In an interview with Khaleej Times at his temporary residence outside Colombo, Fonseka, who led his troops to victory during the last phase of the three decade internal war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) speaks of his success as a commander, the turbulent years following the end of the war, his political views and his uncertain future.
Excerpts of the interview follow
Q:How has the prison term changed you?
A: Prison has been a good transition from military to politics. If it had gone straight from the military seat to the president’s seat things could have been different. I would have only seen and known the people around me in the political campaign without getting a look at the grass root level — the needs and requirements of the people and the real psychology of the politicians of the country — now I know better.
Q: Would you be forming another party or are you planning to join any existing party?
If the existing parties are willing to go according to these agendas, genuinely and frankly, then I can work with them, otherwise we have to form our own team.
Q: The government says that its rehabilitation programme of ex-LTTE cadres has been a success? What is your take?
Of the 12,000 terrorists who have been rehabilitated and sent back, just a handful, maybe 200 people – the hardcore terrorists might cause problems. We know the calibre of organisation that they had – their level of motivation and commitment. Just a few bombs and landmines in the North and East, two bombs in Colombo will take us back to the 1980’s. You cannot rush the army out leaving those few unscrupulous elements – it would be the Tamil and Muslim people in the North and East who will suffer.
Q: What are your sentiments about the war crimes charges levelled against the Sri Lankan Army?
I completely reject stories about 40,000 to 60,000 civilians getting killed or that hospitals were bombed. I planned the ground battle going into each minute detail monitoring every four-man and eight-man team movements from what ammunition they were getting to what their targets were. I monitored everything 24 hours a day for two years and nine months, so I know exactly what went on the ground. When planning, we always gave one hundred per cent consideration to human rights, safety of civilians and the Geneva conventions.
Q: What about allegations of war crimes, including rape and torture?
If Channel 4 is ready to give us enough information we will look into it. If they give us general footage and say that soldiers killed terrorists, how can we charge someone for that? Are we to charge the whole 200,000 army?
Q: What is your opinion of Prabhakaran? Why do you think he stayed on to fight till the end?
Prabhakaran was a hardcore terrorist. He was not a genius. We failed all these years not because he was an extra-ordinary tactician but because of our weaknesses and the impracticable and unworkable tactics we used. So any man with common sense, some weapons available and motivated people could have done it – especially when the army was weak.
Basil / May 31, 2012
Soldiers generally not responsible as the 70 000 estimate starvation plan had nothing to do with them.
Fonseka here again has come to save the country (on this crucial war-crimes point)
But, the ungrateful greedy thug family will again use him and throw him, then hog all glory
Don’t forget though ever willing to accept personal responsibility, this never say die hero was out in Budhagaya and China while the worst was happening.
Nizam / June 1, 2012
After all Gen SF has given a philosophical answer for the first Q. He must be allowed into mainstream politics. Otherwise SL will become a third grade/world country. In two years time [according to current figures] Sri Lanka will become the most dangerous country to live in thanks to MR and company.
M J / June 1, 2012
General SF should form his Owen political party. Not to trust Ranil, Ranil is trying to become at lest the Prime minister, hook or by crook. No two wards GSF will have good number of MP’s from UNP.
Abimanasibgham Sitthawatthai Uthayakumar / June 1, 2012
“When planning, we always gave one hundred per cent consideration to human rights, safety of civilians and the Geneva conventions. ” !
But, we are concerned about the ground actions of the SL forces General!!!
“Of the 12,000 terrorists who have been rehabilitated and sent back, just a handful, maybe 200 people – the hardcore terrorists might cause problems.We know the calibre of organisation that they had – their level of motivation and commitment.”
If so, do you think that keeping the armed forces all over the North and East alone would be enough? Why the GOSL keeps armed forces in the North and East in the ratio 1 armed Force person for about 4 Tamil civilians (leaving the children under 8 years)? Could you explain the strategy of the GOSL?
“Prabhakaran was a hardcore terrorist. He was not a genius.” It took about 25 years for about 12 – 15 million Sinhalese, Muslims and others with tens of thousands of the armed forces with military, logistic, intelligence and other support to defeat militarily about 15 – 20,000 LTTE fighters of about 2 million Tamils from the North and the East! How do you explain this General?
General! Do you think that a lasting political solution could be reached when the Sinhala nation adheres to its Sinhala – Theravada Buddhist nationalism based on the imaginary and false doctrine: “Aryan” – Sinhala – Sinhalese – ‘Theravada’ Buddhism – Lanka with one – to-one correspondence?
Pandukabaya de Silva / June 1, 2012
Good and balanced interview.
Lets hope the General will proceed on the same way and refrain from using wild language and become the pawn of others.
Donald J Gnanakone / June 1, 2012
Fonseka talks as if he is President in waiting and all have to vote for him from the opposition, and the parties have to accept him as the leader.
Sadly his arrogance, and high handedness has not changed even after two and a half years in prison. He will have a rude awakening in politics as he still is riding high from the victory against one of the greatest liberation organizations in history the LTTE and it’s leader Prabhakaran. There much better and experienced officers from the IPKF who fought the LTTE in foreign land with certain disadvantages. But they talk a different language and way than Fonseka. That is the difference between good army officers and bad ones.
IPKF had different values and could not disrespect the political fall out if they planned and killed tens of thousands of Tamil civilians. There was no one backing them. Certainly no bloody thirsty racist.
Did LTTE make mistakes in strategies and decisions over 30 years. Certainly they did, and plenty. There are no perfect liberation organizations in the world.
As for Prabhakaran he has tens of millions around the world respecting his prowess (may be not all the methods used), and many more love him. How many care for Fonseka and Gotabaya collectively and individually. There are only 14 million Singhalese in Sri Lanka.
But Prabhakaran never used chemical weapons, cluster bombs, phosphorous bombs, nor his troops tortured and raped civilians or prisoners of war over 30 years. His character was nearly perfect and Fonseka cannot say that which his own people have publicly said and testified. Tamils never go ridiculing, insulting and character assassinating Fonseka. He needs to be shooting himself in the foot again, and putting his foot in the mouth. He needs good will of many in Sri Lanka, if he wants to be in politics, and cannot be just a racist, chauvinist, extremist which he is demonstrating who he really is.
Let him say what he wants and boast about himself, and his army. He is self incriminating himself in this interview. The international investigations is not about the entire army. It is mainly about half a dozen senior commanders, two or three politicians/officials/diplomats, and the commander himself. Some of those who committed murders, torture and rape should be first identified and given some punishment so that it is a lesson for all the armies and soldiers of this world, that they should not commit such crimes.
In Nurenberg, the IC did not go prosecuting the Nazi soldiers. But the senior officers. There was a reason. The same thing needs to happen for the Sri Lankans as well. If they have such a clean record then let there be investigations against both parties, although one party is dead, and KP is with Gota. So are Karuna, Pillaiyan and Daya Master.
Lastly, Fonseka does not seem to understand the seriousness of War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and Genocidal crimes. In 30 months he should have educated himself and read about it instead of reading about Hitler, and the Nazis. That is sad.
UNP should be fools to even consider allowing him to be one of it’s leaders. They certainly will do very badly with the Tamil and Muslim minorities in the North, East, West and Up Country.. That is their own funeral.
Bruno Umbato / June 1, 2012
You say “UNP should be fools to even consider allowing him to be one of it’s leaders. They certainly will do very badly with the Tamil and Muslim minorities in the North, East, West and Up Country.. That is their own funeral.” …
Donald, you must just have come from mars to forget very recent past. He did very well in north, east and upcountry in the last election … To get Your so called liberation, I mean EEELLLAMMM, eellamists will do anything – murder, terrorism, lies, deceit, all immoral things provided it gives some leverage, kissing all backs of westerners included.
You say “… one of the greatest liberation organizations in history the LTTE and it’s leader Prabhakaran …”
Oh! My god! You mean the organization which put bombs under the buses to kill a lot at once, , killing civilians who were worshipping in their mosque, killing many many Tamil politician due to differences of opinions, killing many many Tamils some say more Tamils killed by this greatest liberation org than all others combined, list goes on, my friend DJ Gananakone … How insensitive are you? Just go to the family of that prime minister material, Khadiragamar, and say what you think about your great org? These eeellamists just only pay lip service to morality .. If they see any chance of getting this eellam sacrificing all the morality of this world, they would not hesitate for a moment to abandon it all.
Dominique / June 1, 2012
One of the greatest liberation organizations, my ass…
Donald J Gnanakone / June 1, 2012
TAG calls for the arrest of Mahinda Rajapakse in London, despite immunity. The same criminality charges is applicable for Sarath Fonseka who does not enjoy any immunity, and as per the law he is also a Ex felon. (Although political as well).
Donald J Gnanakone / June 1, 2012
Do not get carried away with the UNP May Day meeting in Jaffna, despite the 12-14,000 crowd there and Sampanthan ambushed with the flagpole in thee heat of the moment. (Athey Polla!).
There were only 150-200 Tamils at the meeting, mostly Mrs. Maheswaran’s relatives/friends/supporters, and curios onlookers/Douglas’s spies.
What I said was, if UNP embraces Fonseka as their candidate the next time then they will lose the support of the minorities, which will again be advantages for the Rajapakse camp.
As for “Your Ass”, Dominique, nobody care a Sh………..
Use it for that purpose.
If LTTE was not a great liberation organizations which fought not only Sri Lanka for 30 years, with a Police, Army, Navy and Air Force of it’s own, clean administration unlike Sri Lanka, but it fought and won against India the biggest military in the world. (One of). Yes, they lost the last battle and war, because of the chemical weapons, cluster bombs, phosphorous bombs, and heavy artillery used at close range on the civilians causing 100,000 deaths and injuries especially in the last month. LTTE as you can see worldwide, has not lost the respect and support around the world unlike Rajapakses or Fonseka.
Tell me Dominique who are the other “liberation organizations” that you think in your warped mind have been the greatest in the last 100 years?
I expressed the Tamil sentiments both in Sri Lanka, India and the rest of the world. The other Tamil leaders do not have that respect or love. That is all.
As for the Singhalese deaths which was unfortunate from the population of 14 million over 30 years, but is hardly anything compared to the number of Tamils that were murdered by the GOSL, and Singhala civilians from 1983. 100 to 1. among-st a 3 million population.
The GOSL continued daily killings by bombing, shelling, shooting and torture for 30 years of Tamil civilians, destroying infrastructure and even hospitals. Do not forget the burning of the Jaffna library by the Singhalese in 1981, which was also a watershed like the 1983 race riots in the armed liberation struggle just for the NE province.
Internationally the liberation struggle was accepted, and the IC until the last days have called for the political negotiations and settlement, although admittedly they did not like some of the tactics and methods the organization used. That is how peace talks occurred from 1985 in Thimpu, Bhutan until 2007 all over the world supported by the IC.
LTTE are dead, but the Tamils are not, and the IC is calling for political negotiations and settlement. In the process Rajapakse killed 100,000 Tamil civilians in 2009, and that is why there is a public call for independent investigations, court actions for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. That is the issue here among the living. This is now an international issue, including the UN, US, UK and EU.
Bruno Umbato / June 2, 2012
You talk about 1983 incident where innocent civilians were killed … There is no doubt that the incident is the lowest point of history of Sri Lanka … But, look who were in charge of the civilian defense, POLICE … Starting from IGP Rudra Rajasingham … Allmost all next level of the police if not all, were Tamils … Had they had any backbone to stand up to that black incident and decent? At least give a one resignation from any of them? Isn’t it better to beg on the street rather than leading the civilian defense when killing of their community going on? All these heroic deliberations of some among this superiority complexed minority, are b.s.
One other point … Where was this so called discrimination against Tamils when allmost all higher ups in Police were Tamils?
Rubert Vanderkoon / June 2, 2012
In 1983, Rajadurai, was Minister of Regional development, Devanayagam was Minister of Home Affairs, Arumugam Thondaman was Rural Industries Minister, Shervananda was Chief Justice, Rudra Rajasingham was IGP (and later High Commissioner to Indonesia) and Siva Pasupati was Attorney General(later LTTE representative at peace talks), High Commissioner in UK was a Tamil, Amirthalingam was the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament,whom the LTTE killed in his own house in Colombo in July 1989.
Bruno Umbato / June 2, 2012
Thanks Rubert … Lies, deceit and hidden agendas of the EEELLLAMMMists should be exposed … Sinhalese in Sri Lanka is laid back people who has a excellent story to tell but never tell …. This discrimination, human right violations, war crimes are not facts … They are the building blocks for GREAT EEELLLAM DREAM while denying the rightful place for Sinhalese/Buddhists in Sri Lanka … Ofcourse SL is not a five star democracy — like any other country it has many faults it should rectify … Even with these faults, this country has a excellent record regarding minorities and all other moral virtues than many many countries … That good story is suppressed by the eeellamists and it is upto the good citizenry in the country to tell and expose facts for the sake of preserving truth …
Donald J Gnanakone / June 1, 2012
Frederica Jansz speaks to the BBC about the GOSL and connected forces regarding the murder of Lasantha.
That clearly puts the responsibility not only on the Rajapakses but Fonseka as well. Lasantha was murdered on the 8th of January 2009.
Fonseka retired only on 1st of December 2009.
Nimal Perera / June 2, 2012
I have a feeling that after been in the prison Gen.Fonseka has to some extent reformed and has learnt how realpolitik work in SL. He knows the genuine from fake. But the question is are there any genuine politicians available to help him to form a government. After sixty years of mis using politics to their own selfish desires, the corruption has so deep rooted, it’s going to be very hard for a single or very few to change where others are undercutting them.Privatize all loss making GOSL institutions or bring in foreign consultants to run them.
Rubert Vanderkoon / June 2, 2012
He justifies and agrees with the majority decision in 2010, not making him the president. He believes he has learnt from the prison experience and is a better politician now, a fact which remains to be proven. On the channel 4 question, he answers pretending he is the president of the country, and when answering the last question, the cat jumped out of the bag! He hasn’t learnt anything and still is the same old arrogant man. He should know Gen.Kobbekaduwa would have dealt with Praba’s testies in 1987, had JR not given in to Rajiv’s intimidation. Furthermore, had MR surrendered to Miliband and Co’s international pressure, today Prabha would be running his own country and we would still be at war perhaps. More importantly,had that been the case, he would not have had the luck to be that Four star General even for a day and still be ranked below the Salvation Army commander by his close confidantes today.
Senguttuvan / June 2, 2012
Rubert Vanderkoon must add to his piece “And JR Jayawardena was the President” – the all-powerful President, I must add if you know the significance of Gamin Jayasuriya’s exit from the Cabinet later. Therein lies the catch. By the way the younger Arumugam Thondaman is the late S. Thondaman’s grand-son – who came into Cabinet in 2001. But be assured not that the Tamils you mentioned kept quiet. Mr Thondaman, we are aware, kept his pressure on JRJ although he was despised for this by the Sinhala Supremacist cabal in that cabinet – Mathew, Gamini D, Lalith A, Gamini Jayasuriya, the JSS leadership in particular.
Appuhamy / June 2, 2012
The war against the ruthless and barbaric Tamil Tiger terrorists was initiated by none other than the President himself – unlike his predecessors who were caving into pressure from the West. As Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, it was President Rajapakse’s decision to finish the barbaric LTTE off once and for all. The task of accomplishing this was delegated to his Defense Secretary – Gotabhaya Rajapakse – who strategized the whole thing. General Fonseka was appointed the Joint Military Commander by Gotabhaya Rajapakse to oversee the operations by all three Military forces – the Army, Navy and Air Force. Gen. Fonseka was in China during the final stages of war negotiating an Arms Deal; but the war ended before the shipment was even made, and the Defence Secretary canceled this shipment since it was not needed anymore – which saved he country millions of dollars. However it was this decision to cancel this large arms shipment that led to the fall out between “Gota” and Gen Fonseka. (the reasons for this is obvious)! Gen Fonseka cannot take the credit for the win over the Tamil terrorists by himself – it was a well coordinated effort by the Secretary of Defense, all Military commanders and the soldiers.