Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Eelam Through Back Door - Gen. Fonseka trying to become cheap politician says Gotabhaya

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa speaks to " Hard Talk " about the threat of an international conspiracy at work against the country in the form of seeking a regime change, as former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka enters the Presidential fray. He attributes this to the ‘disappointment’ that certain countries and their political elements may have experienced with the country’s victory over the LTTE and the decision by the President to not give in to international pressures he alleges were moved by elements who sought to safeguard the LTTE during the last stages of the war.

There are certain elements of the international community who see the President taking a hard stand on the international community when the war was on, taking it personally. Maybe these elements want governments like this changed. We certainly see an international conspiracy to oust the President. I don’t point my finger at any government, but there were pressures that came through to safeguard the LTTE. These elements want to see the President out. Maybe they see that they can come out in a different way to give the LTTE Eelam. We have to be aware of this situation. The people have to be mindful of this danger’, he maintains.

Question:
Who in your opinion was most instrumental in defeating the LTTE? Claims of a varying degree from government side and the newly announced Presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka has left the people confused?

Answer:
Without the political commitment no one can win a war. It is the President who makes the decision to start military operations and gave the clear aim to defeat the LTTE. If you go through interviews given by Gen. Sarath Fonseka initially he has mentioned that without the political will and direction nobody can win a war. The Army is only a department of the government. It acts according to the wishes of the government and implements the policy of that government. No Army Commander can do otherwise. This explains why this victory could not be achieved before under previous leaderships.

It is the President of a country who decides whether to talk to the terrorists or start military operations. And it is the President alone who can decide how much money to spend on a war, or if to increase the numbers in an army. And one of the key factors for the victory was the increase in the numbers. And this is very clear by the fact that various previous governments decided to increase or decrease the numbers. Then there were the decisions regarding equipping the men, getting the right arms, the salaries etc.

It is very clear to anyone it was the President’s political commitment and decision to start military operations that all this was possible. Don’t forget that Gen. Fonseka wasn’t born just 4 years ago. He was in the Army for 35 years. But what has he done? Has he achieved one tenth of what we had achieved during those years? Take for examples Generals like Kobbekaduwa, Janaka Perera, Wimalaratne etc. Everyone talks about them.
They didn’t become Army Commanders or SF commanders but their contribution was very effective. Kobbekaduwa as a Brigadier conducted Wadamarachchi operation and Wimalaratne was a Colonel at that time, but everyone knew about them because they performed well. But we have not heard of Gen. Fonseka in the same manner. And if he says that he alone did this whole thing why did he not perform one tenth of this during the past years. There are a lot of failures under him. In fact he’s the one who ordered to withdraw troops from Jaffna in 2000.

I’m not saying that he’s not a good military officer, but that without the political direction and assistance a military officer can’t do certain things. This is why under different governments, different officers performed in a different way. Gen. Fonseka himself performed in a different way during the Wickremesinghe regime as he did differently under the Rajapaksa regime. The best example is how the same officers who had to coordinate with the LTTE during the Wickremesinghe regime ended up killing the same seniors of the LTTE during the end of the war.

And don’t forget the contribution of everyone from privates whose numbers were the most sacrificed in the field, to SF commanders or the battalion commanders or Brig. Shavindra Silva whose division captured Pooneryn and going all the way to Pudukudiiruppu. If the Army Commander claims that his was the only contribution then what of all these persons? Then everyone can individually start claiming credit. This was purely the work of team effort. And what about the Navy thanks to whom the Sea Tigers couldn’t get out to the sea, or the Air Force? This is the selfishness. It is wrong to give this impression.

Question:
He blamed weak military leadership, not political leadership, for allowing the LTTE to survive so long. He said that in 1999, he had told President Chandrika Kumaratunga in reply to a question that the war could be finished off in four years when 4 other military seniors had not supported that view. He also claimed that the army was modernized during Kumaratunga’s regime. Is this an indication that the contribution of the Rajapaksa Presidency has really been minimal in providing political commitment to war?

Answer:
How can you say that when it is the President who decides whether to go on or give in when international pressures come in? It is the President who has to face that and decide whether he goes ahead or stops. How do you explain the decision to stop the Wadamarachchi operation despite it being a successful operation during a previous regime? How can you blame that on a weak military leadership when Wadamarachchi was won?

There were much better leaders in the Army than Gen. Fonseka. Who was he before 2005? Now he’s trying to become a cheap politician. He shouldn’t try to disgrace the military this way. Officers like Chagi Gallage, Shavindra Silva, Jagath Dias or Kamal Gallage were products of Wijeya Wimalaratne. So where is the weak military leadership when he was an excellent officer?

We had enough brilliant officers. Who created the Special Forces or the Commanders? They were not done during the last 4 years? If the military leadership was weak how can these happen? They were the ones who made these sacrifices, who trained these officers, who were simply not given the proper political direction because the political will was not there. How can he blame the men of this great Army going back 35 years like this to portray himself as the only good one? He’s ridiculing the entire army.

Question:
He levels some very serious charges against you on grounds that you are threatening his security by lowering the numbers allocated to him. Gen. Fonseka claims that Military Police personnel had entered his house midnight on the 25th to remove the vehicles provided the General on an order issued by you. He alleges that you are threatening his security by such measures. His notion is that if the President still needs 2000 people for security and if you need 500 people for your security, how is he expected to manage with 25 men and 3 vehicles? What is the basis for these charges?

Answer:
First he must remember that he is a retired army officer when you lose some privileges. But when he went to meet the President and requested certain security to which the President agreed and then when he mentioned a certain number the President said to give that in writing. In that letter he wrote a certain number of security and we gave everything requested except for the 6 women’s cadres. That was also because there were certain administrative problems related- remember he was going out to civilian life where you needed a certain structure to be maintained. Still we approved even these 6 although the lack of it is not a serious weakness in a security structure! It is sheer hypocrisy to go for a FR case asking for a tenfold number in security, when we have given everything he has requested. This is lying to get the sympathy of the people by showing a completely different picture. It’s very clearly a political game he is playing; one unbecoming of an officer.

Question:
But according to intelligence reports available to you what is the level of threat to his life at present? He claims that the Security Council is trying to reduce his security to get him assassinated. He alleges that if anything happens to him the Presidnt has to take direct responsibility?

Answer:
We understand that if possible, LTTE will target the President, myself or any one of the Commanders. But don’t forget that the situation is very different today. The LTTE has been destroyed. But when he removed Gen. Parakrama Pannipitiya from the Eastern Command for whatever the reason, when the war in the North was still on and suicide cadres were in Colombo, Sarath Fonseka removed his security. This was the man who was responsible for clearing the East. And when Gen. Panipitiya filed a FR case Fonseka gave an affidavit agreeing to give only 6 people when there was a definite threat to his life.

Question:
He cites Intelligence Services Head J B Galanayaka on information that an explosive laden van had come to Colombo to target a VIP. He alleges that the government is using these tactics ‘intentionally’ to ensure that he gets blasted on the road?

Answer:
I’m trying to bring legislation to provide security to the three commanders. But it takes time. I initiated that and he knows that. I always say that we should give security. I have no issue with that. But when we have given security and then ask for unreasonable amounts just to ridicule us or gain sympathy is not right. I’m the one who initiated the action to provide life time security to all Commanders which is now in Legal Draftsman’s Dept. I don’t say that he shouldn’t get it.

But the situation has changed in the country today which is why we had decided to open up the roads and not even close them for VIPs. We have defeated the LTTE now we have to bring normalcy to the country. That threat has passed. And if we have given what he requested what is the issue?

Question:
He also points a finger at you on defence purchases claiming that if there is any corruption it is you, the President, and the Tender Board that must take responsibility?

Answer:
How can he say that? Again he’s trying to cover the truth behind this. He himself alluded to this. He told an interview that although normally the Chief of Staff sits on the Tender Board, ‘but I changed that and I sat on the Tender Board’ he said!

Then what is he talking about. What Tender Board was he referring to?
I don’t want to get in to the blame game but all I want to say is that as there are various allegations that have come in various papers etc. that the Army has purchased various things from his son-in-law’s company. All I can say is that this is unethical and illegal, because he himself accepted that he himself sat on the Army Tender Board. Again he’s trying to cover certain things and project a different picture which is not right.

Question:
But he says that the political leadership has failed to give priority for democracy, national security, including the people in the North and East, those displaced. Would you say that you have failed to win the peace as alleged?

Answer:
I don’t know how he can talk on democracy and media freedom or the minorities. This is just politics. It’s unfair for a person who held such a position in the army to talk like that now that he has retired. I know his ideas and how he spoke in the Security Council. It’s ungrateful of him to talk like that just because he’s in politics, especially because he knows how we brought in a process of democracy to the East by holding elections and disarming the paramilitary groups.

What about the development work that was done there and bringing normalcy to that part of the country. Now because he’s standing with the people who opposed the war for his personal ambitions, and said we can’t win the war or that he himself was not fit enough to lead the Salvation Army, he’s coming out with these things. This shows his character. He’s teaming up with a politically bankrupt crowd, an unpatriotic lot to win his political ambitions.

Question:
There is sufficient indication to confirm a regrouping of the LTTE internationally. What is the government doing to face this threat?

Answer:
We are doing a lot to curb this threat. The government didn’t believe its work ended after defeating the LTTE here, we went ahead and captured KP; who went on international TV and said he was the new leader. Again Gen Fonseka can’t take responsibility for it, it was the team effort of everyone involved that helped capture him. And such work is continuing.
One success of the operation was the secrecy maintained. No one knew about it till the capture. Very soon you will see more arrests, acquisition of LTTE assets and frozen accounts. We are working with international intelligence to continue this work.

Even locally our policing are working out very well, in interrogations and making more important arrests. All this continues while we are pursuing the development programs, and bringing investors in etc. During the last 4 years we have signed many international agreements that help us share information between the countries.

Of course there are pressures coming through from some of these countries but we have to work with them and win them over to neutralize the LTTE coming through. I know even countries like Canada wants to help break the LTTE network there. It’s a problem for them.

There is a threat of LTTE’s shipping network being used by any other terrorist organization thereby threatening any country in the world. All these countries have to work together if they are working to rid the world of terror.

Question:
How do you see the pressures that threaten to come through in the form of you and several other key members of the defence team being charged with war crimes violations?

Answer:
Of course although a lot of countries appreciate our victory, there are some who are disappointed due to various reasons. Maybe it’s because of the Diaspora activities, because LTTE’s presence outside has become a political power which affects the governments in those countries. They can influence these countries. This maybe also due to certain strategic interests they have in our country. There are certain elements of the international community who see the President taking a hard stand on the international community when the war was on, taking it personally. Maybe these elements want governments like this changed.

We certainly see an international conspiracy to oust the President. I don’t point my finger at any government, but there were pressures that came through to safeguard the LTTE. These elements want to see the President out. Maybe they see that they can come out in a different way to give the LTTE Eelam. We have to be aware of this situation. The people have to be mindful of this danger.

These charges of war crimes are very unfair. It’s not the time to punish political leaders or officers or military leaders for fighting against terror. We defeated a terror organization that caused so much destruction to property and stalled democracy and destabilized the country. The LTTE caused more harm to the Tamil culture; they killed more Tamil people than any one people. The international community must understand this. They should help us build this country and bring the communities together. All these war crimes charges don’t do that.

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