The dailymirror spoke to Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara on the issues related to war heroes, missing persons and the mechanism to probe war crimes.
Rear Admiral Sarath Weeraekera was the Chief of Staff of the Sri Lanka Navy and the first Director General of the Civil Defence Force. He was one of the five heads of security forces felicitated by the nation for winning the war. On retiring from military service, he entered politics and was the Deputy Minister of Labour and Labour Relations during the previous government. He also directed and wrote the script of the film Gamani which received 17 film awards including those for the best film, best Director and best script-writer of the year at several awards ceremonies. He is also the President of the newly formed National War Heroes’ Front. He shared the following with us.
Q You were very critical of policies with regard to the probe on Human Rights violations during the war. What is your main concern?
My main concern is about the national security and the war heroes. We fought the war for three decades, sacrificed immensely to defeat terrorism, and ensured the unitary nature of the country. 29,000 men were killed, 14,000 critically wounded and others fought and survived to make it happen. But, we see national security is jeopardised; paving the way for the LTTE to re-group and pushing our war heroes to be punished internationally. That, is my concern.
Q Are you making these allegations as a politician or as a retired senior military officer?
Well, you can’t deny the fact that I am already a politician, but let me tell you this with great responsibility. Our government, after winning the war, took very important measures to prevent the LTTE from reorganizing. We strengthened the Intelligence units and were able to crush three attempts by the LTTE to come up again between the years 2009 and 2014. We banned INGOs, such as Global Tamil Forum, under UN Charter 1373, which supported the LTTE directly. The maximum possible lands and houses were released while retaining the most important to ensure security.
This government remanded a very efficient group of Intelligence officers no sooner it came to power, thereby demoralizing all other Intelligence officers . They lifted the ban on all pro-LTTE NGOs and released strategically important land without proper military study, and released hardcore LTTErs from prison. The NGOs are now freely moving about in the North, preparing a database of all the 11,000 rehabilitated LTTE cadres.
Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran is passing resolutions in the NPC demanding a Federal State, and the government is silent. What the LTTE couldn’t achieve militarily, Mr. Wigneswaran, the TNA and the diaspora are trying to achieve through other means.
QDuring the war, many excesses may have taken place. If a soldier has done something unacceptable, are you telling that we must ignore it just because they won the war?
No. If a soldier has violated the law, done something wrong, then he should be tried and punished as per the prevailing law of the country. You can’t have special courts with foreign assistance judging our men. In our country, according to the Constitution, everyone, including the soldiers, are equal before the law. If there is a special court only for the soldiers that means soldiers are not equal before the law in our country. Isn’t it hilarious? Is this the way to treat our men who have sacrificed their entire lives for the country? If the Office of the Missing Personnel (OMP) Bill is passed in Parliament, it is the last nail on the coffin of all those who fought the war.
QThe OMP is for the benefit of the families of people gone missing during the war, issuing death certificates, paying compensations etc. are the things done after the war. How can it be a last nail on the soldiers’ coffins?
This Bill equals the terrorist who massacred the innocent civilians and the soldier who sacrificed his life to save the nation. Compensation would be paid to the next of kin of both, the terrorists and the soldiers. This office could sign agreements with foreign companies, receive foreign funds, recruit foreigners without State approval. They can visit any security Force’s camp, Police, CID at any time of the day, demand and get any top secret documents. Refusal would amount to contempt of Court.
They can get evidence from video conferences from abroad, accept it, even such evidences are not acceptable in our courts, according to the Evidence Ordinance.
The funniest thing is that, if a missing person is found to be alive in any country, it can be revealed only with that person’s consent. For example, our Intelligence officers are in remand for more than 320 days for Prageet Ekneligoda’s missing/murder case. If he is found to be alive somewhere, you are not allowed to reveal it unless Ekneligoda himself agrees. If he doesn’t, then our men would be in jail forever whils Ekneligoda’s wife would continue to receive compensation given for the next of kin of missing personnel. This clause has been included for the benifit of the terrorists who have fled the country an on record here as missiong. Doesn’t this amount to cheating ?
QThe Tamil politicians demand a Federal State in the North to meet the aspirations of the Tamil people. Are you against devolution of power? Don’t you think that the Tamil people have a genuine problem?
I am not against devolution of power, but the centre must be in control. If a Chief Minister of a Provincial Council tries to do something against the Constitution of a country, the centre/parliament should be able to intervene and stop it. If not, how can Parliament be supreme?
I heard Mr. Wigneswaran was making a statement on radio about federalism and Tamil aspirations. He should remember that out of the Tamil population in the country, only 49% live in the North and more than 50 % live in other parts of the country among the majority. If federalism is to meet the aspirations of the Tamils in the North, what about the aspirations of the Tamils living outside? Does that mean Wigneswaran is not concerned about those Tamils or is he convinced that their aspirations are already met/fulfilled?
QThe NPC has passed many resolutions in the recent past and many have their own reservations, how do you view that ?
Yes, Chief Minister Wigneswaran, as I said before, seems to be very active in passing resolutions, specially after this government came into power. In fact he prevented the submitting the Tamil Genocide Bill during the last government and had it done during this government, and that is hypocrisy. Passing that type of resolution and sending them to Geneva is a part of the conspiracy to separate the North, as all such reports would be considered during their final push for federalism.
In my 35 years of service in the Navy, I served many years in Jaffna and we did donate blood to the Tamil brethren on many occasions. We are happy that our donated blood had saved our Tamil friends.
Tamils and Sinhalese are living happily as friends as seen everywhere and only the separatist politicians want to separate them to achieve their malicious aims. We have sacrificed a lot for the past 2,500 years to keep this country in one piece and this time 29,000 died and 14,000 were wounded to make that happen. Such a sacrifice would be in vain if we allow our country to be fragmented into pieces. We are prepared to defeat federalism.