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Sunday, 1 May 2011





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Former Director Operations of Sri Lanka Army denies war crimes allegations:

Darusman Report, a mere cat’s paw

Sri Lanka’s Deputy High Commissioner in Malaysia Maj. Gen. Udaya Perera said that the contents of the Darusman report basically reflects the voice of LTTE and its proxy Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE).

In an interview with the Sunday Observer,maj.Gen. Perera, who functioned as Sri lanka Army’s Director Operations during the humanitarian operation vehemently refuted the allegations levelled against the Sri Lankan Government and the military on war crimes during the final stages of the end battle in 2009.

“Most of the directions were issued to the soldiers through the Army Head quarters. The rules of engagements came from the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the President- to maintain zero casualty, which was very difficult in a conventional or any other war. We are proud as a nation and also as soldiers as we maintained that policy since the inception of the battle to liberate the East”he said.


Q: The UN Secretary General’s report on alleged war crimes during the final stages of the battle against the LTTE terrorism has been released. What do you think about the Darusman report?

A: I don’t consider it a UN report as it has been prepared by three individuals outside the UN system appointed by the UN Secretary General to advise him. Therefore, firstly it has not been sanctioned by any UN Body to be a UN report and secondly as it is a document prepared to advise him, it should have maintained the highest level of confidentiality. Where advice is sought by an individual such advice should be given only to that individual and not to anyone else. Therefore, if someone intends to publicize it, I consider it is unethical by any standard. Already some portion of the advice given to the Secretary General has been published by the print media which is unacceptable.

Unfortunately those printed contents contain basically the voice of LTTE and their proxy TGTE in verbatim. If these are true contents of the advisory report, the question of Rudrakumaran’s involvement in preparing the report may raise a credibility issue as he is well-known to be a fund raiser for the LTTE who used such funds in committing atrocities in Sri Lanka. How can a terrorist get involved in such a process?

Q: You were the Director/Operations during the end battle in May 2009. How do you respond to the alleged war crime charges thrown at the Sri Lankan military by human rights groups and the Darusman report?

A: What I can clearly say is that these allegations are false. I know what really took place in Sri Lanka. Most of the directions were passed down to soldiers through the Army Headquarters. The rules of engagements came from the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the President- to maintain zero casualty, which was very difficult to maintain in a conventional or any other war. We are proud as a nation and also as soldiers as we maintained that policy since the inception of the battle to liberate the East. At that time, the extremist elements and even the LTTE did not complain that the military caused harm or killed civilians. We were able to rescue 200,000 civilians suffered under the LTTE control. In the battle to liberate the East, we adopted a strategy to capture the populated areas under LTTE control in opening up corridors for the civilians to flee to government controlled areas while the LTTE was pushed gradually into the jungles. After gaining control in South of Vakarai, the civilians started fleeing into the government held areas in large numbers and the final battle to liberate the East was fought in the jungles of Thoppigala, where the terrorists were isolated.

It was not an easy task for the military to use minimum fire power to get civilians into our control areas and to push the terrorists into jungles. At that time, we also created channels for the LTTE to withdraw into jungles. As we allowed them to withdraw into jungles to isolate them from the civilians, the terrorists used that opportunity to move their heavy guns, which they used to attack the soldiers. It is a huge risk for the military.

That strategy was fully successful. Though it was a very difficult task the military, was compelled to follow the instructions as the government strongly ordered to maintain zero casualty policy throughout the battle. We established democracy in the East. The military captured large hauls of weapons from the LTTE in the East and it also caused heavy death toll to the outfit.

Most of the LTTE cadres died in the East were in civilian clothes but no one including the so-called human rights activists of the international community or Tamil Diaspora, which never wanted the government to defeat LTTE terrorism, complained any harm to the civilians in the East.

The reason was then the government was not a challenge to them as they never expected that the LTTE would be defeated. They were of the view that defeating the LTTE was an impossible task for the government. The Sri Lanka Army launched the 57 division against the LTTE domination in the North while its troops were fighting to liberate the East. While the battle to liberate the North was progressing, the military adopted the same strategy to maintain zero casualty policy. We opened designated corridors for civilians to come out while pushing the LTTE to the North East. Leaflets were dropped instructing the civilians to use the designated corridors to flee the LTTE domination but the terrorists who got leaflets used their fire power to prevent civilians from abandoning them. The government did not have any choice but continued with the humanitarian operation to rescue thousands of civilians from the LTTE’s atrocities.

The government throughout continued to send food, medicine and other necessary requirements such as medical and education facilities. Schools, hospitals and other administrative services were functioning and food for over 500,000 people was also dispatched knowing very well that the lion’s share of it would go to the LTTE.

Strategically and militarily it was a huge disadvantage for us as we were feeding the terrorists. Even in a conventional battle, the first thing the military does is that it discontinues the logistics but here we fed the LTTE.

Since the government was fully committed to rescue civilians, it first opened up corridors and then declared a No Fire Zone (NFZ) to save the innocent lives. We would not have provided such facilities if we wanted to kill the innocent civilians. While the LTTE was killing the civilians who tried to flee, recruiting under-aged children and ordinary civilians forcibly and attacking the advancing troops will heavy weapons mounted among civilians in the NFZ, the government kept on expanding the NFZ further to save the lives of innocent civilians. The military never attacked the NFZs and used infantry (in a conventional set up) to attack the terrorists. Sri Lanka Army had about 16 Infantry Divisions and in a conventional setup there will be a minimum of four to five Artillery Divisions and three to four Armoured Divisions to support Infantry Divisions. When we were fighting the Wanni battle we had only one Artillery Brigade and one Armour Brigade. You must understand my difficulty as Director/ Operations in shifting guns from one area to the other. Sometimes a division was given one or two guns to fight a battle and a Divisional Commander would never ever accept this in any other Army. We fought with much constraint and the hands of the military were tied up to save more lives though we suffered heavy damages.

The government did not intentionally provide the required weapons in order to maintain the zero casualty policy.

While the troops were advancing and the terrorists were herding the civilians as hostages, the government further expanded the NFZ. When the battle lines were shifted, we came across schools, hospitals, UN and ICRC centres and many other state buildings abandoned by the civilians as they were chased by the LTTE. The LTTE used such buildings to attack the troops.

With confidence I can say, the military did not attack intentionally any of those public buildings which we had identified early through sophisticated equipment. Through the UAV images the entire world saw how mercilessly the terrorists were attacking the innocent civilians running for life. The LTTE who were inside the hospitals and schools attacked the soldiers.

If we want to attack hospitals and schools we would not have provided food and medicine for the civilians.

Q: Do you mean to say until the very end, the soldiers fighting in the forward defence lines were ordered to maintain the zero casualty policy?

A: Yes. They were all ordered to adhere to it and they were committed to save the civilian lives but remember it was a huge task for the military. We are proud that we achieved the target. However collateral damage is possible under those circumstances. Intentionally no civilian targets were attacked at all.

Q: Sri Lankans have the experience of so many battles which never progressed to defeat the LTTE. What was the main factor that contributed to the victory?

A: It is not a single factor but a combination of many. The main factor was the strong political leadership committed to end the scourge of the 30-year-old terrorism. The other is the dedication and expertise of Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who could feel the pulse of the military. He always maintained a close rapport with the top and the lower rungs meeting them at least once a month to evaluate the progress and shortcomings of the battle and took steps to rescue the civilians. He addressed not only the commanders of certain level but also the soldiers and the message was delivered that no civilian casualties would be allowed. All soldiers were committed to it and if anyone accuses our soldiers for killing civilians he should watch the videos to see how our soldiers rescued the innocent Tamil civilians feeding them with their own rations and giving them medical treatment for injuries inflicted by the LTTE attacks.

When you come to the last stage of the battle fought in close quarters there could be co-lateral damage.

We had a very good grip over the artillery and armour as we had one for each brigade. That tough control was there over the guns because of the very small structure we had. The two brigade commanders knew what kind of guns they had used, the time of firing and the location. Last but not least is the support we received from the Tamil community in the country and if not for their support defeating LTTE would have been more difficult.

Q: Do you mean to say that the Army has a valid account for all the weapons it used in the end battle?

A: Yes, they were responsible for each and every weapon they used. In making an allegation if anybody gives the time, place and the type of guns fired at a particular place, surely the brigade commanders should know all about it. I must say this is only one side of the story.

Those who make allegations against the Sri Lankan military on war crimes should look at the other side of the story too, where the LTTE leadership held over 300,000 civilians as hostages due to hopes given by some segments of the international community that it will be saved even at the last moment.

Disillusioned by that hope Prabhakaran held the civilians as a buffer until the so-called international community come to save him and his mission. When such a hope is given to a maniac like Prabhakaran, he held in hostage over 300,000 civilians in a small stretch of land subjecting them to dangers and death if ever any of them dared to escape. This scenario would have been different if the international saviours had not given him hopes.

Those who are now talking about civilian casualties should have spoken about them at that time and given a clear message to Prabhakaran that he should abandon his failed mission to save civilian lives. But they never did it.

Another fact was that most of the terrorists, who were recruited forcibly and were ill-trained fought the soldiers in civilian clothes. Soldiers did not have any choice when they were fighting in close quarters.

We had to engage, otherwise we will lose the battle. Having deployed the ill-trained cadres to fight the well-trained soldiers Prabhakaran had kept his experienced cadres to protect him. We can not be held accountable for the deaths of terrorists who were fighting the soldiers in civilian clothes. Over 30,000 LTTE cadres died.

Q: The Sri Lankan soldiers faced allegations of rape and the harassment of civilians during some of the previous battles. Did the Army give tough punishment to the soldiers who were involved in these incidents?

A: Yes, tough measures were taken to maintain their discipline. Orders were given to all ground commanders to enforce it and also ensure that the soldiers were committed to maintain it 100 percent.

The main reason for the good record was that we have a very experienced and professional force. When we launched the battle against terrorism in 1983, our soldiers did not have the expertise, and experience (and strategy) and several of such instances were reported. But when it comes to 2006 it was not the same Army, which was fighting then. The new political leadership and professional military outfit never tolerated such incidents. We wanted to isolate the LTTE by building confidence in military among the civilians to get them on to our side. Almost all the soldiers obeyed the orders fully.

Q: Can the LTTE make a come-back through the pro-LTTE for a like Global Tamil Forum?

A: The LTTE as a fighting force will never come back. The Sri Lankans, who suffered due to LTTE terrorism for nearly 30-years, irrespective of their ethnicity will not allow the LTTE to come back.

It is sad that the pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora despite all the negative responses towards the LTTE, is still clamouring the support for the LTTE and trying to fight the government, which launched a gigantic task for rebuilding the lives of those who suffered under the LTTE. They are still in a failed attempt to create Eelam while all communities are living peacefully in united Sri Lanka.

Q: How could persons like Rudrakumaran survive without TGTE? Until he can maintain it, he will hook to this mission. How can he become Prime Minister if he quits the TGTE? Can he get this through democratic means and who will respect him?

A: I am sure he will not give up Eelam dream because of wealth and power. I am also a Catholic but it is a shame that the Catholic Priest Emmanuel was propagating the LTTE ideology. As these people cannot be with out organisations like GTF, they will carry forward these pro-LTTE movements for their survival.

I don’t think that the ordinary Tamils here and abroad and also certain sections of the international community which has now realized the truth will support them anymore.However, these pro-LTTE groups will remain as they need to survive through propagating the LTTE ideology.This will come to an end the day these pro-LTTE elements are convinced that they are still in a failed mission for, which they could muster no faith or support from the Tamils worldwide.

Ganegama Vithanage Don Udaya Annesly Perera

The Catholic environment at home made the youngest of the Perera family of four girls and three boys, to dream to get into robes. When he started schooling, the disciplined La Sallian Brothers of the De Mazenod College, Kandana too influenced him to become a Catholic priest one day.

He lost his father Wilfred, who was a senior superintendent of Post and Telecommunication and the President of UPTO (Union of Post and Telecommunication Officers), when he was only 13.

Fate drove him to a different direction as he wanted to pursue a challenging career after he sat for his Advanced Level examination.

Having excelled in studies and sports, received College and Public Schools Colours for Athletics and played soccer and basketball for the school, he joined the Sir John Kothalawela Academy to pursue a degree course.

After a few months in the Academy he joined the Sri Lanka Army as an Officer Cadet in October 1981.

He was appointed a Second Lieutenant in June 1983, and was commissioned to 1st Battalion, the Gajaba Regiment.

Young soldier Udaya faced many challenging tasks in counter terrorism operations against the insurgent group, the LTTE-in mid 1980s.

Having launched counter terrorist operations in the East in his capacity as Platoon Commander, then as Company Commander in Jaffna Peninsula and Weli Oya, he commanded his Company during the Thrivida Balaya rescue operation to reserve Jaffna Fort. With the success of each mission he fulfilled, he was promoted to higher ranks.

“I led the first wave of troops to reach the Jaffna Fort from Mandaithivu island during the Operation Thrivada Balaya, in 1986. Due to heavy resistance I lost half of my Company Officers and troops during the dare-devil crossing through the lagoon.

However despite all odds against us we reached the Fort and rescued those besieged inside the Fort. My CO at that time was Col Gotabaya Rajapaksa, said Maj. General Perera recalling the unforgettable incident in his counter terrorism operations.

As Deputy Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Malaysia, he said that he never thought that he would become a diplomat one day.

I performed a very challenging task during the end battle and my present job is also a challenging one. For a soldier the job of a diplomat is rather difficult not because of its professional background but the two belong entirely to two different set ups.

Unlike the army career a diplomat has to strive hard to get things done.

The soldier cum diplomat says that he is still exploring the world of diplomacy.

Born to a multi religious family - father, a Buddhist and mother, a Catholic and wife Thelma, a Buddhist, Major General Perera always believes in God.

“I have a great respect for the philosophy of Buddhism.

There is one thing that I believe - if you are a good Buddhist you are a good Catholic as well. It is not race or religion that matters but what good you can do to the society” he says.

Having obtained a Masters Degree in Defence and Strategic Studies (1st Class) from the University of Madras and a Post Graduate Diploma on Counter-Terrorism from the National Defence University, Washington DC, he was the Director Operations from August 2006 to April, 2009. Maj. General Perera says his role-model in the Army is Maj. Gen. Vijaya Wimalarathne.Maj. Gen. Perera, the first serving General in the Sri Lankan Armed Services appointed as Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in Malaysia in April 2009 says his motto in life is - ‘Do whatever you have to do with utmost sincerity’.

The soldier turned diplomat who is credited for netting the most priced LTTE remnant in Malaysia after the annihilation of the LTTE in 2009 and reducing the LTTE network in Malaysia to zero says that he is a humble human being in life.

Father of 18-year-old Rukshani and four-year-old Rivin he says that he prefers to be called Major General Udaya Perera, who has a reputation as one of the toughest officers in the Sri Lanka Army.

“My ambition is to reach the pinnacle of my career”, he says



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