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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fonseka Booted (Exclusive Interview)

Speaking exclusively to The Sunday Leader General Sarath Fonseka bitterly recounted his ordeal last week. Having been ordered to vacate ‘Generals’ House’ by today, November 22, Fonseka was given a mere week to find alternative housing.

“Contrary to all previous false reports I allowed my predecessors both General Shantha Kottegoda and Donald Perera to continue in this house for three and a half months after they had retired from service” Fonseka said, asserting “Yet, I — as Chief of Defence Staff am being treated like dirt — given a mere week to get out.”

“I don’t in any case want to stay in this place, I am very keen to go,” the General said, adding, “If I choose to go to court on this matter they will lose.” Asked if indeed he might seek legal action against the Ministry of Defence and its Secretary who General Fonseka said is responsible for his current housing predicament he replied, “I might.”

The General has been house-hunting, he said, the whole of last week. “We did find a few houses that were suitable and the owners were initially more than willing to rent to us — but when we went back they refused to rent to me. They had been pressured by them,” Fonseka charged. Asked who “them” was he said, “The Defence Ministry and its Secretary.”

He said he is seeking a house “close to Royal College” as “we plan on setting up our political office also in that area.”

The General, elaborating further went on to say how he was leaving the army after a service period spanning 40 years with mixed feelings. “I am both disgusted at the way they have treated me and extremely disillusioned.” However, on a lighter note the General said, “I was driving around in civilian clothes last week and it felt good.”

But Fonseka maintains his life is at grave risk. “They initially reduced my security to 25. I protested. They then increased it to 60 infantrymen. Again I protested and now they have assigned me a mere 12 commandos­ — not men that I handpicked. They are all new men. They could be an assassination squad — maybe they are trying to assassinate me.”

Replying a question if the threat to his life is only from the LTTE General Fonseka said, “No. There are the criminals who do politics who can and will also try to kill me.”

Speaking further the General said, “I appealed to the President to take into consideration the very grave and serious threat to my life. The Army’s No. 2 has more security than I today. But the President’s response was, “You are now a civilian.”

“Am I more of a civilian than himself or Gotabaya Rajapaksa the Defence Secretary?” Fonseka asked, his voice filled with emotion.

Fonseka, who resigned as Chief of Defence Staff on November 12 was also in for a further shock when his official cooks were immediately withdrawn hours after his resignation was accepted by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Referring to an ugly incident that took place last week involving the Senehasa School spearheaded for children of the military with special needs by himself and his wife Anoma, the General recounted how barely 24 hours before the official opening of the school the event was abruptly cancelled. “All because our names are on a plaque — now they will put their names on that plaque and take credit for a Rs.150 million project that my wife Anoma and I devoted ourselves to accomplishing,” he said.

Meanwhile in a four page long letter addressed to troops on Friday, the former Army Commander said, “I was ordered from the ‘top’ to immediately vacate the official residence. I have faced many obstacles in trying to find an alternative place to reside, as some are hell bent on throwing me out on to the streets.”

“My security has been reduced to 25 despite repeated requests made to increase it up to 100 soldiers, considering the threats posed to my life,” he said in his letter to the troops.
While pledging to be by their side ‘like a shadow,’ Fonseka told his soldiers that he will fight to instill the country’s diminishing democracy, human rights and media freedom.
“Don’t allow anybody to tarnish the reputation of the army and politicise the military. We should keep in mind that we are the real owners of the war victory even though certain people try to insult us,” the former Army Commander said.

By Frederica Jansz

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Velupillai Prabhakaran

The rest of the world might never understand the violence Velupillai Prabhakaran stood for, but its imprint on Sri Lanka is wide and deep. For 26 years, the elusive leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had waged war with the government to win an independent homeland, or eelam, for the island's Tamil minority. The struggle claimed more than 70,000 lives--including, on May 18, Prabhakaran's. The government says he was killed, along with 17 of his trusted lieutenants, while fleeing an army ambush.

Prabhakaran, 54, was born to a middle-class family on the Jaffna Peninsula. Incensed by discrimination against Tamils and radicalized by a militant grade-school teacher, Prabhakaran founded the LTTE in 1976, a year after a group he headed claimed responsibility for killing Jaffna's mayor. By 1983 the guerrilla movement--which pioneered suicide bombings and the recruitment of child soldiers--escalated the fighting into a civil war.

At the height of his power earlier this decade, Prabhakaran led a de facto government that controlled vast swaths of territory and boasted its own systems of taxes, roads and courts. As the army closed in, he allegedly used thousands of Tamil civilians as human shields. By the final days, just 250 LTTE members remained. They died too, along with the dream of eelam.

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