and pride is important”
As the security forces delivered the final blow to the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), capturing the last bit
of land held by them, the entire nation celebrated with
jubilance. None would be more relieved of the conclusion than
the security forces personnel and their
commanders who fought continuously over the past three years to
bring about this victory.
The person who held the three forces together, liaising between
them and Commander-in- Chief President Mahinda Rajapaksa, is
none other than Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. In an
exclusive interview with The Nation, the Defence Secretary
assessed the significance of the victory that defeated 30 years
of terrorism that threatened to break the country into pieces
and expressed his deep gratitude to the soldiers who fought
tirelessly to bring about this liberation
Following are excerpts:
Q: What do you think about the military victory over the
A: Everybody in this country knows what this war had done
over the past 30 years. There was countless loss of life, damage
to property, hindrances to the development process, breakdown of
the economy during that period.
More than anything else, our national pride was greatly
damaged. We had to live with the label that we could not defeat
terrorism and that it was impossible for us to deal with this
problem. All the while, our country was gradually breaking into
two pieces. If that situation continued, it was inevitable that
the country would end up as two separate nations. When we take
into consideration the large hauls of weapons seized by the
military over the past few years, the number of naval vessels
destroyed and the way that they fought the security forces until
the last moment, we could definitely say the country would have
broken into two, if we had not launched the operation to
liberate the areas held by the LTTE.
Now we have managed to put a stop to this catastrophe and we
have stopped the continuous loss of life because of this war.
The next step will be to re-unite the fragmented society and
regain what was lost during those 30 years by launching
programmes to develop the country. This victory also gives back
the people the dignity and pride they have lost over the years
and re-convince them that we are in fact one of the great
nations in the world. We can now safely say we are the only
country that has been able to defeat terrorism effectively.
I can say that we have now set an example for all the
countries around the world that are battling with terrorism in
their domestic fronts.
Q: What is your opinion about the commitment and sacrifice
made by the soldiers in bringing about this victory?
A: What I always say is that it is not the weapons that win
the war, but the person behind that weapon. Not only within the
past three years, but starting from the first soldier who
sacrificed his life in Kilinochchi in 1980 till today nearly
25,000 soldiers have served the country with their lives. Not
only that a large number, perhaps another 25,000 has been
disabled and yet another large number is still receiving
treatment at hospitals. It is through these types of sacrifices
that we have walked towards victory.
This was not an easy victory. It was made possible through
the sacrifices made by the security forces personnel. The people
in this country should take inspiration from the kind of
commitment displayed by these brave soldiers. Especially in the
process of developing this country, the people should take them
as an example. They have achieved an objective that the entire
world thought impossible.
They were victorious because they strived day and night; from
the Mavil Aru operation until today they never had a day’s rest,
but fought continuously with the same intensity under dangerous
conditions. The terrorist that they fought was very dangerous
and the battle was very hard; it was never a cakewalk. They had
to face brutal weapons and had to keep on moving forward, even
when their friends fell behind wounded or dead. They set an
example for the entire world.
Therefore, we must follow their example when developing this
Q: What is your message to the Tamil community at this
A: The operation we conducted was against terrorists. These
terrorists destroyed our entire country, without giving a second
thought to the fact whether they were harming the lives of
Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim people. In fact, it was the Tamil
people who suffered more because of terrorism.
They eliminated moderate Tamil political leadership, they
destroyed the Tamil culture and they prevented the development
process of the Tamil community.
Most of all they conscripted Tamil youth and children and
destroyed their future entirely.
It is this terrorism that we put an end to today (May 18). We
must ensure that this terrorism is never allowed to raise its
head again and make sure that this country is a place where
people of all ethnicities can live in peace and harmony. We want
to rehabilitate the misguided youth who were with the LTTE and
let them enjoy normal and free lives. We will develop the North
and East and establish democracy there. We ask the Tamil people
to join hands with the rest of the country in this forward march
towards peace and development.
Q: The international community was one of the most
important factors in this war. What is your opinion about their
A: We received an immense contribution from the
international community. I must especially mention the countries
in the region including India and Pakistan, and also China and
The Non-Aligned countries were greatly helpful too. When we had
to face difficult situations at the UN, in Geneva as well as New
York, these countries as well as the countries in the Middle
East rendered us invaluable support.
I must mention that many countries helped by providing
intelligence information. We express our deep gratitude towards
these countries. The fact that we were able to strengthen our
diplomatic ties with India – to an unprecedented level – helped
us greatly in defeating terrorism. This is important in terms of
India’s interest and its role in ensuring security in the
Q: Did the fact that you are the brother of the President
of the country helped in ensuring this victory?
A: Indeed it was helpful. There are several reasons. The
liaison between the military chiefs and the President is
conducted through the Defence Secretary.
Because we are siblings it was easier for me to maintain this
link effectively. Also, since I’m the President’s brother, there
is more commitment than in just another official.
Q: You experienced this war as a professional soldier, a
civilian and then as a bureaucrat. How did these experiences
shaped your point of view on how to strategise the military
A: I have served in the Army for 20 years and took part in
operations during that time. That helped me understand the diffi
culties faced by the service personnel. What is important is not
the understanding of the tactical side of the operations; that
is the task of the commanders; but what is important is to
understand the hardships experienced by the soldiers and
commanders. It also important in understanding what the
political interference into military operations does to the
military personnel. Because of this understanding I knew what
was happening during the periods when the war was ceased.
Sometimes, when you are a civilian only, it is difficult to
understand certain repercussions that happened. Those maybe
minor things for civilians. But, when it comes to the military
actions they are very important. Not having consistency or focus
can have very bad effects on soldiers.
When going into peace talks and giving into certain demands
can create uncertainty among the personnel. That is why we were
very clear on the mission that the military had to accomplish.
It was never ambiguous. It was very much clear. We had to do
certain things. If you go through the past three years, we had
to take certain unpopular measures. At that time some people
questioned why are you doing this. But those measures were
necessary. There were issues with certain media. Those things
had a bearing on the military.
I was able to understand all this because of the military