‘White Flag’ – II

Former Army Commander Field Marshal and Minister Sarath Fonseka, has done it again! He once got into trouble over what came to be dubbed the White Flag allegations against the then Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who, he said, had ordered the killing of some surrendering LTTE leaders in May 2009. About eight years on, he has accused his successor General Jagath Jayasuriya of having committed serious offences against persons in captivity. Fonseka’s allegations have come close on the heels of a war crimes case filed against former Army Commander Jayasuriya in Brazil, where he served as Sri Lanka’s ambassador.

Fonseka has said he is ready to testify against Jayasuriya and produce evidence in support of his claims. Is this Fonseka’s personal opinion or do the yahapalana leaders endorse it? The government ought to make its position known to the public officially. Else, Fonseka’s allegations will be seen as part of a government strategy to justify efforts being made to set up a war crimes tribunal as required by the UNHRC resolution of 2015, which the yahapalana administration co-sponsored.

Why didn’t Fonseka as the army commander make any written complaints, during the war, against Maj. Gen. Jayasuriya to President Mahinda Rajapaksa or Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, calling for action? He himself should have taken action against Jayasuriya at that time if he had been convinced that the allegations against the latter were true. Fonseka and Jayasuriya never got on well after the latter’s appointment as the army commander over the heads of about ten officers senior to him with the former being kicked upstairs as the Chief of Defence Staff. It was also on Jayasuriya’s watch that Fonseka was bundled into a vehicle and taken to the Navy headquarters, where he was held in a cell before being court-martialled.

Interestingly, when Maj. Gen. Jayasuriya claimed in 2008 that he had under him several divisions engaged in operations on the Vanni front obviously in a bid to claim the credit for the army’s impressive victories, the Army Headquarters, at the behest of the then Army Commander Lt. Gen. Fonseka, hurriedly denied his statement; that rebuttal gave the impression to the media and the public that Jayasuriya was trying to bask in the reflected glory of the victorious troops. In fact, Jayasuriya had no say in military operations on the Vanni front at that time!

Fonseka’s allegations against Jayasuriya are tantamount to a self-indictment in that he, as the common presidential candidate of the Opposition, addressing the media on Dec. 15, 2009, declared that he would take the responsibility for what the army had done throughout the war under his command and no field commander had acted in violation of any international laws. Now, he is saying something entirely different! 

The government must probe Fonseka’s allegations against Jayasuriya immediately and thoroughly. If Jayasuriya is found guilty he should be punished appropriately; if he proves his innocence, then Fonseka must be made to pay for making false allegations. President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe must act fast. Before that the government, especially Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, as the UNP leader, must probe the very serious allegations his party made in Parliament against Fonseka while the latter was the army commander in 2008; the then Chief Opposition Whip and UNP MP Joseph Michael Perera accused Fonseka of having under him a special army unit to attack journalists. The UNP called for arrests. In 2010, the UNP threw in its lot with Fonseka in the presidential race and five years later abused the National List to make him a minister!

Spanish lawyer Carlos Castresana Fernández and the South Africa-headquartered International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) in partnership with human rights organisations in Latin America have been instrumental in filing the war crimes case at issue against Jayasuriya. Now that they have acted against Jayasuriya on the basis of some unsubstantiated allegation they are duty bound to take similar action against the surviving LTTE leaders like Adele Balasingham, who led the women’s wing of the LTTE, responsible for many crimes which are well documented if they are not to be accused of being hired guns. Adele is currently living in London. Will they get cracking?

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