.A.Chandraprema. Reviewed by Malinga H. Gunaratne

Gota’s War.Those who read the title of this book imagined that Gotabaya Rajapaksa would be leaping out of every page in this book like a the modern day MacArthur. This is clearly not the case. His role has been stated and explained only insofar as the contribution he made to bring the curtain down on this conflict.

I know Chandraprema better. He does not take the King’s shilling and therefore does not have to do the King’s bidding! However Chandraprema is a man of very strong loyalties. And thank god for that. At most times his friends can do no wrong! He does not see their faults, only the virtues.
In Gota’s War he presents the most comprehensive catalogue of events that sparked off the civil war in our country. How it was won, the defeats, the reversals, and the players at the centre stage of this conflict which almost succeeded in tearing Sri Lanka apart. His writing reflects his own perceptions about the players in this military drama.

After the CFA signed by Ranil Wickremesinghe, we almost conferred nationhood on the LTTE. The people of our country including most of the political leaders and some of those in this government as well, thought that this war was unwinnable, and that an unholy peace could be bought by giving the LTTE a separate state albeit by another name. The CFA was such an euphemism.

That is till Mahinda Rajapaksa became the President. He appointed his brother as the secretary of Defence. Gota was a veteran of Vadamarachchi. I have gone to the Jaffna peninsula with Ravi Jayewardene, during the height of the Vadamarachchi campaign; I have seen the dust-laden and battle-fatigued Gota giving leadership to this battle under my late friend General Vijay Wimalaratne. Gota was Vijay’s Field Commander. Vijay would not appoint a man as Field Commander unless he had sacrificed his blood and his guts and proved himself capable of leading from the front.

Gota left the Army as a Colonel and stayed on as a Colonel even though he was offered a Generalship by his Commander-in-chief. “I am a colonel and that is the rank I earned when I served the Army. You have to recognise me for what I am and not for the rank I hold,” he once told his President brother. There are some others who gladly donned a General’s rank, without in the least deserving it.
This is an enduring example of the respect that Gota had for the Army.

Can one man win a war? Clearly not. But he can certainly give leadership to a military campaign. That is what he did. He slowly but surely put together the most magnificent military machine which was the envy of the world to completely defeat the LTTE and rid the country of the most cruel and dangerous fighting force that threatened any nation in the contemporary history of the world. His unique position as the trusted brother of the President enabled him to do this.

He brought Sarath Fonseka in as Commander of the Army. The reasons that led to the estrangement are not clearly evident. Had Fonseka been interviewed by Chandraprema, the story would have been complete. But he was incarcerated, and not available while the book was being written.
Sarath Fonseka was a brave and ruthless soldier who during every stage of this conflict was fully supported by Gota and Mahinda.

It must also never be forgotten that those like Ravi Jayewardene the architect of the STF, made an enormous but now forgotten contribution to clear the Eastern Province of the LTTE.I have often heard the lament that the contribution of the STF to this war is not recognised.
The first line of defence in any war is properly coordinated intelligence. Gotabaya brought the entire intelligence apparatus under centrally coordinated control. This contributed in no small measure to the success of the entire war effort. Chandraprema deals with this.
The Navy under Commander Karannagoda went through many convulsions, according to Chandraprema, but later mastered and gained supremacy of the seas. This war could not have been won without the Navy interdicting arms supplies, which were flowing freely into the battle field.

War is an extension of politics. If Gota was the soldier, Mahinda was the politician. He may not have studied ‘arthashstrya’ by Kautilya or The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli, but he performed his role in the war like a virtuoso. The Millibands and the Kouchners who were breathing down our necks to give the LTTE a respite are no more. Mahinda is still in the driving seat. He gave the world a tantalising display of real politics. Ethical deception and moral deception if practised is unacceptable but strategic and tactical deception is part of statecraft.
Mahinda strategically and tactically out manouvered, all these so-called sophisticated western politicians.

The late Lakshman Kadirgamar gave his life for an independent and sovereign Sri Lanka. The intricate and complex role that he played in the parlours of power contributed in no small measure to the military victory. He moved easily and elegantly to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the world community. His weapons were his charm, his powers of persuasion and his single-minded devotion and focus on his country.
If Gota won at Nandikadal, Lakshman fought no less a battle in the chancelleries of the world. Chandraprema makes reference to Lakshman’s contribution, but most of his battles were behind closed doors and must remain unknown.
Chandraprema’s book is quite easily the most comprehensive compilation of this tragic war which almost tore Sri Lanka apart. He writes easily and clearly. I have no doubt that this book will be read all over the world. The lessons learnt from this conflict will make it quite evident to the world, that this island nation was able to overcome this war by getting all the ingredients in place to checkmate the terrorist group considered the most ruthless in the world.

The contribution of Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa to this will earn for them a vital place in the history of Sri Lanka .

Share This Post

comments powered by Disqus

Advertising Rates