The Gotabhaya-Fonseka gripe decries their war performances
The two most prominent veterans of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have locked horns over an incident during the war they jointly led. Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, the man who spearheaded the victorious final phase of the war broke ice in this row between him and the former Defence Secretary Goatabaya Rajapaksa.
When the “Joint Opposition” questioned in Parliament about replacing of Army personnel in the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s security detail with the STF, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe entrusted Fonseka to answer the question and while making a seemingly prepared speech the former Army Commander dropped a bombshell by saying that the suicide bomb that targeted the former Defence Secretary on December 1, 2006 was not actually triggered by the LTTE but was an inside job carried out with a view to earn public sympathy.
Rajapaksa who had come to the PRECIFAC to give a statement was asked by the media about Fonseka’s remarks and he simply rejected it by saying that he should be whipped for appointing Fonseka as Army Commander ten years ago.
The leaders of the former regime seem to be getting a taste of their own medicine. When Fonseka was court- martialled he charged that those who were affected by his decisions during his tenure as the Army Commander had been appointed to the Court- Martial against him. Also when the former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranaike was accused of various kinds of corruption and irregularities the then Opposition accused that some of those who had been affected by her rulings had also been appointed to the Parliamentary Select Committee that investigated the charges against her.
And this time, ironically, Fonseka who was stripped of his position, pension and even the hard-earned medals by a decision taken by the Rajapaksas was tasked by the Prime Minister to give a ruling on the security of one of them, Mahinda Rajapaksa.
During the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime some of the former President’s confidants talked about inside jobs when trade unionists, student leaders and media institutions were attacked by mobs that allegedly had links with the government leaders. History has been so cruel to Rajapaksas that Fonseka is now accusing the former Defence Secretary for stage managing of a suicide bomb blast in order to get public sympathy.
This however, is not a situation that people can be satisfied with, as it shows that despite the regime change that instilled hopes of good governance in the minds of the people some aspects of the political culture have not changed.
However, one has to out rightly reject the claim by Fonseka about the suicide attack against Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The former Army Commander argues that the former Defence Secretary used a vehicle at the time of the attack that could only be damaged if 20kgs of explosives were blasted in a manner that touched the surface of the car. He said the bomb that was fixed in the three-wheeler was only five kgs and it exploded 25 metres away from Rajapaksa’s vehicle.
He also asked former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa to explain as to why he kept a gas mask inside his vehicle on the day of the attack unless he had prior knowledge about the attack.
Fonseka is “revealing” or casting doubts about this inside job ten years after the incident. The question naturally arises is as to why he did not “reveal” this important matter to the country such a long time. At least he could have “exposed” Rajapaksas with his findings or doubts at least six years ago when he fell out with former ruling family. Interestingly, the LTTE never denied the attack on the former Defence Secretary.
Fonseka did not explain as to what a public official can achieve with public sympathy. Had Gotabaya Rajapaksa entered politics before people forgot the incident, the claim of inside job would have held water.
A similar argument of an inside job was floated when former President Ranasinghe Premadasa was killed in a suicide bomb attack during a May Day procession in 1993. It was said that Premadasa gave the signal for the triggering of the bomb by waving a white handkerchief, a scene that was shown on television. But in fact later it was revealed by the TV cameramen who shot the last moment of the former President that there was a gap between the time when he waved the handkerchief and the time of the bomb blast, which was attested by the very survival of the camera crew. On the other hand the Rajapaksa regime did not appoint Fonseka to the post of Army Commander just because Gotabaya and Fonseka were recruited and commissioned into the Army at the same time and Rajapaksa wanted to please his friend. It was done purely on merit.
A detailed article in the Indian Defence Review in its July – Sept, 2009 issue written by V. K. Shashikumar who had interviewed Gotabaya Rajapaksa several times had been reproduced by the Sri Lankan Government website on August 25, 2009. Sashikumar had explained how the commanders of the Army chosen for the decisive war against the LTTE in it. It says:
“He (Gotabaya Rajapaksa) had retained his long standing friendship with Lt General Sarath Fonseka. Gotabaya met Fonseka and asked him, “can you go for a win”? The battle-hardened veteran said “yes, but you will have to permit me to pick my own team.” Gotabaya and Mahinda agreed. “We will let the military do its job, while we hold the fort, politically,” they told Fonseka.”
On January 15, 2009- two weeks after the capture of the Kilinochchi that had been heavily fortified by the LTTE, Gotabaya Rajapaksa told state-owned ITN that the professionalism of the Sri Lankan security forces has won widespread praise across the world and the Indian Defense Secretary M.K. Narayan called the Army Commander Lieutenant General Sarath Fonseka the best army commander in the world for his role against capturing back LTTE occupied areas in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces. This in fact negates Rajapaksa’s remarks that he must be whipped for appointing Fonseka as the Commander.
It is a well-known fact that Gotabhaya and Fonseka were the main persons instrumental in the defeat of the dread LTTE. It is unfortunate now to note that these two war veterans are belittling their very achievement, just because of personal grudges. They must retain the respect and regard people have for them irrespective of their political affiliations.