Thursday, January 15, 2009

My experience with Mr. Ranil Wickramasingha...

“During one of the meetings with Mr. Ranil Wickramasingha I told him that one of the terrorists apprehended on 14 April 1985 informed me that they were trained by R&AW of the Indian Government. Mr. Wickramasingha laughed at me.”

(January 14, Melbourne) Please read my experience with Mr. Ranil Wickramasingha when he was the minister of education in Sri Lanka to prove how he looked after servicemen in the past.

My name is PBS Hemachandra. I am a retired (compelled to) Lieutenant Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy. In 1985 I was working as the Commanding Officer of SLNS Jayasagara, which was deployed as task group commander 4.3 in the Surveillance Zone between India and Sri Lanka to prevent Gun running, smuggling and movement of terrorist traffic between the two countries. Then the navy was very small.

My family was living in Naval Married quarters Summit flats Keppetipola Mawatha Colombo 7. My son became eligible for schooling in 1985. I applied to 5 schools in Colombo for admission. Royal College was the closet to our naval married quarters. Only Royal College interviewed my son for admission. But we were one month short of two years residency at Summit flats. Therefore my son was not given a school. I joined the navy in 1971 and by 1985 I already had 16 transfers to different locations mostly in North and East.

As the Commanding Officer SLNS Jayasagara, I used to go out to sea to work in the northern surveillance zone for about 5 to 6 weeks and come home for about 7 days cramped in a rackety old Air Force plane. For the first six months of 1985 when ever I came on leave to Colombo I went behind every administrative and political avenue to find a school for my son armed with letters from the Navy Commander, the Defence force commander and the Deputy Minister of Defence Mr. Werapitiya. When I was waiting in my uniform to meet Education secretaries and directors I have seen a man coming to the ministry going straight to offices of the Minister, secretaries and directors. I also have seen secretaries and Directors of education stand up when they spoke to him. I thought this guy must be another minister or MP. But later I came to know that he was a convicted rapist named Gonawala Sunil who was Mr. Ranil Wickramasingha’s best friend.

I met Mr. Ranil Wickramasingha 3 times, Mr Werapitiya and Mr. Lalith Atulathmudali four times each to find a school for my son. I kept my son at home without a school for six months in 1985. Crime I committed was to tell Additional Secretary of education Mr. Dumbukola to inform the Minister of Education Mr. Ranil Wickamasingha that we servicemen working in the north and east prize very much if minister could solve our problems like school admissions than him attending to arms giving of dead servicemen which I saw in the TV.

Finally I met the only lawyer I knew Mr. Nimal Siripala de Silva (before he became a MP and a Minister) and ask him whether I could get the help of the law to find a school for my son. He introduced me to Mr. Raja Gunasekara who filed a fundamental human right case in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka citing Royal principle, director of education and Minister of education Mr. Ranil Wicramsingha to find a school for my son. Case was published in the news papers next day. (Reference Island, Daily News, Sun newspapers dated 27 June 1985)

This case did not violate good order and/or naval discipline. But when I flew back to Trincomalee very next day to sail my ship back to the surveillance zone, I was summoned by the Naval Officer in Charge Trincomalee and told me that I have been placed on compulsory leave. I was asked to hand over my identity card and then I was escorted out of the navy camp without giving any reasons. I had to catch a fish lorry to come to Colombo.

Because I was barred from entering naval establishments I phoned the Commander of the Navy to find out reasons for sending me on compulsory leave. The Commander of the Navy asked me to speak to then Secretary Defence General Sepala Artigala. When I met General Artigala with the Commander of the Navy, he told me unofficially (off the records) if I withdraw the case I can come back to the navy and the case will not be taken against me. He further told me to come back and meet him when I decided to withdraw the case.

Thereafter, I was more determined to proceed with the case because I had evidence of a child admitted to Royal College from Kiribathgoda who did not have two years residence even in Kiribatgoda, which details I submitted to the Supreme Court.

After this submission unfortunately I had a visit from Mr. Ranil Wickramasaingha’s criminal friend who wanted me to withdraw the case. In no uncertain terms, I understood his demand as a threat to my or my son’s life. Although I wanted to go ahead with the case my wife, my parents and my wife’s parents wanted me to withdraw the case. Due to pressure from then Secretary Defence, then Navy Command, and from criminal elements close to Mr. Ranil Wickramasingha I decided to withdraw the case under duress.

Then I told my lawyers and General Sepala Artigala that if a school is given to my son I will withdraw the case. I was told to wait at home for a letter from the education ministry and was further advised to accept any school for the time being and promised to move my son to Royal College later. Further General Artigala advised me to go and meet additional solicitor general Sunil Silva and tell him that I am withdrawing the case. A letter was delivered to my naval married quarters admitting my son to Mahanama College and then I met Mr. Sunil Silva and told him that I am withdrawing the case under duress.

Very next day after withdrawal of the case I was taken back to the navy. But my command was not given. I was appointed to a junior position not keeping with my rank or seniority as a punishment. I thought that everything would end there. But that was only the beginning. A few weeks later a few officer junior to me were promoted over me there by compelling me to retire from the Navy after 15 years of service.

My request to grant my pension under political victimization was not approved. I was not given medals given to the service men worked in the north and east. My name was not forwarded for Customs reward money for apprehensions done in the North. I was not given my CDC (Crew Discharge Certificate) for me to find a job in the merchant navy. Therefore I had to study and start a new career. My family was continually harassed by criminal elements close to Mt Ranil Wickramasingha. Thank god Australian government allowed my family to migrate to Australia.

During one of the meetings with Mr. Ranil Wickramasingha I told him that one of the terrorists apprehended on 14 April 1985 informed me that they were trained by RAW of the Indian Government. Mr. Wickramasingha laughed at me. Further I have told both Mr. Wickamasingha and Mr. Lalith Athulatmudali that the efficiency of the surveillance zone is less that 3% and if the government did not provide the navy with suitable crafts and weapons to increase the efficiency of the surveillance Zone, Sri Lanka is going to have a massive terrorist problem. Efficiency of the surveillance zone was calculated by taking the percentage of number of boats apprehended and destroyed divided by number of boats sighted crossing between India and Sri Lanka taken from situation reports from all units deployed in the surveillance zone.

All the UNP government in power and navy command had to do was to provide the navy with suitable crafts to increase the efficiency or the KPIs of the surveillance zone there by cutting off the enemy supply line, simple war strategy any child would understand. I tried to publish how UNP government in power purchased useless ships to the navy taking commissions in all news papers but only Ravaya published my information on 25th August 1991.

UNP governments in power in Sri Lanka could have easily resolved the terrorist problem from 1977 to 1987, which destroyed many lives and completely destroyed the economy of the country. Unfortunately the UNP government where Ranil was a senior Minister allowed LTTE to become the most powerful terrorist organization in the world.

1. The UNP governments allowed LTTE to smuggle arms and ammunition and bring in advanced communication, electronic equipments and air crafts to establish illegal LTTE navy and air force with the help of Norway by not providing Sri Lanka navy with suitable crafts, detection and destruction capabilities.

2. The UNP government handed over a massive stock of arms and ammunition to LTTE during Mr. Premadasa’s time. Many Indian and Sri Lankan soldiers were killed using them.

3. The UNP government gave LTTE terrorists world recognition by Mr. Ranil Wickramasingha signing a Cease Fire Agreement.

Therefore how can Mr. Ranil Wickramasingha open his mouth and say current government has no regards for Soldiers.

My humble experience is that criminal elements close to Mr. Ranil Wickramasingha are very capable of discrediting opponent. Therefore Investigators should have a very close look at these criminals when they investigate incidents that directly discredit Mr. Wickramasingha’s opponents like burning down TV stations and murdering journalists.

By PBS Hemachandra