Road to Nandikadal and ‘Moon walk in Jaffna

By Manekshaw
Major General Kamal Gunaratne, who had been one of the field commanders of the final phase of the battle against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and made the outfit to meet its ‘waterloo’ at Nandikadal in Mullaitivu, with the death of its illusive leader Veluppillai Prabhakaran, released his autobiography titled ‘Road to Nadikadal’ on his retirement last week.

Major General Kamal Gunaratne’s book Road to Nandikadal more than highlighting Sri Lanka Army’s remarkable victory over one of the most deadliest militant outfits in the world, had clearly outlined the impression of a Lankan soldier on the long drawn out separatist war which had lasted for three decades traumatizing the entire country.
The author of Road to Nandikadal joined the Army as a young officer in the early eighties and, unlike his predecessors, right from the beginning of his military career grew up with the ruthless war and finally reached the prestigious rank of Major General by winning the ‘mother of all battles’ against the LTTE in 2009.
Since the first military offensive launched against the LTTE code named ‘Operation Liberation’ which is also popularly known as ‘Vadamarachchi Operation’ in 1987, four battles were fought against the LTTE until the final show down in 2009.
Maj. Gen Kamal Gunaratne being a very junior officer when ‘Operation Liberation’ was launched in 1987 under the military leadership of several veterans such as late Generals Denzil Kobbekaduwa, Vijaya Wimalaratne and several other senior officers who later ended up as Army Commanders, expressed his frustration over the Indian involvement in deviating the tempo of the ‘Operation Liberation’ and allowing the LTTE to gain the space to escape from the Lankan military operation.
Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne has mentioned in his book that he was furious over Indian planes dropping food parcels in Jaffna and has gone on to say that he even felt like shooting down the Indian planes. Even several military analysts still believe that if Indians didn’t meddle around when the ‘Vadamarachchi Operation’ was launched the Sri Lankan forces would have cornered the LTTE long ago.
So it is evident that Gen. Gunaratne and several of his batchmates as young officers were extremely frustrated over the setbacks suffered by the Armed forces due to political manipulations and the young bunch of officers were however going ahead with their march until they blossomed as veterans and got their opportunity to finish off the LTTE once and for all and that is the story of Road to Nandikadal.
Magnitude of the war
The magnitude of the war and the strength the LTTE possessed is evident from the growth of the Armed Forces, particularly the Army with several Majors General and Brigadiers. During the early stages of the war, Sri Lanka Army’s top most rank remained as Major General. However, at the end of the war with significant number of Majors General, the Sri Lankan Army Chief was placed in the rank of Lieutenant General and the country producing its first Field Marshal.
North and East had been the theatre for several noteworthy battles between the Armed Forces and the LTTE. Not only on the ground but even in the sea and air the Sri Lankan war had every aspect of the major battles which were fought globally.
Road to Nandikadal author while penning his military exploits had even highlighted his professionalism by making his observations on the LTTE, particularly about the leader of the outfit Velupillai Prabhakaran. Gen. Gunaratne has pointed out that the LTTE leader would have been uneducated but he maintained strict discipline within the outfit. “He was a loving family man. The SLA recovered over 10,000 photographs of Prabhakaran, his family and LTTE functions but we never found a picture of Prabhakaran with a glass of alcohol. He was a disciplined leader and he maintained a law deadlier than Sharia law. If you steal, you lose your hand under Sharia law, but under Prabhakaran’s law you lose your life. Although he was a Hindu, he never believed in God. Once he said that God was there for the powerful countries. He was a different kind of a man and he had some good characteristics for someone to learn, Gen. Gunaratne has mentioned.
So it is clear, despite possessing a good military leadership, Prabhakaran didn’t have proper political thinking and whatever the strategies he made in the political arena was aimed at buying time to strengthen his military wing and not towards finding a political solution. Even the LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham was frustrated over the stance taken by Prabhakaran during the peace process facilitated by Norway and predicted the downfall of the outfit to his close associates before his death in London.
Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne’s book Road to Nandikadal has been launched in the backdrop of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visiting the island last week for the second time since he made his first visit in 2009 with the end of the war.
The UN Chief even went to Poonthottam camp set up by the previous government in Vavuniya to accommodate nearly 3,000,000 Internally Displaced Persons who had escaped from the LTTE held areas in Vanni when the final phase of the war aggravated.
The intensity of the protest launched by the families of the disappeared persons when Ban Ki-moon visited Jaffna last week had highlighted that despite the end of war seven years ago and with the formation of the new government last year the post-war humanitarian issues largely remain unresolved.
The UN Chief Ban Ki-moon before winding up his Sri Lankan tour even admitted that his institution had failed in handling the situation with regard to the humanitarian issues during the final phase of the war. So with Ban Ki-moon admitting the UN’s failure in addressing several humanitarian issues connected with the war and with the people in the North and the East still placing their confidence in implementing the UNHRC’s resolution as a last resort to bring justice to their grievances, the visit of the UN Secretary General to Jaffna could be considered as a ‘moon walk’ which is a dance form in which the dancer moves backward while appearing to move forward.