Armoured Trishaws – three wheeled Light Armoured Infantry Close Support Vehicle (LAICSV) — are the most recognisable icon of the Sri Lankan wars. These ungainly yet lethally nimble vehicles were instrumental in decisively ending the conflict. Military analysts have labelled them the “most significant paradigm shift in ground warfare since the tank”. Yet Lucian Hergie’s ground breaking book about their rise, “Scorpions of Paradise; the Role of Light Armoured Infantry Close Support Vehicles in the Sri Lankan War” (Lavanthian Global Press) is about to be banned.
The INGO directing reconstruction efforts, the Centre for Peace Implementation, has labelled the book “a threat to peace, stability and reconciliation”. It has taken the unprecedented step of instructing the newly elected post war federal government to ban the book. According to analyst Goliath White, “The book opens too many wounds and unpalatable facts too soon”.
How a book on a piece of military technology could inflame such a harsh response is surprising. The root of the controversy is that the book goes beyond its brief of documenting the history of a piece of military hardware. The mammoth two volume work stands to become the first in-depth and definitive historical analysis of the war in general and the siege of Colombo in particular. Its narrative is supported by a volume of verifiable primary sources included as a digital media database. Yet it is officially marketed to a non academic audience. The combination according to Mr. White, makes the book a political Pandora’s box of bad memories for the governing coalition.
The author and his publishers have refused to delay the release of the book claiming it is a “timely humane record of historical fact”. Teheran based Human Rights for International Peace takes a different view calling the books’ release an act of “war profiteering” that threatens a county’s peace building process. it has called for the arrest of Mr Hergie as a “war criminal”. For many who know the author, this is a shocking allegation.
Mr Hergie is intimately familiar with urban warfare. The veteran Eurabian Al Wahabi News reporter began his career covering numerous urban conflict zones through out the former United States. His writing has been described as having the vividness of Richard Farr and the humanity of Anton Chekhov. He first rose to prominence by exposing the NORO (New Order Republic of Ontario) military backing behind the RLA (Righteous Lord’s Army) militia’s seizure of Chicago (Blood in the Water). It was followed by his unflinching coverage of the NORO military’s brutal crushing of the Quebec uprising. Both earned him his first Pulitzer and confirmed him as an expert on urban warfare. Mr Hergie was promptly labelled a “terrorist” by NORO’s ruling supreme leadership in Toronto.
In “Scorpions of Paradise” Mr Hergie demonstrates his expertise as a combat journalist. He is the only foreign correspondent to cover entire Sri Lankan war including the pivotal siege of Colombo. His eye witness accounts of the siege’s three decisive engagements: the 2nd battle of Wallawatte bridge, the Battaramulla counter offensive, and the taking of the Horton Place pocket, are vital primary sources on the military history of the war. They also detail the evolution of LAICSV tactics in the heat of battle.
The author had almost total access to all the battle zones during the in general and the siege in particular. He was privy to upper level military decisions during the fighting in Colombo. It was possible due to his close friendship with LAICSV warfare pioneer and de-facto Colombo garrison commander, Col. “Rambutan” Nadesan Van Parakramabahu. Though he has been called as a military genius in the calibre of Rommel (recently hailed as the military adviser behind army group B’s liberation of Singapore), the colonel has remained famously silent about his acheivements. His only response to the comparison: “Rommel lost. I won”. Consequently the Mr Hergie’s book offers unpresidented insight into the colonel as both a field commander and military strategist.
These factors cement Mr Hergie authority over the events of the conflict. Events whose tragic and bloody details seem to rattle those trying to pick up the pieces. Key figures in the current Federal Coalition are terrifed that the book will detail their war time incompitance. Fear of public outrage is reportlly delaying its departure from the Athagala bunker complex in the provisional captial, Kurunagala. Some political analysts have speculated that the book will reveal details of the Colonel’s ouster and exile by the federal government.
The Kandiyan government by contrast is behaving like the strategic victor of the war that it is. Despite it’s costly failure to capture Colombo, it has been busily rebranding the conflict’s history and consolidating the coastal south west. Captured offshore gas fields used as bargaining chips for finalising the new border along the Bentota River have not been relinquished. At the policy level, King Rajasinghe VIII has not renounced his agenda to unite the island by any means necessary.
However the main beneficiary of this controvery is the creator of the LAICSV – Ravana Defence Industries. Flush with overseas orders, it has become the largest employer in western Sri Lanka. Ominously some are said to originate from Kandiyan government front companies. The bunkered government in Kurunagla is too busy censoring books to check. it should know that “Scorpians of Paradise” is already mandetary reading for the Kandiayn officer corps. Many worry that Mr Hergie will have an opportunity to write another book.
Dissociated Fake Press