Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gota says battlefield excesses charge exposed Opp. strategy

In his first public comments on last week’s The Sunday Leader lead news item "Gota ordered them (read as surrendering LTTE cadres) to be shot," on the basis of an interview given by former Army Chief turned Opposition presidential election candidate, General Sarath Fonseka, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told The Island that a section of the international community, hell bent on undermining the Sri Lankan State, would take advantage of this situation.

Although General Fonseka had later claimed that the broad sheet misquoted him irreparable damage was done, he said. International wire services had zeroed-in on this allegation. Nothing could have pleased them as much as an opportunity to blame the Sri Lankan forces of battlefield excesses, he said.

The Sunday Leader, in what it called ‘an explosive revelation’, alleged that Rajapaksa had ordered Maj. General Shavindra Silva, the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 58 Division not to take prisoners though a section of the LTTE leadership offered to surrender.

The former Gajaba Regiment veteran said that almost all major media groups, including the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and the influential Indian press sought his comments though he did not respond. According to him, the Indian press had emphasised that he could not turn a blind eye to criticism of his conduct as it was a major issue in India. The bottom line is that even if the Opposition candidate had disputed the news item, those who sided with the LTTE during Sri Lanka’s war on terror would now go on the offensive. He pointed out that the unsubstantiated allegation would help the Tamil Diaspora and peace merchants to revive their campaign against Sri Lanka.

He said that it would be interesting to see whether The Sunday Leader retracted its last week’s story. An irate Defence Secretary said that he could not understand how the Opposition could exploit an alleged war crimes charge to go one up at the ongoing presidential election campaign. Obviously this was nothing but an attempt to appease the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), the Tamil Diaspora and some countries which desperately tried to save the sinking Tigers, he said. According to him, this particular allegation had been directed at frontline troops, including the Special Forces commanded by Major General Silva, though all fighting formations would now be suspect of war crimes. "Can anything be as despicable as this," he said emphasising that whatever the Opposition said people would not be deceived or surprised.

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