Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ready for big battle: Rajapaksa vs. Fonseka

Tomorrow, a new chapter dawns in the post-separatist war era in Sri Lanka. The two heroes credited for the victory will fight it out at the polls. For most Sri Lankans, it would be a battle between President Rajapaksa and the main opposition parties. However, for some UPFA leaders it would be a battle between "patriots" and "traitors". Yet, the voter will decide which one is better...

from Political Column...

Strong answers to both his letter and the 17 reasons for his retirement (not 16 as claimed in the text released by the opposition parties) were formulated when the decision came. Among other matters, it is to record the many benefits that accrued to Gen. (retd). Fonseka. A few elements that were to be in the reply:

1) Gen. Fonseka, then Army Commander had imported a brand new Mercedes Benz worth over Rs 40 million for official use. He had the right to purchase the vehicle upon retirement if it has been used for over three years. However, in his case, special Cabinet approval has been given to enable him to purchase the vehicle for Rs 2.5 million.

2) The Cabinet had approved the donation of extents of prime land to the three armed forces commanders for winning the separatist war. When Gen. Fonseka was allotted an extent of 10 perches at Kirimandala Mawatha, Narahenpita, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had used his good offices to increase it to 25 perches. At first, the move had caused difficulties since the Cabinet had approved ten perches each for the Commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force. It was pointed out that no exception could be made only to Gen. Fonseka. Thereafter, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had argued that ten perches was not enough for Gen. Fonseka since he had two daughters. He had lobbied for an increase. As a result, a new Cabinet paper proposing 25 perches each to all three Commanders was approved by ministers. The land is said to be worth over Rs 100 million.

3) President Rajapaksa had ensured that a team of commandos were flown to Oklahoma, the USA to provide protection to General Fonseka's two daughters and son-in-law. Soon after the abortive guerrilla suicide bomb attack on Gen. Fonseka in April 2006, US$ 1,500 (about Rs 171,000 at today's exchange rate) had been remitted every month from the President's Fund for the benefit of his daughters. In this backdrop, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was called in this week to investigate some defence deals done by a close member of Gen. (retd.) Fonseka's family. Allegations centre on several transactions involving a variety of items including one in which a profit of two US cents (or over Rs 2.28) had been made on every bullet and US$ 20 (about Rs 2,280) per shell by a company operated by this close relative. Millions of rounds of bullets were used both in assault rifles and other small arms in the military defeat of the guerrillas. It is also alleged that some of the funds have been remitted to the United States.

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