Anti-Sri Lanka activists have snapped up retired army general Kamal Gunaratne’s tome to buttress their allegations of war crimes against government forces, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera said.
The 741-page “Road to Nandikadal” published by Gunaratne the day after he retired from the army, was a catalogue of atrocities committed by government forces since early 1980s, the minister told reporters at his ministry last week.
Setting fire to homes of Tamil civilians, killing innocent civilians and plundering valuables of homes under the guise of cordon-and-search operations have been listed by Gunaratne in minute detail.The minister said the language used by Gunaratne also indicated that he derived pleasure by seeing the death and destruction around him and in his own words he had admitted that as an officer he did nothing to discipline soldiers under his command.
The book details how government forces set fire to homes and buses in Jaffna during the “1983 referendum (sic – page 30)” and Gunaratne as a young officer “watched it unfold, at times with amazement and at times with eagerness.” The referendum was actually held in December 1982.
Gunaratne’s original unit, the Rajarata Rifles, was disbanded but Gunaratne himself escapes punishment according to his book and the unit emerges as the “mighty Gajaba Regiment.”
Minister Samaraweera said Gunaratne’s book was replete with day-to-day incidents where Gunaratne admitted that he personally assaulted Tamil youngsters for riding motorcycles without wearing helmets. The minister described the book as a betrayal of the Sri Lankan military.
The book was launched in September last year at Colombo’s Ananda College auditorium in the presence of former president Mahinda Rajapaka and his defence secretary brother Gotabhaya. However, serving military officers, many of whom are old boys of Ananda, were conspicuous by their absence.
Several majors general who had retired recently have privately criticised Gunaratne for understating the contributions of his seniors as well as colleagues such as retired majors general Prasanna Silva and Jagath Dias.
Gunaratne also speaks of soldiers robbing Tamil homes during cordon-and search operations and blames troops from the air force and navy for allegedly mistreating army personnel during the war.
He claims he was the first officer to have captured a suspect who took cyanide in military custody.
“I became famous in the army as the first officer to capture a terrorist who swallowed cyanide in custody. I regret not having been able to discover the cyanide when we searched him, upon capture.”
“I was happy to see these terrorists, who were born as children of our motherland and were trying to destroy it, dying one by one,” Gunaratne says in his book.
He also took pleasure at the deaths of Tamil political leaders at the hands of Tigers.
“Whilst there may be some who were saddened by these killings, I must confess that as a young patriotic officer who had witnessed too much of hatred and mayhem caused by their ideology, I was happy. Though I may have been wrong to feel such happiness, it is the unvarnished truth,” Gunaratne said in page 80 of his book.
Minister Samaraweera said Gunaratne’s book was being distributed abroad by pro-LTTE diaspora group to discredit the Sri Lankan army and support their claims of systemic persecution of Tamils. It was also being circulated in Geneva during the Human Rights Council sessions.
“This book provides evidence to those who accuse Sri Lankan forces of war crimes,” the minister said.
He also noted that Gunaratne’s account of the discovery of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s body contradicts with an another account he gave the Lakbima newspaper in June 2009, less than a month after the end of the war.
On page 729, Gunaratne says Prabhakaran was wearing military camouflage uniform of the LTTE and that he also had his LTTE identity card and dog tag when the body was brought before him by soldiers on May 19, 2009.
However, in an interview to the Lakbima newspaper on June 7, 2009, Gunaratne had claimed that it was his troops who dressed Prabhakaran in LTTE military uniform and that the terror leader was in civilian clothing when he was killed.
By his own account, he had tampered with a dead body.