Gota the indispensable son of Lanka Maatha
Posted on March 14th, 2017
By : A.A.M.NIZAM – MATARA
Gotabhaya Rajapakse affectionately and fondly called by his friends and foes alike as Gota during the 9 year tenure of President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government proved his steel will, unhesitant and firm determination to carry out the right things, absolutely fearless nature of facing any form of adversity or threat, and firm dedication to serve for the betterment of this country.
As the Defence Secretary of this country he was solely responsible for adopting new strategies for winning the war and vanquishing the ruthless tiger terrorist outfit which plagued this country for nearly thirty years causing massive human and economic destructions. His new strategies in the war included deployment of small formations of forces without committing large contingents to the battle lines, increasing the strength of the tri forces with new recruits, introduction of a new naval fleet with home made small attack vessels designed on his instructions, modernising the weapons used by the tri forces, increasing the air power with deployment of new attack air crafts, formation of a new unit called the civil defence unit to safeguard the border villages and areas retrieved from the terrorists, enhancing the facilities provided to armed forces, their families and children, establishment of armed forces townships started with 1620 housing units at Ranajayapura in Ipalogama in the Anuradhapura district and extended to other districts such as Kurunegala, Polonnaruwa, Gampaha, Matara and Hambantota, setting up of life care Centres for disabled soldiers who had lost their limbs, become blind and become invalid due to injuries suffered in the hands of the terrorists, establishment of schools dedicated for the children of the tri forces, and enhancing the facilities at the Kotelawala Defence Hospital.
While dedicatedly carrying out the above referenced enormous tasks for vanquishing the terrorists, he was also involved in urban development, urban housing construction and town planning and beautification activities. It was he who launched special projects through the land reclamation department to conserve the wet lands in the Colombo district and prevent the occurring of flash floods in Colombo,(remember that there was a time when the members of Parliament had to be shuttled by boats from the Diyawanna Oya Parliament).
In addition to this he developed the marshy Diyawanna area and its surrounding as a pleasant and beautiful place for people to visit and enjoy leisurely. Similar walking tracks were constructed in the race course area, in other parts of the Colombo city and even outside the Colombo city limits such as in places like Wattala. Unfortunately the Wattala walking track constructed at a cost of several million rupees was demolished by a dumb mindless politician to pave the way for one of his cronies to use the area for transportation of trucks.
It was Gota who put an end to dumping garbage within the Colombo city limits. Under his direction the Bluemendhall road garbage mountain disappeared in no time. Further, paving was carried out in the Colombo city and other cities and the Colombo city was beautified with rows of trees on either sides of the roads and colour lights making it the most eco friendly beautiful city in South East Asia. Sri Lanka received international acclamation for this work. Remember that this was done without any political bias while the Municipal Council was under the rule of a United National Party Mayor and it was done due to the extensive love he had for the country.
In the past the pedestrians were unable to travel in Pettah area due to the pavements being occupied by pavement hawkers even with permanent structures at certain places. These areas were a den of all sorts of criminals such as pick pocketeers, chain snatchers and pimps of prostitutes. It was Gota who eliminated this situation and provided alternate and decent shopping facilities to be used by the former payment hawkers.
Another task undertaken by him was the construction of decent and spacious houses for shanty dwellers in the Colombo city. Occupants of these shanties were living in these dilapidated shanties for several decades and several generations without any facilities and no one caring for them. Gota launched a plan to construct 70,000 multi storied and spacious housing units with all modern facilities to house them and the housing units were distributed to these shanty dwellers without any form of political or religious bias and the recipients of these housing units never dreamt that they will ever be able to raise their children in such decent environment.
Another feat achieved by him was renovation and reconstruction of old dilapidated and neglected buildings in the race course area, in the Fort and in areas adjoining the independent square and make them attractive modern buildings. No one believed that these old buildings can ever be transformed to such modern buildings and shopping complexes. These activities indicate that he is not only a high ranking military strategist but also a man with high vision of city and town planning for which Sri Lanka can be extremely proud of.
Another matter that was kept strictly under control during Gota’s tenure was drug pedalling and under-world activities. Today these twin crimes have mushroomed all over the country and the underworld gang leaders who left the country fearful of stern and imminent punishment have returned to the country in droves and are being sheltered and patronized by well known politicians. It is reported that drug pedalling and underworld activities are being mainly carried out with the connivance of the Police and politicians. Meanwhile the UN annual report on drug usage indicate that drug consumption in Sri Lanka has increased significantly.
The highly successful ‘Viyathmaga’ annual convention held recently has become extremely annoying to the Sirisena-Wickunanasinghe gang since the participants in this fully packed convention, all academics, professionals, scholars, top ranking security force personnel and journalists have voiced in unison the need and urgency to rescue this country from the current destructive course. The Sirisena-Wickunanasinghe gang is now reported to be fearing of the possibility of a coup led by Gota in collaboration with the security personnel and it is becoming eminent that he will soon be arrested under some false pretext.
Nonetheless, Gotabhaya Rajapakse is a straight forward personality and his immense love and dedication for the country was clearly outlined in an interview given by him to the Daily Mirror recently. Given below are excerpts from this Daily Mirror interview:
You could see a definite frustration among the people about this government. They came to power purely with the intention of throwing Mahinda Rajapaksa out. It is not a secret that the West wanted to get rid of us and the Indians wanted to change the government. After coming to power, they had no proper plan and they did not have proper people to implement whatever policies they had. In the government, there are so many leaders the President, the Prime Minister and the Ministers. There are so many talking about policies, one contradicting each other. As a result, their main concern is taking revenge. They get somebody, mainly one from the Rajapaksa family, and take him to the FCID or the Bribery Commission or the CID. That is what is going on. They try to divert attention from main issues by harassing the Rajapaksas. They do not focus on how to develop the economy. Two years have just gone by and nothing has happened. The projects that were ongoing were stalled. Because of that, there is a definite impact on the economy. For any government, bureaucrats or officials are there to implement the policies. The government has sidelined a lot of officials on the assumption that they are MR loyalists. These are the officials who have worked under many governments. They have worked under different ministers. If you sideline officials in this manner, you cannot get things done. For example, the SLFP-led alliances were in power for 20 years. If you throw out people who have been working for 20 years, how can you implement the policies? You see what the FCID is doing. It has created a fear factor. People are frightened to take independent decisions. There are rules and regulations –administrative instructions, financial instructions. All these are guidelines. If your intentions are good, you must allow them to work.
If the situation continues like this, there will be chaos. It has come to that level already. If you look at the Colombo city, you see a lot of projects going on. Who started all this work? As for Shangri La, I took a bold decision as the Defence Secretary at that time. The land was occupied by the Army and it was a commercially viable plot. We wanted investors to come. When we were asked for land, I agreed to release it. It was given for a good price. At the same time, I didn’t deprive the military as well. I used that money to build a better place for the military at a different place. I, along with other officials such as the Finance Ministry Secretary, the BoI Chairman, decided and started work. Next to it is ITC. We worked very hard with the Indian government to get ITC here. We helped John Keells to start projects. When I started the TATA project, some members of the present government, went to court. It was delayed for two years. I managed to keep TATA. It is a good project even accepted by the present government. All these and so many others projects were started by the previous government.
Under the new government the Port City project was delayed for two years. Other than that, nothing is happening. They only talk. Now it is two years. It is a long time even to draw plans. We created a momentum. That was broken at the end. When it comes to governance, you have to forget what you did during election times and proceed with the work. I can show you so many projects which we started, but stalled now. They must continue the good work whoever started it. If there are weak areas, those can be corrected. They do not have even any idea.
They do not have even the decency to see what we were doing and see whether those could be carried forward.
He has sais that the society has changed and the people have changed and the people get more and more information- both false news and good news- because of the internet and social media. People are wise enough to winnow truth from them. People are more and more aware. Especially, the intellectuals and professionals must get involved not only in voting but also in running the country. They do not have to become politicians. They can be an effective part of it by giving advice, working out policies and strategies. The government must be ready to accept that. I think, in future, it is very important for professionals to get involved not only in creating leaders or governments but also working with the government for the formulation of policies and strategies and implementing them. People are anxiously waiting for elections. They want to show their dissatisfaction with the government. I do not know why the government is delaying elections. They must have elections. They themselves can get an idea about the performance of the government.
Responding to a question about his political ambitions, he has said that he has not still thought of coming to politics, but, as a citizen or person who was involved in the last nine years doing so many things including the eradication of terrorism and urban development, he has a responsibility to do whatever he can do for the country, and still, he has not thought of doing that through politics. He has said that he is not a politician and he has never been a politician though he hails from a political family. During the young age, I was in the Army. I was out of the country. He has affirmed that definitely, he likes to get involved in whatever way to do what is right for the country. He has emphasized that correct people should come to power and if those people come, he is ready to work with them.
About FCID he has said that that taking action is all right if somebody has been involved in big corruption or has done any criminal act but they are coming after him unnecessarily. As for his case, without any base, they harass him with baseless allegations. He has said that when he went before the FCID last time, they asked him about ‘Sandahiruseya’ and it is not something secret. He has pointed out that the idea came from people, professionals, and the clergy and also from the military, and said that we need to construct these Dagobas. First, it is Sandahiruseya in Anuradhapura. That has been in the practice from ancient times. He has explained whatever anyone might say, we underwent a dark period for 32 years and we were able to eradicate that menace, and it was a decision executed by an experts’ panel, not by an individual. He has further pointed out that some relics had to be interned and in ancient texts, it is stated how it should be done. Accordingly they had to install a Buddha statue made out of gold and the Navy was assigned the responsibility. The Navy requested for gold from Sri Lanka Customs and it was discussed it in the Security Council and was informed it was the Customs to get gold. The Navy requested, and it was given. We only requested. The Director General of Customs had the authority and he released it and why he was being called was to embarrass him and to harass him..
Referring to allegations against him about the MiG deal he has explained that the request came from the Air Force and the requirement was there for a long time. As a policy, they approved it for the Air Force to get them and the Air Force decided on the kind of aircraft needed and they were the people who selected and went through the whole process. He has said what he did as the Secretary wass to adhere to the procedure and he was not involved in deciding or purchasing. He was only a member of the Cabinet Appointed Tender Board. He has also said that they decided as a policy to purchase attack aircraft and then, the Air Force did the selection and everything. Approval; was done by the Cabinet Appointed Tender Board. He has pointed out that they have not called even the chairman of it or the chairman of the technical evaluation committee and they have not called even the members of the Cabinet Appointed Negotiation Committee, and they just want to stress on his name and it was targeting only him. He has emphasized that during his time he has not purchased any land, any house or invested in shares of any company and has not opened any foreign account or local account and he has not deposited any money except what he got as his salary. He has pointed out that it is political vendetta.
He has explained that despite t urban development and people in and around Colombo benefited from it they voted overwhelmingly against the government because they got carried away by false propaganda by purely going by those allegations. He reminds about how they were living before 2005 and what was the situation in the country, particularly in Colombo? He points out there were roadblocks everywhere, there barbed wire fences erected to give protection to the government institutions and Rupavahini Corporation and Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporations were good examples. He further states even iron rails were installed to block any vehicular movement and asks how many times people were stopped at checkpoints when coming to Colombo? He points out that even school children’s bags were checked and there were car bombs going on. He also reminds how the Central Bank was bombed, one time Navy Commander was also killed and on one occasion the President of the country was bombed. This is how they lived in Colombo and this menace was by 2009 and by 2014, people forgot that. He says that they forgot the fact that this was the person who gave leadership to eradicate terrorism and all the previous leaders failed in the task.
He says that now they realize still, 5.8 million people voted for Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa despite all such false propaganda. He says that Bodu Bala Sena(BBS) phenomenon contributed to the reduction of Muslim votes and explains that he has no connection with BBS and which he has denied at that time but the people did not believe. He says that even the Muslim leaders who were with them did not come forward and correct it. He further explains that when this came up, he tried many times with some of the Muslim clergy and business leaders to solve the problem but none of the political leaders including those with the government came and discussed this matter with him. He says that when he built houses for low income people in Colombo, he has distributed among Muslims, Tamils mainly and never discriminated them.
He says that once he attended a function by Ven. Kirama Wimalajothi Thera, a well-known monk as he was invited by him and went for it. There, Ven. Galabodaatte Gnanasara Thera of BBS was there and someone took a picture and it came in Daily Mirror at that time and that’s how it started. He points out that Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa was close to the Muslims and h championed the cause of Palestine right from its inception.
He explains that the United States and the West exerted a huge pressure to get the LTTE leaders out of that area by working out a ceasefire that would have given another chance for Prabhakaran to fight. He says that the US at the beginning helped us but, with the change of the government and policies there later on, the situation changed. Later on, the Obama government appointed officials such as Samantha Power, Nisha Biswal who gave opinions on human rights. They and the western governments wanted us to stop the war forgetting the fact that the LTTE failed them many times. They have forgotten history he said.
Referring to the Indian factor he explains that unfortunately, with the change of government in India from Congress to BJP, some officials of the new government misunderstood our relationship with China and he met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval twice, once in India and once in Sri Lanka. On those occasions, Doval told him that they were not happy with Chinese investments in Sri Lanka. He categorically told me that they wanted us to stop the Port City Project and to take full control of the Hambantota Harbour. He also asked us to take back the full operation of the South Terminal of the Colombo Port. These were very specific things. He says that we gave the assurance that we will not allow anybody to use the Sri Lankan soil to do anything against India and our relationship with China is different and we have long diplomatic relations with China. China is the only country that can help us at this juncture on economy development. We need that development which is a must. Our country was destroyed for 32 years. We suffered because of the war. Now we want to develop that country. That is why we took all this assistance. Unfortunately, India did not believe it due to influence at that time from the West and India decided to work against the \ Mahinda Rajapaksa government. They can do a lot. The Tamil National Alliance listens to India and the Indian origin Tamil community is there and India has control over them.
Referring to the talks about the resurgence of the LTTE and the alleged assassination attempt of MP M.A. Sumanthiran, he says that when he was the Secretary, we had a lot of intelligence that people like Nediyavan were trying to resume terrorist activities. Accordingly action was taken to prevent such attempts and had a very good security plan to check on these developments. He says that after the war, we gave a lot of freedom, removed roadblocks, released lands etc.