Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: military dictator, saviour or both?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka was interviewed in the Daily News and Sunday Observer recently. This wasn’t just an interview with an Army Commander; this was a man with political aspirations, who just happens to control an armed force of 162,000 soldiers with another 3000 joining every month.

The purpose of a military is to protect the nation and the democracy-in essence, to protect you and me. IF the system works correctly, we the people are the real rulers. We elect members from amongst us to represent our interests, and the military protects our right to do so. The military serves us. But the General thinks differently; he thinks we serve the military.

Here are a few sound bites from the interview that will help you get better acquainted with the General:

The common masses: “… they have to go through hardships. They have to spend a lot of money. They have to sacrifice.”

Ok, ok, I get it! We need to tighten our belts so that the military can recruit, train, and arm themselves to protect us. But why did they purchase a 44 million rupee Mercedes S-class for the General? It isn’t even armoured, and therefore not suitable for use by a high-risk target, which the General certainly is. The Sunday Leader’s sources said the car was for the General’s wife, though the army had denied this. Either way, how much belt-tightening is a Mercedes worth?

The nation: “the Sinhala nation has to sacrifice if you want to protect the country and survive.”

The Sinhala nation? I thought I lived in the multi-ethnic nation of Sri Lanka. Have we already been divided into a Sinhala nation, a Tamil nation, and a Muslim nation? This seems to be the world the General knows, shaped by his personal experiences as a child. He speaks of being a victim: “I can still remember how the villagers used to run to a rocky cliff when Tamils attack our village. We spend two to three days there until the situation comes back to normal.”

And there’s more-his opinion on the ethnic problem: “I don’t think the people in the North and East are subjected to any injustice…This country will be ruled by the Sinhalese community which is the majority representing 74 percent of the population.”

Well, good thing I was born Sinhala! We Sinhala can all give ourselves a collective pat on the back for putting this guy in charge of our security-he’s really looking out for us. Or is he? Read on…

On the 11th of May this year, the deputy editor of the Nation newspaper, Keith Noyahr, wrote an article titled: “An army is not its commander’s private fiefdom.” It criticized the General for depriving senior, capable, and deserving officers of reaching command positions, and instead promoting junior officers with little battlefield experience. The article pointed out a whimsical (should we say dictatorial?) style of leadership where a Major General who spearheaded the victory in the East was thanklessly removed and kicked out of his official quarters, while the commander responsible for the Muhamalai debacle was rewarded with a promotion. When it came to nominating officers for service awards, the General was a scrooge, recommending a grand total of one person for the Vishista Seva Vibushanaya… himself. He determined that only he was fit to receive it, even though he was overlooked for a lesser decoration, the Uttama Seva Padakkama, by no less than five previous army commanders (they must have had their reasons, says Noyahr’s sources). The article clearly seemed to have the tacit cooperation of officers within the service: officers who felt that the army was transforming from an institution run by military professionals with an established procedural code, to one that operated on a cult of personality-the personality of Lt. General Fonseka.

Less than two weeks after the article was published, Keith Noyahr was abducted and tortured. The Chief Opposition Whip, Joseph Michael Perera, said in parliament:

“We are told by those in the army itself that journalists are abducted and subjected to grievous injury by none other than a special unit under the army commander.”

The General’s opinion of Mr Noyahr:

“If he has done some damage to our organisation or to a person, especially when he has done something which he is not supposed to do, then it is natural he must be living in fear. If they think that they have done something of that nature the best thing for them is to correct themselves and rectify the mistake…These so called media guys are not responsible to the people and they are not entitled to such media freedom.”

So here’s what we have so far: a man who is racist, egotistical, dictatorial, and extravagant. Add to this a contempt for public freedom, an inability to appreciate other points of view, and a tendency to hold personal grudges against any who defy him.

We have our leading man. Now we need a play. So here’s where we peep in to our crystal ball and look at a possible scenario in the not too distant future:

The conventional war against the LTTE is won; the Vanni is taken. The General is celebrated as a national hero and President Mahinda Rajapaksha basks in the glory of victory. And then…the people start asking questions: why is the cost of living still so high; why are politicians so corrupt, with even provincial councillors travelling in motorcades of luxury limousines; why is Mervyn Silva still on the loose; why are obvious black holes of public money like Mihin Lanka Airlines still existing; why are political hangers-on and suck-ups selling their influence to the highest bidder; why is the country so morally decrepit, and rife with casino kings, drug peddlers, and liquor bars? And here’s one more: why are bombs still exploding in the South? Didn’t we just win this war?

Who can solve these problems? Our hero in uniform of course: Lt. General Sarath Fonseka. He’ll promise to wipe out corruption and stop the bombs in the South-all he needs is complete control of the nation. He will return Sri Lanka to the morally pure dharma-dveepa that we keep hearing about. There’s already hinted support from the JHU. Athuraliye Rathana Thera in a recent interview (again with the Nation newspaper, bless them!) voiced his support for militarisation: “we think that military service should be compulsory…Two years of military service will inculcate the values of simplicity, labour, strength and discipline in our young men.” When military dictatorship comes, looks like some of the Buddhist clergy may be their cheerleaders.

Some of you will think this is a far-fetched idea. It will never happen, not in this country, you say. Think again. Why is it that the only viable candidate the UNP could come up with for the North Central Province election is former General Janaka Perera, who by the way was General Sarath Fonseka’s superior. The military is the only institution in Sri Lanka today that really commands respect among the people (or to use the General’s vernacular, among the Sinhala nation). They are also blessed with the most funding: estimates of 200 billion rupees for this year. Compare this to a mere 20 billion rupees for education and 25 billion rupees for higher education. If we spend so little on educating our people and giving them the means to climb the economic ladder, we are compelling them to be soldiers; it is a conscription of sorts. An article by the Associated Press titled “War is only job available in Sri Lankan village,” interviewed a mother who said, “but there’s no option. What can we do?” By militarising our society to this extent, are we not strengthening a hand that could threaten us with a fist? Once these boys are done fighting the LTTE, whom will they fight next to earn their keep? If a hot-headed General orders them to turn their guns on us, they might just obey-they need the job.

Some of you will think, well why not have a military dictatorship? An oft-heard comment is that democracy has failed in Sri Lanka. It has brought us nothing but grief to the masses, and riches to the influential few. The people are so jaded by the incompetence and dishonesty of our politicians, and the clear failure of our political system, that they will celebrate a military coup. We will lose our freedoms, our right to vote, to protest, and to disagree. But surely these are just small sacrifices for the good of the nation. In any case, our vote is meaningless. We vote for an MP from a particular party, but they just jump to the other side after they get our vote. There are rumours of large payoffs for an MP to cross over; they sell the power that we gave them.  So why vote? Why have elections? Why have democracy at all?

Let’s answer that with another question: how bad can a military dictatorship be? Are there examples we can learn from? Yes. We can point to the brutal dictatorships of General Franco of Spain, or General Pinochet of Chile; both countries have returned to democracy (that might be a clue). The vicious military dictatorship in Burma has been in the news this year (and in the movies-see Rambo). When Cyclone Nargis hit Burma, the military rulers did little to help the 1 million homeless, and hindered others from assisting, watching callously as thousands died long after the storm had passed. But the military dictatorship we can learn most from is the one that is closest to us geographically. I refer to the military dictatorship in the Vanni, led by (General) Prabhakaran.

Prabhakaran promised the Tamil people that he would free them from persecution by the Sinhala-dominated government. All he needed was unquestioning control and complete submission to his dictatorial rule. Thirty years on, after murdering a long list of Tamil moderates simply because they dared to disagree with him (even though they still believed in the Tamil struggle), and with more than 20,000 LTTE cadres dead (a great deal of them young conscripts), the Tamil people’s submission to Prabhakaran’s dictatorship has brought them no closer to their liberation. The University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) has this to say about the LTTE:

“The civilian dead, including the thousands the LTTE killed in mass executions for real or imagined political reasons in its dreaded mass prisons in the early 1990s, and in regular individual killings, would be even higher.”

They describe life in the Vanni under the LTTE:

“Life in the Vanni is something between outright fascist repression and a horrid joke gone too far… It appears to people that the LTTE endangers them as a matter of policy… There are hardly any services but mainly extortion…The LTTE’s control hinges on poruppalars (persons-in-charge or divisional heads)…They are the virtual maharajahs or fiefs. Many of them live in luxury houses amidst so much drabness and poverty.”

This then is the danger of allowing a dictatorship: he who pretends to be your saviour can soon become your oppressor. Although it is tempting to write off our democracy as flawed (and it has been especially oppressive to the Tamil community), there is always a possibility of change. Governments have changed several times since independence: the socialist regime of the 70s that brought queues and rationing was flung out by the vote; the murderous and profligate regime of the 80s was flung out by the vote. We’re all still waiting for a government that can bring real peace and real prosperity. If the political choices available to you seem poor, then come forward yourself and form your own party, run for office. That is your right. Do not give it up. Once you have sacrificed your freedom and your right to vote, you have opened up a Pandora’s box of evil that you will pay dearly to close.

So look out, be vigilant: the General is coming.

  • Darren Sinclaire

    You got to understand an army commander has an entirely different attitude and perspective on the civilian population.
    I can sympathise with his views and frustrations. This is not isolated just this army commander. You put questions like this to any military in the country and they will say they prefer their way of discipline and order towards the entire nation.
    I think the following is a good read indicating how the military personnel feels about civilians and especially the media.

    http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cnotes5%5Cnote463.html

    “The General’s outburst is symptomatic of how armies generally react to media criticism. This state of affairs is not only in Sri Lanka, but in most of the other countries in a similar situation. His views will strike a sympathetic chord among many of his counterparts in other countries, though they might not air them in public.”
    -Col. R Hariharan, Retd. Indian Army

    And on this note I do think you have taken some of this interview out of context!
    “This country will be ruled by the Sinhalese community which is the majority representing 74 percent of the population.”
    PC terms: “It is natural that a country will be ruled by it’s majority population as a true democracy should be”
    So yes Maj. Gen. Sarath Fonseka puts it bluntly in cold terms but hey that’s their nature. They may not necessarily use the PC ways of saying things.

    You go on to talk about how he has promoted some junior officers in the army. What I heard instead was that he rewards performance not years burned! I think under his command the army has reformed to a great extent (absolutely no disrespect for previous commanders) and they are good!

    Although I personally believe a short term military dictatorship is acceptable to weed out some of the corruption I hope it won’t come to that for the sake of the ordinary people. Because there will be expensive collateral in the process.

  • CheeLanka

    Thanks to Under Dog for expressing what many of us have known and felt for months — and thanks to Groundviews for having the courage to publish this, which no newspaper would ever print. In fact, Groundviews had better look out as you might receive a visit from the Commander’s media PR team…

    While everything you have written is factually correct and the analysis is balanced, this article misses the bigger point: The General is a monster created by EVERYONE who has cheered the Sinhala Buddhist Nation (yes, Underdog, those who are Sinhala but not Buddhist are second class citizens these days). And it’s not just one over-zealous, over-ambitious individual who happens to occupy the top rank in the army. It is the excessive glorification of the armed forces that has been happening over the years — the Rana Viru vandanava (or worshipping the so-called war heroes). The armed forces were given endless blank cheques, no questions were ever asked, and they got to do pretty much what they please. And now we wonder why we have a general like this? WE CREATED HIM!

    And it’s not just Sarath Fonseka. Given half a chance, Janaka Perera would aspire just as eagerly to be the military dictator of Lanka – he has harboured that ambition for a while now. (And why, oh why, did the UNP have to select him as an electoral candidate – are they that bankruptf or civilian candidates?). And if these two generals don’t take over Lanka, we can still find half a dozen others whose ultimate aim would also be just that.

    This is exactly what happened over time in Bangladesh and Pakistan: real or perceived ‘enemies’ were exaggerated by sections of the media, nationalists and opportunistic politicians to the point where the countries felt completely beholden to their armies…and allowed them free range. That is an extremely treacherous road to tread, and sooner or later that leads to military dictatorship (makes no difference whether it’s the hard kind as in Pakistan or soft kind as in Bangladesh at the moment).

    Bottomline: it’s the whole, progressive and systematic militarisation of Sri Lankan society, economy, culture and polity that we should be equally worried about. The ruthless general is only the most visible tip of this sinister iceberg….

  • Jagath

    Sarath >Fonseka is diciplined Army officer & we fully agree with the coments he has made. We must fully support him to save Sri Lanka from the present situation.

  • ashok

    Look guys, He is not a politician but an army commander who has the guts to say to everybody that we can beat LTTE.He is a real soldier and not a politically influenced corrupted person.We have to Thank him instead of critisize him.He almost died on the hands of terrorists.Newspapers can say anything and we have to understand that also.Because that is their job.We have to follow the example of British people.Almost all of them rallied against the Iraq war.But once the soldiers are in the battlefield all the newspapers and media are backing them because they are their sacrifing lives in the name of democracy.Our soldiers are the same.They are brave and fight aginst terrorism.Everyday our soldiers whether they are in Colombo or anywhere risking their jobs in defending us.A parcel or a vehicle bomb or a suicide bomber could go against them finishing their young lives.Think of that.So we have to help and encourage them without gossiping like old women.(or like Ranil).SHAME ON GUYS LIKE OUR OLD POLITICIANS AND EX COMMANDERS WHO SOLD OUR SOLDIERS AND CIVILIANS LIVES TO LTTE BY SUPPORTING THEM.sTOP CRITISIZING BRAVE SOLDIERS!!

  • Prasad

    Interview of the army commander is commendable and I am proud of my country to have such brave straight forward leader in our army. We are pretty sure that Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka would be the last commander of Army Prabahakaran would see in his life time!

    It is ridiculous to see the articles of this type that insult not only a hero but also a nation it self. Though the writer laugh at seeing “Sinhalese nation”, it is indeed the nation of the country which built Sri Lanka’s civilization, however hard to accept, no other ethtinic group in our country could claim for such recognition. Sri Lankan nation is predominantly a Sinhalese nation and is synonymous.

    Long life Lt Gen Fonseka!!

  • http://msn jumbo

    Fonseka is more trust worthy than this/these jouranilst(s). Journalists have ambitions and affiliations too.

    Fonseka has proved himself, has remained in the forces in the secrity of our homeland even through losses and resulting humiliation. So this ‘free’ journalist wants that???

    If they are at least true to journalism they can strive for journalist rights in Wanni, the modern bastion of apartheid fascism and child-abducting terrorism.

    So while selling/betraying the country for money and objectives as; ‘FMM (saint), Army Commander (villain) & the Terrorists (brothers)’ they make themselves the laughing stock.

    This man at least as given his life and is dedicated to he cause of freedom, territorial integrity and security, and that too against a prominent, world-class, baby army who has struck fear, defeat, admiration and obediance to the hearts of some of these ‘genuine(?) journalists’.

  • http://msn jumbo

    I am a Christian and I do not feel second class, no one has made me feel second calss and I know we are so used to this ‘special class’, thats the problem, get over it!

  • http://Nil nathan

    The General is NOT in control of the army. This is evident by the attitude of the army which thinks that they are the masters and the people are subordinates.
    This is so even in the villages when army soldiers return on leave. This attitude is shared by lesser minions like home guards police and STF. The army as you say does not command respect – it only generates fear and dread as now people are experiancing in the north and east, due to the armed forces and the LTTE.
    If the general becomes a dictater, there will be a massive bloodbath, firstly of the LTTE cadres and their supposed sympathisers, then of minority citizens who are suspected of being pro LTTE, and others who object to the dictatership.
    We know that more than 600 people disappeared in the north when General Kobbekaduwa was assassinated by his own army – as determined by two independent commissions of inquiry – one by the government and the other by the Kobbekaduwa Family.
    We know how unarmed JVP young men and women were brutally killed and some burned on tyre pyres, by the army. This will be repeated many times over. Police will be aclose second in such behaviour.
    There are calls for the LTTE to lay down arms. But, there is no gurantee that all LTTE will not be slaughtered en masse. So, how will we expect LTTE to surrender?
    The General’s views are totalitarian – compare the attitudes of the coalition generals in Iraq and Afghanistan as reported by the western media – all can be read on the internet now.
    Even now most politicians have their own coterie of thugs among whom are also policemen. This is well known to all citizens.
    Corrupt politicians rule the roost – in real democracies, those found guilty by the auditor general automatically resign, even before being asked to do so.
    There will NOT be democracy even after the defeat of the LTTE – corruption, nepotism, and impunity will continue.
    There is still hope, only if the 17 th amendment is implemented, and presidential immunity which is the most obscene feature of the constitution, is removed. But, will this ever happen ?

  • http://msn jumbo

    Regarding the cease-fire article;

    We can negotiate when there is one military in the country since Lanka is a soverign nation and the conflict is not between two soverign countries.

    Negotiation or war, or as the tigers put it; ‘udham or samadhanam’ when they elected Rajapakse, while back stabbing Wickramasinghe will certainly involve the demiliterizing and laying down arms and as stated; one military/security establishment.

    Whether this is going to be a mono-ethnic baby army or multy-dimentional elected govt. establishment is not the big issue, however it is up to us to choose.

    It is ideal if we can accept as well as declare cease-fires and continue the assult like the tigers (eg; 2006 and before).

    If they are having a genuine fancy for flirting with negotiations they can still do that while continuing hostilities and military engagements. !

  • Bruno Umbato

    In general, Sri Lankan community is very tolerable, adaptable, resilient and open society which waited patiently for three decades even giving into terrorism with lots of compromises. But, LTTE and it’s supportes (mainly socalled tamil diaspora outside SL) did not move away even a inch from their unjust demand of 1/3 of the country with 2/3 of coastal lines for 5-6% percent of the population. It seems from the events unfolding in SL, the society there have throughly decided to eliminate the terrorism whatever the cost. That’s why they whole heartedly support defence forces. For the first time in last three decades, country is serious about eliminating terrorism. People feel that defence forces headed by people like Sarath Fonseka are genuine men who could make the country peaceful.
    Lt. General Sarath is not a boastful character as others (if they have achieved 1/100 th of achievments he had, we would have to use ear plugs for a long time to come). He knows what he is doing and limitations. Even though he has refused in coming into politics, Sri Lanka would be a better place if people like him get into politics because they are real leaders not boasters.

  • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

    This article could very well have been written about MacArthur, Montgomery, Eisenhower, Patton, Wingate, Rommel, and so many other great western military leaders of the modern world, all of whom were accused of being arrogant, dictatorial, and insensitive to social norms. Nothing new here, Under Dog.

    The Army isn’t a democracy — it’s based on a hierarchy of command — a chain of dictators if you like, who expect their orders to be unquestioningly obeyed. It’s downright stupid to try and understand the military via civilian rules and morals, and it’s even more stupid to ask a military commander to make comments on civil life — he will answer from a military perspective which is focused on winning battles and wars to the exclusion of all else.

  • Don Camillo

    “This is the way the battle will end, not with a bang, but a whimper.”
    (with apologies to Eliot)

    Under Dog – congratulations on an astutely observant article. ‘WINNING’ will certainly have a hollow ring to it, if and when this battle is over. As you rightly point out little will change on the security, economic or human rights fronts. Sadly this will take a little while to register with the likes of Jagath, Prasad, Jumbo and the other tens of thousands of armchair warriors, who will be positively inebriated with the victory on sale. They too however will wake up with some nasty hangovers soon enough, but this will have to be an individual awakening – as the majority of Sri Lankans have proved time and again that they are quite fond of their little drunken cocoons until “their skin” is touched.

    What I do find most alarming about the comments posted here is the total lack of understanding of what democracy entails. The principles of democracy are as much to do with minority rights as they are to do with majority rule. Guarantees of individual human rights are enshrined in truly democratic constitutions and these serve to protect the rights of minorities-whether ethnic, religious, or political. These rights do not depend upon the goodwill of the majority and cannot be eliminated by majority vote; minorities are protected because democratic laws and institutions protect the rights of all citizens.

    Here’s something that those commenting here would do well to read and also pay more than a little attention to who said it. ;)

    “Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” – Hermann Goering

    (Ah… Sri Lanka certainly seems to have had more than its fair share of “Führers”.)

  • ordinary lankan

    Here is chapter 31 from the tao te ching – iit is difficult to add to it

    31.
    Weapons are terrible things.
    If you want to get right with Tao,
    reject weapons.
    The Master,
    knowing all things came from Tao,
    recognizes what he has in common
    with his enemies
    and always tries to avoid conflict.
    But when there is no other choice,
    he uses force reluctantly.
    He does so with great restraint,
    and never celebrates a victory;
    to do so would be to rejoice in killing.
    A person who would rejoice in killing
    has completely lost touch with Tao.
    When you win a war,
    you preside over a funeral.
    Pay your respects to the dead.

  • Gamini

    Sarath Fonseka will never be a military dictator because he does not have enough support within the military to do it. He’ll have to kill a lot of other leading officers to become a dictator.

    He’s a stooge of the Rajapakse Government and the moment they are gone he will be too. He doesn’t command respect within the military in the way he likes to show.

  • http://www.blacklightarrow.wordpress.com David Blacker

    I think Fonseka has a lot of support within the mlitary, just not from his contemporaries. The field grade officers and other ranks idolize him with an intensity fast approaching that bestowed on Denzil Kobekkaduwa. However, I still maintain that the Sri Lankan regimental system will not allow a military dictatorship.

    Fonseka’s a long way from even approaching the sort of power needed to take over. If this article had been written about Gotabhya Rajapakse, I could have given it some credibility.

  • Tin

    Well dear Mr. author in this article you have tried to cover the aspects which lot of journalists deliberately overlooked. In that way it should be appreciated.

    However sir, (unfortunately) we’re- I mean general public- not in a situation to have the comfort of debating over topics like ‘what are the changes should be made in the Sri Lankan (rotten) political body’, ‘what would be the best way to refine the voting system’ or ‘How the army commander deal with media’. This is a critical time where we’re determined to get rid of this barbaric bunch of terrorists who ruined the lives of thousands of people, economy and the future of the country for three decades. It wasn’t a war asked by us, but we had it more than enough. At the moment the utmost priority is to defeat the terrorism and safeguard the motherland and nothing else(NOT to the bread or rice as UNP might think). Otherwise there’s absolutely no reason for us to tolerate this COL, corruption, huge cabinet (and Mervin Silva of course) I must say.

    The goal is the liberation of our country and our people(including those who live in Vanni) from the clutches of tigers. Nobody else has done it better than current army commander Sarath Fonseka. He has a plan to address the country’s No.1 problem and so far he has addressed it impressively. He is a soldier – not a politician or a civilian. As David Blacker has mentioned in his post, army is a not a body with democracy in fact it’s a total dictatorship to be the commander of army. This is applicable to any kind of military organization even to LTTE. Military people are used to obey such a dictatorship and they are not very familiar with the democracy. So it’s understandable the comments made by the general.
    I don’t mean that he will act in the same way on the civilians (and he hasn’t ).

    If we were in a peace time, it would be a totally different story. However we have to go through this tough time and we have to make sacrifices too without complaining ‘why we don’t have full freedom of expressing our political or personal bullshit’. Simply this is not the right time for that. I remember a quote made by somebody in a defense blog (cant remember where). It said “I am happy with someone who takes a $1Billion bribe and still eliminate LTTE Nazi menace rather than living next to a barbaric terrorist maniac for the rest of my life.” It’s not that we are happy with bribing, but there are times we have to choose between what is bad and worse. ;)

    And any legal army in the world has the first and highest priority to defend the motherland from both internal & external enemies. The army is meant to fight, not to talk politics. At the moment SL Army is doing it so well under the leadership of SF and that’s what required. At the same time SL Army has been very much disciplined, professional and acted in very responsible manner specially with the civilians caught/(put by LTTE) in the midst of conflict. That’s why all the patriots love and respect the army. Without their sacrifices and determination we couldn’t have been here to talk about the ‘military dictatorship’.

    Tribute to all the heroes of SLDF!!!

  • Chaminda

    Greatly written, insightful and SCARY…

    But you just covered too much in one article. You lost yourself in your emotions and went off topic. Yes great, well researched analysis on the good General, great anecdotes of the evils of the LTTE, and insightful predictions of what may be! But all in one article?

    Thanks anyway though!!

    C

  • http://- Sam Thambipillai

    Sarath Fonseka does not understand the truth. The war in the North East(NE) of the island aquired different names under different presidents. JR Jayawardene called it “the war against militants”. The IPKF called it “the war against the rebels”. Chandrika Kumaratunge called it “the war against separatists”. Mahinda Rajapakse calls it “the war aginst the terrorists”. Having exhausted all the names one president even called it “the war for peace !!.

    Truly speaking by real definitions, the war during the past 25 years by the GOSL was against a liberation movement in the NE. A truth never uttered by any president !!

    The conflict was camoflagued by different names at different times to misinform, stupidise and abuse the Sinhalese and the International Community. The deception also served to carry out and cover up Tamil rights violations of arbitrary arrests, torture, detention without trial, murders, rape, disapearances and displacements, which have gradually escalated to the present record high levels.

    Fought once by the IPKF and several times by Sri Lankan Army, the war ended just like in the movies. The hero gets beaten up in the begining but still wins in the end. The present war can be no different.

    The problem in Sri Lanka(SL) is that the Sinhalese have been made by politicos and Sinhalese owned media to excced the boundaries of admiration for war. Albert Einstein said ” thje difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.”

    However, there are still a few prudent persons who have woken up to reality and ask continuous questions about the reason and winnability of the war. But it falls on deaf ears of those in authority who could make a difference. It is embarassing to watch grown men behave in this manner.

    The soldiers who fight the war, whenever interviewed after injury or decapitation of limbs, say with a sad heart that they joined the armed forces to overcome poverty.

    James Madison said “no nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare”. Mahinda rajapakse raises his stick at those who write against the war, which is his war and not the peoples’ war. He got peoples mandate during his presidential elections to continue with peace talks to completion and not to execute a war.

    Because of abrogating the ceasefire unilaterally and heavy human rights violations by the soldiers, long standing respectful, helpful and friendly countries of SL are “jumping off” from its erratic journey, leaving behind Iran; a country facing sanctions for its rebel nuclear program, and China; a country that is not respected for its rights violations and lack of freedom to its citizens.

    All the citizens may soon be “jumping off” from the erratic journey of the ship leaving Mahinda and his acolytes to bury it peacefully in the deep sea !!

    The leader of any country takes care of the future of all the citizens. SL never had a leader since 1956. SL must find a vibrant leader like Barrack Obama of the USA, with values and real heart for all the people. Such a leader would be capable of a vision with fusion to respect the legitimate rights of Tamils in the NE and lead all in the island towards justice, reconciliation, peace and dvelopment.

  • http://sarath-fonseka-news.newslib.com DarkThruth

    Bravo Mr.Underdog for writing an article of this nature, for the general public and sri lankans living abroad do not know who General Fonseka really is.There are Thousands of officers/soldiers and their families in the Army who are victims of his treacherous conduct.In other words, One, who simply Fonseka would not stand for some reason rather “commit suicide” rather than serve in the army as He would make sure the latter is totured to a great extent.There were media reports of many officers tendering their resignations in the past since he took command.Thus if any of the media personell dared to disclose such information the latter would have to go through a hard period thanks to Gen Fonseka’s goons.So if this is not called “DICTATORSHIP” what else is it? This is a good example of dictatorship within the Army.Hence it is not a suprise as Mr.Underdog says,if Gen Fonseka one day dictates the whole country!

  • http://no Erantha

    Well Done Great Gen. Fonseka. we are really proud of our great Army Cheif. We are lucky to have person like to save my motherland.

    Great Gen. TRIPPLE GEM PROTECT YOU.

    Erantha

  • JJ

    You know what, this man is a strong leader. We’re behind him. If he’s a tyrant in disguise, we’ll deal with it when discover it is so. It’s a democracy and the people have chosen.

  • nihal pathirana

    Sarath Fonseka is a true son of Srilanka who is not a stooge of the government of Mahinda Rajapakse. Ihave read his interview with the Dailynews which is very true came from the bottom of his heart as Prbhakaren ambition is not only confine to the north East but to dominate the whole country. He knows better than any body as arms and ammunition are now been found in the safe houses in districts of kandy and Nuwaraeliya wellawatte and kotahena in tamil dominated areas in the western province.
    The Tamil liberation movement has its roots in south india under the leadership of Naiker of Justice party in 1917 whicl later became the antihindi movement.Do not blame the sinhalese for not Tamils having a country. lets live together as srilankans none is a second class citizen its all properganda. Its the untuchables in Jaffna are the second class citizens. Srilanka will never give in to the unjustifable demands of the Ltte of asking one third of the land and two thirds of the ocean for 7% of the tamil people.
    They took Indira gandhi and Rajiv Ghandhi for a good ride by false properganda of a American build up in the Trincomalle now trying the same antics with America and India with a chinese build up in Hambantota in the South. The last straw they could hold on is to wait till Barackobema becomes president of America, as I see Viko has already seen him on behalf of the LTTE.

  • Chaminda

    Mr. Thambipillai I believe you need to reconsider your facts and your analyses.

    First the facts; a poll conducted by the Center for Policy Alternatives show that the overwhelming majority of the Sri Lankan people are satisfied with the current strategy. I personally don’t agree with the majority but those are the facts from a poll conducted by an organization widely believed to be credible.
    See (http://www.groundviews.org/2007/12/31/poll-results-how-do-you-think-we-can-end-the-war-and-attain-peace-in-sri-lanka/)

    Then when it comes to soldiers and their reasons for joining the war, Mr. Thambipillai you just cannot analyze the sentiment of people from all the way over there in Sydney. In the villages and the paddy lands the Sinhala people hark back to the glory days and invoke visions of the kings when they send their children off to fight. Again this is not my opinion but the situation. A recent Boston Globe reporter asked a disabled soldier whether he had any regrets, his answer was “I looked after my family, I served my country and I was able to raise our standard of living, I have no regrets.” Yes of course poverty drives many, but also the prospect of either being ethnically cleansed out of their ancestral homes in the North East and/or the prospect of living under a minority dictatorship drives many.

    Then you say “the war during the past 25 years by the GOSL was against a liberation movement in the NE”

    Mr. Thambipillai would probably like to compare the LTTE the IRA, the ANC, Hezbollah, Hamas and Nepal’s Maoists.

    Then most blasphemous is the comparison of the LTTE to the ANC. Something that the LTTE peddles freely among the Durban Indians in South Africa. The ANC fought for majority rule against apartheid which was a form of entrenched and brutal minority rule. The whites in South Africa controlled politics as well as the economy. The Tamil population in Sri Lanka even now is more economically powerful compared to the majority and once constituted 60% of the civil service. A democracy, however flawed, Sri Lanka’s system is one of majority rule and its problems are in balancing majority rule with minority rights. The LTTE’s struggle is for a separate state in which the minority would be the majority. The ANC was a multiracial organization while the LTTE is mono-ethnic. The military wing of the ANC the MK was only formed as a last resort under severe protest from the ANC hierarchy (the head of the MK was Jo Slovo, a white). The MK had a strict policy on only targeting economic and military targets and doing so with minimum civilian casualties (at night etc). The LTTE mostly bombs civilian targets and does so to maximize civilian casualties (a passenger bus is hardly a strategic military target).

    Then let us consider the IRA, After three decades, the IRA realized that a military victory over the British presence was impossible to achieve. The LTTE has not realized that. The LTTE murdered or attempted to murder those it negotiated with (Premadasa, CBK), moderate ethnic politicians (Amirthalingam), foreign intermediaries (Rajiv Gandhi) and its own negotiators (Mahattaya). The equivalent conduct would have been the IRA murdering Tony Blair, John Hume, George Mitchell and Martin MacGuinness. The IRA had a powerful political arm, the Sinn Fein, which had been in existence for decades. The LTTE registered a political party as late as 1990, dissolved it in short order, arresting and murdering its chairman, Gopalaswamy Mahendrarajah alias Mahattaya.
    Now Northern Ireland remains very much part of the UK, the IRA shares power with their Protestant foes and Britain remains a unitary state, unconverted to federalism but with devolution of power.

    Hezbollah, was formed as a direct result of and response to a cross-border invasion and partial occupation by a foreign power, Israel. With a solid political base and Parliamentary representation, it is a classic resistance movement against external invasion. The Sri Lankan armed forces have not invaded any other country so an armed movement against it cannot be resistance movement against the foreign invaders of a sovereign country, nor can it be compared with such a movement.

    Hamas, though much less successful than the Hezbollah, is also a resistance movement against foreign occupation and annexation by Israel in violation of four decades of UN Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions.

    Nepal’s Maoists waged a revolutionary war against an entrenched hereditary monarchy. Sri Lanka is a democracy. In any case Nepal’s Maoists have been the first to make the point, on the record to the Hindu, that the Tigers are nothing like them whatsoever, and that the LTTE has no political program or ideology other than that of separatism pure and simple.

  • ordinary lankan

    I remember when this gentleman was in hospital after the attack by the suicide bomber – that day I heard a lot of irrelevant talk – we humans find it rather difficult to get to the heart of the matter ….

    so on that day I realized that this is a desperate man fighting for his life and I thought that the only useful thoughts I can have about him are thoughts of goodwill – metta and thoughts of compassion – karuna

    I also included the poor suicide bomber in my thoughts

    So have things changed since then? Or is this just our perception playing tricks on us? All these big names we call people by – are they real or are they just a passing show we get excited about?

  • http://- Sam Thambipillai

    Political Scientists firmly believe that any oppressive dictatorship would create worse dictators in any society.

    All the heads of state since 1956 in the island were oppressively dictatorial against Tamil civilians and their legitimate political right to rule themselves. Sarath Fonseka, Mahinda Rajapakse and the like are faithful byproducts of this evil.

    If Prabaharan and the LTTE are dictatorial and fascist, the obvious reason for it is nothing but the repressive dictatorship of Sinhalese heads of state since 1956.

    If any head of state would have come forward honestly to be non dictatorial and non discriminatory, he could have made Prabaharan and the LTTE to come to true democracy and win the legitimate rights of Tamils. Unfortunately it never happened and the chance is lost for ever.

    Surely, we cannot come out from the present dictatorial practices of the politicos. We should ask the UN to help us draft a new constitution and instil true ddemocracy, respecting the rights and freedoms if we desire to be free from this destructive evil.

  • http://- Justin

    Sarath Fonseka has spilled the beans. The secret and collective political agenda that prevailed for the past 50 years, but intensified recently, to exterminate the Tamils in the North East, came to the open when the army commander spoke of 74 percent Sinhalese being the owners of Sri lanka and as to how the Sinhala Nation should secure itself.

    There is a Tamil proverb which says that no one should pet a venomous snake by feeding it with milk. Petting the venomous Sri Lanka is exactly what the USA, Britain, Israel, China, Russia, India and Pakistan did when they gave assistance of military hardware and advise to all the governments of Sri Lanka.

    They were making Sri Lanka a “Serbia” with Slobodan Milosevic (Mahinda Rajapakse), Radovan Karadzic and Ratco Mladic (Sarath Fonseka)

    The matter is very serious now. The UN should take immediate action through the International Criminal Court in the Hague to arrest the war criminals in Sri Lanka and bring them to the Hague to do justice.

  • http://- Statistician

    Interestingly, I worked out some statistics on the salaries paid to the soldiers, excluding all other expenses, from the data provided by David Blacker, an ex soldier, in this column.

    If there are 133,000 soldiers and 3000 are recruited monthly; assuming Rs 25,000, the monthly salary paid to the new recruits, as the salary received by all the soldiers; The total minimum monthly salary paid to the present soldiers would be Rs 3,325,000,000 or about United States Dollars 28 million.

    For any one year the salary alone would be Rs 39,900,000,000 0r 336 million United States Dollars.

    The world is in crisis and Sri Lanka is in a deepening crisis. Inflation is at a record high of 26 percent and the citizens are facing poverty and dying of disceases. It is definitely a failed state that does not know to solve its problems.

    Japan, the EU, Britain, the USA, Iran, China, India and Pakistan gave aid to Sri Lanka not realising what harm they were doing to the country and its citizens.

  • Sarath

    “(yes, Underdog, those who are Sinhala but not Buddhist are second class citizens these days)”

    Are you kidding me? You’re saying that a Sinhalese Buddhist farmer from, say, Dabana who went to school until grade 7 has more rights than an English speaking Sinhalese Christian Engineer from Colombo 7 who went to Peradeniya? Are you saying that that particular Sinhalese Buddhist farmer is treated better by the state (and society) than the English speaking Sinhalese Christian businessman ‘mahaththaya’? Are you saying that the Sinhalese Buddhist woman who leaves her a whole family behind to work as a maid in the Middle East so she can feed her family has more rights than a Sinhalese Christian woman who went to Bishops College, then university in England and now runs Hi magazine?

    In Sri Lanka people are divided into “first class” and “second class” on account of whether they can speak English, the amount of $$ they have and whether they come from elite familes. Religion has very little if anything to do with it. There are plenty of ‘first class’ Sinhalese Christians and plenty of ‘second class’ Christians just as there are plenty of ‘first class’ Sinhalese Buddhists and ‘second class’ Sinhalese Buddhists. Nothing seperates the poor Sinhalese Buddhist villager from the poor Sinhalese Catholic villager except the way they are treated by both the government and the “first class” section – with disdain. Infact the “first class” Sinhalese Buddhists and Sinhalese Christians prefer to mingle with each other and intermarry over mingling with the “second class” Sinhalese Buddhists and Sinhalese Christians. Just go to a Colombo party and see both groups spend thousands upon thousands of rupees on wining and dining each other while a few blocks down the street are the shanties which home to hundreds of Sinhalese Buddhist and Sinhalese Christian families who struggle to have one square meal a day and are under continuous threat of being kicked out by the authorities. Do you honestly believe that a Sinhalese Buddhist family from the slums has more more rights in our lovely Sri Lanka than a Sinhalese Christian family like the Kotelawalas?

    By virture of speaking English so fluently, having access to the internet and a computer I’m willing to bet that you yourself, cheelanka, are one of the “first class” people. Let’s not pretend as if you have less rights than, say, a Sinhalese Buddhist beggar outside the Kataragama devale. It’s just wrong.

    During colonial times (esp British period) the elite was made up entirely by Sinhalese Christians and Tamil Christians (and the Brits of course). The top of the elite was held by Sinhalese Anglicans and Tamil Anglicans. The ‘bottom’ of the elite was held by the Sinhalese Catholics and Tamil Catholics. During the Portuguese times the Catholics were at the top with the Sinhalese and Tamil protestants occupying second place. The majority Sinhalese Buddhists and the Tamil Hindus were the second/third/fourth class citizens of the country. Today I would say the Sinhalese elite is still dominated by the Sinhalese Anglicans followed by the noveau riche Sinhalese Buddhists and Sinhalese Catholics. I would say the Sinhalese Anglicans are the cream of the crop as they are a small community, seem to have very few (if any) poor, and are concentrated in Colombo and Kandy. Ranil Wickremasinghe comes from such a background.

    I agree that there are second class citizens in our country, but I think most of the Sinhalese Buddhist masses fall into that ‘second class’ citizen category. The first class citizens are the English-speaking (and often English educated), rich, educated hoity toity who have made Colombo their home – and they can be either Buddhist or Christian or atheist or whatever.

    PS I wouldn’t disagree if you argued that Sri Lankan politicians are the “first class” citizens of Sri Lanka while the rest of the population are “second class” citizens.

  • ordinary lankan

    I like your energy – this is great

    let me very humbly suggest a way to channel it

    deep down inside –

    sarath fonseka is one of us – an ordinary lankan – this is the truth

    lets not lose him th way we lost Prabakaran

    glorify him and you glorify yourself – off the mark – sorry

    demonize him and you demonize yourself – didn’t think about it did you?

    take the difficult middle path – and try and engage him as a human being – the way you would want to be engaged if you were in one of those high places – be honest but be realistic as well and very very patient – dont let your emotions get the better of you

    the world moves according to the patience of man – not according to his impatience

    impatience leads to waste – example prabakaran

    on more stone into the whirlpool

    may be you will not ignore me this time – an ordinary lankan ????

  • SamK

    I’m no fan of Sri Lankan president nor anti-west. But I must say the following.

    For those who say that Sarath Fonseka (Commander, Sri Lanka army) or Gotabaya Rajapaksha (Secretary defence) should be brought to International Criminal Court, I find it surprising why they turn a complete blind eye to all the inhumane atrocities committed by LTTE. If anyone is interested in what those are just go and look up LTTE on Wikipedia. The list is very long and goes back 3 decades. The number of people (men, women, children and infants) blown into pieces, shot, literally hacked to death is in the thousands. What is worst is it is still continuing. This year alone more than 100 commuters have died of bombs in trains and busses (public transport). So why not first bring Prabakaran (LTTE leader) to ICC? Therefore it is very clear who wants Army commander out of the country in one way or another.

    Lot of people, especially in other countries have opinions about Sri Lankan conflict without knowing head or tail about it. Most recently, democratic presidential candidate Barak Obama has said people in Sri Lanka cannot understand the problem of the other. Well, I think more so than Sri Lankans that is true about Americans. Here we are poor Sri Lankans getting murdered in numbers by LTTE yet, we have Hillary Clinton saying that LTTE are freedom fighters and cannot be put together with Al-kida. What would happen if Sri Lankan government were to do the same about Bin-Laden? Huh? Had we even whispered you know who’s name we would be erased from the world map– then no human rights, no-media freedom nothing. So it is very clear who doesn’t understand whom.

  • Chaminda

    Mr. Thambipillai says “If Prabaharan and the LTTE are dictatorial and fascist, the obvious reason for it is nothing but the repressive dictatorship of Sinhalese heads of state since 1956”

    Let us for a moment consider this to be true. Then compare this to National Party Government in South Africa led by the likes of FW de Klerk. The African Black population, could not vote, could not live where they wanted, could not travel without a pass, were only entitled to go to school until the 7th grade, could not go to the same universities, could not learn or use their languages, were brutally oppressed, were not allowed to form political parties, did not have press freedom, could not use the same toilet, could not use the same public transport, couldn’t stay in the same hotel….. etc etc…

    With all this, after 30 years of imprisonment, Nelson Mandela led what was primarily a political struggle based on fairness and respect.

    He said “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

  • http://msn jumbo

    I m a worrior of many kinds, not just paper and so is my herritage. Seeing the conditions for democracy, development and elimination of mono-ethnic fascism is the joy.
    So you prefer the mon-ethnic baby army?

  • CheeLanka

    I am writing this shortly after the results of the NCP and Sabaragamuwa Province elections have come in. I’m politically and ideologically opposed to the Sinhala Buddhist chauvinist regime of Mahinda-Champika alliance. But at the same time, I am so very glad that the UNP has been routed once again – especially in the NCP where the ex-military man Janaka Perera (stand up from where you are sulking!) has firmly been put in his place. Serves the UNP right for putting forward a military man, and one with very serious allegations of human rights abuse while he was serving.

    At least let this be a lesson to the UNP that it must belatedly stop contributing to the alarming militarisation of Sri Lanka in every aspect including electoral politics. The bigger problem, as I noted in my comment of Aug 10 (see above), is not the likelyhood of the individual called Sarath Fonseka taking over the country as military dictator. It is the military – all three armed forces – slowly and insidiously militarising our nation. Few have noticed their gradual encroaching of the civilian spheres in administration, media, disaster management, etc, etc.

    For now, at least, one overambitious ex-general has been stopped in his track by nothing more than the combined ballots. But don’t expect ANY of these generals – current or serving – to have much faith in the ballot or any other democratic systems. They have for too long ruled by the bullet, terrorising innocent Tamilians, and they will always be tempted to resort to the bullet to achieve their own selfish, dangerous ends!

    PS: I feel rather sorry for Ranjan Ramanayake, a good man and non-politician who hitched his fortune on to the miserable UNP of Ranil Wickramasinghe.

  • The Under Dog

    To CheeLanka, I agree with your comment. I too was quietly happy that the ex-general was defeated. But it is sobering that this victory for the UPFA is purely solidarity with the military effort, not with other elements of their governance. There is definitely a political vacuum in the country now, created by the incompetence of the UNP, the impotence of the JVP, and the arrogance and corruption of the present government. It is a vacuum that could easily be filled by the military, in league with the Buddhist clergy. If the clergy gave their nod to the military, the coup would be given legitimacy and roundly applauded by the public. My guess is that it could happen after the Wanni falls. If the APRC suggestion are implemented, there may be accusations of selling out the sinhala victory, with the military then coming to ‘save us.’ I hope I am proved wrong.

  • http://www.groundviews.org groundviews

    Commander of the Sri Lanka Army, General Sarath Fonseka, in an interview with Stewart Bell of the National Post newspaper of Canada, published on 23rd September 2008 stated that,

    “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 things.”

  • amazing

    this is how the majority of the sinhalese view the current situation and the tamil’s place in society…

    “tamil speaking survive and may partake in the life of the country at the pleasure of the sinhala minority ”

    – we are allowed only what they see fit to share with us
    -our freedoms are those that they allow us

    and we should like it and thank them for it…

    like dayan said somewhere on this site: (paraphrasing) federalism, separation etc will not work because the majority sinhalese will not allow it. The 13th amendment is what was approved and that is what the tamils must accept. NOthing else will pass with 2/3rds majority in parliament and/or at a referendum.

    in his and most sinhalese persons views it is their country and they can dictate to the “minorities” the conditions of their “servitude”.

    the fact of the matter, which the LTTE recognizes and fights for, is that the tamils have the right to self determination. The East Timorese & Macedonians did not have to get the approval of the Indonesians or Yugoslavia/Serbia. They had referendums and then separated. in 1977 the tamils voted for the TULF on the platform of separation – and won.

    The LTTE & Prabakaran understand that the statement by Fonseka is what all sinhala leaders since independance have believed, it is only this administration that is frank enough to say these things out loud. and due to the recent GOSL military “successes” there are many in colombo who i once thought were enlightened, western educated, reasonable persons, with similar worldviews who have turned out to be closet sinhala-nationalist racist and the sad thing is that they don’t see that they are.

  • kapuge

    I want to know you all something. He is a army commander. He is not a polician. So he is a military man. He must talk with weapon. If LTTE do not carry weapons, every thing is ok. LTTE must lay down arms. otherwise get killed. LTTE get killed.

    Sri Lanka is a small country. It can not be partitioned. We are not in europe. If tamils needs a seperation, other minorities would follow suits. What will then happen.

  • kichchi

    kapuge said,

    October 6, 2008 @ 9:45 pm

    “Sri Lanka is a small country. It can not be partitioned. We are not in Europe. If Tamils needs a separation, other minorities would follow suits. What will then happen.”

    So the best thing would to create a political climate that will not induce anyone of any minority community or majority community to think in terms of “taking-up arms” to solve his/her problems. For which the “Rule of Law” must be established. To establish the “Rule of Law” we must establish “good governance” in the country. To establish “good governance” we (particularly the “majority” community) must change our ‘attitude’ towards others around us and think in terms of “justice to everyone” and discard ‘racial supremacy’.

    This Island that was once known as the “Paradise Isle” is not only a beautiful island but also a bountiful island where there is ENOUGH SPACE for everyone to lead a peasant life on their own and not at the expense of others.

    As Lord Buddha said “Greed is the cause of all Grievances”

    This bountiful island has enough resources to satisfy the NEEDS of all its inhabitants but a few are trying to “grab” all the resources o themselves by false slogans to make the “common people” their slaves in their pursuit of power.

    Let us – the common people – of this bountiful country , be vigilant to avoid becoming slaves without our knowledge.

  • anuladevi

    Geez, what a piece of absolute crap. A stupid journalist trying to take on a great general. We admire the the General for what he has achieved for SL.

  • http://Yahoo Dilip

    Journalist of the calibre of Keith Noyah should be wiped out. These corrupt journalists who write rubbish for the sake of a dinner or a bottle of whisky and bring discredit to the whole nation and to a great General who brought the ruthless terrorists outfit to their knees should be treated as traitors. Finally the great General has won and a hero of all Sinhalese Buddhist.

  • President Bean

    David Blacker…you say that “the Sri Lankan regimental system will not allow a military dictatorship.”
    But the Presidential system has allowed a dictatorship of the “Brotherhood,” aka the “Four Warlord Millionaire Brothers!”
    In time there might even be a military dictatorship in our Utopian Paradise. Anything is possible in this ‘Small Miracle’ pronounced ‘Big Hypocrisy’ that we live in!