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Thursday, January 7, 2010

The plot thickens!

The ISland Editorial 05/01/10

So, it has now been established beyond doubt that former army chief Gen. (retd.) Sarath Fonseka made a serious war crimes charge against Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Commander of 58 Division Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva. The latest edition of The Sunday Leader (SL) carries a hard hitting article by its Editor Frederica Jansz, who states unequivocally that Fonseka, in an interview (published in SL of Dec. 13) said, quoting an embedded journalist, that the Defence Secretary had given an illegal order to the then Brigadier Silva to kill surrendering LTTE leaders at the final stage of the war last May.

The SL of Jan. 03 has revealed that Fonseka not only levelled the allegation at issue but also tried to gain political mileage out of it, though it came home to roost unexpectedly. Now, we learn that he named the embedded journalist concerned, though the SL has withheld the name.

Thus, it is clear that the subsequent 'clarification' that Fonseka issued at the behest of his propagandists and political chums, who mismanaged the whole issue, in a desperate bid to avoid a disastrous political fallout, amounts to an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the discerning public. He has cut a very pathetic figure in the process, as the SL rightly says: "The end result has been devastating for Sarath Fonseka, who has come across not only as unpatriotic but also as vacillating and indecisive."

The SL says it has not yet received any letter of demand for millions of rupees from Fonseka contrary to a claim by his spokesman (JVP MP) Anura Kumara Dissanayake the other day that SL had distorted what Fonseka said and unless it published a denial, it would be sued. Whom is he trying to fool?

The SL says, "Finally, the JVP threatened to sue The Sunday Leader for defaming Fonseka. However, the UNP-side of the Opposition alliance assured us that no letter of demand would be forthcoming. In fact, Malik Samarawickrema of the UNP finally issued instructions to bury the story and bring an end to a clumsy and bungled chapter in the General's campaign."

The UNP may try to save its face and that of Fonseka by 'burying' the story but some foreign government/international outfit will 'exhume' it shortly to be used against this country.

If Fonseka thinks that he is safe from the on-going war crimes witch-hunt against Sri Lanka by the West, he is sadly mistaken. Last July, at a public meeting in Ambalangoda, he boasted that LTTE leaders who offered to surrender by waving white flags had been wiped out. His boast figures prominently in a State Department report on Sri Lanka's human rights situation. That was why we argued in a previous comment that the man who claimed to be as intelligent as his party symbol, the Swan, which is said to be capable of separating milk from water, had cooked his goose in style.

Fonseka's amateurishly drafted clarification landed him in deeper trouble because, in a bid to regain public sympathy and bolster his claim that he alone was responsible for the army's achievements, he said he took the full responsibility for everything that the army had done under his command! His argument that the army never carried out Gotabhaya's 'illegal order' does not carry any weight in the context of his previous statements and the SL interview in question; his allegation, unfortunately, has all the trappings of a justiciable charge.

The SL expose is a damning indictment on Fonseka, to say the least. He claims to have defeated the LTTE almost single handed. He pretends there was no government as such during the war––the government pretends that the war was won without an army commander!––the army operated on its own without any political backing and beheaded the LTTE. But, he has manifestly buckled under political pressure over a much lesser issue like a newspaper interview!

The UNF and the JVP have tried to market Fonseka by projecting him as a bigger patriot than President Mahinda Rajapaksa, whom they ironically accuse of exploiting war victories to further his political interests. But their 'Project Patriotism' and attempt to bask in the reflected glory of Fonseka has come crashing down as he has ruined his patriotic credentials by levelling a wild allegation against the army and the Defence Sectary and thereby providing a great deal of ammunition to the anti-Sri Lanka lobby which is all out to press war crimes charges against political and military leaders here. The day may not be far off when UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Philip Alston fires another letter to the Sri Lankan government asking it to explain the circumstances under which LTTE leaders perished last May.

While addressing the media last November to announce his decision to run for the presidency, unable to field a query from a journalist, a not-so-confident Fonseka admitted that he lacked sufficient political experience to give an exact answer; he claimed that he was not the only brain in the Opposition alliance and he could always count on other brains in tackling vital issues. Those brains around him have proved that they cannot even handle his propaganda without bungling. With such friends, he needs no enemies!

Fonseka may have been attractive to the public as a battle-hardened, plain-spoken and unwavering military officer capable of standing his ground and grasping the nettle but he has failed the first test of intestinal fortitude and sangfroid in politics. He has proved he is naïve, malleable, weak-kneed and lily-livered.

Meanwhile, the SL indictment is sure to aggravate the JVP's woes in that its trade union chief K. D. Lal Kantha has struck a discordant note over the war crimes issue; he has said, in public, that Fonseka is being branded as a traitor for allegedly having made war crimes charges against the army and if Fonseka has actually said what is being attributed to him, that description fits him! It will be interesting to know Lal Kantha's position on the SL expose.

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