Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Times Political Column...

Club brawl

A close relative of Gen. Fonseka's son-in-law is reported to have got entangled in a club brawl, which saw him being 'bounced' from the club by its owner. The next day, the club owner had received a threatening telephone call. The club owner seems to have influence himself - he had reported the matter to Major General Shavindra Silva, Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) and Maj-Gen. Mendeka Samarasinghe, Chief of Staff of the Army, because the number of the call was traced to an officer from the Artillery Regiment at Panagoda. An inquiry was promptly called into the matter.

At this stage, the Defence Secretary got to know that the officer concerned was possibly acting on other's behalf and seems to have wanted to sort the matter out without allowing it to proceed too far when it transpired that the case involved a relative of Gen. Fonseka.

Defence Secretary Rajapaksa then asked the Army Commander Jagath Jayasuriya not to proceed with the inquiry, and merely warn and discharge those behind the threatening call. However, the matter did not seem to end there.

The Army officer had gone to the Homagama Police station to lodge a complaint that he himself had received a threat from Maj-Gen. Shavindra Silva. The police refused to entertain the entry on the footing that this seemed to be a matter involving the Army, and therefore something for the Military Police to handle.

By now the Police were shivering in their boots at the high-profile exchanges within the Army, and all the Police stations were refusing to entertain the officer's complaint. Ultimately, he ended up at Police Headquarters to make an entry.

When the complaint reached Police Headquarters, President Mahinda Rajapaksa became privy to what was happening. He had asked the Defence Secretary Rajapaksa to settle the issue, but the Defence Secretary instructed the Army Commander to take tough disciplinary action at this stage because the officer was now going around making serious allegations against a very senior officer in the Army. He was told to suspend the officer and to subject him to a full probe.

Instructions went to the Regimental Commander thereafter with the suspension orders, as the Defence Secretary took up the position that "we won't be able to run the Army this way". He was alluding to a breakdown of discipline if junior officers were going to be intimidating senior officers.

On his return to Colombo, Gen. Fonseka was to complain to the defence Secretary saying "Sir, balanna. May Major-wa suspend karala thiyanawa ne" (Sir, see, this Major has been suspended).

At this point the conversation got heated, with the Defence Secretary lecturing Gen. Fonseka about discipline in the Army, and reminding him of the number of people he (Gen. Fonseka) sent out on disciplinary grounds, and often for lesser offences.

The Defence Secretary was to say that Maj-Gen. Shavindra Silva was Director Operations of the Army, and "a General", and asked how a junior officer could do this even after an internal inquiry.

At this point the Defence Secretary Rajapaksa told Gen. Fonseka, "Sarath, don't come to teach me about discipline", at which point Gen. Fonseka barked back "This is not justice" and terminated the conversation. The harsh exchange between the men who jointly succeeded in prosecuting the war against the LTTE, speaks for itself.

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