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Victory & Beyond | dailynews.lk

Architects of Victory

Defence Secretary
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

When President Mahinda Rajapaksa returned to Sri Lnaka after cutting short his visit to Jordan he came to a country that had at long last been united after a fractured three decades when a group of terrorists supported by it's foreign backers were bent on it's dismemberment.

His emotional return where his knelt on the tarmac and touched the ground of his motherland upon landing not only brought a lump to the throats of the millions of Lankans who watched the scene on TV,but was also a symbolically charged gesture signifying a new beginning for this nation.

No Lankan could have failed to be overwhelmed by the event.A Head of State making a triumphant return to his motherland is an emotionally charged affair at any time.

When this happens when the country itself had undergone a major transformation it is of monumental significance.More so when the that country had emerged united after decades fratricidal war and at a time that country had been buffeted by the hostile winds from abroad as Sri Lnaka had been all these years.. Now the nation could look forward to an era of peace and tranquillity where all it's sons and daughters could live as brothers and sisters under one banner.

For this, the nation will be ever indebted to President Rajapaksa declared the country liberated in a special address to the nation from Parliament.

It indeed is a tumultuous occasion unparalleled in recent history.

While powerful nations are still groping in the dark trying to counter terrorism President Rajapaksa had achieved the impossible, fighting against all odds and dodging all obstacles thrown in his path and standing against international pressure to vanquish the most ruthless terrorist organisation in the world.

To President Rajapaksa the Commander-in- Chief of the of Armed forces defeating the LTTE is but a vindication of the path he set out for countering the three decades long terrorist problem as contained in his 2005 election manifesto.

General Sarath Fonseka Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda Air Chief Marshal Roshan Goonatilake

It was clear that he was willing to tread a course that leaders before him were not willing to pursue due to external pressures.

Had President Rajapaksa succumbed to the niceties of smooth diplomacy he would have remained unaccomplished.

For him though the road to victory was almost pre-ordained and the large masses who elected him to office had the gut feeling he was the one leader who could rise to the occasion and salvage the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

He set about his task with determination. To begin with, he hand picked his Commanders on sheer merit and ability without political considerations.

This signalled that President Rajapaksa meant business and Prabhakaran was on notice.

And he set about the task in his unique way defying the odds and all the obstacles that were thrown to queer his path by local and international actors.

"I am deeply convinced that we need to think from a fresh perspective and devise a new approach if we are to find a suitable solution to the conflict in the North and East", he said in that part of the manifesto devoted to the conflict.

He said "the violent conflict and the stalemate in peace talks over the past years have gradually led to this issue progressing beyond the North-East to engulf the entire country.

Thereafter it has widened further and became internationalised.This situation also led to external interference into the issue.

It is no exaggeration to state that it was his leadership and his unwavering commitment to see the war through to a decisive end that inspired the armed forces to throw in their full might towards attaining victory.

He was well aware that the soldiers needed assurance that an offensive would be not be brought to an abrupt end as had been the case before. There was a time when the security forces were confined to their bunkers and compelled to fight a largely defensive war. The leaders at the time lacked commitment and as result the soldiers lacked resolve .The Governments at the time were hamstrung by various constraints not least of which were international pressure and outcries by human rights groups which were only bent on throwing a lifeline to the terrorists.

President Rajapaksa no doubt would have been viewing the whole scene from the sidelines both as an opposition politician ,leader of the opposition and Prime Minister and mapping out his own strategy on how to deal with the issue once he collect the reins.

For the first time our soldiers went out seeking out the enemy with determination because they had the full backing of their Commander-in Chief who had the courage to defy international pressure and refused to cave in to subtle arm twisting or aggressive diplomacy to detract from his goal.

It was obvious that from the very outset of his Presidency he was determined to end the scourge of terrorism that others before him had left to thrive and fester for over three decades.

The overwhelming mandate he received at the hustings showed the people trusted him as the only leader capable of finishing off the job and usher in the progress and prosperity that was pegged back by a debilitating war that had already sapped the vitals of the nation.

The nation as whole today will not doubt salute this great leader who conquered the might of all sinister forces to finally rid the country of the scourge of terrorism and unite the nation under one banner.

No doubt the name Mahinda Rajapaksa would be enshrined letters of golds in the annals of Sri Lanka for leaving a country in tact for it's future generations.

From the beginning it was clear he was a leader who held the destiny of the nation in his hands.

Now it is up to the people to take the nation on the course of the destiny he has charted for them.

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was certainly the guiding force that drove the valiant troops to achieve their final goal.

Himself a battle hardened warrior who was in the thick of the aborted Vadamaarachchi operations Rajapaksa had experienced first hand the disappointment and blow to the morale of the troops stopped in their tracks while on the road to final victory.

This perhaps made him empathise more with the soldiers unlike some civilian holding that office.

That bitter experience no doubt steeled his resolve to ensure that no repetition occurs.

He knew the dent such reversals would have on the morale of the soldiers and it's negative fallout on the war as a whole. Therefore, at no time during the offensives were any obstacles placed in the path of the soldiers that would be a blow to their morale.

This was seen in the way he dealt with the foreign media who tried to paint a wrong picture of our valiant troops. To some he told in plain language where to get off.

He was also more than a match to some of the foreign busybodies who descended on the country in droves to try to scuttle the victorious march by devious means. His frequent visits to the battle front freely mixing with troops also won him their respect and admiration in no small measure.

For the first time in the three decades long war the country had a Defence Secretary with an hands on approach on the war.

That he survived an assassination attempt by the LTTE also made him a heroic figure which all went on to egg on the soldiers to greater deeds.

Not for him was strategic planning in the comfort of air condition rooms in Colombo.

He was always with the Commanders in the thick of the action strategising and taking an active part in battle plans.

But his most outstanding virtue was his refusal to be dictated to by foreign interests on how to conduct the war. His fearless retorts to those who were clearly trying to throw a lifeline to the LTTE is public knowledge that needs no elaboration. Suffice it to say that all this went on to enhanced his estimation in the eyes of the soldiers .It would not be incorrect to states that this fearlessness and courage rubbed on the ordinary soldiers driving them towards achieving victory.

His knowledge of the terrain and the strategies of the LTTE too helped the troops in no small measure.

If there was an outstanding trait in the Defence Secretary it was his refusal to compromise with those who wanted a relaxing of the operations to wipe out the LTTE.

Even the vociferous protests in Tamil Nadu for a Ceasefire did not have effect.

No amount of persuasion from Western diplomats could shake the resolve of this former soldier whose only object was the liberating the country from the scourge of terrorism. In this object he brooked no nonsense from any quarter.

General Sarath Fonseka

Another veteran of the Vadamaarachci operation which saw the blood sweat and toil of the soldiers reduced to dust.

But it must certainly be a gratifying for him like his one time comrade in arms the Defence Secretary to savour the ultimate victory after the bitter let down two decades ago.

He has certainly more than made up for that abberation and today could proudly hold his head high as the Army Commander who presided over the final annihilation of the arch foe.

Without doubt General Sarath Fonseka was the man most feared by the LTTE who had been at the receiving end of his volleys at a different stage of the war.

Hence the outfit's abortive attempt to assassinate him inside Army headquarters three years ago. He emerged from his almost fatal injuries to once again assume the helm.

The rest is history

A lesser mortal would have thrown in the towel.

But not this veteran of the famous riviresa, akunu pahara. jayasikurui battles to name only a few.In no time he was up again commanding his charges.

It was indeed fortuitous that Sri Lanka's Army possessed a Commander who was in synch with the Defence Secretary whereas in the past there was poor chain of command that resulted in battle plans coming unstuck.

General Fonseka also inspired confidence in his troops and like the Defence Secretary was in the thick of the operations which evoked respect and awe among his charges.

No challenge was too big for this veteran of many a bloody battle.

For all his battle hardened toughness General Sarath Fonseka was truly an Officer and a Gentleman who cared for the plight of the civilians and took the utmost precautions to ensure the zero civilian casualties during operations. This ability to cause maximum damage to the enemy with the least civilian casualties even astounded even world's top military powers with one general even describing General Fonseka as the best Army Commander in the world.

The nation as whole would bow to this exemplary officer who it could be said was the linchpin in the offensive against the LTTE that finally broke the back of the Tiger.

Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda

Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda is the chief nemesis of the Sea Tigers which was a powerful unit during the three decades old conflict.

If not for the constant blockade and surveillance of his men the Tigers no doubt would have given free rein to replenish it's arsenal.

His finest hour came when the Navy under his command intercepted all the Tiger ships transporting weapons destroying them in mid sea.

The Navy also indicted several floating armouries preventing sophisticated weapons falling in the hands of the Tigers.

All these put paid to the LTTE smuggling operations which put the placed the outfit in a severe handicap invariably drying up it's supplies,thus helping the ground troops to carry their assaults more effectively. The Navy no doubt played a very important role in the ultimate defeat of the LTTE by carrying out sea borne attacks and interceptions of LTTE vessels attempting to make landings.

Perhaps the Navy was the most vulnerable to suicide attacks by the Black Tiger cadres who made a it almost habit of ramming their vessels into Naval craft.

The constant patrolling by the Navy in the coastal belt thwarted many potential destructive attacks such as the attempt made by LTTE frogmen to penetrate the Colombo Port.

The Navy was beginning o be a major threat to the LTTE as borne out by a massive suicide attack carried out at a Navy transit point in Dambulla two years ago.

The Navy also played a key role in detecting LTTE cadres who attempted to launched attacked disguised as fishermen and also for preventing LTTE activity in the seas.

If not for the weapons blockade and the Navy's constant surveillance in the seas the Army would have been hardpressed to achieve it's stunning victories on the ground.

The recent addition of the Rapid Attack Force by the Navy also greatly helped in breaking the back of the Sea Tiger Unit and the destruction of the vast array of Sea Tiger assets not to mention the seige laid on all sea activities of the outfit.

Air Chief Marshal Roshan Goonatilake

Air Vice Marshal Roshan Goonatilake and his men perhaps played the most crucial role in the military operations after 2005 ensuring the LTTE could not stage coordinated attacks on the ground due to the frequent sorties carried out by the Airforce jets on enemy territory.

With the LTTE's Anti-Aircraft missiles no long there the Air Force were able to carry out precision bombing on enemy targets causing much damage to the LTTE.

Hailing from a family who served in the Airforce with distinction Air Vice Marshal Goonatileke lived upto that reputation and led a most effective operation that facilitated movement of the ground troops.

Perhaps the losing of a younger brother while on a mission would have strengthened the resolve of this young officer to get even with the enemy.

He himself was a potential target when the an LTTE suicide bomber blew herself opposite the Navy Headquarters on the day Kilinochchi was captured.

But nothing deterred the resolve of the handsome Air force Commander on the mission he had set out to put an end to terrorism in the country.

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