In venturing into Pakistan this month of September 2019 for the first tour recognised in the ICC books since the terrorist assault on the Sri Lankan entourage on 3rd March 2009, it could be conjectured that Sri Lanka is re-paying the Pakistan government for its military support when the Sri Lankan armed forces were in dire straits in the Jaffna Peninsula after the huge SL Army base at Elepahnt Pass was captured on 23rd April 2008 followed by the fall of the Pallai base. Colonel Balraj’s Tiger troops were so ascendant and threatening that the Kumaratunga government was considering the evacuation of all forces from the Jaffna Peninsula. A calamity of the Dunkirk variety was looming in April-May. Overtures were even made to the Indian government for assistance in evacuation. Even Generals Fonseka and Janaka Perera were prepared to take this step. It was General Anuruddha Ratwatte who backed President Kumaratunga’s fighting spirit and refused to pursue such a course in early May 2000.
But what saved the day was the fruition of other plans in progress – resting on the securing of heavy-duty MBRL from whatever source. Brigadier Sanath Seneviratne was sent to Czechoslavakia, while General Srilal Weerasooriya contacted an old Army friend, one Pervez Musharraf who, as it happened, was the ruler of Pakistan.
As fortuitously, Rear Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda was on an advanced training course at the Pakistan Defence Academy. Aided by ambassador Alfie David and Group Captain Jayanath Kumarasiri (Defence Attache) the purchase was finalized. The MBRLs and their rockets reached Katunayake in May and were shipped to the bases on the Peninsula on the “Lanka Muditha;” while Pakistani ‘technicians’ flew to Palaly to train the Army artillery personnel. They probably assisted participated in the long-range battles.
The ‘heavyweight’ bombardments of the MBRL’s turned the tide. The GoSL’s hold on the Jaffna Peninsula was secured even though Elephant Pass was no longer in their hands.
The LTTE under Pirapāharan was never a forgiving nation. The assassination of General Janaka Perera on 8th October 2008, the attempted assassinations of General Fonseka on 5th May 2006 and one of the Pakistani ambassadors on 6th August 2006 can be attributed as payback killings directed in part by the military impact of the MBRLs.
Now, one will ask, what has this got to do with the present cricketing tour? My answer is conjectural, but in definitive voice. Our leaders too have long memories. Senior brass in the island’s military firmament today, whether retired or serving, would have chipped in with the suggestion that Sri Lanka’s cricketers should repay the Paksitani government and people for that moment of succour in April-May 2000.
The officials of the Sri Lankan Cricket Board may have visited Pakistan and checked out the situation; but the final assent would have rested with the highest in the land, President Sirisena and Ranil Wickremasinghe. Our newshounds will be able to test my conjecture – if they are, indeed, newshounds.
For fuller details of the 2000 situation, SEE …..
Michael Roberts, “Where Ratwatte and CBK Stood Strong: Coping with the Elephant Pass Debacle in April-May 2000,” 24 July 2016, https://thuppahis.com/2016/07/24/where-ratwatte-and-cbk-stood-strong-coping-with-the-elephant-pass-debacle-in-april-may-2000/