• Let Us Not Forget

    Six years ago, the brutal war against one of the most ruthless terrorist organisations in the world, that dragged on for nearly three decades, came to an end under the leadership of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. It was a day that pretty much all Sri Lankans never thought would come in their lifetime. But we were blessed with a leadership strong enough to achieve that miraculous feat.

    For those of us who spent our lives as children under this dark cloud of war can never forget how our childhood was affected because of it. I was one of the lucky ones. I never saw the frontlines of war unlike many Sri Lankan fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, family members and friends. But I am fairly certain that no one in my generation can say they don’t know anyone who was either killed or injured in the war. And I am no different. The war has touched all our lives. Such was our reality.

    But six years ago today – all that changed. In an almost unthinkable way, the war came to an end. Bombs stopped exploding, guns went silent, suicide bombers stopped roaming our streets and the nation started to breathe the air of freedom once again.

    I wonder if people still remember all those (perhaps even the entire world) who doubted that the LTTE could be defeated.

    “The United States has long believed that the Sri Lankan conflict cannot be settled by military means,” one U.S. State Department official once told then Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar back in 2001.

    A former U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka is also reported to have said that he “respectfully disagreed” with those in Sri Lanka who believed that a military solution against the LTTE was possible.

    Even a former Indian military general had said that the “LTTE cannot be defeated militarily.”

    And even a former Norwegian envoy is reported to have said that “Rajapaksa does not understand that Prabhakaran cannot be defeated militarily.”

    Thankfully for all Sri Lankans, all those people who were steadfast in believing that were wrong.

    But unlike in previous years, people have expressed some nervousness in their minds this year. Today, we are seeing that certain factions are using this day for political gain, holding events of “remembrance” under the guise of honouring victims of war. Some of these events are taking place despite court orders banning such events.

    It is quite surprising that the Government is showing a blind eye and allowing these politically-motivated events to take place. The fear in the minds of people is not unfounded. While we continue to honour those who sacrificed so much for our country, I also hope and pray that the Government is more vigilant to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself.

    Often times, as “normalcy without war” becomes our norm, the memories of war become distant, though we never forget all those who sacrificed their lives to bring us freedom. That is what we must remember, commemorate and honour. Let us not forget all the innocent Sri Lankans – Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay and Burgher – who were taken from us too soon. And let us also not forget the thousands of military families who sacrificed their sons and daughters, and husbands and wives to keep Sri Lanka one undivided nation.

  • The Arrest of Corporal Kumara

    As many now know, Corporal Senaka Kumara of the Sri Lanka Army who is a member of my father’s security contingent, and who accompanied me to the SLFP Hambantota District Balamandalaya meeting on the 25th of April 2015 is being wrongly accused of carrying a weapon within a restricted area where President Maithripala Sirisena was also present.

    Unfortunately, this appears to be yet another attempt to bring disrepute to my Father and members of our family by falsely associating us with what is now being portrayed as some plot against the President.

    It is clear that there is no basis to the allegations against Corporal Kumara. But there is a more important issue that is not being highlighted enough and may actually pose a greater threat.

    If the Presidential Security Division (PSD) is insisting that Corporal Kumara is guilty of this offense – at a location that was within the security boundary of the PSD – how was it possible in the first place? Why was an individual (not being a part of the PSD) allowed to enter the premises without undergoing a proper security check? And if that individual (who was not authorised to carry a weapon in the said premises) was found to be carrying a weapon in that area, why was he simply asked to leave the premises and not arrested on-the-spot?

    If this individual had undergone a proper security check at the point of entrance, if there had been a weapon on him, that would have been easily revealed through a body check, at which point, the individual could have been taken into custody with ample justification and proof.

    If the PSD still maintains that Corporal Kumara is guilty, perhaps the question that the authorities investigating the incident should be focusing on the most is, where was the security breach within the PSD that enabled an individual to enter the premises without being properly checked?

    But it is clear that there was no such breach because the incident simply did not take place.

    Having been the son of a sitting president for nearly a decade, I (along with my other family members) am well aware of the security protocol. Even when we attended functions of my Father when he was the President, our own security members (mine or those assigned to my brothers and even my Mother) were not permitted to carry their weapons when entering a location where my Father was present. That is standard protocol, even for family members. We know it well and our security detail knows it well. In those circumstances, the PSD is fully responsible for the security of everyone at that event.

    The security of our leaders is of greatest importance. My family probably understands that better than most, and we respect the protocol. While we, as politicians, are used to the mudslinging that takes place in the political arena, what is disappointing is that innocent people, and now even members of the Armed Forces, who are simply doing their jobs lawfully, are being dragged through the mud as well and being unnecessarily and falsely accused.

    Whatever vengeance people may seek against me or my Father, I hope that they would not falsely implicate members of the Armed Forces and Police who should be left alone to do their jobs.