By Rajan Hoole –
Border Aggression and Civilian Massacres – Component 3
We saw in earlier chapters that Gandhiyam and other social service NGOs assisting Tamils in these border areas had been getting targetted from late 1982. Gandhiyam was sealed in April 1983 and its leaders detained. On the eve of the July ’83 violence Gamini Dissanayake created veiled threats of robust-arm techniques against Tamils settled in areas earmarked for Sinhalese colonisation (Chapter five). In the prison massacre, Dr. Rajasundaram, probably the single most active worker among these refugees in the field, was murdered by the State in a most contemptible manner.
In the weeks following the July violence there was an air of impunity and anarchy and also, as we shall see, grand plans to drive away the Tamil settlers and even destroy old Tamil villages along border places and put in militarised Sinhalese settlements. And whom did these strategists decide on as their model? Why, Israel of course! Gamini Dissanayake was at the forefront and for him it was a continuation of what was begun just before the July 1983 violence. He was soon joined by Ravi Jayewardene who, as the President’s security advisor, was a important figure at operational level.
On the 1 hand Jayewardene was speaking to the Indian Government’s envoy G. Parthasarathy who was attempting to push by means of a political settlement to the ethnic dilemma, but on the other he was making overtures to the US in a bid to obtain a military remedy. The num- ber of Tamil militants nevertheless was then tiny and the escalation sought by Jayewardene was to prove really expensive.
In the afternoon of 30th September 1983, the US Defence Secretary Casper Weinberger flew into Colombo and had talks with President Jayewardene for the duration of a short stopover. This was picked up by the Indian Press, which speculated about US military help to Sri Lanka in re- turn for naval facilities at Trincomalee. The manner in which the Sri Lankan foreign ministry dealt with the matter was to look for difficulty where none existed. They issued a statement that Weinberger had decided to take this route whilst flying from Peking to Islamabad in Pakistan, and had made a refuelling cease in Colombo. They stressed that it was none of India’s business. While Weinberger was here on a 90 minute stopover, the statement said, Jayewardene invited him to tea and they met. The Foreign Ministry by its haughty attitude gave an impression that a favourable deal with a super energy was involved. These developments have been the context in which the Indian Government took a choice in late 1983 to train and arm Tamil militant groups.
What the US was hunting for, would grow to be clear later. The US and Britain did not want to confront India by becoming straight involved in Sri Lanka. The Weekend columnist Don Mithuna (30.9.84), quoting the London Economist, mentioned: “The Americans produced up for their own cold-shoul- dering of Sri Lanka by offering a go-among, Gen- eral Vernon Walters, who helped to draft the agree- ment signed last Might (1984) with Israel.” Regardless of denials by the US Embassy in Colombo, that there had been some direct US help is suggested by the American author of Only Man is Vile. William Mc Gowan quoted a Sri Lankan Air Force pilot telling him (in 1987) that a Vietnam War veteran had flown several operations in this country.
Sri Lanka had broken diplomatic ties with Israel in 1970 in maintaining with a Third Globe consensus when the Left-leaning government led by Mrs. Bandaranaike was voted into energy. Jayewardene’s government that was elected in 1977 was anxious for Israeli help. That it had produced speak to with Israel ahead of the July 1983 violence was confirmed in an interview to the veteran journalist Mervyn de Silva by Mr. David Matnai, initial head of the Israeli Interests Section in the US Embassy (Sunday Island two.9.85).
There was a single matter regarding which sections of both the Sinhalese and the Tamil elite drew inspiration from Israel – the border places of the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The former saw in the Israeli example a indicates to breaking the back of Tamil nationalist aspira- tions and preserving a unitary Sri Lanka below the hegemony of the Sinhalese elite. The Tamil elite saw in it a means of securing the sparsely populated border areas from additional intrusions by the State by means of colonisation. The Western Jewry’s Zionist dream of Israel, was made viable by absorbing a large quantity of Shepardim Jews who till then had been living with dignity among the Arab individuals, and to whom Israel’s violent and iniquitous creation brought insecu- rity. The Sinhalese and Tamil elite’s border projects also, like the Zionist dream, had to be accomplished by proxy.
The Sinhalese elite looked to pushing militarised colonies of deprived Sinhalese into the North-East in an Israeli West-Bank style ex- pansion into Arab territory. Numerous amongst the Tamil elite drew inspiration from Leon Uris’ Exodus which glorified the pioneering spirit of post Planet War II Jewish refugees in Palestine. Although young Tamil school leavers were can- vassed, it was largely the Tamil refugees from the Hill Nation with couple of other options in the globe who settled in these regions.
According to Sinha Ratnatunga, President Jayewardene entrusted the process of creating con- tact with Israel to his son Ravi in October 1983. Thereafter Cabinet Secretary G.V.P. Samarasinghe had a secret meeting with senior Israeli officials in Europe in the course of November 1983 (see Ratnatunge’s Politics of Terrorism p.162). The deal for Israeli intelligence knowledge was finalised later throughout UN Common Assembly ses- sions in New York and was formally operational by May possibly 1984.
Sinha Ratnatunga (p.315 of the book above) gives us an insight into the mind of the Sinha- lese establishment: “The President who is also the Minister of State Plantations also hopes to increase the plantation business in the Eastern Province. The twin objective is to develop the unused land as effectively as establish a stronger presence of the State in the area… At the initial stage, separatist [i.e. Tamil] youths objecting to such programmes could attempt to disrupt its workings, but the newly established Planters Corp [sic] supported by the typical forces might be required to defend these schemes.”
This euphemistic description no doubt takes into account the sensibilities of the Australian readership of the book. Interestingly, Don Mithuna says in the write-up of September 1984 quoted above: “The Israeli Interests Section itself has reportedly claimed that they are right here not to train any soldiers but to promote their diplomatic image as well as for “agricultural” purposes.” Mervyn de Silva told the Mossad Commission (CDN 20.7.91) that as of August 1984, there were re- portedly up to six domestic intelligence authorities from Israel operating with the Government ‘to establish a new intelligence network against the Tamils’.
Against these developments it becomes easy to recognize what was in the Government’s thoughts when the Joint Services Particular Operations Command (JOSSOP) was formed on a directive from the President at the starting of October in 1983. It was a joint organisation of the three solutions and the Police along with some civilians under Navy Commander Rear Admiral Asoka de Silva as Co-ordinator-in-Chief. Its stated purpose was to “co-ordinate anti-terrorist activities in the districts of Vavuniya, Mannar, Mullaitivu and Trincomalee” (Rohan Gunasekera, Island 13.11.84). Yet another important role of JOSSOP was to oversee civil affairs such as land- settlement.
With such a high-powered organisation in location, the 1st operation to the credit of the Rear Admiral was announced in the Press a week af- ter Casper Weinberger’s check out. It was described as a ‘flush out’ operation. It had nothing at all to do with flushing out ‘terrorists’ armed to the teeth who have been certainly quite scarce at that time. This was about corralling human beings, males, girls and youngsters, and deporting them to god knows exactly where. There was no direct connection with Weinberger of course, but the context sug- gests exactly where the Government was heading.
The item by Peter Balasuriya in the Island of 7th Oct.1983 titled ‘Gandhiyam Movement’s squat- ters to be evicted’, said: “… It is stated that more than fifty stateless families, comprising practically 250 males, women and youngsters had been brought from the program- tations and settled on 500 acres earmarked by the Government for the settlement of landless villagers inside the electorate under a Planet Bank project. This encroachment had started two years ago when the Gandhiyam Movement launched a large-scale encroachment in the jungle regions of Vavuniya and Mullaitivu and other places off Vavuniya.”
It claimed that beneath a land policy scheme with Planet Bank help, landless peasant families in the Vavuniya District had been picked by the Government Agent for settlement in 500 acres of virgin forest at Pavatkulam, but was unable to proceed due to the fact of encroachers sponsored by the Gandhiyam. The aim of the stated operation was clearly to establish a Sin- halese settlement making use of Globe Bank funds. It was barely two months after the communal violence and Tamil allotees, if any, were not going to take up land in the mixed region south of Vavuniya below the supervision of the armed forces they did not trust. Gamini Dissanayake was minister of lands and Mahaveli develop- ment, and what’s far more, the second-in-command at JOSSOP was D.J. Bandaragoda, Added Secretary, Mahaveli Improvement!
Bandaragoda had been the best Govern- ment Agent for Trincomalee from the point of view of the Sinhalese State, who used each and every sub- terfuge to push Sinhalese settlement. The cam- paign against the Gandhiyam by way of the Press was first orchestrated by the Government 10 months earlier, in the course of the 1-sided Referen- dum campaign, on 28th November 1982 (see Sect. eight.2). Mr. R. Sampanthan, MP, discovered it sin- ister adequate to contact Jayewardene immedi- ately. The reference to the Gandhiyam in the Press report cited (Island 7.ten.83) was symptom- atic of sick minds that had lost any sense of pro- portion. It stated at the end:
“The activities of the Gandhiyam move- ment and its leaders in Vavuniya and other components of the Eastern Province are now the sub- ject matter of investigations by the CID and ISD. Some of its leaders are currently in cus- tody while some escaped recently after the Batticaloa jail break.”
The truth was that Gandhiyam was completed. Its offices were sealed on 6th April 1983. Of the two leaders arrested, Rajasundaram was mur- dered and the ‘some’ who escaped was in truth one – A. David. These whom the Gandhiyam had looked soon after now faced the tender mercies of the JOSSOP. The talk of investigation by the CID and ISD was only a threat to these who may well come forward to continue Gandhiyam’s work. The nasty items often being said about Rajasundaram did not strike these say- ing them as utterly indecent and unfair to a self- less and committed man whom their agents had murdered with no giving him a opportunity to ex- plain himself in court. Living in this state of thoughts was to see ghosts, as with the alacrity with which the chiefs of the Mahaveli Authority in the wake of the anti-Tamil violence of July, took measures against imagined organised hordes of Tamils occupying lands they had designated for Sinhalese colonisation.
The trigger of the JOSSOP nonetheless necessary speaking the Gandhiyam to life and attributing to it all kinds of amazing actions in order to play on Sinhalese fears. This created a climate of self-justifying repression and a blind escalation of the conflict. With every step the Government was suspending the democratic signifies to right- ing a incorrect. About this time, thanks to the 6th Amendment, nearly all the parliamentary rep- resentatives of the Tamils had lost their seats in Parliament, producing thus a symbolic break. By the end of 1983, except for these most discern- ing about the consequences of big-energy in- volvement, practically all the Tamils have been pleased about India’s support for the Tamil militant groups. The Government’s simple-minded ar- rogance had carried relations with India to breaking point.
Speaking up organised hordes of Tamils en- croaching on borderlands with Gandhiyam aid was to be the stuff of orchestrated campaigns for the duration of those occasions. The use of foreign help to es- tablish militarised Sinhalese settlements became an situation with the publication of Viktor Ostrovsky’s book (see Sect. 20.five). This was pi- ously denied. But that was part of the game. We saw above an indication of how Planet Bank money was to be employed. Not extended ahead of, the Mahadivulwewa settlement had been estab- lished in the Trincomalee District employing subter- fuge to circumvent Tamil protest. The income involved came from the European Union.
To be continued..
*From Rajan Hoole‘s “Sri Lanka: Arrogance of Energy – Myth, Decadence and Murder”. Thanks to Rajan for giving us permission to republish. To read earlier parts click right here