Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Fonseka's venom fuels UN probe - Island Editorial

Finally, as for his venomous utterances coterminous with war crimes charges, Fonseka is engaged in a self-defeating exercise. He who recently boasted of his political symbol, Swan, claiming that it was a wise creature capable of separating milk from water, has cooked his goose in grand style by giving vent to his pent up anger at the expense of the military personnel and political leaders who liberated this country from the scourge of terrorism.

When the UNF government infamously committed the treacherous act of having a safe house of the army long rangers raided in 2002, exposing their identities and causing them to be eliminated by the LTTE, people called it the biggest ever betrayal of the Sri Lanka army. But, former Army Commander Gen. (Retd) Sarath Fonseka has done something equally bad. He has levelled a serious war crimes charge against the Sri Lanka army and the government and given a turbo boost to the on-going international human rights witch-hunt against this country.

The UN has called for explanation from the Sri Lankan government over Fonseka's claim in an interview with The Sunday Leader on Dec. 13, 2009 that some journalists embedded with the army had confided to him that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa ordered Commander of the 58 Division Maj. Gen. (then Brigadier) Shavendra Silva to kill the LTTE leaders who offered to surrender. Later, apparently having got cold feet, Fonseka said he had been misquoted, but the Sunday Leader editor told a television channel that she stood by her news item.

Last Sunday, Fonseka issued a clarification claiming that no LTTE leaders had tried to surrender carrying pieces of white cloth and that he took the full responsibility for what the army had done during the final phases of the war. However, he did not say in his 'clarification' that he had been 'misquoted' in the press interview at issue, though he had made a much advertised claim to that effect at news conferences last week. He reiterated in his ‘clarification’ that he had learned from some journalists that the Defence Secretary conveyed an illegal order to Maj. Gen. Silva but 'this illegal order was however not carried out at ground level'. Fonseka has also stopped short of specifying that 'illegal order'. He ought to tell the public what it was, now that he has made a 'revelation' of sorts.

Whatever Fonseka now may say about the war crimes charge he made against Gotabhaya and Shavendra, the die is cast! The UN has swung into action, as we report today. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston has written to Sri Lankan Ambassador Extraordinary, Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations Office at Geneva Kshenuka Senewiratne, seeking a clarification on Fonseka's allegation.

We pointed out in these columns, under the caption, An attempt at hara-kiri, on Dec. 14, that Fonseka's allegation posed a serious threat to Maj. Gen. Silva and Gotabhaya in that it was likely to be used against them internationally. The UN has already taken it up! The US has pledged its fullest support for the UN probe. How can Fonseka now boast that he thwarted an attempt by the Department Homeland Security during a recent US visit to elicit information on Gotabhaya as regards the war? He has made the worst allegation that a former army chief could level against a Defence Secretary and a junior officer!

The JVP revealed at a media briefing on Sunday, as we reported yesterday, that Gen. Fonseka had consulted it from the US on the Homeland Security request and it (JVP) had asked him to return to Sri Lanka immediately. This is ample proof that Fonseka was politically involved with the JVP while he was still in uniform, though he insisted after handing over his letter of resignation that he would not take to politics while he was in service. Having collaborated, while in uniform, with a bunch of anarchical political elements with a history of brutally murdering family members of security forces and police personnel who courageously defied an order by the southern terrorists to resign in the late 1980s, what moral right does Fonseka have to boast of military discipline and offer to discipline society?

Now that the UN has called for explanation, the government had better have Fonseka's allegation probed thoroughly because the newspaper concerned insists that he said what has been attributed to him. Else, the Defence Secretary and Maj. Gen. Silva will have that charge, though unsubstantiated, hanging like the Sword of Damocles. In this regard, it ought to be remembered that a British court recently issued a warrant to arrest former Israeli Foreign Minister and present Opposition Leader Tzipi Livini, who was to visit London, for alleged war crimes. She had to cancel her trip fearing arrest.

Although British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, a knight in shining armour crusading against human rights violations, was jolted by the warrant on Livini into calling for urgent changes to the British legal system to 'avoid this sort of situation from arising again', it is doubtful whether he and his government would ever hesitate to act on war crimes allegations against Sri Lankan politicians, bureaucrats and military personnel who happen to visit that country.

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