Showing posts with label Gen. Sarath Fonseka. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gen. Sarath Fonseka. Show all posts

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sri Lanka’s Presidential; a battle between conservatives and liberal democrats

By Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe -
Sri Lanka is heading towards an early Presidential in which President Mahinda Rajapakse faces an unexpected challenge from his ex-Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka. Not far back, the merciless political and military leadership shared by these two associates led the state to wipe out the 26-year separatist threat from the violent Tamil nationalists.

Their military action is highly criticized especially by Western super powers on human rights aspects and US State Department has listed 170 war crimes allegedly done by both Sri Lanka government and the defeated rebel organization Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE).  Both Presidential candidates of the ruling coalition and the opposition alliance are criticized for human rights violations and corruption. Both were arch Sinhala nationalists during the period of war and disliked devolving power to the minorities. Both needed the country to be maintained war footed and freedom of expression was nonsense to them.

Sri Lanka changed its outlook as a non-aligned nation after 2005 under the reign of President Mahinda Rajapakse and alienated from its traditional Western allies and drifted towards China. Rajapakse was not an ardent conservative but his pragmatic approach towards the Tamil problem pushed him to a war that violated many of the warring traditions. He embraced China and other countries like Iran, Libya and Myanmar to save his face from international isolation. China, an emerging super power in the region has invested in a number of massive development projects in Sri Lanka including the construction of a harbor in Hambanthota, close to a major international shipping line. Other projects are in the fields of power, highway construction etc.

However, Sri Lanka is a socially westernized country where English is widely used as second language and most of the countrymen perceive development as a way forward towards the social situation in West. However, the ideologists of the middle class elite preach nationalism and Orientalist dogma to gain political advantages in power echelon and Sri Lankans appear as split humans with one part in Western world of practical life and the other part in the ideological Oriental dreamland.

This split can be seen in politics as the middle class dominated conservative elements ally in the ruling coalition United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) while the capitalist and proletarian elements appear to unite in a new opposition coalition in the making with liberal democratic principles.

Comprador United National Party (UNP) and the proletarian People’s Liberation Front (JVP) have shed their traditional rivalry to support ex-Army chief Sarath Fonseka who recently showed his miraculous metamorphosis as a liberal democrat from his apolitical military role of Sinhala Buddhist Army Commander.
In the press briefing that he handled solely at the Jaic Hilton where he announced his candidature formally, he appeared for individual freedom, open economy, freedom for the private sector, power devolution to grant ethnic equality, abolition of dictatorial Presidential system, reinstating the power of the legislature and the much needed good governance.

Many opposition liberal and leftist thinkers dislike his military-like personality and suspects he will move towards totalitarianism once he is vested in the super powers of the Executive Presidency. Conservative pro-government elements try to portray him as an egoist while almost all of them should be unquestionably belong to the same category. They try to show him as a disloyal betrayer and a traitor of the ‘nation.’ The ‘nation’ eventually means a forming aristocratic dynasty surrounded by a bunch of greedy opportunists that sup with what trickles down through the fingers of the kings and princess.

Nevertheless, President Mahinda Rajapakse, flanked by his brothers is al powerful and knows the pulse of the polity too well. He is fighting back the new threat with all the state powers in line with the traditions of the Presidents vying for second term. It is not easy to defeat him in rural areas where he is popular thanks to his outgoing personality that none of the practicing politicians can match.

No one can predict what will happen on January 26, the day of the Presidential and the days after that. But Sri Lankan polity looks dividing apart the line of conservatism and liberal democracy. Every Sri Lankan has two souls; a conservative and a liberal democrat. The winner of the Presidential will be the one who will address most forcefully to either of these souls.   

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sri Lanka President to hold general election prior to presidential

(November 17, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse who earlier wanted an early presidential to extend his term for eight more years manipulating the popularity he earned via the victory over the Tamils' violent struggle for homeland is now changing his mind, sources say.

The President is likely to postpone the presidential and the parliamentary elections are to come soon as the term ends in April next year.

The President anticipated a one horse race with the shattered opposition until the former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka who was a kingpin of the government's war victory came into the scene as a possible common opposition candidate in an upcoming presidential.

Fonseka retired from the post of Chief of Defense Forces on November 16. He said to media that he would expose his plans for future within a couple of days.

Major opposition United National Party (UNP) and Marxist nationalist People's Liberation Front (JVP) have pledged conditional support to Fonseka and both parties have sought the abolition of the executive presidency. However informal sources say that Fonseka has asked for a period of two years to go before the abolition of the executive presidency.

However, with the possibility of holding a general election before the presidential, Fonseka, the UNP and the JVP will have to rethink their strategies. At the moment, Sarath Fonseka appears more popular than the President, according to an online survey conducted by our sister Sinhala website

Monday, November 02, 2009

Sri Lanka in talks to avoid war-crimes quiz in US

(November 02, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka called on US authorities to drop plans to interview the island's military commander over allegations of war crimes against ethnic Tamil rebels, an official said Sunday.

The Colombo government held "very high-level" talks to prevent General Sarath Fonseka, currently visiting Oklahoma, from being quizzed over his conduct during the conflict against the Tamil Tigers, the official said.

The privately-run Sunday Times newspaper here said Fonseka had been asked to present himself for an interview with the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday.

The move "prompted fears in Colombo that Washington is asserting its legal authority over the 'war crimes' report" released last month, the paper said referring to a State Department dossier on alleged war crimes.

The report outlined excesses by security forces and Tiger rebels during the final stages of fighting earlier this year. The report, submitted to the US Congress, refers to Fonseka's having overstepped his brief.

The Sunday Times said the Sri Lankan diplomatic mission there was already providing legal assistance to Fonseka.

Fonseka is a US Green Card holder and travelled to the US last week to visit his two daughters. He also addressed a group of Sri Lankans in Washington last week and took credit for leading the battle to crush the Tigers.

The US embassy in Colombo declined comment.

The State Department report cited allegations that Tamil rebels recruited children and that government forces broke a ceasefire as well as killed rebels who surrendered.

It also cited reports in which it was claimed government troops or government-backed paramilitaries "abducted and in some instances then killed Tamil civilians, particularly children and young men."

The report covered the period from January -- when fighting intensified -- until the end of May, when Sri Lankan troops defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at the end of a decades-old separatist conflict.

Sri Lanka last week announced it was appointing a panel to investigate the allegations after initially dismissing the report as "unsubstantiated."

The island's government managed to stave off a UN human rights council debate on alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity thanks to the backing of veto-holders China and Russia.

The UN has said that up to 7,000 civilians perished during the last four months of fighting and accused both the military and the Tigers of not doing enough to protect civilians.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sri Lanka's minority representatives disgruntled with the move to propose former Army Commander as opposition common candidate

(October 21, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Minority political parties and activists appear dejected with the rumor that former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka will contest the future Presidential election as a common candidate of the joint opposition. Fonseka is famous as an outspoken Sinhala nationalist despite holding a top position in the multi ethnic island nation.

Democratic Peoples Front, a  Colombo based Tamil Party, said in a statement issued by its leader leader Mano Ganesan that he has told UNP leader Ranil Wickramasinghe that his party will not be a party to the proposed United National Alliance if General Sarath Fonseka is considered and proposed as the common candidate in the event of a presidential elections. "Tamil speaking people of this country do not have anything in common with General Fonseka for him to be our common candidate," says the media statement issued from the office of Ganesan says The statement further says that, "The name of General Sarath Fonseka is being considered by Marxist nationalist People's Liberation Front (JVP) as a common candidate for the presidential elections. Sarath Manemendra of Nava Sihala Urumaya too has invited Gen Sarath Fonseka to contest the presidential elections. He has spoken this from the office of Sri Lanka Freedom Party - People's Wing) (SLFP-M) leader Mangala Samaraweera. Therefore this has given all reasonable signals to the nation that the proposed alliance between UNP, SLFP(M), SLMC and DPF wants General Sarath Fonseka to contest the presidential elections as the common opposition candidate.

"This position is not shared by Democratic Peoples Front (DPF). DPF will not be a party to the proposed United National Alliance if General Sarath Fonseka is considered and proposed as the common candidate at the presidential elections. Tamil speaking people of this country do not have anything in common with General Fonseka for him to be our common candidate," says Ganeshan. 

Meanwhile, the major Tamil constituent Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has also expressed its dissatisfaction with the move to propose the former Army Commander that crushed the Tamil rebellion for self-determination as the opposition common candidate for the Presidential.

TNA MP N. Sri Kantha in Parliament yesterday criticized the SLFP (M) Convener Mangala Samaraweera stating that he was trying to drag military officers into politics.Speaking during the debate on the Supplementary Estimate of the Defence Ministry in the House yesterday the TNA MP said Samaraweera was trying to draw a connection between the military and politics.

Fonseka said to Canada's National Post on September 23, 2008, "I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people...We being the majority of the country, 75%, we will never give in and we have the right to protect this country...We are also a strong nation ... They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue thing."

Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic nation with 24% Tamil speaking community including Muslims.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sri Lanka President facing a 'general' problem

(October 18, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Former Sri Lanka Army Commander and present Chief of Defense Staff General Sarath Fonseka has hit the headlines due to the rumors regarding he becoming a contender for the country's all powerful executive presidency at the upcoming presidential poll. 
The President Mahinda Rajapakse is considering an early presidential poll after the completion of four years in his first tenure with a hope of adding eight more years for his career in a bid to make his hay during the sunny weather of post-war Sri Lanka. The President who expected an easy victory seems bemused with the rumors regarding his foremost general becoming his rival at the Presidential. The prominent state-owned Sinhala language newspapers ran the same story on Saturday and Sunday that said the stories about a conflict between the government and the former Army Commander were false. However, all the state media reports that declined the conflict lacked one basic proof, i.e. a statement from the relevant commander.
Fonseka who is an arch Sinhala nationalist was against the 2002 ceasefire agreement and led the Army to totally annihilate the Tamil rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) that fought for three decades for the right of self-determination of Ealam Tamils. The Army eliminated the entire leadership of the LTTE in the battlefield and some media reported that the troops gunned down LTTE political leaders B. Nadesan and S.Puleethevan that came with white flags to surrender to Army.
Fonseka made many controversial statements to media as he was holding the post of the Army Commander of the multi-ethnic nation. He said to Canadian National Post on September 23, 2008, “I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people...We being the majority of the country, 75%, we will never give in and we have the right to protect this country...We are also a strong nation ... They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue thing.”
Sri Lanka has around 25% Tamil speaking population that is comprised of Tamils and Muslims and the Tamils have fought for almost a century for powers of ruling the Tamil dominated areas. The Sinhala majority that holds the state powers does not like to give in due to fear of losing their status as a lonely community of just below 200,000 that speak a language called Sinhala. Although they won the war against Tamils, they have so far failed to achieve peace with the minority communities. A power sharing mechanism that is vehemently opposed by minority communities is a pre-requisite for a sustainable peace.
General Sarath Fonseka was made to retire before schedule and he was appointed as the Chief of Defense Staff, a position under the control of Defense Secretary, a post held by the President’s brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse. He was later appointed as the secretary of the Ministry of Sports and Recreation. The general has neither assumed nor declined the post so far even after a week for the appointment.
Some media reports pointed out that the appointment was aimed at demeaning the former Army Commander and his role in the war against LTTE. Media reports that say the state media has been directed by authorities not to give publicity to the former Army Commander can be observed correct since he was seen in state media very rarely now. Government’s media machine gives less priority to the news related to armed forces now.
By weekend police Criminal Investigation Department interrogated the editor of Sinhala tabloid ‘Lanka’ about a lead story it ran this week about the conflict between the former army Commander and the government. Marist nationalist People’s Liberation Front (JVP) that owns the newspaper is promoting General Fonseka’s candidacy for the next Presidential. Reports indicate that a wide section of the major opposition United National Party (UNP) is also supporting the move.
However, the man in the limelight has still made no comment regarding these rumors.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sri Lanka Army killed 22,000 LTTE cadres; lost 192 officers and 5,200 men

(October 11, Colombo - Lanka Polity) The Sri Lankan Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Sarath Fonseka told The Island daily here on Saturday, that in the two-year-and-10-month long Eelam War IV, the Sri Lankan army had killed 22,000 fighters of the LTTE and captured over 9,000.

“This is 90 per cent of the total losses inflicted on the LTTE by all the security forces,” Fonseka said at the end of the army’s 60th anniversary celebrations.The General, who led the army to victory in the 2006-2009 operations known as Eelam War IV, claimed that the army was responsible for the destruction of 70 per cent of the assets of the LTTE’s sea and air wings also. One of the key factors, which helped the army defeat the LTTE was rapid modernisation and fresh recruitment, he said. The army grew in manpower from 116,000 to 200,000 in three years. New recruits held captured areas while experienced troops took part in the offensives.

However, the army lost 192 officers and 5,200 men and 27,000 suffered battlefield injuries.“The army bore 96 per cent of the casualties in this war,” Fonseka said. “No one can match or come close to the army’s contribution to the war,” he added.

White handkerchief marks protest against forcible cremation by the government of Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan civil society is silently but strongly marking their protest against the government's inhuman  forcible  cremation of a 20-da...