5 December, 2020

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Sri Lanka’s Alleged War Criminal & Human Rights Violator Elevated To Field Marshal

General Gardihewa Sarath Chandralal Fonseka ( known as Sarath Fonseka) was elevated to the rank of Field Marshal by the President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday. He is the first Sri Lankan to be honoured with the highest rank in the Army.

Fonseka

Fonseka

“he was the Army Commander during the war and particularly during the last days and weeks of the war which ended in May 2009. Several independent reports, witnesses and evidences including the report by the UN Panel of Experts have alleged that international human rights and international humanitarian laws were breached during the war and in particular at the end of the war. It is alleged war crimes were committed. The man in charge of the army that’s accused of all these was General Fonseka.” Suren Surendiran, the spokesperson of the Global Tamil Forum told Colombo Telegraph.

Fonseka joined the Sri Lanka Army in 1970 and served as the Commander of the Army from 6 December 2005 – 15 July 2009. As commander, he oversaw the final phase of the Sri Lankan Civil War, which resulted in the total defeat of the militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam organisation. He also survived an assassination attempt when an LTTE suicide bomber attacked his motorcade in April 2006. Following the end of the war Fonseka was promoted to a four star rank in the Sri Lanka Army, becoming the first serving officer to hold a four star rank.

In November 2009, Fonseka formally announced his candidature in the 2010 Sri Lankan Presidential Election. Following his election defeat, Fonseka was arrested on 8 February 2010, and the government announced he will be court-martialed for committing “military offences.” He was found guilty of corrupt military supply deals and sentenced to three years in prison. After serving more than 2 years in prison, Fonseka was released on 21 May 2012. As per the pre-election statement, President Maithripala Sirisena, gave him the Complete Presidential Pardon and acquitted him of all the charges against him on the 22nd of January 2015, restoring his Civic Rights.

According to a leaked US diplomatic cable, the US government had once cancelled Fonseka’s invitation to attend a Chief of Defense conference in Hawaii due to U.S. concerns about his involvement in human-rights violations during the conflict with the LTTE.

He was also accused of attacking and killing many journalists during his tenure as the Commander.

We publish below the cable in full;

VZCZCXRO6168
OO RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHLM #1006/01 3061237
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 021237Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0714
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 2003
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 9039
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 7277
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 5196
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 3431
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 5148
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0021
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 0683
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 4259
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 9602
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 6896
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 1357
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 3806
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 001006

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INSB

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/02/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM PTER EAID MOPS CE
SUBJECT: MFA CALLS IN AMBASSADOR OVER DHS QUESTIONING OF
CHOD FONSEKA

COLOMBO 00001006 001.2 OF 003

Classified By: DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION VALERIE C. FOWLER. REASONS 1.4
(B) AND (D).

¶1. (C) On November 2, Foreign Minister Bogollagama called in
Ambassador regarding reports that the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security had requested that Sri Lankan Chief of
Defense (CHOD) Sarath Fonseka come in for a “voluntary”
interview with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
office in Oklahoma City on November 4. (NOTE: Fonseka is a
Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) in the United States and has
family and property in Oklahoma. He currently is in the U.S.
visiting family and re-establishing his LPR status. END
NOTE.) Bogollagama said the interview was a matter of
“urgency and relevance” to the government of Sri Lanka (GSL)
and asked for information to “help us understand and
formulate a proper reaction.”
¶2. (C) Ambassador recounted recent developments regarding
Fonseka, including cancellation of his invitation to attend
the recent Chiefs of Defense conference in Hawaii due to U.S.
concerns about his involvement in human-rights violations
during the conflict with the LTTE. She also explained that
as a green-card holder, Fonseka was required by U.S. law to
confirm his status as an LPR. But as regards the DHS request
to see Fonseka on November 4, Ambassador said she did not
know the specific reason for the invitation.

¶3. (C) Bogollagama said what concerned the GSL were reports
that a DHS lawyer had allegedly told Fonseka that the purpose
of the interview was to gather information about the possible
involvement in war crimes of SL Defense Secretary (and
president’s brother and U.S. citizen) Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
He said the GSL was very concerned about using Fonseka as a
source for “prying” into the actions of the government in Sri
Lanka and was seeking “immediate action” to prevent anything
further from happening on November 4. He claimed that their
sources (presumably the law firm Patton Boggs, which embassy
understands has been hired to represent the GSL) told them
that DHS had investigated war crimes in the past.
Bogollagama said any questioning of Fonseka about SL
“official” information would be frowned upon by the GSL and
“could seriously impact our relationship.”

¶4. (C) Bogollagama passed to Ambassador an Aide Memoire,
which noted that allegations against the defense secretary
affected the vital interests of the GSL and had already
occupied considerable time and attention of both governments
at the highest levels. It noted that the SL president had
formed a panel to consider the matters raised in the U.S.
Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in
Sri Lanka and claimed that any information Fonseka had gained
in performance of his official duties had the status of
“privileged information.” It closed with a request to the
U.S. State Department to inform DHS that “there is every
reason for the interview proposed for the 4th November 2009,
to not take place,” and noted the GSL’s view that DHS “should
forthwith desist from any endeavor in this direction.”
(NOTE: The full text of the Aide Memoire is reproduced in
para 6 below. END NOTE.)

COMMENT
——-

¶5. (C) We do not know how much of the story about DHS’s
request to interview Fonseka is real and how much may have
been fabricated by Fonseka himself to score points against
the Rajapaksas. Whatever the reality, the prospect of U.S.
officials questioning Fonseka regarding Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s
actions during the conflict clearly is of great concern in
Colombo and puts the leadership in a tight spot. While the
Rajapaksas are keen on eliminating or neutralizing Fonseka as

COLOMBO 00001006 002.2 OF 003

a potential presidential candidate, who could split the
Singhalese vote, they do not have an interest in him being
pressured as a war crimes accomplice, who might be willing to
provide testimony against the Rajapaksas. They would like to
see Fonseka go quietly into retirement as a war hero who time
has passed, but the general appears to have other plans. END
COMMENT.

¶6. (SBU) BEGIN TEXT OF AIDE MEMOIRE (grammatical and other
irregularities are preserved from the original):

The assistance of the US State Department is sought
concerning an unwelcome intervention by the US Department of
Homeland Security (DHS), in a matter of grave concern, that
has the potential to complicate the existing dialogue between
the friendly Governments of Sri Lanka and of the United
States.

The Government of Sri Lanka is informed that Sri Lanka’s
Chief of Defence Staff General Sarath Fonseka who at present
is in the United States, has received a letter calling him
for an interview with the DHS Immigration and Customs
Enforcement on Wednesday, November 04, 2009 at 3:00 p.m. in
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

In addition, on the 28th of October, General Fonseka had
received a telephone call from a DHS Attorney to the effect
that the intention behind the request for the interview is to
use him “as a source against human rights violations done by
Secretary/Defence”. It had been clarified during the
telephone conversation that the reference to
“Secretary/Defence” relates to Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the
Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law
and Order of Sri Lanka.

It is pertinent to recall in this regard that Mr. Gotabaya
Rajapaksa’s duties as Secretary of that Ministry required his
dealing with a situation of a grave onslaught that threatened
the integrity of Sri Lanka and which was launched by the
LTTE, an organization proscribed by several countries
including the United States, for its terrorist activities.
The allegations therefore leveled against the Sri Lankan
Defence Secretary affect the vital interests of the
Government of Sri Lanka and have occupied considerable time
and attention of the respective Governments, at the highest
levels. In fact, the US Ambassador in Colombo has already
been briefed of the decision taken by the President of Sri
Lanka to appoint a Panel to consider the matters raised in
the US Department of State 2009 Report to Congress on
Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka. This
decision by the President stems from Sri Lanka’s unbroken
commitment as a democratic nation to the Rule of Law, under
which allegations are first assessed as to whether they
possess any substance meriting further inquiry.

The Chief of Defence Staff is a high level position within
the Sri Lanka Government. General Fonseka is on an official
visit on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka. He traveled
to the United States on a diplomatic passport for prearranged
appointments with senior personalities of the State
Department and other US Government Agencies. Moreover,
whatever General Fonseka may have become aware of during his
service with the Government of Sri Lanka and in the course of
his duties, has the status of privileged information. He has
no authority to divulge or share this information with third
parties, without the prior approval and consent of the Sri
Lanka authorities.

Given the above, it is hereby requested for the US State
Department to inform the Department of Homeland Security that

COLOMBO 00001006 003.2 OF 003

there is every reason for the interview proposed for 4th
November 2009, to not take place. The Government of Sri
Lanka is of the view that the Department of Homeland Security
should forthwith desist from any endeavor in this direction.

Colombo
2nd November 2009

END TEXT OF AIDE MEMOIRE
BUTENIS

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Latest comments

  • 3
    0

    I think facts are stubborn. All service (Army, Navy, Air-force) chiefs are 3 star generals while in service, practice that came with the war in contrast to the period before it when they were two star generals. The recent practice has been to elevate them from 3 star to 4 star when they retire and that may not be accorded to all. Almost after the war all the service chiefs were elevated to 4 star status as a recognition of their contribution to the war while in service and then administrators thought that that was far Sri Lanka can go in recognizing their role. I am not undervaluing anybody’s contribution but the exception was made for all of them and not one.

    Interestingly the present administration feels that one of them ought to be made a 5 star general by the name and style of Field Marshall. This is not limited to pinning badges etc. on him but giving the man an a special salary for life (perhaps in addition to his pension), a few officers of the army and a couple of hundred men at his disposal. Further the man is to be accorded with all the privileges of a Cabinet Minister. GREAT! and WHY? Whatever opinions one may have, Sarath F was a personal target of the LTTE and so was CBK who lost an eye (which we don’t talk about it now). When CBK was given privileges after retirement on a cabinet decision that was declared ultra-vires by the then “Silwath” Judge who now regrets some of his judgements and I wonder whether this judgement is included in the set of regrets.

    If the war was such that the present administration thinks only one of them ought to be given a very high recognition then it must be declared as to what exceptional contributions did he make well above the others. On that score the authorities are silent. WHY? It is alleged that Sarath F is a pain in the neck and a concentrated effort is being applied so that he is kept out of politics. (What about the talk that he was to be made the defense minister, state minister I believe and all that is gone.) As a part of the package he is placed in this high pedestal to satisfy his ego and with a government salary he cannot engage himself in politics. FINE! Is this the meritocracy we expect out of “Yahapalanaya” in bribing people out of action? In government one must be fair and firm, the policy of appeasement is the last element of policy that a government should adopt.

  • 8
    2

    He deserved it.

    • 3
      3

      Yes only as a reward for supporting Maithripala Sirisena. There are several serious accusations he has not answered. Someday an International Court will catch up and embarass us all.

      • 1
        1

        Sylvia

        i’am meaning he deserved it for vanquishing the LTTE.The other matters if any are subject to the law and if he has broken the law so be it another stint in welikada,but as a Field Marshall.

        Whatever it is he should be given that promotion in recognition of his services to the army that he served with distinction for over 40 years.If not for him the LTTE would not have been defeated.

        • 0
          0

          Thank you Shankar for your honesty. There are also others who had a hand in defeating the LTTE who should also be promoted. SF’s 40 year stint in the Army and his rising through the ranks is truly remarkable and should be appreciated.

  • 4
    2

    At times I feel that there is no way for reconciliation. How can you reconcile after generations of Tamils have been wiped out from their traditional homelands – just for demanding freedom from oppression?

    SF in a recent speech says that he specifically selected Army officers who were not leading normal family life – I can presume what he has done. He has selected persons with no concern for human life, rapists, murderers, thugs and unleashed them on Tamils – aged people, women and children. The result was a holocaust of unimaginable proportions in this South Asian region.

    However, I feel that Tamils there have to choose between a lesser evil. Definitely SF is better than GR, the psycho! GR was racist to the core, corrupt and insane.

    As this Tamil girl of Sri Lankan origin sings, it is probably a bad phase in the 2500 years old history of Tamils of Sri Lanka. Even if Tamils of Srilanka don’t get freedom, at least I hope they get to govern their homeland and preserve their culture, language and traditions as equals to Sinhalese in the Island:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdPnW_PrKVI

  • 3
    0

    Indian tamil from india.

    A comparison of SF and MR cannot be made by ordinary mortals.They need to be taken to either Harvard or Princeton for study by an Anthropologist! Both being green card holders there would not be much difficulty. But both are fighting shy to go to the USA no?

  • 0
    0

    We cannot forget the very first Five Star General Amuruddha Ratwatte – equivalent of Field Marshal, who was given the title by CBK.

  • 3
    0

    Sri Lanka boasted to the world that they militarily defeated the invincible tigers.
    India that had two Field Marshals referred to the man as the Greatest General of our times.
    MR wanted him to cut the cake calling him the Hero of the war.

    HAD SF BEEN COMMANDER OF EELAM WAR 1, HE WOULD HAVE DEFIED JR AND RAJIV AND CONCLUDED THE EPISODE.

    In the 89 JVP insurrection Fonseka’s ares were free of mass graves. He captured Kumar Gunaratnam (now FSP leader) and others who are yet alive.

    (The Pakistani FM had not even won a war, even Cariappa. The Air Force played a major role in the 71 war to create Bangladesh, however only the army commander Manekshaw was made Field Marshal.)

  • 0
    0

    Was he in Sri Lanka at the time of the end of Prabahakaran & LTTE terrorists.Could remember he was abroad with the family on a business? Is that correct? Can someone explain.

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