Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VIII – NATIONAL SECURITY

Nanda Wanninayaka   

Jokers (and jerks – including Mr. Anura Dissanayaka) apart, there are two mainstream candidates in the run-up to the presidential election on November 16, 2019. Well, whether you like it or not, it is Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) and Mr. Sajith Premadasa (SP) who are the frontrunners for the contest and the others are just vote spoilers.

In these few articles, I am comparing and contrasting the two persons in question in 10 areas of concerns in alphabetical order. This post deals with how the two candidates might impress the citizenry in the sensitive issue of NATIONAL SECURITY. Read Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VII – MINORITY SUPPORT for the previous post.  The next area, NEPOTISM, would be dealt with the post Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part IX – NEPOTISM.)


Everyone was complacent that Sri Lanka gained durable peace with the annihilation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorists by mid-May, 2009. Nobody anticipated peace to come for good that soon with the end of a bloody war that lasted for almost three decades. In most parts of the world where wars ended in the recent past, for instance, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. even though so-called “dictators” and jihadists were wiped out, still suicide bombers, car bombs, surprise attacks, prevailed big time. And they continue to this day whereas in Sri Lanka, from the day the terrorist leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed and his bloody terrorist organization declared that “the guns were silenced,” not a single suicide attack or bomb was blasted. So, I used to describe this situation among my foreign friends who asked if Sri Lanka was safe to travel, “Yes, buddy. Sri Lanka is perfectly safe. No bombs explode anywhere in Sri Lanka now. If anything explodes over here, it would be popcorns,” with great pride. Alas! Cowardly attacks on Catholics and Christians on Easter Sunday this April by Muslim terrorists changed the whole complex of the social fabric of Sri Lanka. The peace achieved after much sacrifice done by literally the whole nation shattered into pieces within a course of a few hours in a single day.

  • Gota

Gota is considered as the most successful official in the whole history of the war against Tamil Tigers. Nobody expected him to win the war in just three years which had already dragged for more than 25 years. Everyone (well, at least except Professor Nalin De Silva and I) thought the war was unwinnable and we won’t see peace coming during our lifetimes or that of our kids. But Gota got everything under control and hence the whole credit for him. But the 4/21 Jihadist attack on devotees showed how fragile the national security had been and how easily the security establishments took things for granted so much so that even the clear warnings issued by local and foreign intelligence services were grossly ignored resulting mass scale casualties. Everyone shared the sentiment that if Gota was in power, this wouldn’t have happened. So, peace-loving Sri Lankans, which I guess a heavy majority of the citizenry, would want to give Gota another go, even with his flawed track record of alleged human right violations, corruption and unleashing terror on media personnel and media institutions. So, he has a big chance of winning the presidential election this November beating his younger counterpart. having said that, one must remember that in politics, 1+1 does not always give the mathematical total of 2. So, it is better to expect the unexpected on November 17th, just in case.

  • Sajith

The public opinion is that whenever a UNP government came into power since the Tamil Tiger terrorism started in 1983, national security was at stake and it even worsened during the periods where Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe became the Prime Minister. The gross killing of members of the intelligent units and informants was the norm of the UNP led governments. Betraying the very people who risked everything for the motherland by exposing them in public was something that cannot be expected during even peacetime, let alone during a bloody war. Yet for all, frankly speaking, to secure the support of the ethnic minorities, the UNP found appeasing terrorists and separatist elements more useful than the national security of the bellowed motherland. Sajith cannot escape saying that he was not party to this. He was very much a member of the ruling party every time this happened and his late father, Mr. Ranasinghe Premadasa has earned the bad name as the first Sri Lankan president to reward the Tamil Tigers with a large number of weapons, cement and an undisclosed amount of monies. Even worse, it was him who ordered some 600 plus policemen to surrender to the Tamil Tigers ultimately resulting in them being killed in cold blood. So, when it comes to national security, Sajith is way below Gota. But with the way the curious case of ethnic minorities manipulates Sri Lankan politics, Sajith is way ahead of Gota in terms of garnering voted from ethnic minorities as he has been able to win the support of extremist elements of both the Muslim and Tamil alliances. Especially the Muslim leaders who are dead scared of the ordeals they will have to go through due to their alleged links to the Muslim terrorists who were involved in the Easter Sunday attacks will do their best to convince their constituents to vote for Sajith so that they won’t be prosecuted, or disturbed. This is why I mentioned above that the logic of 1+1 does not always give the result 2 in politics.

Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VII – MINORITY SUPPORT

Nanda Wanninayaka   

Jokers (and jerks – including Mr. Anura Dissanayaka) apart, there are two mainstream candidates in the run-up to the presidential election on November 16, 2019. Well, whether you like it or not, it is Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) and Mr. Sajith Premadasa (SP) who are the frontrunners for the contest and the others are just vote spoilers.

In these few articles, I am comparing and contrasting the two persons in question in 10 areas of concerns in alphabetical order. This post deals with the MINORITY SUPPORT for the two candidates. Read Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VI – LEGACY for the previous post.  The next area, the NATIONAL SECURITY, would be dealt with the post Gota or Sajith? – The Agony of Choice – Part VIII – NATIONAL SECURITY.)


Sri Lanka being a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and a multicultural society, minority support plays a key role in a presidential election. This was well displayed during the 2015 presidential election to a great deal. So, if you want to become the president of Sri Lanka, you have to woo the ethnic minorities to you. Unfortunately, what keeps happening is the main two parties promise the things they cannot deliver and once a party wins, the minorities feel they are cheated because the winning party won’t be able to keep the promises due to the objection of the opposition, religious establishments and pressure groups. Fair enough, but why don’t the minorities also learn not to ask these two parties the things that they cannot do? No one learns.

  • Gota

If Gota loses this presidential election, it will mainly be due to the minority votes. Most of the Tamils in the North and the Tamils and the Muslims in the East won’t vote for Gota for obvious reasons. Radical Tamils think it was Gota who wrecked the LTTE and killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, the “Sun God” of the ethnic Tamils. In the case of the Eastern Muslims, the recent Easter Sunday Attacks created an anti-Muslim sentimentality among the general public of all faiths. They expressed the view that if Gota was the Secretary to the Ministry of Defense this type of a heinous attack wouldn’t have happened. And the Muslims at large believe that a future Gota administration would not be easy for the Muslims as Gota would go an extra mile to eliminate the radical Muslim elements in the country and that would mean even the moderate Muslims will have a hard time. This feeling is kind of reasonable with the way the present government acted in the wake of the April massacre. Their lukewarm attitude to a carnage of such magnitude might make such attacks possible in future too. If Gota comes to power terrorists would find it very difficult but the Muslims will have to pay a price (of being searched and their cultural sensitivities compromised.)

If Gota doesn’t get the minority support, which I don’t think he would, he will have to get an amazingly big majority from the Sinhalese voters. Gota has been able to get the support of Mr. Arumugam Thondaman and his Ceylon Workers’ Congress but Thonda doesn’t enjoy the sole power in the Hills as some breakaway groups have left him and formed new parties or alliances. Besides, you can’t trust Thonda as well since he has kept changing camps as a habit, mostly by ending up with the winning side. So, Gota has to work hard to retain Thonda and also try his best to woo the minority votes from the North and the East before it is too late. With my experiences being in the North most of the last year and the East this year, I find the moderate Tamils and Muslims are of the view that a return of Gota will ensure stability which will result in economic development in the two provinces. Having said that, it is too early to predict if this sentiment of the Northern and Eastern people will convert to votes for Gota.

  • Sajith

This is where Sajith has the upper hand. Traditionally, the UNP has been accommodating the ethnic minorities in Sri Lanka even before the Independence. Minorities have held high positions within the party hierarchy and also in the UNP cabinets whenever they were in power. The SLFP being a late comer to politics as a breakaway fraction from the UNP and the former’s slogan being the controversial “Sinhala Only Act” alienated the Tamils and the Muslims from the party I guess. Sajith will go to any extent to get the minority support, which he has already successfully done to ensure his chances in the final battle. He already has been able to secure some fractions of the Estate Tamil powerhouse by ironing out political deals with them. But he can’t be complacent about their support as some political surprises that could come out of the blue might upset his apple cart at a crucial time. It happened during 2005 edition of the presidential race, didn’t it? Who can say such a maneuvering won’t happen in two weeks’ time?

Gota – The Necessary Evil

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

Nanda Wanninayaka

The controversial former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, considered a moron by the West and the rest of the sensible world died a few weeks ago. Had Mugabe stepped down after two or three maximum presidential terms gracefully, he would have gone down in the history as a legendary leader who saved Zimbabwe from the imperialists. But it was not to be due to his extreme greed for power. He opted not to leave the office till his death, but, as in the cases of most of the similar despots at the end, he was dispatched home by the protesting citizens and the army. Till that, there was no sign of Mugabe relinquishing power even after ruling the country for 37 long years with manipulated and rigged elections.

The same fate could have befallen on our own former president Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR,) had he won the 2015 election and went on being the undisputed leader of the country till his death or till his three sons became old enough to contest the presidential elections. So, he should thank the voters and Maithripala Sirisena (MS) for opening an early (and quite decent one for that matter,) exit from the Temple Trees which the former never expected.

This doesn’t mean MR’s own younger brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (GR) won’t be suitable for the job as the next president. He was ruthless in crushing the Tamil Tiger terrorists and winning the Civil War. It took him only 3 years to finish the war which couldn’t be won for nearly 3 decades by different governments since 1983. Instead, many say, the leaders of Sri Lanka were neither bold enough to take the bull by horns nor had the strength to ignore the growing pressure by India and some countries in the West. Besides, there were rumors that the army big guns and politicians heavily profited from the war. Some former leaders were even accused of providing funds and weapons to the terrorists. Gota managed to fight against all odds and win the war which was unimaginable before 2009.

The near success of brutal crushing of the underworld too is attributed to Gota. One might not be happy with extra judiciary killings of the underworld dark lords but it was the need of the hour as everyone knows that a long extended legal process to bring the criminals of the underworld to the book hasn’t helped reducing thuggery and extorting money from the businessmen who are a needed class in developing the country.

Gota’s involvement of war against drug kingpins is disputed. Some say that he reduced it and some accuse him of associating the big drug kingpins. Gota posing for photographs with some of those alleged drug dealers are also freely available.

They say Gota was even more ruthless in making the country beautiful through the Ministry of Defense and Urban Development in which he was the all-powerful secretary. Making the country clean was something none of the previous governments could even dreamt of doing as it becomes opening a can of worms because any government would face rigid resistance from the illegal dwellers of the cities, especially in Colombo.

If it was the right way Gota controlled free media, specially even after the war was over, is highly questionable. But for some reason, it was part and parcel of the game that Gota was playing and he never took any chances in help reviving the Tamil Tigers and those who sympathize with them. I am sure a lot of atrocities might have happened against the journos even if none of them was proved in a court of law which is too big an ask under the conditions prevailed.

This country needs a benevolent dictator and Gota would be the ideal (and the best available) choice if he survives all the investigations going against him on the charges of corruption, human rights violations and war crimes. I know I am making myself unpopular here but this is the way I see it. We need a strong charismatic leader who can take bold decisions to develop Sri Lanka. (I don’t have to waste my time and that of yours who have already read how the Europe got rid of its feudal kings and got the benevolent dictators to rule the countries and then finally got the elected democratic leaders to rule.)

As the legendary cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan once said, Sri Lanka had other priorities after the war than good governance and democracy. I too subscribe to the same sentiment as this country had to be made suitable for those two elements and it would have been easier for a next leader to prioritize good governance if and when the country was ready for it. By 2015, the country was still not ready to recognize good governance as its first priority. There were other burning issues such as poverty, ignorance, cost of living, infrastructure development, etc. that the citizens looked up to the government to engage in.

While the country needs to ensure a long term and a permanent peace for the businesses to thrive, freedom to invest, pleasant environment to attract foreign tourists, etc. the present government was embarked on good governance which was too big an ask with the UNP’s history of corruption from the top to bottom. The huge scandal of the daylight robbery of the Central Bank by manipulating the treasury bonds even before the new government’s 100-day-development-plan completed its term tells the story better. There were some court proceedings and the culprits were in remand prisons for some time but nobody expects that the looted money would be returned to the treasury nor the offenders would be punished.

When it comes to beautifying the country, the present government has failed big time as they failed even to continue what Gota had initiated. Within a few weeks of coming to the power, hawkers reclaimed their illegal spots in Pettah and other parts of the city and it ended up with whole Colombo started stinking without a proper garbage disposal plan.

As per the Under World, the drug kingpins, extortionists and bounty hunters returned to the island who left the country during Gota’s time and started their activities with almost no resistance from the present government. Every now and then a businessman is killed due to extortion or gang rivalry. We don’t know how high the extortion figures are as it is only when a businessman is killed that such activities are exposed. Most businessmen might be paying ransoms without informing the police. Country is never safe and businessmen don’t want to take risks in investing which apparently reflect on share market too. The GDP growth which was around 7% died down to mere 1.6% and Sri Lanka is ranked only above Afghanistan in the South Asian region in terms of GDP growth which is a shame as all good work of the former regime were undone by the present government that promised “good governance.” People genuinely felt that former regime’s “bad governance” was better than the newly introduced fake good governance.

Easter Sunday Attacks well exposed how weak our intelligence units, police and three-forces had been. Once formidable forces were on their knees when those heinous terrorist attacks rocked the country as the police, military and intelligence units had been made paralyzed by the tomfoolery of the present government that promoted good governance and reconciliation and totally neglected the national security.

We all know that there can be many a skeleton in Gota’s closet. Who hasn’t in the political sphere? This is something common to the whole of South Asia, Africa and South America. Leaders are either corrupt, human rights violators or in short, despots. We have the agony of choice when different political parties field their candidates for elections. But what can we do under the circumstances? Importing a democratic leader from the North Europe? No, you will have to select the best out of the worst.  Under these conditions, I would say, Gota is the necessary evil to run the country with all the odds against him and at any cost to the people.

ISIS-ing the Entire Muslim Population of Sri Lanka

Zahran Hashim and the team with ISIS Flag

This article of mine first appeared on Colombo Telegraph website. See

Much water has gone under the bridge since the cowardly terrorist attacks on April 21, 2019 inside Sri Lankan Catholics’ and other Christian places of worship on one of Christendom’s holiest days, Easter Sunday, an unexpected massacre now being glibly referred to as the Easter Sunday Attacks

ISIS, the ruthless Muslim terrorist organization that has become a menace to the entire world, claimed responsibility for the dreadful attack after a few days, but all the perpetrators were found to be local Muslims. I was intrigued to write on this and the aftermath, but not being a career journalist, I had my own limitations on the access to the right information, just like it would be for many of you, as to what REALLY happened on that fateful Sunday. We, laymen, never expected this to happen after enjoying more or less 10 years of relative peace since the “guns were silenced” with the conclusion of the Civil War, or whatever you may call it. 

Let alone us, the general public, even the bigwigs of security establishments, seem not to have taken the impending radical Islam/Muslim terrorism’s early warnings in Sri Lanka. Whenever the subject in question came up in certain platforms we thought we were all seeing a storm in a teacup if not “crocodiles in a basin,” the local version of the idiom. Maybe those who alarmed us were not convincing enough due to the hatred, extremism, intolerance they themselves showed against Muslims in general in their awareness campaigns, so much so that we thought they are more extremist than the suspected group of people, the extremist radical Muslims.

I won’t budge on implicating those responsible for the constant failures by the government(s) in understanding early warnings sent by intelligence, scholars, futurists, about possible local Muslim terrorism growing under the radar as most of those sources are highly politicized, or biased, or made to look so by the politicians with hidden agendas and ulterior motives. 


With all this endless bickering, what was inevitable, which we feared happening, has happened and hundreds of kids, women and men were perished and left strewn into pieces by leaving them dead or seriously injured. The damage done to the tourism industry and the rest of the economy at large was so colossal, it will take eons for the country to recover fully. Above all, the esteemed image the country had earned as the World’s Best Tourist Destination by prestigious organizations with the conclusion of the Civil War and the subsequent relative calm and orderliness vanished beyond repair within a span of a couple of hours. Like it happened previously too, the country was headlined on leading international media, once again, unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons.

Zahran Hashim, the mastermind of the heinous attacks

Now we all know how the whole saga unfolded and the dirty politics behind it. Ignoring reliable intelligence reports and passing the buck after the catastrophe, showed how unprofessional the security establishment and how lethargic and shortsighted the so called leaders of the country are. They were infighting and in fact, it was that very reason that led to this avoidable carnage. Due to the same reason, our security forces that have eradicated, the then world’s most lethal terrorist organization, the LTTE, we lost a golden opportunity of arousing the country and eliminating Muslim fundamentalist terrorism for good. Politicians’ greed for votes resulted in the government failing to decimate these terrorists at the outset, as extremist Muslim politicians became stronger, while the government and the security forces became weaker. Can there be any more shame than that?

While His Eminence, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith of the Archdiocese of Colombo did an exemplary job by pacifying the bereaved, grieving  and enraged citizens preventing islandwide riots, many others tried to make things worse by spreading hatred, and disrupt the then ongoing security measures too by creating unnecessary pressure on the security forces by diverting their attention to communal or interfaith riots that spread in some parts of the island. 

There is no use in criticizing the government, as we have been unlucky enough to see similar mishaps since Independence and they keep happening and no one in the higher echelons of power ever learn.  

It is true that the terrorist activities were supported by some Muslims without doubt while a few of them informed of suspected activities to the responsible authorities. Therefore, it is not fair to single out a community and punish them for heinous acts that were perpetrated, mainly due to the ineffectiveness of the rulers. We saw very well that even after a slaughter of this magnitude, politicians were trying to enhance their vote bases rather than punishing the culprits, their accomplices and the politicians and businessmen who either financed or protected them right from the beginning. Such traitors should be brought to the book and the maximum penalty imposed without any hesitation. as a result, is it fair to marginalize the Muslim brethren of the country and look at them as terrorists for crimes someone else committed? ISISing an entire community is too much of a punishment, overlooking ground realities.

I am not too sure how far the businesses owned by the Muslims have been affected by non-Muslims boycotting them. Maybe it will change in time and their businesses might recover if it is bad at the moment. Whether one likes it or not, Muslims are citizens of this country and also they comprise a sizable portion of the population and economy. Leaving them out totally will only encourage them to join extremist forces than remain in the mainstream, just like the infamous Black July in 1983 forced even moderate Tamils to join terrorist outfits in the hundreds of thousands. 

Even though it is extremely difficult to forget and forgive after such a devastating scale of a killing spree, we do not have a choice. If we don’t, there will be even worse repercussions. This does not in any way mean that we should give into violence or be complacent about any such possible attacks in future.  This is only to display unity and let everyone feel that they are a part of one nation. Muslims themselves have an even bigger role here to win back the damaged trust of the other communities in the country by chipping in, and sacrificing some of the privileges they enjoyed in the name of religion such as compromising to give up customized laws and agreeing to one common law for the entire country. Cultural differences are welcomed as they beautify the social fabric with the diversity, but extreme legal measures on common issues of the nation should be addressed by one law.

If you can remember well, when the late Nelson Mandela became the president of South Africa after decades of apartheid, the white businessmen had many doubts as to whether their businesses would be affected with hatred unleashed on them by the majority black community. But Mandela ensured none of the white people’s business would be disturbed by the new black majority government. If the white people left South Africa with all their money South Africa would have ended up as a beggar nation. But Mandela being such a far-sighted statesman, foresaw the danger and prevented an exodus of investments out of South Africa. So, in the same way, ISIS-ing Sri Lankan Muslims is not the solution to the problem, but extending compassion instead, while at the same time the intelligence services and security forces are strengthened to ensure everyone’s safety.