Road to Nandikadal – Was General Kamal Gunaratne snubbed the day after his retirement?
Posted on September 14th, 2016

Bandula Jayasekara Courtesy The Island

Major General , Kamal Gunaratne who commandeered the elite 53 division of the Sri Lankan Army retired from on the 5th of September and launched his book ‘Road to Nandikadal – True story of defeating the Tamil Tigers’ both in Sinhala and English, on his birthday, 6th September. I have met Kamal twice or thrice before he came on the programme, News 1st ‘Pathikada’ the day after his retirement. It was the longest chat I had with him. Sri Lankans know him and how his elite division ended the life of terrorist leader Velupillai Prabahkaran in Nandikadal.

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This column isn’t about the book; it’s about my observations and of my thoughts. I asked him direct questions and he answered most directly. May be he couldn’t answer some directly. May be he didn’t know some answers. It is true, in life we don’t have answers to all our questions. If we had answers to all our questions life would be more beautiful, and may be even more confusing. Who knows. I am of the view that ‘Road to Nandikadal‘ is one of the best books written on the ending of terrorism in Sri Lanka, that too by a soldier who spent thirty five years of his life battling them. I will never call it a war because late Lakshman Kadirgamar always said a war is fought between two countries.

Everyone has the right to write a book on his/her experiences in life or otherwise. No one can blame them for writing it. One can buy it or not buy it. One can read it or not read it. One can like it or not like it, but no one can take away the author’s right to write it. Kamal spent all his life in the battlefield away from his family and children, sacrificing his youth for the sake of the country. He has written that with emotion in his book. I don’t have the English copy of his book and therefore I cannot reproduce that part. However, Major General Gunaratne says he does not have regrets for making such sacrifices on behalf of his motherland.

But, at times I have my doubts, living in this country, if the sacrifices made by people in any field are duly recognised and even worthwhile

I attended the launch of Kamal’s book at the Kularatne Hall in his Alma Mater Ananda College in Colombo . I have my reservations about everyone boasting of Ananda College for more than 80% during the launch. Several people seated next to me whispered the same; that plenty of time was wasted though it’s his right to do, as he pleased. It did go to an extent of annoying sections of the audience. Only in Sri Lanka do people continue to harp about their school so much. May be Kamal could have given more prominence to his parents and family than what was given to them already. Every speaker, and even the annoying Sinhala compere, at times apologized to the audience about not mentioning that Rohan Gunaratne was from Ananda. Rohan, your speech was very boring that day. The compere spoke more than others. I sure was not attending a function of Ananda College in Colombo but, the book launch of a gallant Major General who sacrificed his entire life for his Motherland. Anyway, having said all these, let’s ask if the authorities gave the retired Major General his rightful place? I don’t think so.

I had no choice but to leave at 8 pm half way on to Yasantha Kodagoda’s speech. I was sorry to have missed the rest of his speech. Yasantha is a good man I like and respect very much. I am glad Yasantha Kodagoda, the Additional Solicitor General, came even in his private capacity. He had the courage and conviction to do so. But, what happened to the others? What wrong did Major General Kamal Gunaratne do the day after his retirement? Where were his fellow Generals? What happened to the Ananda College Principal? Why was he suddenly called to the Ministry? The launch commenced at 6 pm and we all know that the government institutions don’t work after 4 pm (lazy fellows living off poor taxpayers money). Did the Ministry of Education do overtime that day? A friend who attended the book launch later told me that Kamal was hurt. I am sure many at the event would have felt his pain too. I was pained when I heard that several teachers who had taught Kamal had come by public transport. People, what have you got to say about it?

What happened to the Army bagpipers he was promised? How come they couldn’t make it? Where was Shavindra and Chagi? Boasting is good that Ananda produced 4 of the best wartime frontline Generals. But, how come they couldn’t stand with his colleague from school on his birthday, when he launched a book, and that too, a day after his retirement? In his book and at the launch, Major General Kamal Gunaratne didn’t take away any credit from his Army Commander at the time, General Sarath Fonseka. That is the right thing to do. I wished Sarath was present at the launch; after all he too went to Ananda. I saw Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda there. Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former President and Commander in Chief at the time was there as the Chief Guest. I was told he didn’t speak at the ceremony. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, former Defence Secretary was there and I was told he didn’t speak either, and Kamal had said he invited Gotabaya as he was his first commanding officer of the Gajaba regiment. One cannot blame the Major General for inviting them. I hope he extended invitations to the President and Prime Minister, and even the Leader of Opposition. May be the two leaders could have come and shown the world what great statesmen they were.

I was delighted that Kamal had invited Lali Kobbekaduwa and Manel Wimalaratne, wives of his beloved two General’s, Denzil Lakshman Kobbekaduwa and Vijaya Wimalaratne who were killed by a LTTE land mine explosion in the Kayts island on August 8, 1992. It is the right of the author to invite whoever he wants as the chief guest. Someone whispered to me that he had also invited the Defence Secretary and the Secretary to the President, and other military chiefs to attend the launch ceremony. Why didn’t they come? Were they scared or did anyone ask them not to attend? I am sure one could have attended in their personal capacity if they couldn’t attend in their official capacities. I wasn’t happy the way General Sarath Fonseka was treated. The then government could have handled it differently. They finally had to pay the price for it. I will not say the way Sarath Fonseka the politician behaved at the time was right either. At the time, whoever associated with Sarath Fonseka was demonised by President Rajapaksa’s government. It was wrong to do that and go on witch hunts. Does that mean, it is revenge time now? The best revenge is to show compassion. Let the law take its own course and bring to book whoever is wrong from all sides to create the real Yahapalanaya.

 

We have no time for petty differences. I have faced it. You have faced it and we are tired of it. They don’t have to do it because others did it. The present don’t have to do so because the past did it. It is the future we are looking at. It wasn’t right to hurt Major General Kamal Gunaratne a day after his retirement. We have had enough with one General in politics. We don’t need any other.

 

Next Week: Commodore Ajith Boyagoda and ‘A Long Watch – War, Captivity and Return in Sri Lanka’

 

3 Responses to “Road to Nandikadal – Was General Kamal Gunaratne snubbed the day after his retirement?”

  1. Sarath W Says:

    This shows how much these so called leaders of this puppet government are scared of their sponsors India, the west and LTTE are. The government prevent not only the government employees attending the book launch of this gallant soldier, it scared other gallant officers attending it. Shame on you Shavindra and Chagi for not standing by your colleague. Are you scared of the impending UN probe? Thank you Bandula for exposing these cowards. People know now who the real war heroes and patriots are.

  2. S.Gonsal Says:

    “….Denzil Lakshman Kobbekaduwa and Vijaya Wimalaratne who were killed by a LTTE land mine explosion …”

    There is a widely accepted conspiracy theory that it was Premadasa who killed these heroes. Again, our political leaders are murderers and saboteurs of the nation for a long time now. Some have already been convicted.

  3. Dilrook Says:

    Thank you for this Bandula. Fearless journalism.

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