When Yasmin Zooka’s International Truth and Justice Project (ITJC), known for its dalliance with LTTE loving fringe Tamil groups, selectively raises the human rights card on Sri Lanka, it can be dismissed as sour grapes.
But, when the former war-winning army commander and now a Field Marshal and Cabinet Minister Sarath Fonseka jumps on the bandwagon to implicate his successor Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya, because they have a grudge against each other, that smacks of a mind-boggling level of pettiness.
Last week it was reported that ITJC had filed a law suit in Brazil against Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya (who, by the way, is not a relation of this writer), Sri Lanka’s ambassador there and five other countries, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Suriname. Gen. Jayasuriya was accused of committing war crimes while he was the security forces commander of the Vanni during the final phase of the Eelam war. The dossier of the lawsuit was handed over to Brazil’s federal police only in the final week of Gen. Jayasuriya’s tenure there as ambassador by a counsel representing the ITJC.
Mr. Fonseka spares no opportunity to take a shot at his nemesis and in the process however, he tends to overlook the resultant security implications
That unusual wait till the eleventh hour, when you have a whole of two years to do that, may imply this latest adventure is yet another propaganda gimmick by Zooka’s NGO.
The ITJC has tried its best to keep the pot boiling in Sri Lanka. Recently it issued a dossier which accused the Sri Lankan security forces of continuing with ‘torture of Sri Lankan Tamils’. Weeks earlier a London court ruled a Tamil asylum seeker who claimed he had been tortured in Sri Lanka during a visit had in fact self-inflicted his injuries to advance his asylum claims. ITJC is a front of fringed diaspora Tamils, who are bitter about the annihilation of Tamil Tiger terrorists in this country. The Sri Lankan government, no matter its intentions about reconciliation, should treat these outlets as such. But, how can it react to Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka who has now opened a can of worms which would be relished by the groups that have called for punitive action against the Sri Lankan state and its security forces.
Soon after the reports of ITJC lawsuit, Fonseka jumped the gun and told a media conference that he had information with regard to crimes committed by former army commander Jagath Jayasuriya, the then Vanni commander and that he was ready to give evidence if proper legal action was instituted against him.
“I received complaints that Mr. Jayasuriya was engaged in crimes as Vanni commander with regard to those who were arrested. He continued the same strategy even after he was promoted as army commander. I have information regarding those who committed the crimes. I am ready to explain the crimes committed in detail if proper legal action is instituted,” he said.
Mr. Fonseka spares no opportunity to take a shot at his nemesis and in the process however, he tends to overlook the resultant national security implications. An earlier attempt to implicate Gotabaya Rajapaksa for ordering to kill the surrendered LTTE high fliers during what was known as White Flag incident, landed the then presidential contender Fonseka in a political minefield, and cost him a good deal of southern votes. He later recanted his statement, but by then the damage had been done.
There are things that the holders of high security and strategic responsibilities are expected not to talk about even after their retirement. In most countries, even the low level security operatives are required to sign an agreement on nondisclosure, breach of which is punishable by law.
If he thinks certain incidents deserve a re-scrutiny, Field Marshal Fonseka can convey his concerns to those who matter, perhaps to the President
Still, if he thinks certain incidents deserve a re-scrutiny, Field Marshal Fonseka can convey his concerns to those who matter, perhaps to the President, who as the Commander in Chief could order an investigation. A media conference is not definitely the right place to raise those concerns. In most countries that went through a level of security vulnerability on par with Sri Lanka, such a gesture would have amounted to treason. Even when, it is not, it shows a greater deal of bankruptcy. It is a sad indictment of Field Marshal Fonseka, without whose ruthless efficiency of fighting the war, Sri Lanka would have been at the mercy of terrorists for a foreseeable future. Before him, there were colourful army commanders, but none of them was a match to Prabakaran. One had a reputation in dancing in his underwear in the officers’ mess in inebriation. Another was so disenchanted that his daughter had been dropped from the Olympic Swimming Squad, he came to the National Television to complain about his grievances, while the army having routed in Elephant Pass was on a mass withdrawal.
Fonseka was no such charlatan. Since taking over the army and having narrowly survived a suicide attack on his life, he fully committed to ending the war. He was a ruthless task master, some of his division commanders literally cried in front of him when he ordered to implement certain dare devil operational manoeuvers. However, finally he won the war and Sri Lankans are grateful to him for that. Now some of his rhetoric threatens not only to undo his legacy, but also to unleash unwarranted forces, that could intimidate Sri Lanka for a long time.
Of course, certain excesses of the war, such as alleged incidents of abduction rackets run by certain individual officers and other ranks, should be investigated. Then are others, such as the killings of five students in Trincomalee, attacks on Uthayan and other media institutions and personnel. However, it would be foolhardily to denounce the entire conduct of war, or its operational decisions, no matter whether they were taken by Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Sarath Fonseka or by someone else, because they entailed a political-military logic in the given circumstances at the time, of which rationale, to some extent, is vindicated by the fact that Sri Lankans have lived without a single major incident of terrorism since the end of the war.
Some issues are too big to be politicized. The war is one such thing, though unfortunately, former regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa did exactly that and created the bad blood that runs through the country.
This government should not follow the footsteps of its predecessor. That is a dangerous and most likely a losing gamble. President Maithripala Sirisena was right when he said he would not let anybody to besmirch the war victory. He should perhaps tell his Cabinet Minister Field Marshal Fonseka to keep quiet for the greater good.
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