Gotabhaya faults US over unfair treatment of Major General

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa yesterday alleged that the US government was persecuting Sri Lanka on the basis of false information and wrong assumptions.

A case in point was their recent decision to deprive Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe of a US military programme on the basis of his being the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 53 Division during eelam war IV, an irate Rajapaksa said. Had the US Embassy inquired from Army Headquarters, Maj. Gen. Ranasinghe could have been cleared to attend the overseas course as he wasn’t with the 53 Division during the war, Rajapaksa said.

Throughout the campaign the 53 Division was commanded by Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne of the Gajaba Regiment, whereas Maj. Gen. Ranasinghe of the Army Engineers was at the helm of the formation for five months beginning late last year. Recently he was appointed the Military Secretary. The bottom line was that Maj. Gen. Ranasinghe hadn’t been in command of any of the fighting formations, namely the 57 Division, Task Force I/the 58 Division, 59 Division, 53 Division, 55 Division and three other Task Forces involved in the Vanni offensive.

The Defence Secretary said that he couldn’t understand the basis for the US decision to deny a senior officer, of a friendly country, an opportunity to enhance his knowledge.

Army Commander Lt. Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya raised the issue with the US Embassy. The Army Chief pointed out that Maj. Gen. Ranasinghe had been left out of the programme without any valid reason. Having listened to the representations made by the Army Headquarters, the US Embassy acknowledged that a mistake had been made.

The Defence Secretary said that nothing could be as foolish as rejecting an officer on the basis of him being in command of the 53 Division or any other fighting formation during the conflict.

Maj. Gen. Ranasinghe took over a state-run project to rehabilitate ex-LTTE cadres in Feb 2010. He succeeded Maj. Gen. Daya Ratnayake.

The Defence Secretary expressed surprise that the US Embassy was unaware of Maj. Gen. Ranasinghe’s role as the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation. During his tenure as the rehabilitation chief, Maj. Gen. Ranasinghe worked closely with the international community.

Rajapaksa said that those trying to haul Sri Lanka up before an international war crimes tribunal over accountability issues propagate lies. The alleged use of cluster bombs, too, was another lie propagated by interested parties, the Defence Secretary said, while challenging those accusing Sri Lanka of mass killings, during the final phase of the conflict, at least to come up with one figure. He pointed out that some alleged 40,000 perished during the final phase. Others talk about 70,000 deaths, whereas some British politicians allege 100,000 deaths, the Defence Secretary said.

The Defence Secretary urged the US not to be deceived by false propaganda. “We expect the international community to appreciate our efforts against terrorism. Unfortunately a section of the global community is targeting us over unsubstantiated allegations,” Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said.

Responding to a query by The Island, the Defence Secretary said that combating terrorism was a serious matter, which shouldn’t be undermined by private agendas of various individuals. The LTTE rump had repeatedly targeted some of Sri Lanka’s top military officers, with Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva, currently Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative in New York being the primary target.

The Sri Lankan government is expected to raise the issue with a high level US delegation scheduled to arrive in Colombo over the weekend. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Moore, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Vikram Singh, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jane Zimmerman are scheduled to visit Colombo and Male during the period of January 26 and February 1. James R. Moore has been a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs since September 2010. Moore was previously the Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Colombo from 2006 to 2009.

Courtesy: The Island