“President doesn’t trust anybody other than Namal Kumara,” SF

21 May 2019 12:02 am - 13     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A A A

 

 

 

 

I suspect President also. He left the country leaving Namal Kumara to do these things

If I work with them (Rajapaksas) again, I might have to end up in jail again

It is unfair to blame all the Muslims regarding this, specially the Muslim politicians.

SF confident of handling ISIS threat, if given Law and Order Ministry and Internal Security 

politicians have never learned from the past

 

Pix by Damith Wickremasinghe

 

  • If we are to settle this problem we need the support of senior Muslim citizens and Muslim political leaders
  • Organisations like Mahason Balakaya, or something, we should have sorted that out long ago

 

Former Army Commander, the first Field Marshal and the 2010 Presidential Candidate, Sarath Fonseka in an interview with the Daily Mirror airs his views on how to fight a war and battle terrorism. One of the most experienced Army Commanders in the world, Field Marshal Fonseka, describes how and why Sri Lanka failed to prevent the Easter Sunday attacks. Fonseka, who marshalled his troops to win the 26-year-old war against  Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eeelam (LTTE), in this candid interview says that his strategy to end the Eelam war was not even known by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. 


Excerpts:


Q Do you harbour any hopes that you would be put in charge of the Ministry of Law and Order?


No, I don’t think so. The President has told the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and some of the Ministers that if he gives this  ministry to me, I am going to arrest him (President) first. He is scared. On the other hand he thinks that he is doing a good job in that ministry. This is because he wants to do political work with that Ministry. You don’t see any changes there other than sending the Defence Secretary and the Inspector General (IGP) out. It’s the same old crowd, so they are trying to do what they could not do for the past three and half years.

 

The President is responsible if his men are doing these things. These are his followers. Likewise, there is an organised campaign. I am losing faith in the President in the manner in which he is responding to these issues. I don’t see him responding as the head of the state during a situation like this.


Q So was this a reflection of what happened on May 12  and 13 where there was ethnic tension while attacks on Muslims were carried out by organised goons, where their mosques and business places had been attacked? 


Yes, it was only a week ago that the President said that everything was under control and only three to four terrorists are to be captured. This is because he doesn’t understand anything about security. He has no experience. He says all those things and tells the Police and the Army to threaten the people. They come on TV and threaten the people. There was information to say that there would be attacks on May 13 and he vanished in the early morning on the 13th (May) . Is that the way a leader of the country should work?  The turmoil was here for three days (from May 12 to 14). There was curfew and he had gone to attend a conference in China, an event for which even a Minister should not have gone. No other heads of state had attended that conference. He is crazy. He is going abroad every other week and when he goes out he stays for four or five days. Have you ever seen Presidents and Prime Ministers go out like that? Now when the Indian Prime Minister visits here or goes to China, he would go and return the next morning. And he is not bothered about what is going on here. This is why I said earlier that when this was mentioned at the Security Council he was looking up at the ceiling without even responding. The officers were there telling us this. During the last two years they have mentioned this issue at least 15 times at the Security Council. Even now he has told the Police and Army to go ahead, but he doesn’t know whether there is a strategy and a plan and he is just putting up road blocks. Just by checking homes and capturing one by one here and there is not going to help you. You need to have a strategy.  To defeat the LTTE we had a strategy. So he doesn’t have anything like that. 

 

 So when I fought the war against the LTTE, nobody knew what I was doing. The President didn’t know. Gotabhaya didn’t know


QHow should this happen? Shouldn’t the military officers who are experienced in national security advise the President on how to do it? 


First he must be ready to listen to them. The problem is that he doesn’t listen to anybody. He thinks when he reads a couple of pages in a newspaper he knows everything about ISIS. There were military officers before and we had enough army commanders before me, but nobody could finish off the war. We had superb Generals. But they were aiming at limited targets; going to Jaffna and to Elephant Pass. Nobody had an overall vision to finish off the war. So if we have a situation like in the past and if we need to overcome and defeat terrorism we need above average people. Every General in the army has a range. If you take a hundred there would be one or two above average people. That is the way in any department. If you take doctors, there are thousands of doctors in this country, but how many have been recognised as good doctors? It is the same scenario with security also. Everybody cannot handle security. Even now the Prime Minister and others, have told Police and Army to go out. That is all. Is that security? If that is the case then it is very easy to finish off terrorism in the world, isn’t it? If all what you have to do is to send the Army and the Police out , then all over the world you would be able to finish off terrorism within two months. 

 


Q In your opinion what method should the Sri Lankan authorities have adopted to handle this problem? 


You have to formulate a strategy which I cannot tell you now. If I speak about a strategy I cannot use it again. So when I fought the war against the LTTE, nobody knew what I was doing. The President didn’t know. Gotabhaya didn’t know. Only my due commanders knew where I would go next week. Nobody knew that I was going towards Mullaitivu and Pudukuduiruppu to surround them. Only after I finished Kilinochchi and started heading East that they realised where I was going. So likewise you should have a long term strategy. You can’t finish off terrorism in two to three months. 


Those who say that terrorism can be finished in two to three months are crazy. 


QSupposing you are given this Ministry, do you have a plan? Do you think you would be fully in control of the situation and handle it?


Giving me this Ministry is not enough. Then they must make a gazette notification and provide powers to handle internal security. Then you could ask for assistance from the Army and the other people. If this Ministry is given to me, they must mention in the Gazette that internal security and operations come under me. Then I can do it. Then I can ask for assistance from others under that if I’m bestowed with powers. What the President wants is to hand over to me another Cabinet portfolio. He had told the Prime Minister to inform me to come to the Security Council as an adviser. That is just to keep my mouth shut after that. So I have said I will not accept any other Ministry because people are asking me to take up Law and order. If that portfolio is offered to me I would take it, if not I would not accept any other Ministry. Otherwise, I will remain as an MP for the next six months. 

 

What will happen is similar to what happened to the Tamils. The terrorists ensured that the community gets isolated. Then it is easier for their survival


Q Why do you think that the President is treating in this manner? 


He has an inferiority complex. You know that he does not want anyone in the Cabinet or even the Prime Minister to be seen as a smart man. That is his complex. He knows that if a portfolio is given to us we would produce results. So if we produce results he thinks that we would outshine him and become popular. This is the problem. He doesn’t think about the country. All he thinks about is only about himself. His agenda is mapped out only for his survival. If he thinks about the country he should have been in the country. Only a crazy President would leave a country during a situation similar to what we experienced. When the tsunami arrived, I was number two in the Army. I was on holiday in America. On my own, I bought a ticket and returned to Sri Lanka. I was not the number one even. The leaders must think like that. Now when they say that there would be bombs on the 13th he had left the country.


QIf we talk about the most pertinent question at this hour, which relates to security and the fear of another terrorist attack, how dangerous is the present situation according to you as an expert on defence, war and military?


If one considers that there are suicide bombers, you don’t need hundreds of them. If there are two bombers that makes everybody unsafe. They can go wherever they wish. It is already said that there are three or more of them. That is what they think. But what I think is that there was one group in that organisation, who came out at that time. I say this because the leader would not kill himself in the first attack. There should be others over and above him. There would be some more groups. That is how terrorists work. Now they are checking the friends and relatives of those terrorists. But there are sure to be many others and the figure could be something close to 300 at the moment. 


QDo you mean members or cadres?


Normally in an organisation, anybody can become a suicide cadre. If they finish with ten cadres, they produce ten others. That is how the LTTE was working. There are no people to die, there are no people to live in a terrorist organisation. Absolutely everybody will be ready to die. 


Q So isn’t it very dangerous?


Definitely. This is not house breaking or something, isn’t it? The ISIS is a very dangerous terrorist organisation. They can support these people without a problem; with funds and weapons. They can send cadres from there to here. We don’t have a system to identify, if some cadres have come here. Our intelligence systems are not very strong and organised. 


We are already in trouble and heading for trouble. Suicide cadres and terrorism are not something like you think you know. It would be worse than the JVP insurgency. It has reached a serious level. The LTTE took 15 years to reach that level. First they took Doraiappa, the second victim, after two years Inspector Bastian Pillai. Then they eliminated the third victim only after four years. That is how the terrorists work all the time. We can’t run in circles and suddenly finish everything. There were a number of occasions when we killed Prabhakaran’s second in command. Twice in 1980s, but there were new people coming and they were better than the old ones. When these people die the rest of the people get more motivated. The motivation come sfrom there. 

 

There would be some more groups. That is how terrorists work. Now they are checking the friends and relatives of those terrorists. But there are sure to be many others and the figure could be something close to 300 at the moment


QDo you mean they set an example?


Obviously. They have taken the leadership. They may be fairly senior cadres. Like in Jaffna one chap committed suicide and there will be many others to follow.   

My stance with Rajapaksas will remain forever. I worked with them. I worked for them and after that how they reacted has made me learn a lesson. So I don’t think I would make the same mistake again with them. If I work with them again, I might have to end up in jail again.    


QDo you think what happened on May 12 (Sunday) and the following day where, during a tense situation,  the attacks were carried out on Muslims would aggravate this problem and strengthen the resolve of the terrorist organisation?


Now you can see who the people arrested are. Namal Kumara is President’s right hand man. The President doesn’t trust anybody other than Namal Kumara. So I suspect President also. He left the country leaving Namal Kumara to do these things. He (the president) is responsible if his men are doing these things. These are his followers. Likewise there is an organised campaign. I am losing faith in the President in the manner in which he is responding to these issues. I don’t see him responding as the head of the state during a situation like this. People like Namal Kumara are going on the rampage. And they talk about Dayasiri Jayasekara. What was Namal Kumara saying about Dayasiri. Dayasiri is the General Secretary of President’s party. The people who have come out and who are creating problems are President’s people, not our people. And these people are going on. I am sure that there are some questions. At least we are made to think like that. And the President’s close associates are doing these things. He took off early morning and within a couple of hours they got going. Everybody will think on that line. Why, don’t you think like that? We have to think like that. And with the type of things the President says on TV like “I will attack and finish this” and when he talks like that and when these people are behaving like this, can you see that there are some similarities between what he says and actions that follow. He is not talking about peace. 


And he said, ‘when bombs are exploded, leaders of other nations did not resign, so why should I resign?’ The leaders of other nations did not receive information. Even the intelligence units in those countries did not know. But here the information had arrived and it was announced at the Security Council. Why we are asking him (the president) to go is that attacks were carried out when all the information was available. While doing that he says, ‘I will finish them by attacking’. 

When I fought the war against the LTTE, nobody knew what I was doing. The President (Mahinda Rajapaksa) didn’t know. Gotabhaya didn’t know. Only my due commanders knew where I would go next week. 


Q Isn’t it unfair to harass all Muslims at this juncture?


It is unfair to blame all the Muslims regarding this, specially the Muslim politicians. If we are to settle this problem we need the support of senior Muslim citizens and Muslim political leaders. Now some people are in the habit of trying to fish in the muddy water and try to blame the Muslim Ministers and point fingers at them. I don’t think this is going to help us. I of course don’t suspect any of those Muslim leaders. This is my personal opinion. 


Rishad Bathiudeen one day told me that an additional secretary working at his office, an SLAS officer, went on retirement and went to work under Minister Haleem as a private secretary. This secretary’s son was taken away by some people who had came with their faces concealed. So Rishad telephoned me and said that this is my ex-secretary who is now Haleem’s secretary and his son has been taken in and whether I can  check with the Police and the Army whether they know anything about his whereabouts. I think he had told the same thing to the Army Commander too. If that had happened to my secretary’s son I would have done the same thing. If that happened to any of my additional secretaries or somebody or my ex-secretary, who is retired now, I would have done the same thing. We can’t say just because Rishad inquired into this incident that he is a terrorist. If we suspect anybody we can’t just be pointing fingers at people. We must have a very sensitive inquiry without tarnishing the images of people. If they are wrong punish them. That’s OK. But because of these simple issues you can’t brand people as terrorist leaders. 


So these are things the President and the Prime Minister must settle. I don’t see that they are talking about these things. 


QThere is public opinion that proper governance is not taking place in this country?   


This is what I am saying. The Army is put on the road and the Police is made to threaten the people. All this is shown on the TV. They say ‘we will give you ten years. We will not give you police clearance and that kind of threatening is absurd. The terrorists are not going to succumb to these threats, are they?  And these people belonging to organisations like Mahason Balakaya, or something, we should have sorted that out long ago. They are uneducated people, awaiting an opportunity to create some problem. And take Namal Kumara. The issues with these individuals are not sorted out, so they are creating problems for the whole nation. What the President and the Prime Minster think is that these things are routine. They must take these things seriously. They will bail them out in a few days time. The President will give orders and they would be released.  

 


QHow dangerous are these ultra-nationalist groups in a country like Sri Lanka which is multi-ethnic and multi-religious?


They are definitely dangerous and they can cause damage. They can create a lot of unnecessary dissensions and mistrust. They will not be able to get the majority support for them. But a few of them can create incidents. Then there would be a few others who can be misled in a situation like this. Specially terrorists have no ethics and norms. And when these people try to react to that they instigate others and then it can lead to a dangerous situation. 


QCould this give a message to the Muslim community that they are being isolated by the majority?


What will happen is similar to what happened to the Tamils. The terrorists ensured that the community gets isolated. Then it is easier for their survival. Because terrorists have their own strategies. I don’t think we have learned and these politicians have never learned from the past campaigns. After a three-decade long war they have not learned. I don’t know whether even at that time they knew what was going on. Terrorists have their own strategies. 

QAs a senior Army officer and an Army Commander did you ever feel that there were activities initiated by Muslim extremists taking place in this country?


No, I never felt that, because there was no reason for such activities here. In this country both Muslims and Sinhalese are getting on well. Muslims are doing very well in this country. They are educated. They are businessmen and they have lot of freedom. We have never had clashes even in the history. Even if there were it was very rarely. I remember in Galle, in 1983, or around that time, there were some incidents. So I never thought that this issue would surface in a normal way like the LTTE did. They had a different political agenda. Even up to today Muslims don’t have a political agenda here. We are seeing the influence of global Muslim terrorism. So we should understand that it could surface and disappear anytime. If we don’t want to see events like these happen again we need to have a very effective system. 


QSo when one considers what has happened since April 21, there is an opinion being formed that the country is unsafe and there is a strong need for a dictatorial leader?  


A leader must be strong, but he should have a team too. We can’t do it only with Gotabaya. The last time we didn’t do it only with Gotabaya. I don’t know. If he comes he would make a difference. But if the present leaders can’t handle it, people would decide then. I am not happy about the way they are handling it now. I don’t think they are doing it right. They never learned lessons. In other countries the leaders are very strong. Their governments are very strong. That’s why they are controlling these things. Here we are nowhere compared to them; we are jokers. 

 

In this country both Muslims and Sinhalese are getting on well. Muslims are doing very well in this country. They are educated


QBut we are facing equally dangerous enemies like ISIS? 


Yes. We have a good Army and services and even the Police. But then we must know how to lead them otherwise they would engage in passive activities and wait. If there are politicians who are smart enough to guide them, they would do the right thing.     


QFrom a political context if Gotabaya becomes the  Presidential candidate, do you think it would be difficult for the UNP or any coalition? 


It would depend on who the UNP fields. If they field a joker, Gotabaya would have a free run. 


Q Even you and your party are part of this Government. Do you have an idea who should be the best candidate at the next elections?


On principle I say it is the party leader. That’s on principle. But I also have told him that his attitude would have to change. I have told him about this at the group meetings. But I don’t see that he has changed up to now. If he wants to be the President of the country, he would have to change, otherwise I don’t know the fate of the UNP. Because there are other leaders now below Ranil Wickremesinghe who don’t talk even a word about the terror and today’s situation. Other than going and sightseeing where the bombs are exploded, they don’t talk a word about the situation. They are also candidates.  


QSupposing there is a change of Government at the next elections and a Rajapaksa Government assumes power, are you willing to join them with your enormous experience and service years behind you, if there is a requirement?


My stance with Rajapaksas will remain forever. I worked with them. I worked for them and after that how they reacted has made me learn a lesson. So I don’t think I would make the same mistake again with them. If I work with them again, I might have to end up in jail again. 


QAt this hour what is your message to the people of the country?


The country must be patient and they have to see far and control themselves. But they must also realise what these politicians are up to. If the politicians are not giving the proper leadership, they must teach them a lesson. Otherwise this country would never move forward. In a situation like this I’m not interested in party politics, because there is a risk to the country’s sovereignty. There’s a risk to the safety of the people. The peace that we brought after sacrificing so much has been lost now within a short time. For that the politicians are responsible. So therefore whether we can have faith in our politicians is a question. People will have to select the future leaders carefully. If they don’t do that they will suffer.   

  Comments - 13

  • Treehorse Tuesday, 21 May 2019 12:36 PM

    I can guess from the article that he is going to be next Presidential candidate. GOTA vs Field Marshall it seems.

    duminda Tuesday, 21 May 2019 04:41 PM

    This is the only man I respect, out of 20m people, in whole of our country..

    Dr. Kumaranayake Tuesday, 21 May 2019 05:27 PM

    Top intelligent interview.......Gota's skills and abilities are too far and even not close to General Fonseka....... Dr.kuma

    Barbarossa Tuesday, 21 May 2019 07:13 PM

    A great interview by a great leader Sarath for President.

    Baron Baaron Tuesday, 21 May 2019 08:40 PM

    UNP or UNF cannot field a "joker" and get wiped out. There is only one candidate it can field, and he is talking.

    Raj Wednesday, 22 May 2019 11:55 AM

    Unlike earlier he shows great maturity in talk. Looks like he can be a presidential candidate to make a real change in the country.

    Roshanaly Wednesday, 22 May 2019 01:14 PM

    Now he knows about Sri Lanka Politics. Matured to run for Prez Election.

    Roshanaly Wednesday, 22 May 2019 03:18 PM

    Since he has critised PM, little chance that UNP will nominate him, unless he contest as a independent candidate.

    Dhammika Perera Wednesday, 22 May 2019 04:08 PM

    Dear Sir, Our salute goes for you, lot of people worked to get you out when you are in trouble with MR, by signing petition by your daughter. You have solemn duty upon you to serve this country. With current constitution in place does any future president have powers singularly. So be in the group of good people who loves this country.

    Manu Thursday, 23 May 2019 09:07 AM

    You are worried about getting the post. You egoistic man. Speak some thing good for the country and not your own interests and getting the post you want.

    decentgent Thursday, 23 May 2019 12:35 PM

    Very intelligent responses to questions posed at him. Though he was a war veteran, his image has been tarnished by the Rajapakses. Hence he cannot win presidential election. Even Ranil will not stand a chance. The only prospect is Sajith and dont know why the UNF is quiet about this. The country will have a dictator if Gota is elected.

    decentgent Thursday, 23 May 2019 12:35 PM

    Very intelligent responses to questions posed at him. Though he was a war veteran, his image has been tarnished by the Rajapakses. Hence he cannot win presidential election. Even Ranil will not stand a chance. The only prospect is Sajith and dont know why the UNF is quiet about this. The country will have a dictator if Gota is elected.

    Dickie Bird Friday, 24 May 2019 04:48 PM

    With just 5000 votes from Gampaha district, how many votes SF can expect? The change has come too late after going around begging for posts and foul mouthing. people are not punakku eaters anymore.


Add comment

Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.

Reply To:

Name - Reply Comment


DUBIOUS POWER PROJECT POLLUTES KUMBUKKAN OYA

As we members of Daily Mirror news team reached Moneragala early morning for

Who is the best presidential candidate for the economy?

Gotabaya Rajapaksa is the clear front runner in the presidential race; even b

Virtual clothing battles the effects of “fast fashion’’

The term “fast fashion” encapsulates a type of clothing that is moved fro

‘Flygskam’ Is it possible to be an eco-friendly flyer?

Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist and Olympic athlete Björn F