Lt Colonel Anton Gash was the “Defence Adviser” attached to the British High Commission from February 2007 to June 2009 and therefore observed and commented on the ongoing war to the UK Foreign Office. In this capacity he was a key figure in organising the training given to the SL armed services on International Humanitarian Law etc, between the 3rd and 8tth March 2008 under the supervision of Commander Alan Cole. Both Cole and Gash were specifically thanked by the SL Foreign Minister, Rohitha Bogollagama, on this occasion.
Of upper class background, Anton Gash was educated at Eton (1978-83), read Classics & Literature & Linguistics at Oxford (1984-88) and completed his Defence Studies at Cranfield University and Kings College over the years 1996-98.
His duties in Sri Lanka involved secret despatches to his masters in London. His background would have given him some measure of the military experience required to decipher battlefield conditions and he therefore had an advantage over the average news reporter conveying appraisals of the ongoing situation. He would certainly not be found guilty of the crass assessments of the type essayed by Mark Salter in his condemnation of the SL Army.
His assessments have not been in the public domain till recently. However, after protracted effort Michael the Lord Naseby managed to secure access to these despatches in redacted form for the House of Lords. We now have the despatches for that crucial period January to April within the public domain. The access is not wholesale: some lines and/or pages have been blacked out by the British authorities.
Nevertheless, these comments are as useful as revealing. They will be explored in depth along thematic strands during the following months.
Pertinent Questions can be raised beforehand.
Issue A: Did British Foreign Secretary David Miliband read any of these despatches before rushing across to Sri Lanka in late April with Bernard Kouchner of France to try and twist President Rajapaksa’s elbow – an act of old-fashioned gunboat diplomacy if ever there was one?
Issue B: Where Lt. Col. Gash does not indicate direct observations, except on one occasion. So, readers will wish to know WHAT his sources were: satellite information? listening in on the military communications from both the warring parties and their units?** Dependable contacts among serving officers in the SL armed forces? …. local media personnel? … persons embedded and trapped within LTTE controlled territory?
The terse and succinct language of these despatches do, however, suggest one fact: his sources were not solely dependent on any of the 207 Sri Lankan Tamil officials attached to the ten (yes, ten) NGO organisations remaining among the corralled Tamil population in remnant Thamililam in the last few months of the war. That is to say, he did not rely blindly and completely on their reports of bombardment and death in the manner taken up by many British and American media personnel – from Ravi Nessman of the Associated Press in Colombo, to British reporters Charles de Haviland (BBC in Colombo), Gethin Chamberlain and Jeremy Page (in Asian cities) and to — quite stunning these last instances — the UN Media Officer Gordon Weiss in Colombo and Marie Colvin in her Times office in London.
As I have stressed in a previous article, the LTTE-inspired tales were even effective in Colombo where several “Western agencies swallowed the LTTE-inspired stories hook, line and sinker because they were exciting from a news point of view” (quoting a long-resident Indian reporter PK Balachandran 2015). Among those who fell into this field of gullibility was the UN media man in Colombo, Gordon Weiss, who went on air in early May 2006 speaking of “a bloodbath.” Weiss’s broadcast was through Associated Press, headed in Colombo by the Jewish American Ravi Nessman, whose reports on the war from Sri Lanka were marked by simple-mindedness and the regurgitation of claims presented by Tamil NGO personnel and/or TamilNet, the LTTE’s principal web-media.
Anton Gash’s despatches therefore provide a partial corrective to the misrepresentation in these news reports. They challenge the perspectives that are still deeply embedded in the Western world because of the power of its HR agencies, media engines and Tamil migrant organisations working as a hydra-headed juggernaut.
Gash is still a serving officer attached to the British High Commission in Jamaica. It is doubtful if he can ever divulge his sources of data, but we must remain grateful for the access to his assessments of the unfolding battle and refugee scenes. Praise be to the Lord… Michael the Lord Naseby.
A CRITICAL ADDENDUM:
On receiving a copy of this article Michael the Lord Naseby sent me this central piece of information by email dated 2 April 2018: “When I met Col . Gash in early January 2009 I gained the impression that he had very good & reliable contact with serving officers in the SL armed forces.”
Balachandran, P. K. 2015 “PK Balachandran on Overt & Covert Paths in Indian and American Policies towards Sri Lanka, 2008-09,”26 September 2015, https://thuppahis.com/2015/09/16/pk-balachandran-on-overt-and-covert-faces-in-indian-and-american-policies-towards-the-sri-lankan-war-2008-09/
Nessman, Ravi 2009 “Interview with Associated Press Writer Ravi Nessman: AP Sri Lanka Bureau Chief,” 18 February 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2ZqLlpuLBE.
Roberts, Michael 2013 “BBC-Blind: Misreading the Tamil Tiger Strategy of International Blackmail, 2008-13,” 8 December 2013, https://thuppahis.com/2013/12/08/bbc-blind-misreading-the-tamil-tiger-strategy-of-international-blackmail-2008-13/#more-1122
Roberts, Michael 2013 “Witnesses to “the War without Witnesses” … Voiceless? Buried Foreign Reporters?” 30 December 2013, https://thuppahis.com/2013/12/30/11504/
Roberts, Michael 2014 Tamil Person and State. Pictorial, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications.
Roberts, Michael 2014 “Generating Calamity, 2008-2014: An Overview of Tamil Nationalist Operations and Their Marvels,” 10 April 2014, http://groundviews.org/2014/04/10/generating-calamity-2008-2014-an-overview-of-tamil-nationalist-operations-and-their-marvels/
Roberts, Michael 2014 “The War in Sri Lanka: Ravi Nessman’s Slanted Story for USA on the Tavis Smiley Show, 18 February 2009,” 31 January 2014, https://thuppahis.com/2014/01/31/the-war-in-sri-lanka-ravi-nessmans-slanted-story-for-usa-on-the-tavis-smiley-show-18-february-200/
Roberts, Michael 2015 “Targeting Sri Lanka by playing ball with Tamil Extremism,” 24 July 2015, https://thuppahis.com/wpadmin/post.php?post=17127&action=edit&postpost=v2
Roberts, Michael 2016 “David Miliband’s Imperious Intervention in Lanka left in Tatters,” 5 July 2016, https://thuppahis.com/2016/07/05/david-milibands-imperious-intervention-in-lanka-left-in-tatters/
Roberts, Michael 2017 “Reporters struggling with Eelam War IV: Some Recollections and Reports,” 21 October 2017, https://thuppahis.com/2017/10/21/reporters-struggling-with-eelam-war-iv-some-recollections-and-reports/
Salter, Mark 2015 To End a Civil War. Norway’s Peace Engagement in Sri Lanka, London: Hurst & Company.
Tammita-Delgoda, S. 2014 “Reading Between the Lines in April 2009: Tammita-Delgoda takes apart Marie Colvin’s jaundiced propaganda article in British newspaper,” 26 September 2014, https://thuppahis.com/2014/09/26/rading-between-the-lines-in-april-2009-tammita-delgoda-takes-apart-marie-colvins-jaundiced-propanda-article-in-british-newspaper/
 Battlefield terrain varies. There is considerable difference between fighting in the northern hills of Vietnam (e.g. around Dien Bien Phu), the mountains of Afghanistan, the deserts in Iraq and the scrub jungle of the northern Vanni. Even in the latter instance, the terrain around Mullativu is different from the marshy scrub of the Mannar hinterland.
 Salter provides this example of the SL Army’s “brutality”: “from 13 May advancing [SLA] soldiers fired or threw grenades into civilian bunkers as a ‘precaution’ against the possibility of the LTTE using them to launch attacks” (Salter 2015: 371). This comment highlights his (and Solheim’s) infantile military intelligence. Soldiers can hardly peep into every foxhole/bunker and inquire in Tamil “who goes there?” In any event, the standard infantry tactics in the face of numerous foxholes in their path is directed by the importance of speed of advance in order to deny the enemy time for redeployment.
 “Redaction” means: “to hide or remove (confidential parts of a text) before publication or distribution, or to examine (a text) for this purpose.” This is one out of three meanings.
 See Roberts 2016.
 One invaluable and relatively lengthy set of observations arose from Gash’s visit to the Trincomalee beach arena where an ICRC ship under SL Navy supervision was disembarking IDP refugees escorted from the LTTE arena. Gash stresses that his “presence was not planned and was based on a sudden opportunity”. That report from Gash will be presented in full soon.
** Since this article was inserted, my telephone chat with a senior retired SL Navy officer has led to the information that the UK High Commission probaly did have the capacity to tap and decipher LTTE communications. But the US embassy probably did. THE Alarmed forces also had this facility and had former Tigers and/or captured Tigers assisting the in the decoding of encrypted messages.
 Data in Gash, Confidential Despatch, 7 April 2009.
 See Roberts, “… Nessman’s Slanted Story for USA on the Tavis Smiley Show,” 18 February 2009,” 2014 and Roberts “Reporters struggling with Eelam War IV,” 21 October 2017.
 Marie Colvin was famous for her reports from the frontline in several recent wars, but most British readers would not have been cognisant of the fact that in 2009 she was ensconced in London (and Jane Russell in UK has told me that she thought Colvin was at the front). Given Colvin’s close rapport with the LTTE functionary Pulidevan, it is likely that she was receiving “data” (i.e. partially or wholly concocted tales) directly from the Tiger command centre. In brief, ideological affinity and mateship was the directing force in her reportage from afar. In mid-May 2009 she made frantic efforts to save Pulidevn and Nadesan as they prepared to surrender with white flags (efforts denied, it seems on prima facie evidence, by ruthless SLA action).
 US Embassy Despatch No. 514 of 11th May 2009: “The Government has taken offense at Weiss’ use of the term “bloodbath” in an AP interview describing the situation of civilians in the conflict zone.”
 While this occurred throughout the last phase of the war, the classic instances are circa 10-15th May when virtually every newspaper in the West repeated the stories retailed in TamilNet and/or conveyed to them by informants trapped in the remaining stub of LTTE territory (by then these civilians mostly diehard Tiger supporters). Ravi Nessman in Colombo and Marie Colvin in London were among those who presented these claims as truths and voiced concern. See Nessman 2009, Tammita-Delgoda 2014 and Roberts “Truth Journalism?” 2014.