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.