Sarath de Alwis
“He who protests is an enemy; he who opposes is a corpse.”
– Pol Pot
In a rebuttal of a newspaper report on the investigation into the murder of Lasantha Wickremetunge, the former Defence Secretary and 2020 Presidential hopeful, Gotabaya Rajapaksa is at pains to explain that then Commander of the Army- Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka was in charge of army intelligence and he was above the brawl and broil. That he was and is lily white in his dealings in the shadowy world of intelligence.
“The Directorate of Military Intelligence of the Army is a branch within the Army command structure and is set out clearly in the Army’s approved organizational structure. It operates under the Director General, General Staff at Army Headquarters, and reports directly to the Army Commander. Its roles and tasks are also clearly defined. During the period of the murder of Wickrematunge, the post of DMI was held by General Amal Karunasekera, and not Retd Gen Kapila Hendavitharana, while the Army Commander was today’s Cabinet Minister of Regional Development in the present Government, Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka. [Police, military personnel under pressure to implicate me falsely – Former Defence Secretary’s response The Island, February 26, 2018]
This statement of Gotabaya Rajapaksa is false. Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the undisputed head of all state agencies handling military and civil intelligence. Every agency reported to him. His control was arbitrary and unrestrained.
We have Gotabaya Rajapaksa himself declaring that he was the boss of all bosses dealing with state intelligence agencies. As the mafia bosses used to say he was the ‘capo de tutti capi’ – the leader of all leaders. He was the country’s ‘God Father’.
Mario Puzo the author of the novel, God Father, wrote ‘Power is not everything. It is the only thing.’
He was describing that rare breed of men such as, Gotabaya Rajapaksa incapable of imagining a life deprived of power over fellow creatures – the primordial instincts of the ‘wolf’.
As Defence Secretary from 2005-2015, Gotabaya Rajapaksa wielded his immense power with a savagery that defies description.
On Christmas Day of 2011, a British national Khuram Shaikh Zaman was murdered and his Russian girlfriend was raped in a resort in Tangalle.
The main accused was a political apparatchik of the family Mafiosi that held sway over Tangalle.
The Leader of the House and Chief Government whip Dinesh Gunawardene responding to a query raised by then UNP Kurunegala District MP Dayasiri Jayasekara said that the 23-year-old Russian partner of Shaikh, Victoria Alexandravona, had only received serious injuries. She had not been raped.
When it was pointed out that it contradicted the statement given by the victim to the Police, soon after the incident, Minister Dinesh Gunawardena gave a mind boggling reply indicative of the Orwellian World in which we lived at the time.
“I am presenting the answer given to me by the Ministry of Defence based on the police records submitted to them. If you have more details or evidence on the matter present it to the Court as there is a case pending.”
In May 2013, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the then Defence Secretary and supreme arbiter on our civil liberties delivered a lecture at the Kotelawala Defence University. Its title- Sri Lanka’s National Security Concerns. As all despots do, Gotabaya Rajapaksa conflated national security with the security of the regime.
Delivered at the zenith of his extraordinary authority that made him the supreme arbiter in Defence and Intelligence matters, he is unabashedly plainspoken. In this lecture, he explains his tight grip on the country’s varied intelligence agencies with the cold detachment of a hangman examining the noose before use!
His nonchalance in claiming to be the supreme whizzbang of the country’s internal security network, while unnerving, offers an insight into his bizarre belief in a democracy minus dissent.
Conflating national security with regime security is an inevitable phenomenon in countries emerging from protracted conflict.
A viable National Security strategy, he explains, “must constantly align ends with means, goals with resources, and objectives with the tools required to accomplish them.”
He identifies what he perceives to be national security concerns of contemporary times- “Foreign interference in domestic affairs” and “Non-traditional threats through technology driven new media, including social media.”
In the manner of a medieval warlord, he explains why he finds it necessary to locate himself at the apex of the national security apparatus.
“Sri Lanka has two primary intelligence arms: The State Intelligence Service and the Defence Intelligence, which comprises the Directorate of Military Intelligence, Directorate of Naval Intelligence, and Air Intelligence. In addition, the Police maintains the Special Branch, while the Special Task Force also has its own Intelligence Division. Furthermore, the Terrorist Investigation Department and Criminal Investigation Department of the Police also work closely with the other Intelligence agencies on matters relating to National Security.
“In the past, the lack of strength and coordination among these various intelligence services used to be a serious issue. It is essential that they work together under a unified command structure to improve coordination and enhance capabilities. Towards this effect, one of the efforts undertaken by the present Government has been to bring these intelligence services under the Chief of National Intelligence, who reports directly to the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence. “
In a series of interviews, the former Defence Secretary has claimed that current investigations into murders, abductions, disappearances and arrant atrocities such as, the Welikada Prison massacre to be political witch hunts.
This is the same national security obsessed strongman who in 2013 clearly claimed that the sole command responsibility for running the many intelligence services to be his exclusive preserve.
In a recent interview, he has accused the government of weakening and undermining the national intelligence agencies. That investigators are yet combing the labyrinthian nooks for the final pieces of evidence demonstrates the resilience of the dark apparatus that he masterminded during his tenure.
As Gotabaya promised his audience at the KDU in 2013, he has indeed aligned means with resources! He has linked objectives with tools to accomplish them!
The deep state he established during the Mahinda Rajapaksa presidency is entrenched. It is more likely that the brother on the throne was himself a hostage of this Pretorian guard.
The slow progress of the investigations into the murder of Lasantha Wickremetunge and the abduction and assault of Keith Noyahr tell us what the investigators are up against.
The deep state that Gotabaya built is well fortified. It has built in surveillance, respectable return fire power and the ability to co-opt resistance across existing structures.
A sycophantic brigade of self-declared war heroes and a resourceful retinue of mercenary monks form the avant-garde of his current war of attrition and his planned 2020 counter offensive.
A soldier returning home after a tour of duty in the North carries a hand grenade that accidentally explodes in Diyatalawa. Sarath Weerasekera the admiral and Kamal Gunaratne the General are both convinced that the LTTE terrorists have reappeared! This is a familiar pattern. These National Security buffs are truly great exponents of the art of mass hysteria. The Government ignores this mischief at its peril.
Mahinda Rajapaksa did not need fear and repression to govern. It was his misfortune to be seduced by the less cumbersome authoritarian path his American émigré brother discovered on arriving in this benighted land after an absence of 15 years.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa has traversed much territory since then. He has secured the loyalty of a parasitic class of entrepreneurial talent in his fronts ‘Eliya’ and ‘Viyath Maga.’
A new middle class, literate yet, not learned, in a hurried search for social mobility makes up his core support base. He offers an authoritarian social compact between a ruling elite of his own creation and the people. He promises to replicate South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. His message is clear. I give you wealth and stability. You come to terms with my style of rule.
The appeal and allure of the ‘yahapalanaya’ has evaporated. The threat of Gotabaya Rajapaksa is clear, present and imminent.
I am past the biblical span of three scores and ten. With the shadows lengthening I listen to Peter Paul and Mary – “Where have all the flowers gone. Where have all the young men gone? Gone for soldiers everyone, when will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?”
Pity! In all those years in America, Gotabaya has not listened to Peter Paul and Mary.