"What is history, but a fable agreed upon" – Napoleon...
If Hitler had won the war, history would have been written differently. Wars are fought for various reasons, be it power, politics, geopolitics, religion, ethnicity or even women. Which way the cookie crumbles, it is the winner that interprets history. Some may call JR a hero while some may consider him a horror. The fact, however, remains that he is a historic figure, the interpretations of which are being re-written on an almost daily basis. It may also be recalled that there was no public holiday declared or even live TV coverage of his funeral. If not anything else, he introduced television to Sri Lanka.
We did endure 30 years of war and thankfully, one side was defeated – the best way to end a war, in my opinion. It is not only the men and women in uniform who sacrificed their lives in this war; victims of the Pettah Bus Stand bomb, Arantalawa, Central Bank bombing and thousands of others also died in the name of war. Statistics categorized as ‘collateral damage’ today, but human lives nevertheless and deserve remembering. There are also those who minted money on arms, ammunition and other war supplies – they are not heroes, just plain millionaires hobnobbing with both victor and vanquished.
Last week, we saw a landmark judicial verdict, wherein the former top Civil Servant had acted as an ordinary Government Servant (read servant of the government in power), was found guilty and sentenced to a term in jail with accompanying fines. There is no denying that if the ‘horse’ he backed had won, he would have had books written on his magnanimity instead of the ‘sentence’ handed down. A hero if he won, but now a villain since he lost. Of course, there are those (including those responsible for issuing such orders), who claim that he had performed a ‘meritorious act’. We did have a minister in charge of religious affairs at the time, but then again, telecommunications, in today’s context, works at the speed of light. All we can now do is appeal to the Courts to revise the term R.I. to mean "Religious Internment"! And God Bless them for believing the deities are as gullible as the voters. Judging others by your standards and believing that deities accept bribes would be tragic!
Of course, there were many great and brave soldiers and leaders – uniformed, civilian and political. Reports however, abound of the heroics of a different and devious kind. Even the Haitian variety.
* IF civilians were abducted for ransom by personnel in uniform, these personnel cannot be considered heroes by any stretch of imagination;
* IF security personnel arrested people like Ekneligoda and he is not heard of since, those involved cannot be termed heroes; Noyar’s case included;
* Lasantha Wickrematunge dies and his story is buried with him until the case is re-examined and his body is exhumed. Cause of death becomes attack with a blunt weapon, instead of the gunshot injuries as reported originally. Was Lasantha’s killing heroic enough to be suppressed for so long?
* Why did Wasim Thajudeen’s body have to be exhumed to confirm that his death was not the ‘accident’ it was originally made out to be? How many heroes were involved in re-writing the script and scenario for murder to be projected as an accident?
* How many ‘deserters’ are deemed heroic enough to provide security to politicians?
National Heroes MUST be recognized and respected. The mere donning of a uniform should not be the criteria for such recognition. The LTTE did commit criminal acts, but they were terrorists, recognized as such internationally. We fought and won a war and there are universally accepted norms in fighting a war. Two wrongs do not make a right. If we did make mistakes, they should be corrected. However, misuse of position for personal gain or in the pursuit of vengeance should not be condoned.
We have an example of the one-time highest-ranking public servant, being convicted of an offence deemed criminal. Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end and not the end of the beginning. Illegal orders are just that – illegal, and obeying such orders does not absolve one of guilt as demonstrated by last week’s judgment. Hiding behind the "Ranaviru" label is not in any way heroic.