Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Can Tamil electorate be influenced by TNA-GTF in absence of war?

Second post-war prez poll:



by Shamindra Ferdinando

The then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga authorized the closure of five entry/exit points, manned by the army, in the Batticaloa and Vavuniya electoral districts, on Dec 5, 2001.

Kumaratunga issued the directive on Dec 4, the day before the countrywide parliamentary elections. Acting at the behest of President Kumaratunga, the then Army Chief, Lt. General Lionel Balagalle, closed the entry/exit points at Piramanalankulam (Vavuniya) and Chenkaladi, Kiran, Vaunathivu and Mankerni (Batticaloa). That deprived those living in areas under LTTE control from exercising their franchise at the parliamentary election. The presidential directive was meant to prevent voters from crossing entry/exit point to cast their votes at cluster polling booths established in villages situated close to the front lines.

The Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) accused the People’s Alliance government of depriving the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) of thousands of votes. The TNA, comprising four political parties, namely the TULF, TELO, PLOTE and EPRLF, contested on the TULF ticket.

Interestingly, two entry/exit points, in the Batticaloa electoral district, manned by the elite Special Task Force (STF) remained opened for several hours. By the time the government had ordered them closed, at 1.30 pm, as many as 20,000 crossed the lines to exercise their franchise. The then Batticaloa Government Agent, Sinnathamby Shanmugam, confirmed that voters had been denied an opportunity to exercise their franchise at a crucial election. Shanmugam asserted that of some 50,000 registered voters, living in areas under LTTE control about half were able to cast their votes due to a lapse on the part of the government to also direct the STF, to close down entry/exit points under its control. The then Vavuniya Government Agent, K. Ganesh, revealed that about 17,000 registered voters, in the Vanni, and about 10,000, in the Mannar electoral district, couldn’t cast their votes. (Government closes some north-east entry points: 50,000 prevented from voting-The Island, Dec 6, 2001).

SLA on closure of entry/exit points

Army Headquarters claim that entry/exit points had to be closed to prevent LTTE cadres infiltrating government-held areas, in the guise of voters. The then Army spokesman, Brigadier Sanath Karunaratne, declared that it was the best course of action, in the wake of intelligence reports pertaining to LTTE taking advantage of the situation. The TULF rejected Brigadier Karunaratne’s claim. The Army never explained the failure, on its part, to direct the STF to close the entry/exit points under its control.

A recent statement issued by the UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF), as regards the forthcoming presidential election, should be examined in the backdrop of having national level elections in war-time Sri Lanka. Twice President Kumaratunga is spearheading Opposition presidential candidate Maithripala Sirisena’s campaign.

GTF spokesman, Suren Surendiran, urged the Tamil electorate to exercise their franchise at the second post-war presidential poll carefully. The GTF official said that Tamils living in all parts of the country should participate in the 2015 presidential poll.

Surendiran said: "Tamil people have a long history of voting, based on principled considerations. The upcoming Presidential election is no different."

"GTF is fully aware that in the post-independent Sri Lanka, Tamil people have continuously lost their rights under a flawed majoritarian electoral system. Their desire to have a degree of control in the Tamil majority areas was never granted, despite repeated democratic expressions of their wishes through all available electoral means."

"Nevertheless, from our perspective, whether Sri Lanka should continue in the same path or whether change should be taken at this juncture, to stop and reverse this trajectory, is the fundamental question facing the electorate."

Sri Lankan Tamils living abroad formed the GTF in the wake of the LTTE’s battlefield defeat, in May 2009.

The government ignored the then Election Commissioner Dayananda Disanayake’s request to re-open all entry/exit points. Interestingly, the polls chief had raised the issue with Chandrananda Silva, who, after having relinquished duties as Commissioner of Elections, received an appointment as Secretary to the Ministry of Defence.

EU on CBK’s more

Mrs. Kumaratunga’s government earned the condemnation of the European Union. The EU strongly condemned the denial of voting rights to a section of the Tamil speaking voters and, thereby denying them the opportunity to exercise their franchise. Head of the EU monitoring mission, John Cushnahan, said: "There is no justification for closing these entry points. This is to prevent people living in uncleared areas from coming to vote at cluster polling stations. Outspoken Cushnahan emphasized that the Sri Lankan government’s move was totally unacceptable and it would have a significant impact on the outcome of the results in the Vanni and Batticaloa electoral districts.

In spite of government interference, the TNA polled 41,950 votes in the Vanni electoral district to secure three seats, the UNP obtained 26,575 votes to win two seats, while the Democratic People’s Liberation Front (DPLF) secured one seat. The DPLF polled 9,614 votes. In Batticaloa, the TNA polled 86,284 votes to win three seats, while the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) obtained 26,725 votes to secure one seat. The PA managed to win one seat by polling 25,705 votes.

The UNP-led United National Front emerged victorious by winning 109 seats, whereas the PA managed 77 seats. The TULF won 15 seats.

Having won the parliamentary election, newly elected Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe swiftly moved to reach an agreement with the LTTE. Norway finalized a Ceasefire Agreement, on February 21, 2002.

Administration loyal to

New Delhi installed

In the run-up to the Dec 5, 2001, parliamentary election, the TNA endorsed the LTTE as the sole representatives of the Tamil speaking people. The TNA acknowledged that the LTTE would represent the Tamil speaking people at all future elections. Having lost several key leaders, including A. Amirthalingham and Vettivelu Yogeswaran, the Tamil political leadership had no option but to accept the LTTE’s leadership or face the consequences. The LTTE remained in charge of the Tamils’ destiny for a decade, until the Sri Lankan military eradicated the LTTE in May, 2009. The three-year long combined security forces operation paved the way for President Mahinda Rajapaksa to conduct the Northern Provincial Council election in September, 2013. The ITAK-led TNA emerged victorious at the poll. Unfortunately, the TNA had conveniently forgotten that the Northern Provincial Council election couldn’t be conducted, even through the Northern and Eastern Provinces were merged in September, 1988, in accordance with the Indo-Lanka Accord of July, 1987. The merger was to pave the way for elections in November, 1988. The Indian Army deployed here (July 1987 to March 1990) under Indo-Lanka Accord rigged the election in the Northern Province to ensure victory for two terrorist groups – The Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Organization (EPRLF) and the Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF). They secured all 36 seats in the Northern Province uncontested. However, elections was held in the Eastern Province, where the EPRLF and ENDLF won 12 and 5 seats, respectively, though the SLMC emerged victories with 17 seats. The UNP managed to secure one seat. The Indian Army threw its weight behind the EPRLF and ENDLF in the Eastern Province. The Indian Army was carrying out directives, issued from New Delhi.

Those demanding free and fair election never even bothered to issue a statement condemning India for rigging an important election. The JRJ administration couldn’t interfere with the Indian strategy, meant to ensure an administration, in Sri Lanka’s North-East, loyal to New Delhi. Having installed the EPRLF-led administration, India created the Tamil National Army (TNA) to protect the outfit. The TNA undermined the then President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s government.

The Dec, 1988, presidential and the Feb, 1989, parliamentary elections were also conducted in the temporarily merged North-Eastern Province, under the supervision of the Indian Army. At the presidential elections, the then Prime Minister Ranasinghe Premadasa defeated SLFP’s Sirimavo Bandaranaike in a close race, marred by violence. Premadasa was sworn in as JRJ’s successor, on Jan 2, 1989. In February, Premadasa led the UNP to a comfortable victory in the parliamentary polling, capturing 125 of the 225 seats under a new proportional voting system. Both presidential and parliamentary polls took place before Premadasa reached an understanding, in May, 1989 to pave the way for talks with the LTTE. The Premadasa-LTTE talks collapsed in June, 1990.

Sri Lanka’s failure

There had never been an inquiry into the conduct of the Indian Army, and other personnel, during their deployment here. The rigging of the North-Eastern Provincial Council poll had far reaching consequences with President Premadasa having to join hands with the LTTE to oust the provincial administration, installed by India. Sri Lanka paid a very heavy price for the Indian folly. Sri Lanka’s failure to conduct a proper investigation, into Indian intervention here is inexcusable and strange in the backdrop of Western powers launching an investigation in accordance with the resolution adopted at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at the March, 2014, sessions.

Whether President Rajapaksa liked it or not regardless of the outcome of the January 8, 2015, presidential election, Sri Lanka is facing an unprecedented situation in Geneva. With the UNHRC expected to receive a comprehensive report on Sri Lanka, in March, 2015, the stage is now set for a major diplomatic issue within weeks after the next presidential poll. The UNP-led Opposition, on Dec 21, 2015, declared that a victory for Opposition presidential candidate, Maithripala Sirisena, at the January 8, 2015, poll would help settle accountability issues/war crimes charges raised by the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Addressing the media, at the Opposition Leader’s Office, at Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, UNP strategist, MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, PC, stressed that as re-election of incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa for a third term would be inimical to Sri Lanka’s interests, people should vote for Maithripala Sirisena.

MP Rajapakshe said that those struggling to make ends meet would have to face the consequences in case President Rajapaksa won the election. The MP mentioned the possibility of the country having to face economic sanctions unless the forthcoming presidential election brought an end to President Rajapaksa’s rule.

PC Rajapakshe said that only a new government could defeat foreign elements working against the country.

The Opposition spokesman assured that it would protect defeated President Rajapaksa from being hauled up before an international war crimes tribunal.

Al Jazeera interview

MP Rajapakshe echoed UPFA National List MP Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha. The MP expressed similar opinion at a live Al Jazeera programme ‘Inside story: clinging to power in Sri Lanka’, anchored by Jane Dutton, involving UNP MP Dr. Harsha De Silva and GTF spokesman Suren Surendiran, before Maithripala Sirisena declared his candidature at the presidential poll. However, Prof. Wijesinha, in response to war crimes allegation, said that the Sri Lankan military had fought a relatively clean war against the LTTE, when compared with others engaged in such operations.

Al Jazeera aired the programme the day before Maithripala Sirisena quit the government.

Surendiran’s recent call for the Tamil electorate to exercise their franchise, carefully, at the forthcoming presidential poll, should be examined, having his declarations, during Al Jazeera programme, in mind.

Joining the programme from Dublin, Surendiran, the UK-based GTF’s Director of Strategic Initiative, predicted that the UNHRC would bring out a damning report in March, 2015, almost accusing the government of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. The GTF official alleged Sri Lanka’s economy had been dwindling, foreign reserves sharply down with the IMF demanding the government to drastically reduce public expenditure. Surendiran alleged that people couldn’t even feed their own families in the wake of rising inflation. Surendiran said: "The security situation is poor and the judiciary politicized."

Calling Sri Lanka a nationalist state, Surendiran said that President Rajapaksa hadn’t addressed the Tamil grievances, even after the conclusion of the conflict. The GTF official said that both the international community and the Tamil speaking people wanted President Rajapaksa to provide a political solution to the national problem. Surendiran accused the government of causing racial hatred among communities while specifically identifying the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS)as a government tool used against other communities.

Surendiran further alleged that Sri Lanka’s relationship with India was in an extremely bad position.

Responding to Prof. Wijesinha, an irate Surendiran said that President Rajapaksa had been accused of war crimes. Some had accused him of conducting a genocidal war against the Tamil speaking people. Surendiran warned that President Rajapaksa, too, would be hauled up before the International Criminal Court the way one-time Liberian President, Charles Taylor, and Serb leader, Slobodan Milosevic, had been. Surendiran queried Prof. Wijesinha the basis for his assumption that the Sri Lankan military fought a relatively a clean war, when over 140,000 civilians died at their hands. The GTF spokesman alleged that the military also executed surrendering LTTE cadres and civilians, killed an 11-year-old (possible reference to the killing of LTTE leader Prabhakaran’s son) et al.

Would the five-party TNA be able to influence the Tamil electorate at the forthcoming poll? At the Nov. 1994, presidential poll, they contributed overwhelming for Mrs Kumaratunga’s victory. She wouldn’t have been able to poll a staggering 62.28 per cent of the total votes received, at that poll, if not for the Tamil electorate backing her, on the belief the LTTE assassinated UNP candidate Gamini Dissanayake, to ensure her victory. At the Dec. 1999, presidential poll, the LTTE made a bid to assassinate her because the group felt it could reach a settlement in case UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe emerged victorious. The LTTE engineered Wickremesinghe’s defeat at the Nov, 2005, presidential poll because it obviously believed a naive Rajapaksa could be militarily defeated. Consequent to the LTTE’s humiliating defeat, the TNA threw its lot with former army Commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka, at the last presidential poll in January, 2010.

With the TNA now being divided over whom it should support, at the next presidential poll, what would be its official stance. In the backdrop of the TNA and GTF having close relations, would it be prudent to believe that the GTF statements reflected TNA the stand at the presidential poll?

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Mahinda liberated only a corner east of A9 - CBK



by Shamindra Ferdinando

Twice President, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, declared that at the time the then Premier, Mahinda Rajapaksa, won the Nov 17, 2005, presidential election, the LTTE had controlled about 25 per cent of the Vanni territory. Mrs. Kumaratunga emphasized that the LTTE couldn’t have controlled not more than 30 per cent of land, situated on the Vanni east.

Addressing the media, at her ancestral home, at Attanagalle, on Dec 16, 2014, Mrs Kumaratunga said that her successor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, had to liberate the Kilinochchi and Pudukudithirippu area, situated in the eastern corner of the Vanni region.

The former Commander-in-Chief unwittingly revealed that she didn’t even know that Kilinochchi is situated along the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road.

The former SLFP leader sought to diminish President Rajapaksa’s role in Eelam War IV for obvious reasons.

Regardless of former SLFP General Secretary, turned Opposition presidential candidate, Maithripala Sirisena’s Camp, harping on restoration of democracy, good governance, the eradication of terrorism remains the central issue. Had that not being the case, Mrs Kumaratunga wouldn’t have claimed clearing up to 70 per cent of the territory, previously held by the LTTE.

In fact, Mrs Kumaratunga’s Dec 16, 2014, declaration meant that the entire Eastern Province, comprising Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara districts, had been under government control at the time she relinquished office. Rajapaksa took oaths as Kumaratunga’s successor on Nov 19, 2005.

A humiliating defeat

The LTTE clearly had the upper hand in the northern theater of operations at the time the UNP won the Dec 5, 2001, parliamentary election. The Sri Lankan Army (SLA) never recovered from the disastrous Agnikeela offensive, launched on April 24, 2001, in the Jaffna peninsula. The SLA had no option but to call off Agnikeela which was meant to regain Elephant Pass. Agnikeela brought an end to major offensive actions with the SLA adopting defensive measures, both in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The SLA could no longer sustain major offensive action after having suffered a series of debilitating battlefield defeats in the Northern Province. Nothing could be as humiliating as the Elephant Pass debacle, suffered in April 2000. Mrs. Kumaratunga had conveniently forgotten that the SLA suffered its worst defeat during her tenure as the President. The LTTE defeated the fully equipped 54 Division, headquartered at Elephant Pass. It was beyond any doubt the LTTE’s finest battlefield achievement. The LTTE rolled back five Brigades, placed under the command of officiating General Officer Commanding (GOC) 54 Division, Brigadier K. B. Egodawela.

The LTTE followed up with a devastating raid on the Bandaranaike International Airport, on July 24, 2001.That raid effectively ended any likelihood of Mrs Kumaratunga’s government going on a large scale offensive.

After having won the Dec 5, 2001, parliamentary election, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, pledged his commitment to the Norwegian-led peace process, initiated by Mrs Kumaratunga, several months before the LTTE made an abortive bid to assassinate her, on the night of Dec 18, 1999. A tripartite Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), involving Sri Lanka, Norway and the LTTE, signed on February 21, 2002, recognized a specific area under the command and control of the terrorist group.

Moratorium on large scale offensives

Consequent to the Agnikeela debacle, in April 2001, the military suspended ground operations, though the LTTE continued to consolidate the area under its control. Although Mrs. Kumaratunga remained Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, until Nov 2005, the SLA remained on a defensive posture, until the end of her term. Mrs Kumaratunga, during her second term (Dec 1999 to Nov 2005), suffered a series of stunning battle field defeats on the northern front. However, Mrs Kumaratunga couldn’t be deprived of credit for regaining the Jaffna peninsula, undoubtedly the SLA’s greatest battlefield achievement, before Eelam War IV. Mrs. Kumaratunga gave a tremendous boost to the armed forces by acquiring Mi 24s in 1995, Kfirs in 1996, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in 1996, MiG 27s in 2000, mobile multi barrel rocket launchers in 2000, and a range of other equipment. However, in spite of bringing the entire peninsula under government control, by early 1996, she couldn’t sustain the offensive.

In July 1996, the LTTE wiped out SLA’s 25 Brigade headquartered at Mullaitivu. Nearly 1,400 officers and men perished in the Mullaitivu battle. The LTTE finished off a battalion each from the Sinha Regiment and the Vijayaba Infantry Regiment (VIR), thus opening a new phase of the war. The Mullaitivu loss shattered the SLA’s morale.

Soon after the Mullaitivu debacle, the SLA launched an operation from Elephant Pass. The offensive, codenamed Sath Jaya, was meant to advance southwards, from Elephant Pass, as much as possible. By September, 1996, the SLA brought Kilinochchi under its control. In May, 1997, Mrs Kumaratunga authorized the launch of Operation Jayasikurui, a highly ambitious offensive aimed at restoring the overland Main Supply Route (MSR), between Vavuniya and Kilinochchi.

The LTTE retaliated. While,‘Jayasikurui’ troops had been struggling to push towards Kilinochchi, the LTTE, in February 1998, overran the army’s first line of defences at Kilinochchi. In late September, 1998, the SLA retreated northwards, from Kilinochchi. The SLA held its positions at Paranthan briefly before pulling back to Elephant Pass, thereby giving up Sath Jaya gains.

The LTTE was setting the stage for a decisive change in their overall strategy, which would, in just over a year, could give them an opportunity to defeat the army in the Jaffna peninsula.

Jayasikurui called off

War weary Mrs. Kumaratunga called off Jayasikurui, in Dec 1998.Immediately after calling off ‘Jayasikurui’, the SLA re-deployed the battle-fatigued battalions to link-up Olumadu, Oddussudan, Nedunkerni and Puliyankulam, on the eastern part of the Vanni (east of A9) in December, 1998. Buoyant with the success on the Vanni east, the SLA had moved westwards of the A9. Troops brought over 1300 square kilometres under their control in operations conducted in March, May and June, 1999. The SLA paid a heavy price for bringing territory under its control, without adequate men and material to hold regained areas. The political and military leaderships didn’t realize that substantial territorial gains were made without facing real resistance. The assertion that the LTTE had been severely weakened, by over three years of continuous fighting, was proved wrong when Prabhakaran launched simultaneous assaults on troops, deployed at Oddussudan-Olumadu and Oddussudan-Nedenkerni sectors on November 1, 1999. The SLA and the navy quickly abandoned their positions and retreated towards Weslaco. Within 48 hours, Weslaco was under threat. The LTTE swiftly struck across the Vanni west and within hours the SLA was on the retreat. Territorial gains, made in March, May and June, 1999, were abandoned within days.

Mrs Kumaratunga’s government made an abortive attempt to portray the unprecedented military defeat as a political conspiracy. A ridiculous bid was made to link retired army chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Landsman Almada, with the conspiracy.

After having caused massive battlefield defeats, the LTTE made an attempt to assassinate Mrs Kumaratunga, on the night of Dec 18, 1999. Had the LTTE succeeded, the UNP leader would have comfortably won the Dec 21, 1999 presidential election. In the run-up to the previous presidential poll, in Nov 1994, the LTTE facilitated Mrs Kumaratunga’s victory by assassinating UNP candidate, Gavini Dissanayakas.

Mrs Kumaratunga’s recent declaration that her successor Rajapaksa had to liberate about 30 per cent of Vanni east territory should be examined in the backdrop of major ground offensives being on hold since the Agnikeela offensive, in April, 2001. Moratorium on offensive action remained in place until August, 2006, when President Rajapaksa authorized the conduct of a limited offensive to re-open the Mavilaru sluice gates, in the Eastern Province. The government couldn’t avoid a military confrontation over Mavilaru due to Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) pressing the government to take military action.

EP cleared in one year

The SLA cleared the Entire Eastern Province, by August, 2007, after having launched clearing operations in September, 2006. Obviously, Mrs. Kumaratunga hadn’t taken into consideration the clearing of the Eastern Province, particularly the area surrounding the strategic Trincomalee harbour, at the onset of the humanitarian operation. In fact, if not for her intervention, the LTTE would have probably overwhelmed Trincomalee navy base during 2003/2004. Acting on information provided by the navy through the then Eastern Naval Commander Rear Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, Mrs Kumaratunga resorted to remedial action leading to the take over of three ministries, including defence on Nov 4, 2003. Mrs. Kumaratunga declared that she exercised her constitutional powers, took over three ministerial portfolios and prorogued parliament.

Premier Wickremesinghe, who had been in Washington at that time, described the move as "opportunistic" and one that "precipitated a national crisis". The LTTE, which submitted its counter-proposals on October 31, said it was "carefully monitoring and studying the developments" and that its "leadership will decide what to do".

The military controlled only parts of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara districts in the Eastern Province when the then army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka undertook the challenging task of clearing the region. War veteran Fonseka, waged war with a vengeance, after having survived an LTTE suicide attack, on the afternoon of April 25, 2006.

In spite of the devastating split, caused by Karuna, in March 2004, the LTTE had strong fighting formations in the Eastern Province, at the time the SLA launched clearing operations. The elite Special Task Force (STF) too, committed sizable force for operations in the Eastern theater, with the air force, as well as the navy, too making significant contributions. The military also involved members of Karuna faction in offensive operations. The LTTE had the wherewithal to fight for nearly 13 months before it gave up the Eastern Province. During the battle for supremacy, in the Eastern Province, the LTTE made an attempt to bring in a large quantity of ammunition in mid Sept. 2006. If not for the timely intelligence, provided by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), the LTTE could have succeeded in transferring arms, ammunition and equipment to those fighting in the Eastern Province, thereby prolonging the war. But intelligence provided by the DMI enabled the navy to destroy a shipload of weapons, off the eastern coast.

For some strange reason, Maithripala Sirisena’s Camp had ignored political leadership given by President Rajapaksa, during the combined forces campaign in the Eastern Province. The military couldn’t even have contemplated liberating the Northern Province unless the Eastern districts were firmly under government control.

MR leads the way

President Rajapaksa gave clearance to double the strength of the army. The rapid expansion of the infantry regiments, plus elite Special Forces and Commando formations, paved the way for the SLA to undertake the largest ever ground offensive in Northern Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa’s predecessors hadn’t been willing to increase the SLA strength, to required level, though gradual expansion was allowed. Had the LTTE held just 30 per cent of Vanni territory on the Vanni east front, the SLA wouldn’t have needed such a huge force to undertake the Vanni offensive. At the conclusion of the war, the SLA had nearly 220,000 officers and men.

Although Mrs. Kumaratunga talked of President Rajapaksa having to clear a small pocket of terrorists on the Vanni east, the then ground realities had been very much different. The SLA launched two infantry formations, 57 Division (March 2007) and Task Force I or TF I (Sept 2007) west of the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road in a bid to draw out as many LTTE units, and destroy them, before an offensive could be undertaken east of A9. Both formations had to commence their advance from the Vavuniya-Mannar road and fight their way northwards. Both formations faced fierce resistance and struggled for many months before progress could be made. Resistance had been so fierce that the 57 Division battled for 11 months before it could achieve its first objective, namely liberation of Madhu. The area was brought under government control on April 24th, 2008. The TF I reached its first major target on May 8, 2008, after having battled strong LTTE units for eight months.

The SLA launched its first infantry formation, on the Vanni east front, in January, 2008. The 59 Division had been tasked to fight its way across the Andankulam and Nagancholai forest reserves that stood as natural defences for the LTTE’s main military bastion in Mullaitivu. The 59 Division brought Mullaitivu under control, in late January, 2009.

The 57 Division and TF I crossed the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road, at different points, during the first week of January, 2009.

The 53 Division (deployed south of A9) and 55 Division (deployed north of A9), manning forward defence lines, at Muhamalai, advanced towards Elephant Pass, while the TF I rapidly advanced on Elephant Pass after having liberated Pooneryn, in mid Nov 2008.

Soon after the TF I crossed the Kandy-Jaffna A9, it was named 58 Division.

In addition to five Divisions (57, 58, 59, 53 and 55), Gen. Fonseka also launched several Task Forces. Task Force II commenced its operations in June 2008 south of Palamoddai area. This was the first Army offensive formation to manoeuvre along the west-east axis across A-9. The Task Force III launched operations in November 2008 in the Vannivilankulam area. It was the second offensive formation to manoeuvre along the west-east axis across A-9. The Task Force IV commenced its operations in December 2008 from the Nadunkerni area. It was the second offensive formation deployed on the Vanni east front after 59 Division launched operations in January 2008. The final offensive formation Task Force 8 was launched on the Vanni east front in February 2009.

Although Mrs. Kumaratunga declared that President Rajapaksa had to liberate the Kilinochchi- Pudukudithirippu area, the celebrated 58 Division captured Pudukudithirippu, only on March 3, 2009, after having continuously conducted operations, since Sept. 2007. The SLA took 11 more weeks to finish off the LTTE. Nearly 2,400 officers and men died on the Vanni east front, from January 1, 2009, to May 19, 2009. In terms of number of dead, 2009 was the worst for the SLA. The loss of 2,400 lives, east of Kandy-Jaffna A9 road, within 19 weeks, is evidence of the level of LTTE resistance. The SLA had never suffered similar losses since the Mullaitivu debacle in July 1996.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

President receives US warning through SLFP Gen. Secy



by Shamindra Ferdinando
In spite of helping President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government to bring its war, against the LTTE, to a successful conclusion, in May, 2009, the US stepped up pressure on Sri Lanka over accountability issues.

The US relentlessly pursued the accountability issues, in accordance with its overall strategy, meant to haul Sri Lanka up before the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The US project led to the launch of an external investigation into the conduct of Sri Lanka’s political and military leadership, consequent to 25th session, in Geneva, in March, last year.

The US, in late Nov 2011, warned, the then SLFP General Secretary and Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena, that the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) would be moved against Sri Lanka unless the defeated presidential candidate, General Sarath Fonseka, whom the US considered a political prisoner, is released from prison forthwith. The warning came soon after the former army chief was sentenced by a Trial-at-Bar, on Nov. 18, to three more years in prison.

The unprecedented warning was given during a meeting between a US diplomat and minister Maithripala Sirisena following the conclusion of the ‘White Flag’ case. Fonseka was found guilty of falsely accusing Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa of ordering General Officer Commanding the celebrated 58 Division to execute those LTTE cadres surrendering, carrying white flags. (Let me remind you again what the then US defence attache in Colombo, Lt. Colonel Lawrence Smith, said in June, 2011, at an international conference, organized by the Sri Lankan Army. Smith was responding to retired Indian officer, Ashok Metha, who had been here, with the IPKF, during the 80s. "Hello, may I say something to a couple of questions raised. I’ve been the defence attaché, here at the US Embassy, since June, 2008. Regarding the various versions of events that came out in the final hours, and days, of the conflict – from what I was privileged to hear, and to see, the offers to surrender, that I am aware of seemed to come from the mouthpieces of the LTTE – Nadesan, KP – people who weren’t and never had really demonstrated any control over the leadership or the combat power of the LTTE.

So their offers were a bit suspect anyway, and they tended to vary in content hour by hour, day by day. I think we need to examine the credibility of those offers before we leap to conclusions that such offers were in fact real.

And I think the same is true for the version of events. It’s not so uncommon, in combat operations, in the fog of war, as we all get our reports second, third and fourth hand from various commanders, at various levels, that the stories don’t seem to all quite match up.

But I can say that the version presented here so far in this is what I heard as I was here during that time. And I think I better leave it at that before I get into trouble.")


Resolution moved in Geneva

The US diplomat told Maithripala Sirisena that a survey carried out by the US had revealed that the majority of Sri Lankans wanted Gen. Fonseka released.

The message was meant for President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The US moved a resolution, in Geneva, against Sri Lanka at the March, 2012, session. The resolution was adopted at the 19 session with 24 countries, including India, voting against Sri Lanka. Fifteen countries including China, Russia and Bangladesh, were among nations that voted against the resolution, while eight countries abstained from voting.

The diplomat asked the minister whether the government intended to pardon Gen. Fonseka. Its failure to do so would cause the US to raise the issue with the Geneva HRC, the envoy told the minister. He was representing the then US Ambassador, Patricia Butenis. Although Butenis had earlier sought a one-on-one with Health Minister, she had changed her mind at the eleventh hour and assigned a colleague handling political affairs (Govt. concerned about US meddling in domestic affairs, The Island, Nov 27, 2011).

The US diplomat also told the minister that the Tamil parliamentarians were not happy with what was going on. During a recent visit to Washington, the SLFP General Secretary took up the position that the TNA, though engaged in talks with the UPFA government in Colombo, was under intense pressure from the overseas LTTE activists. To the surprise of the minister, the diplomat unwittingly acknowledged that the TNA faced the same dilemma in Jaffna due the presence of ‘radicals’. The minister reminded the diplomat that those threatening the TNA weren’t radicals but terrorists.

The Island dealt with the meeting which took place at the Health Ministry, in an exclusive report, though Maithripala Sirisena nor, the venue weren’t mentioned. Maithripala Sirisena told the writer of his meeting with the US official, soon after delivering the message to President Rajapaksa. The US embassy never challenged the story, though some websites targeted the writer (E X C L U S I V E: US demands SF’s release with strap line… warns govt. through minister, The Island, Nov 25, 2011).

The US intervention should be examined in the backdrop of Butenis herself calling Fonseka a war criminal, even after the UNP-JVP-TNA-SLMC combine decided to field Fonseka as the common candidate, at the January 26, 2010, presidential poll. In fact, US embassy officials deliberated the decision to field Fonseka, with senior Opposition figures, including the TNA leader, R. Sampanthan, who privately favoured Rajapaksa over Fonseka though ultimately throwing his weight behind the war - winning army chief.

Butenis, in a cable, dated January 15, 2010, dealt with the contentious issue of war crimes accountability. Butenis implicated President Rajapaksa, his brothers, Gotabhaya and Basil, and Gen. Sarath Fonseka. Butenis pointed out "that responsibility for many of the alleged war crimes rests with the country’s senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa, and his brothers, and opposition candidate.

But subsequently, the US dropped Fonseka from that list, hence the decision to call him a political prisoner.

Fonseka’s release surprised those who thrived on his misery. In fact, some felt that Fonseka’s imprisonment would strengthened their efforts to invoke international intervention. UNP MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, PC, was an exception, whose efforts to secure an early release could have succeeded if Fonseka cooperated with him.

Today, Fonseka is backing Maithripala Sirisena to achieve victory over Rajapaksa after having suffered, losing the last poll, by 1.8 mn votes. The US embassy was represented when Fonseka addressed supporters and the media at Nawala Solis hall, to announce his future plans.


Maithripala given defence portfolio

The then SLFP General Secretary, Maithripala Sirisena, MP, had been the acting Defence Minister, at the time the military brought the Vanni offensive to a successful conclusion, during the third week of May, 2009. LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was shot dead, on the morning of May 19, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon. Having appointed Minister Maithripala Sirisena to oversee the defence portfolio in the absence of the then Prime Minister, Ratnasiri Wickremenayake, who was also out of the country, President Rajapaksa left for Jordan on May 15. The then Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, too, had been on an overseas visit to the People’s Republic of China. Perhaps both Rajapaksa and Fonseka wouldn’t have left the country if they realized the LTTE’s collapse was imminent. Polonnaruwa district MP Maithripala Sirisena in his memoirs, Aththai Saththai (Truth, Confirming Truth) talked with pride of him being given the opportunity to oversee the defence portfolio. Maithripala Sirisena launched his memoirs in March, 2010, a month ahead of the last parliamentary polls. Minister Sirisena distributed copies at the final UPFA briefing before the poll held at the Mahaweli Centre. The writer was among the journalists who received a copy, personally from the SLFP General Secretary. Opposition presidential candidate, Maithripala Sirisena, distributed more copies when he met a group of newspaper editors at Solis hall in Pita Kotte, recently. It would be pertinent to talk about Maithripala Sirisena’s memoirs as he battled incumbent president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, for presidency.

Maithripala Sirisena recalled embracing President Rajapaksa at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) when the SLFP leader returned to the country, on the morning of May 17.

President Rajapaksa and Maithripala Sirisena handed over their nominations to Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya on Dec 8, 2015. Among those present at the Election Secretariat, at Rajagiriya, was Fonseka.

Having switched his allegiance to Maithripala Sirisena, UPFA Nuwara Eliya District MP Navin Dissanayake underscored the importance of Maithripala Sirisena being the acting Defence Minister on more than one occasion. Maithripala Sirisena, too, referred to him being the acting Defence Minister during mopping up operations on the Vanni east front, though he never acknowledged President Rajapaksa returning home before the final confrontation, between troops and Prabhakaran, on the morning of May 19, 2009.

The army credited the fourth battalion of the Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment (4VIR) with the killing of the terrorist leader, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, in the Puthukudirippu area.


Maithripala on CBK

Maithripala, in his memoirs, discussed how twice-president, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, undermined the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s campaign at the Nov 17, 2005, presidential election. According to Maithripala Sirisena, the SLFP had been under heavy pressure to name its candidate in the wake of the UNP declaring Ranil Wickremesinghe as its presidential candidate. President Kumaratunga had been severely agitated due to the Supreme Court intervention leading to the poll being called in late 2005, instead of 2006, as she desired. The Supreme Court intervention jeopardized her plans to name her brother, Anura, as her successor. Mrs Kumaratunga pushed for Anura as the SLFP candidate, whereas the majority in the SLFP, as well as those who had been opposed to Wickremesinghe, backed Rajapaksa. Maithripala Sirisena, too, had thrown his weight behind Rajapaksa. The SLFP Central Committee had met, in August, 2005 at the President’s House, to decide on the SLFP candidate. Western Province Chief Minister Alavi Moulana proposed Rajapaksa as the SLFP candidate as well as Mrs. Kumaratunga’s successor. Moulana’s proposal received the unanimously backing of the Central Committee. The decision wasn’t to Mrs Kumaratunga’s liking. Before the Supreme Court intervention, she had, on numerous occasions, expressed the opinion that Rajapaksa would lose popularity among the electorate and eventually Anura could be named the SLFP candidate. Although Anura had been in poor health, Mrs Kumaratunga believed his condition would improve, in time for the presidential election. Mrs. Kumaratunga refrained from naming Rajapaksa, as her successor, at a massive public rally organized to commemorate the 54th anniversary of the SLFP. Mrs Kumaratunga went to the extent of triggering a heated exchange of words with Rajapaksa. In spite of Maithripala pleading with Mrs Kumaratunga to stop, especially because of the presence of media, she continued. Mrs Kumaratunga had been flanked by Rajapaksa and Maithripala with Anura seated next to the SLFP General Secretary. Even at that time, Mrs Kumaratunga felt that the Supreme Court ruling wouldn’t interfere with her plan to field Anura at the next presidential election, in 2006.

A few days after the SLFP anniversary meeting, the Supreme Court declared that the presidential poll should take place in 2005. Rajapaksa immediately launched his campaign. Mrs Kumaratunga addressed only seven public meetings in support of Rajapaksa. She made her first appearance at Wariyapola. However, she refrained from urging the SLFP to vote for Rajapaksa at any of the meetings. Kumaratunga said that whoever won the election, the new president would take oaths only after Nov 23, 2005. Maithripala quoted Anura as having claimed at Rajapaksa’s final rally, at Kandy, that the Supreme Court ruling had been politically motivated. Bandaranaike attacked, what he called, Supreme Court decision to advance the presidential poll from 2006 to 2005.

The UNP further complicated the situation by declaring that some of Kumaratunga’s ministers would accept ministerial portfolios at the next UNP government. Some ministers refrained from backing Rajapaksa’s campaign. Some left on overseas jaunts. Maithripala played a pivotal role in the campaign. Mrs Kumaratunga had returned to Sri Lanka after having participated in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, in Dhaka, Bangladesh less than a week before the Nov 17, 2005 presidential election. Kumaratunga summoned Maithripala to Colombo and inquired about the status of Rajapaksa’s campaign. When Maithripala asserted that Rajapaksa would definitely emerge victorious, Mrs Kumaratunga shot back: "A victory for Mahinda would be good for the party. But a victory for Ranil would be better for me."

Maithripala responded to CBK: How could Ranil’s victory benefit you. CBK: A victory for Ranil is better than Mahinda securing the presidency.

Maithripala: I couldn’t help Ranil win. I would do everything possible to ensure Mahinda’s victory. Having left the President’s House, Maithripala rushed to Temple Trees where he told Basil Rajapaksa that their leadership wanted to engineer Mahinda’s defeat, though he didn’t mention his conversation with Mrs Kumaratunga as he feared a major crisis.

Maithripala Sirisena recalled the circumstances under which the JVP withdrew support to the government. The JVP’s move caused uncertainty and political turmoil. President Rajapaksa had no option but to seek an understanding with the UNP leading to an unprecedented agreement between them. However, the pact signed by Maithripala Sirisena and Malik Samarawickrema, on behalf of the UPFA and the UNP, respectively, lasted four months due to the UNP declaring that it intended to form a government of its own by April, 2006.

The stage was set for the LTTE to launch eelam war IV in mid 2006, though it had been engaged in limited operations since early Dec 2005.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Fonseka fails to thwart a second term for Mahinda



by Shamindra Ferdinando

The UNP-JVP combine, that backed war hero, Gen. Sarath Fonseka, at the January 26, 2010, presidential poll, lacked courage to examine the heavy defeat suffered by its candidate at the hands of incumbent President, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Instead, the political grouping accused President Mahinda Rajapaksa of ‘computer jilmmart’ that enabled him to secure a second term. Rajapaksa secured 6,015,943 votes (57.88%) whereas Fonseka managed to obtain 4,173,185 votes (40.15%).

The then Prime Minister Rajapaksa narrowly won the Nov 17, 2005 presidential poll. Rajapaksa obtained 4,887,152 votes (50.29 %) against UNP presidential candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe. The UNPer polled 4,706,366 (48.43%).

Fonseka couldn’t achieve victory, in spite of him having the largest ever political grouping, comprising the UNP, JVP, TNA, as well as the SLMC, pledging to repeal the executive presidency immediately after Rajapaksa’s defeat. In fact, there hadn’t been any other issue at the first poll after the eradication of the LTTE. Essentially, the Opposition leadership declared that abolition of the executive presidency would be the panacea for Sri Lanka’s ills.

The military finished off the LTTE, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, on May 19, 2009.

Had the electorate took the Opposition’s vow seriously, Rajapaksa wouldn’t have polled a staggering 1.8 mn votes over Fonseka - undoubtedly Sri Lanka’s best army commander.

Obviously, the Opposition fielded Fonseka to deprive Rajapaksa of credit for the LTTE’s annihilation. Fonseka’s defection had been as surprising as Maithripala’s due to their close relationship with the Rajapaksas during Eelam War IV. The UNP and the JVP quite rightly realized that there couldn’t have been a better choice than Fonseka, widely credited for executing the war. The conclusion of the war, as well as the role played by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), in the capture of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s successor, Kumaran Pathmanathan alias ‘KP’, in Malaysia, in early August 2009, brought further accolades for the military. Fonseka faced Rajapaksa at the height of his popularity, though he suffered a stunning defeat.

The Rajapaksas remained confident, regardless of Fonseka having a formidable team, including media specialists. Fonseka commanded the vote bases of four major political parties, namely, the UNP and Marxist JVP, as well as two major political parties representing the Tamil-speaking people - the TNA and Rauf Hakeem’s SLMC. Twice-President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, too, supported Fonseka. An influential section of the Colombo-based diplomatic community, and business elite, threw their weight behind the former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). The tough talking General had the admiration of over 200,000 from the army, though some, in the military, despised his approach towards the war as well as politics. Interestingly, Fonseka had the backing of the NGOs, primarily due to the US tacitly approving Fonseka’s candidature.

Fonseka seemed to have an invincible political grouping, whereas Rajapaksa had only the JHU (quit the UPFA to back Maithripala Sirisena) and the breakaway JVP faction, namely the National Freedom Front (NFF) ably led by Minister Wimal Weerawansa. The left parties, as well as MEP though being with Rajapaksa, didn’t make a real impact on the electorate. However, MEP leader, Minister Dinesh Gunawardene had tirelessly campaigned for the President.

Why did Fonseka failed in his political mission? What went wrong at the final phase of his campaign though, at one-time, Opposition strategists asserted Fonseka could overwhelm the Rajapaksas, regardless of them being at the height of their power? Did the Opposition grouping take any remedial measures? And, lastly, did Fonseka realize the shortcomings on the part of the political group backing him before it was too late?

SF receives CBK’s backing

Mrs. Kumaratunga announced her support for Fonseka’s candidature on January 23, 2010, three days before the election. On Kumaratunga’s invitation, Fonseka visited her ancestral home at Horagolla, Nittambuwa, after having paid floral tributes at the Bandaranaike Samadhi. Mrs Kumaratunga’s move was meant to split the SLFP vote at the expense of Rajapaksa. At the Nov, 2005 presidential election campaign, both Mrs Kumaratunga and her brother, the late Anura Bandaranaike, went out of their way to sabotage Rajapaksa’s propaganda campaign. The then Rupavahini Chairman, M. M. Zuhair, PC, would be able to shed light on the Bandaranaikes’ efforts against Rajapaksa. The former PA National List MP earned the wrath of Anura Bandaranaike for ensuring coverage for Rajapaksa (Zuhair, Sri Lanka’s former ambassador in Teheran, recently signed the ‘Common People’s Agenda for Just, Democratic and People-Friendly Governance’, at Vihara Maha Devi park. Zuhair formed a new political outfit-National United Front (NUF) to promote the interests of all communities. Zuhair alleged that the country was facing an unprecedented crisis due to: (1) the total breakdown of the Rule of Law, (2) the erosion of democratic institutions essential for governance, (3) an unprecedented widening of social disparities and social injustices and (4) severe strains on co-existence between different ethnic and religious communities and increasing disharmony and distrust. Zuhair echoed Opposition that the country wanted to see the back of Rajapaksas, who thrive in post-war Sri Lanka at the expense of the national economy.

Campaign goes awry

Fonseka’s declaration that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa ordered the then General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the celebrated 58 Division, Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva, to execute surrendering LTTE cadres, carrying white flags, on the Vanni east front, during the third week of May, 2009, almost crippled his campaign. The claim, made in an interview with Frederica Jansz, the then editor of The Sunday Leader, caused furore among the vast majority of the electorate. The Sunday Leader exclusive, headlined ‘Gota Ordered Them To Be Shot’, of Dec 13, 2009, caused irreparable damage to Fonseka’s campaign. The celebrated soldier’s decision to take a risk with The Sunday Leader had been surprising, given its constant inimical reportage of the war effort against the LTTE throughout Eelam War IV.

Obviously, that particular statement was meant to appease the Tamil electorate. That controversial declaration made things easy for the TNA, who campaigned for the Opposition candidate in the northern and eastern electoral districts, as well as in Colombo. Fonseka overwhelmingly won all northern and eastern electoral districts, though he suffered heavily in the predominately Sinhala areas. In fact, Fonseka lost his home base, the Ambalangoda electorate, by a staggering majority of 12,297 votes. Rajapaksa polled 33,488 (62.79%) and against 19,191 obtained by Fonseka. The TNA and SLMC delivered Jaffna, Vanni, Batticaloa, Digamadulla (Ampara) and Trincomalee districts. Fonseka also won Nuwara Eliya with a majority of 30,000 votes, due to support extended by the Tamil voters, to increase his tally to six electoral districts. Rajapaksa secured 16 electorates.

Outspoken politician Mano Ganeshan’s Western People’s Front (WPF) played an important role in Fonseka’s campaign, particularly in Colombo. Had the TNA, SLMC and WPF failed, Fonseka would have experienced a far bigger defeat.

Mrs Kumaratunga couldn’t deliver her power base, Attanagalle, nor Gampaha district, to Fonseka. SLFP rebel, Mangala Samaraweera, who, in the run-up to the poll, declared he would take over the SLFP after Rajapaksa’s defeat, failed to ensure Fonseka’s triumph in his home base, Matara. Samaraweera, one-time Foreign Minister of the Rajapaksa government, pledged his support to Wickremesinghe after having quit the UPFA, in 2007, over differences with Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

Desertions by former national cricket captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, as well as one of the most respected UPFA politicians, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, in the run-up to January, 2010 poll, didn’t cause any problems to Rajapaksa.

At the Nov 2005, presidential poll, Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa shared 11 districts each. Wickremesinghe secured Colombo, Batticaloa, Digamadulla, Badulla, Mahanuwara, Trincomalee, Jaffna, Nuwara Eliya, Matale, Vanni and Puttalam. Rajapaksa won Galle, Anuradhapura, Gampaha, Matara, Polonnaruwa, Kalutara, Hambantota, Moneragala, Kurunegala, Ratnapura and Kegalle.

The Rajapaksa camp exploited some speeches made by Fonseka to undermine the former army chief’s campaign. The government succeeded in causing fear and dismay among the voters by highlighting Fonseka’s controversial statements threatening those who dared to challenge him. The government strategy largely succeeded in the backdrop of damning The Sunday Leader interview.

Fonseka’s electoral pact with the TNA had been made at the expense of the Sinhala Buddhist and Sinhala Catholic voters.

Another minus factor had been the severe UNP criticism of Fonseka’s conduct during Eelam War IV. The UNP went to the extent of alleging the army chief of running a death squad in the immediate aftermath of The Sunday Leader editor, Lasantha Wickremetunga’s assassination in Colombo. Although the UNP and Fonseka swiftly sank their differences, for political reasons, the UNP accusations remained fresh in the minds of the electorate.

Fonseka suffered a massive setback on the afternoon of January 26, 2010, when the state media declared that Fonseka could not exercise his franchise due to inexcusable failure to register himself as a voter. State run television stations, as well as radio, interrupted their programmes to announce Fonseka’s plight. The state media blitz, launched three hours before the closure of voting, at 4 p.m. stunned the electorate. Many voters, waiting to exercise their franchise in the afternoon, would have skipped the vote, though Fonseka, UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and former a Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva made a desperate bid, through Sirasa, to thwart the state media operation. The government relished on Fonseka’s predicament.

In hindsight, Fonseka, as well as Opposition strategists, could have avoided an unprecedented crisis if they took the electorate into circumstances and explained the Sinha Regiment soldier’s failure to get on the 2008 electoral register. People would have accepted such an explanation, given Fonseka’s spearheading role in the war. Did Gen. Fonseka brief the UNP or the JVP about not being on the electoral register? Did he seek legal advice as regards his status? Sarath Nanda Silva could have explained the situation if Fonseka sought his advice.

Appearing on Sirasa, Fonseka confirmed that he could not exercise his franchise as he was not on the June, 2008, electoral register. The four-star Gen emphasized that it would not in any way hinder his first bid at a presidential election. Wickremesinghe and Sarath Nanda Silva declared, over Sirasa, that failure to vote was not a legal impediment to Fonseka being next president, if he obtained over 50 per cent of the vote. An irate Fonseka declared that no one dared to question him as regards his voting rights when he served in the army for four decades. Fonseka alleged that the Rajapaksas propagated lies to the effect that he couldn’t be elected as President because they feared defeat. The Election Secretariat, too, confirmed that Fonseka’s inability to his cast vote wouldn’t be an issue in case he polled more than Rajapaksa.

Wickremesinghe later accused the government of sending an SMS claiming that the Fonsekas weren’t registered voters in Sri Lanka.

Fonseka accused some unruly elements, in the army, of trying to disrupt polling in the Jaffna peninsula. The veteran alleged that several artillery rounds had been fired to scare the voters.

On the eve of the presidential poll, the then Elections Commissioner, Dayananda Dissanayake, requested both camps not to make foolish excuses in case their candidate failed. Urging the media not to manipulate the electoral process, Dissanayake explained the measures in place to ensure a free and fair election. The polls chief addressed the media in the wake of claims and counter claims that Rajapaksa and Fonseka could influence the electoral process.

SF’s relationship with JVP

It would be pertinent to discuss an attempt by the JVP to divide the army over President Rajapaksa’s decision to retire Fonseka, soon after the conclusion of the conflict, during the third week of May, 2009. The JVP made its bid about a week after Fonseka caused himself irreparable damage by accusing Defence Secretary Rajapaksa of issuing extra judicial directive to Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva.

JVP General Secretary, Tilvin Silva, and MP Vijitha Herath alleged that the country, entering into Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA), in early, 2007, with the US, had been inimical to Sri Lanka’s interests, as well as that of India. They alleged Defence Secretary Rajapaksa was promoting the US because of his US citizenship. Having attacked the Rajapaksa brothers, over signing of a security agreement with the US, the JVP declared that Fonseka was deprived of an opportunity to continue as the army chief on the advise of the then Manmohan Singh’s administration. Quoting the Pakistani media, the JVP said that India had warned the Rajapaksas of a situation similar to that of Pakistan and Bangladesh had Fonseka remained in command of the army. The JVP also alleged that the US and India hadn’t backed Sri Lanka’s war against terrorism. The JVP made a foolish attempt to defend its position, when the writer queried whether the General Secretary Silva and Propaganda Secretary weren’t aware of India providing Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) to supplement the SLN fleet, comprising US and Israeli vessels, to hunt down floating arsenals belonging to the LTTE. They also couldn’t explain the US providing intelligence required to track down four such floating arsenals, thereby helping Sri Lanka to bring the war to a successful conclusion. JVP spokesmen declined to comment on the LTTE having had a range of weapons of Chinese origin, including assault rifles, mortars, artillery pieces and anti-aircraft guns (JVP breathes fire at India and America-The Island, Dec 21, 2009).

At the same briefing, the JVP revealed that the party had been in touch with Fonseka, even before he quit his post as Chief of Defence Staff, on Nov 12, 2009. The JVP unwittingly exposed its clandestine relationship with Fonseka when the media was told of the war hero consulting the party over the phone in late Oct-early Nov 2009 from the US. Over the phone consultation took place in the wake of the US seeking to record a statement from Fonseka as regards to the war crime allegations (JVP reveals SF consulted them from US-The Island, Dec 21, 2009) The US made its move weeks ahead of Fonseka’s damning interview published in the Dec 13, 2009, issue of The Sunday Leader, as well a US cable originating from the US diplomatic mission 10 days before the poll. Interestingly, that particular cable categorized Fonseka as a war criminal.

The then US Ambassador, Butenis, in this cable, dated January 15, 2010, dealt with the contentious issue of war crimes accountability. Butenis implicated President Rajapaksa, his brothers, Gotabhaya and Basil, and Gen. Sarath Fonseka. Butenis pointed out "that responsibility for many of the alleged war crimes rests with the country’s senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa and his brothers and opposition candidate.