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Military Matters


The story of
‘Eelam War IV’

The Nation and RIVIRA Defence correspondent Tissa Ravindra Perera has brought out a book titled ‘Wanni Maha Satana’, presenting to Sinhala readers a ringside description of the historic Wanni battle that ended the 23-year-old war with the most ruthless and formidable terrorist outfit in the world. Among the contents of this book is a graphic account of the final hours of Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. The book also contains hitherto unpublished details of the amazing feats of our war heroes during ‘Eelam War IV’, from beginning to end, the stuff that make a saga of human bravery and sacrifice. The book also contains an array of rare pictures to lend support to breathtaking accounts given in the book. Tissa’s previous works, ‘Deshaye Mura Devata Eli’, ‘Mavilaruwen Thoppigalata’ and ‘Wanni Satana’ are popular among Sinhala readers. `Wanni Maha Satana’ is a PAHAN publication.

Tigers in INGO clothing

By Tissa Ravindra Perera
Now that the Wanni battle is over, Intelligence sleuths are fully engaged in tracking down and arresting Tiger hit-teams who had infiltrated the city, to carry out attacks.

Military and Police Intelligence are not only successfully tracking down the Tiger hit-teams, but are also in the process of uncovering their sinister plans to create mayhem in the country.

Police Intelligence made a major breakthrough last week, when they bared a Tiger plot to assassinate President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which had been hatched with the connivance of two INGO officials and two local politicians.

Explosives uncovered

This Tiger plan was uncovered following the arrest of a Black Tiger who had been posing as a Muslim under the name Muskin. The day following the arrest of Muskin, another LTTE cadre was nabbed with explosives in his possession. Investigations later led to the arrest of a senior LTTE cadre as well. Sleuths attached to the Western Province Intelligence had discovered several bombs and large quantities of explosives from the hideouts of the Tigers. In one instance, they discovered a gas cylinder stuffed with over 40 kilograms of C-4 explosives at the residence of the senior LTTE cadre arrested at Weppankulam, Vavuniya. 50 detonators, a claymore mine, several bombs, hand grenades and wire rolls were among other items recovered from this house. A magazine, some live bullets and a micro-pistol were also recovered from the lodge of the Manager of Save the Children.
Investigations have revealed that the explosives meant for assassinating the President, had been transported to Colombo with the help of the two politicians, who are to be arrested. shortly.

The enemy within

Meanwhile, three drivers, two from two UN Agencies (one located at Kurumankadu, Vavuniya and the other at Puntottam), the third one from ‘Save the Children’, have now been arrested. It transpired during investigations that the Tigers had planned to transport explosives to Colombo from Kilinochchi by vehicles belonging to the UNHCR. Their mode of operation was to pack domestic cylinders with C-4 high explosives after removing the bottom cover and re-fixing it after packing. The vehicles belonging to two INGO officials, one of them an American, the other a Swede had been used to transport these cylinders packed with explosives from Kilinochchi. The two INGO officials have been taken in for questioning. Thanks to the efficient functioning of Western Province Intelligence Division, several previous attempts to assassinate President Rajapaksa and launch bomb attacks in the city by Tigers, could be thwarted. The timely arrest of two Tiger suicide bombers, Vatsala and Vadini, and a Police Inspector who had aided and abetted them, by the Western Province Intelligence Division, aborted another attempt on the life of the President and his family members.

Meanwhile, State Intelligence is proceeding with investigations into the case, where an Army Colonel bought by the LTTE, had planned to assassinate the President, Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Army Commander Sarath Fonseka.
It had transpired during these investigations that some officers from the Army, Police and the Navy had maintained ties with the LTTE and these officers are to be questioned.

War booty unearthed

Meanwhile, troops carrying out mopping up operations in Wellamullaivaikkal, had unearthed currency notes amounting to Rs. 6.4 million and a large haul of gold jewelry worth millions of rupees, buried inside a Tiger bunker. The authorities believe that the money and gold jewelry were removed from safes and vaults of Tiger banks. The currency notes and jewelry were found packed in polethene bags and school bags and buried about a foot under the bunker. Money and jewelry had been buried on the orders of Karikalan, and the Tiger leaders had appropriated portions from this `treasure trove’, before retreating to safety.
Prabhakaran’s parents have been brought to Colombo pending necessary legal action to be taken against them.
Security authorities have learnt from a Tiger under interrogation, that there had been three more `submarines’ similar to the one the troops discovered near the ship Farah-3 at Wellamullaivaikkal quite recently. The Tiger had revealed that they had put on a trial ride four submarines they had turned out. It was following this information that troops discovered the submarine near the ship. This submarine is believed to be the target identified and hit by a surveillance plane of the Air Force, which later came under the Army’s artillery fire as well, towards the end of the Wanni battle.

Army Chief pays tribute

Army Commander General Fonseka, who paid a visit to Mulativu on June 19, which was, incidentally, the first ever visit paid to this war-torn area by an Army Commander, took time off to inspect this Tiger submarine. General Fonseka, who was at the scene of the last battle, just one month after the historic victory, made it a point to pose for a picture with the heroes of the last battle. Later, he addressed the war heroes.

“There is no army in the world that has put a complete end to a war, after destroying the entire enemy hierarchy. Our army has demonstrated that its prowess and morale are not second to any other in the world. Some thought that I was out of my mind, when I said that I would finish the war in three years. We could successfully conclude this war that raged for 23 years with no end in sight, in a matter of two years and 10 months, after destroying 22,000 Tigers. We prosecuted the war according to a plan. We planned to corner the remaining Tigers in this stretch of land, before destroying them, and we did it. We, at Puthukudiiruppu, Putumatalan and Wellamullaivaikkal, repeated King Dutugemunu’s feats at Vijitapura.

“The entire world has already accepted that the Sri Lanka Army has achieved an amazing victory. We achieved this victory thanks to the valour and bravery demonstrated by our soldiers in a spirit of self-sacrifice. They fought day and night, undaunted by formidable odds. I have come here today, to pay my tribute to our valiant soldiers, for their memorable performance at this place just one month ago. All those soldiers who contributed to the victory will be honoured with medals and promotions,” said General Fonseka.

Promotions and postings

Steps are now being taken to award war medals to all heroes, including the fallen ones. Lieutenants will be promoted to the rank of Captain, Lieutenant Colonels to the rank of Colonel, and Colonels to the rank of Brigadier.

Military Secretary Brigadier Sumith Padumadasa issued a letter on June 22, appointing Colonel Aruna Jayasekara of the Gemunu Regiment, as Director, Operations of the Army. His predecessor, Colonel Aruna Wanniarachchi has been appointed Chief of Staff, Brigadier at the new Division headquarters in Mulativu. Director Planning, Brigadier Mahesh Senanayake has been appointed to act as Director Training, while functioning in his substantive post.

Major General Jagath Dias, who commanded 57 Division that captured Tiger bastions of Tampane, Periyatampane, Periyamadu, Palampiddi, Tunukkai Mallawi and Kilinochchi up to Vishwamadu, has been appointed as Deputy Ambassador to Sri Lanka’s embassy in Berlin. Major General Udaya Perera, who functioned as Director Operations of the Army, had already been appointed as Sri Lanka’s Deputy High Commissioner for Malaysia. This was the first time that Army Officers have been appointed to diplomatic positions while in active service. The main task entrusted to these officers is to counter anti-Sri Lanka terrorist forces active or likely to become active in the countries to which they have been posted.

****

Tissa Abeysekara: The enigmatic genius

By Jayantha Anandappa (Sydney, Australia)

 It is with sadness that I pen these lines on Tissa Abeysekara who had departed so suddenly and unexpectedly and in my opinion with his mission not really accomplished.  When I heard about his death, I felt as if I have lost someone close and dear to me. 
 Although mainly acknowledged him as the best scriptwriter for cinema Tissa’s contributions to art spread across many spheres.  As a bilingual writer he probably surpassed even the great Martin Wickremasinghe who sounded somewhat “laboured” in English.  Surely Tissa will be remembered as an iconic figure in the contemporary cultural landscape just as Lester James Peiris, Martin Wickremasinghe, Amaradeva or Sarathchandra.

 Tissa had no vested interest in any specific camp, group or an academy.  To me that was one of his most endearing qualities as an artiste/ critic.  He was very much like an “outsider” to the art field like his illustrious mentor, Lester.

 His fearless independence and his vast knowledge in varied fields were mirrored in his writings.  His sharp, critical mind and the refusal to accept any established view without critically assessing it and his willingness to always back his views with reason was his hallmark.  He spoke and wrote both in Sinhala and English from his heart with eloquence and flair-as if he had two mother tongues and I must confess that I generally savoured whatever he wrote, particularly in English.  His peers would have envied his versatility.  I would not blame them- for Tissa was light years ahead of his peers including the university dons when it came to language, oration and criticism in either language.

 It is needless to say it is with his artistic creativity that he reached the heartbeat of the people and it is for this that people would like to remember him. His abundant creative talents and eloquence were an adornment to his knowledge.  Perhaps the reverse may be truer.

 I think it is Tissa’s wandering mind that traversed across various domains ranging from literature, music, history, cinema and art that made that unique fascinating personality that he was.

What drew me to have a personal contact with Tissa was the “role” he played as a musicologist or a music critic and his in-depth knowledge of Sunil Santha’s works- a composer, vocalist and a man who had fascinated me endlessly.  I wanted to know more about this musician who was unfairly victimised by the establishment.  Hearing that Tissa was planning to write a book on the great musician I continued to talk to him and wrote to him urging him to start this task without postponing.  The book never eventuated- unfortunately.

 It is this common interest on Sunil Santha initially and my insatiable passion for literature and art films that made me continue with my interactions with Tissa.  It is through these conversations- though short, random and sometimes far apart that I found the most fascinating and intriguing facets of this truly great man.

 It amazed me how Tissa kept on stubbornly refusing to acknowledge his own masterpiece “Viragaya” as his best work and always referred to “Mahagedara” as his best cinematic creation- a film with a theme that drew heavily from melodramatic stock.  When I disagreed he provided a flimsy counter argument that “Mahagedara” was his own story but “Viragaya” was not.  I always thought there was a touch of hypocrisy in this assessment.  From his subsequent writings and from his lack of interest to correct this position as evident from his silence on the subject when the whole world had voiced a contrary view, it was clear that Tissa was inclined to maintain his position for reasons unknown until his death.

 Even more intriguing was the position that he maintained through the Sinhala newspaper columns from early nineties about the length of the film (Viragaya) and that the full length movie was shown only in Regal in the first two weeks of the first round of screening.  In his writings he had implied that whilst the film was running its producer had visited the film theatres and had cut and chopped the film- her own production!  When I told him that I saw the film in Nugegoda which ran over 3 hours and it looked in perfect order, he was quick to distract me by saying that he shot the film originally for 4 hours.  It was evident that the theatre owners were the culprits who had skipped reels willy-nilly due to the excessive length of the film.  Tissa was aware of this, though he chose to always blame the producer. 

 It is well documented that Tissa always lamented that he could not complete one of his previous films “Mung Mula Wael” which the producer Munidasa de Silva of Linton fame aborted after shooting was complete.  This was a much talked about topic in early eighties.  Perhaps Tissa was not an easy person to work with?

With “Viragaya” which is a miracle of art and a sublimely beautiful “transcript” of Martin Wickremasinghe’s celebrated novel, quite surprisingly Tissa could not find a producer.  Though during the post- Viragaya period he produced some noteworthy art work in the form of teledrama (Pitagamkarayo- probably the best teledrama made in Sinhala, “Vana Sarana” an absorbing drama based on Spittel’s famous novel) he was drifting away from cinema, certainly as a filmmaker.   

I am sure this deeply hurt his ego and troubled him because quite rightly Tissa knew that he belonged to the cinema not teledrama- that too as a director.  He knew that he could have surpassed “Viragaya”.  After relinquishing his duties as the Chairman Film Corporation, in response to one of my e-mails Tissa wrote on 13 Aug 2003 that “I have scheduled the Sunil Shantha Book for next year. It requires hard work and much time. At the moment I am trying to resurrect my career as a filmmaker, after being in the bureaucratic wasteland for two-and-a-half years trying to help others to make films”. 

 Tissa of course could never resurrect his career as a film director.  He once told me over the phone that he is on the verge of finding a producer and is planning to embark on filming Sarathchandra’s “Malagiya Aeththo”.  Remembering that the novel was based in Japan I quickly noted that “You may have to go to Japan to film it?” I remember him saying “I like to do something big, something good”.  Knowing what he had achieved in Viragaya it raised expectations sky-high.  I even started to imagine how he would film some of those scenes from Sarathchandra’s novel.

 When I contacted Tissa again he was writing a script for Sunil Ariyaratne (Uppalawanna) – the finished product was a dull work, lacking intensity and human drama.  Whilst Sunil Ariyaratne must take the lion share of the blame for poor direction, Tissa’s script too was mediocre.  Identical comment applies to his script for the teledrama based on Wickremasinghe’s much under-rated “Kaluwara Gedara”.  But this does not mean that Tissa’s talents were diminishing- perhaps to be permanently labelled as a mere script writer- now in teledramas- a role that he was always trying to get away from, way back from the “Karumakkarayo” days would have been too monotonous and too stale to stimulate the creative artist in him.

 Realising that he could probably never make another feature film, his wandering mind which was always oscillating between cinema, literature, music, art, history and that apologetic unconvincing leftist- he eventually turned to English fiction- one of his true callings.  He has already published “Bringing Tony Home” a highly readable nostalgically evocative autobiographical “sketch” which won him the prestigious “Gratiean Award” and established his reputation as a serious writer of fiction in English in 1996.
 His “In the Kingdom of my Sun and the Holy Peak” a collection of three unrelated stories or novellas, amazingly engrossing and beautifully written- is a type of a book only a literary genius could write.  I thought it is certainly a giant leap from his earlier work in English.  The three stories particularly the middle one must hold a very high place in the contemporary English fictional writing in any country.  More was to follow, I thought gleefully.

 I was pleased to hear that Tissa had recently re-published in international press “Bringing Tony Home” and have added three more stories to this. I was swamped with mixed feelings when I read that it surpasses even his highly rated “In the Kingdom of my Sun—“

 Tissa Abeysekara had made ground breaking far-reaching changes to the cinema in the art of dialogues, story and script writing.  But to remember him merely as the best script writer would be to seriously undermine his value as an artist.  He was a genius who could not reach the pinnacle of his career as a filmmaker as he could not find a producer to work with since the immortal “Viragaya”.  He returned to fictional literature at twilight- probably his first love when he realised that the doors of the cinema as a director would never open for him again.  But since then he has given us two outstanding literary gems in English.  Posterity will remember Tissa with gratitude for this. When Tissa was about to embark on a long fruitful new journey and perhaps was about to break into the international literary circle he was snatched away “cruelly” from us.  He was probably the best gift we had to the world as a writer of English fiction and sadly was nipped in the bud.
 This is where I think I should stop and salute this great man.

****