Let Commodore Ajith Boyagoda live in peace


Ajith Boyagoda

Though I had heard of Ajith Boyagoda as the Navy officer who was held in captivity by the LTTE terrorists for eight years, I only met him recently. First, when he walked into the News 1st office to hand over his book ‘A Long Watch - War, Captivity and Return in Sri Lanka’, beautifully written by Sunila Galappatti. I got a feeling of sadness as I spoke to the bearded former Navy officer. For a moment I thought he was in his own lost world, pushed away by several people he once worked with. I thought there was a certain loneliness about him and asked myself how if I were held a prisoner like Ajith, in the jungles of Wanni by a brutal terrorist group for eight long years. I wanted to put myself in his shoes or his shackles and to go back to those dark days. I couldn't. It scared me. We spoke for a few minutes and then realised we had a mutual friend in the evergreen, laughing machine, Commander HU Silva. I called HU and told him that his batch mate Ajith was with me and that he would come on Sirasa News 1st Pathikada the following day. HU said "Adey u LTTE Karaya" (He is an LTTE cadre) and teased Ajith.

We both laughed. Ajith said, "That is HU. He isn't like others." Later HU called and told me, "He is a good, honest fellow. I got angry when I read the first few chapters of his book but, felt sorry for him later." I had heard over and over, the accusation made by several people in the establishment, and people who knew nothing about Boyagoda, that he worked for the LTTE after he was taken prisoner. The ship ‘Sagarawardane’ was destroyed and sunk by the terrorists in September 1994. Later, I asked that question from Ajith. He has even countered the accusation in his book in detail; how the LTTE approached him to work for them and how he refused them politely and they said nothing to him thereafter. I also heard from another former very senior officer of the Navy that they heard reports that Ajith was seen with the LTTE Sea Tiger leader Soosai at three different places and he was not in chains as claimed by him in the book.

But, my question is: How would you and I act if we were taken prisoner for eight long years. What would we choose? Life in a terrorist prison or death? Are we heroes? What happened to the heroes and their families who sacrificed their lives and limbs for the country? Do they have luxury vehicles like third-grade politicians and their kith and kin ruling and ruining this country? No. They don’t. Just look at the way many are treated in Sri Lanka? I am very tired of this, that and the other, and this group and that group, and finger pointing which is taking place in Sri Lanka. Then and now.

I interviewed Commodore Ajith Boyagoda last Thursday. I had read 13 chapters of his book by then. I was pained reading his story. My heart was shrouded with sadness for the sad looking bearded sailor. Not only me but, my colleague Faraz Shaukatally too was pained during the interview. I finished reading the book, Friday late evening. To me it was heartbreaking and I posted this on Face Book, Twitter and even Instagram, because I wanted to express myself and tell the world of my sadness. "I was heartbroken reading 'A Long Watch' the story of Commodore Ajith Boyagoda, who was held captive by the LTTE for eight years. One of the best books I have read. With a heartfelt sigh; A Must Read. I salute you Ajith. Sri Lanka must be fair to you, and I reproduced the page 210 of his book which had this to say:

"I felt that when I returned to the Navy, everything that came to me was something that I had to ask for, to fight for. It was making me miserable. It is true that the Navy I returned to was not the one I had known. It was a huge professional force now. I felt that the Navy I had known and served in was a better one, but perhaps they did not. Perhaps they thought I would not fit into the new way of doing things. But, they neither voiced their reservations nor gave me a chance to try. I feel they should have told me what they were thinking. I feel the same way about their mistrust. If they had addressed it, we could have discussed it. May be then they would have come to see things differently. In a sense, I returned from captivity to discover that I was more mistrusted by my own side than I had even been by the enemy. At least you expect bad treatment from an enemy. So whenever I suffered in LTTE custody, I figured it was fair enough. When I suffered within my own force, I was hurt. I was a naval man. These things mattered to me."

This is how Commodore Boyagoda felt. He felt wronged by the very people he decided to serve. One must read the book to find out more and why. If people do not agree with him, instead of hissing and whispering behind his back, they must come out with the ‘truth’. May be we can facilitate a debate. What else could we expect from a country full of conspiracy theories, agents, enemies and even shadow enemies and ghosts and ghost busters.

There are so many sides to a story or an incident or sometimes even an accident. There is also your side, my side, his/her side, other side/s, someone else’s side and sometimes even unseen sides, wrong and correct sides. But, who the hell are we to cast the first stone? Let Ajith Boyagoda live in peace because it was Ajith who was held a prisoner for 8 years. It was Ajith’s wife and children who suffered without a husband and father. It was his parents who suffered without a son. He wasn't even informed about his beloved father’s death. He had to assume that his father has passed away. Let’s put ourselves in his shoes for a moment. To me Ajith Boyagoda is much more important than the then powerful Minister SB Dissanayaka (better known for his foul mouth and changing sides for his personal gains. He nearly destroyed the life of Sri Lanka’s Olympic medal winning Susanthika Jayasinghe) who chased away and disrespected his (Ajith’s) elderly father and his wife when they went to him, to see if the government could intervene to get Boyagoda released from the clutches of the LTTE.

To all the detractors and do-gooders and to everyone who have passed judgement on Boyagoda, I say: Let Commodore Ajith Boyagoda and his family live peacefully. Because they are US. They are YOU.


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