Former Army Commander Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka seems to be an interesting person. Having told many a time that the Army that he commanded during the extremely successful last lap of the war against the LTTE, never committed war crimes or violated international human rights or humanitarian laws, he occasionally opens a Pandora’s Box by accusing one of his comrades-in-arms of committing crimes during the same military campaign.
The controversy he provoked, soon after the end of the war, over the alleged killing of several LTTE leaders, who had surrendered to the troops with white flags in their hands, had reached the highest echelons of the United Nations human rights mechanism, the UNHRC, while landing the Government of the day in hot water.
The unexpected remarks by the Army Commander who spearheaded the war to its successful end finally landed himself as well in Welikada jail.
Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka opened another can of worms by claiming that death squads were operating during the last regime, which became fodder for the human rights champions here and abroad including the Tamil diaspora.
He had told the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in March that there had been a special unit under the former military intelligence chief Kapila Hendavitharana to attack the media during the time when Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wikramatunga was killed.
He had stated that the special unit took orders from the then Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa. According to Fonseka the special unit that attacked the journalists and other dissidents was outside of his authority and was controlled by Rajapaksa through Hendavitharana.
Now he has come up with another serious allegation that General Jagath Jayasuriya, the Vanni Commander during his tenure as Army Commander had committed crimes. He made this allegation after certain groups in Brazil where General Jayasuriya served until last week as the Sri Lankan Ambassador took legal action against General Jayasuriya over war crimes allegedly committed during the war.
General Jayasuriya who succeeded Field Marshal Fonseka as the Army Commander was in Brazil since August, 2015. Therefore it is not clear as to why those groups wanted to take action against him at the last minute of his tenure as Ambassador. Also it is not clear as to why Sarath Fonseka waited so long to accuse his Vanni commander of committing crimes.
As happened during the white flag controversy, the Tamil diaspora and the Tamil groups here have picked up the allegation by Fonseka against Jayasuriya. Sometimes the allegation might come up during the next UNHRC sessions in Geneva as well.
Eight years after the end of the war, the allegations about war crimes and violation of international human rights and humanitarian laws are still haunting the Government.
Although the UNHRC was more lenient towards Sri Lanka soon after the Government led by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe came to office, the last report by UN Human Rights Chief Prince ZeidRa’ad Al- Hussein was not as friendly as his previous reports had been.
Therefore it is imperative for the government to speak in one voice about the issue before the world’s human rights body pertaining to Sri Lanka.
However, while the Foreign Minister was requesting for more time to implement the UNHRC resolution that was co-sponsored by the Sri Lanka as well, and calls for setting up of an accountability mechanism with the participation of the foreign judges and lawyers, the President and the then Justice Minister were rejecting any foreign participation in the process.
And now while the President is vowing to defend all Commanders who played leading roles during the war, from human rights violation charges, the Army Commander who spearheaded the successful but controversial phase of the military campaign against the separatist rebels claims that one of his Commanders committed crimes during the war.
Unless the Government initiates a serious dialogue within itself and speaks in one voice on human rights issues, it would have to face a situation worse than the one that prevailed during the last regime, in the international arena.