Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha
Credit Card War
7 August 2000
Foreign Aid & Sri Lanka's Military Expenditure]
While lot of
'gas' is emanating from the Colombo scene, like that from a newly opened soda
bottle, and palanquin-carriers such as Varadaraja Perumal and his ilk have been
pushed to work overtime, dusting Chandrika Kumaratunga's sandals for the 'peace
drama' she is preparing, it seems pertinent to peep behind
the peace mask of the President of Sri Lanka.
What knowledgeable defence correspondent Iqbal Athas, reported on July 30 in
the (Sinhala owned) Sri Lankan Sunday Times newspaper, is of some interest to
Tamils. He stated:
Chandrika Kumaratunga's treasury coffers are empty. And now, she is pursuing a
credit card war on Tamils, while parading the international scene as a
|"...officials at Army Headquarters wrote to military
suppliers seeking their consent to make payments next year for supplies that
are being made available this year. Whilst some suppliers had agreed to
accept payment late, others with whom deals had been concluded and whose
countries had been visited by special envoys to thank them for the sales,
have shown reluctance.
"Such deals were still in the balance as Treasury
and senior Army officials discussed last Friday ways and means of
accommodating payments for the deals which have been concluded and Letters
of Credit opened. President Kumaratunga was to chair a meeting of these
officials to reach finality.
"It has now become clear that cash flow problems were the main reason why
the Government had to appeal to suppliers to delay accepting payments. 'We
are now working out the priority areas and will ensure the war effort is not
hampered in any way', a Senior Army official who spoke on grounds of
I wish to present to
readers, my prediction of this situation, which appeared in the Lanka Guardian
magazine (edited by late Mervyn de Silva) in the Dec.15, 1995 issue, under the
caption 'Prabhakaran's Retreat'. This was written when the majority of
the residents in southern Sri Lanka were gloating over the
army's widely-overrated 'capture of Jaffna'. Some excerpts of what I wrote,
are as follows:
is it that when the
Army hits Jaffna with missiles and bombs, the suffering of commoners is
cast aside as 'collateral damage' in the international press release, but
when the LTTE retaliates in the East or in Colombo, the attack is called a
'terror campaign'? Is it because the definition of terror is different for
those who hold nominal power and those who challenge the status quo?
party line that the 'LTTE and its senior commanders fled [Jaffna] city' may
definitely give a morale boost to the battered and accident-prone image of
the Army. It will also probably 'strengthen President Kumaratunga's case' in
the political stage. But as the old adage says,
'Don't count your chickens before the eggs are hatched.'
about the much-touted 'army's resources'. Can you be more specific about
these resources in terms of cash? I hardly find any real figures mentioned
about the defence expenditure related to military offensives?
Does the Army generate its own resources?
Someone is paying for the army's resources and everyone knows that Sri Lanka
is not blessed with gold mines and oil fields. If you put a moderate guess,
such as one million [US] dollars per day as operational expenses in Jaffna,
then one can easily guess that the Army's resources are not unlimited. There
lies Prabhakaran's strategy....
they have taken the LTTE frontally, can the Army and the President feel
comfortable that they can establish a government in Jaffna? This will be
akin to the mental peace of a guy who pretends to sleep in the tiger's den."
I was glad that Mervyn de Silva even published this letter in his magazine at
that time. I will never claim that I'm a seer who could forecast the future. But
what I wrote in December1995 was simple common sense. That was all.
Now let us calculate, how much Chandrika Kumaratunga has
squandered in dollars for her war against Tamils in Jaffna region alone. I
put down a very conservative estimate of one million US dollars per day as
operational expenses in Jaffna. Now let us count. This means, 1996 - 366 million
dollars; 1997 - 365 million dollars; 1998 - 365 million dollars; 1999 - 365
million dollars; and until end of July 2000 - 213 million dollars. A total of
1,674 million dollars and counting operational expenses alone! What does she
have now to show to the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka? Lost territory of the '1995
capture' and 30,000 captive troops in Jaffna, surrounded by Prabhakaran's
Contemporary scholarship has calculated that Spanish Queen Isabella's
sponsoring Christopher Columbus's first voyage to West Indies, cost about 5
million US dollars in current terms. This figure was arrived at using a
conversion of the 1492 Spanish coins, the maraveda, to a current US dollar
value of $1.60. 'Peace Queen' Chandrika has spent an astounding, [335 fold]
higher amount than that spent by Queen Isabella, to establish her 'army
route' to Jaffna. Still her army is floundering and
nearly 20,000 members are farcically fleeing the command, despite repetitive
However, history is replete with foolish politicians, and if one believes the
lines of Iqbal Athas, Chandrika is still interested in pursuing her credit card
war against Eelam Tamils.