Colombo Telegraph

WikiLeaks: Fonseka Tried To Shift Blame On War Crimes To Gota

By Colombo Telegraph –

“The Fonseka affair was a complicated, convoluted game within a game that both Fonseka and the Rajapaksas were trying to their own advantage.” the US ambassador wrote to Washington.

Fonseka - war crime accountability from himself to Gotabhaya

A leaked US diplomatic cable details the situation just after Sarth Fonseka’s final visit to US as the Chief of Defence Staff. The Colombo Telegraph found the cable from WikiLeaks database. The cable written on 6thNovember 2009 and classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” by the Deputy Chief of Mission Valerie Fowler.

The US Ambassador wrote “At the same time, the Rajapkasas would like to see Fonseka eliminated as a political competitor – but not through arrest and conviction abroad, where he presumably would quickly turn state’s evidence on potential war crimes.”

“News of CHOD General Sarath Fonseka’s visit to the US and subsequent interaction with DHS dominated the local headlines in Colombo during the week of November 1. Many news outlets and political actors strongly criticized the US for apparent attempt to question Fonseka and possibly use his testimony against the Rajapaksa brothers in an investigation of possible war crimes committed at the end of the war” the ambassador wrote.

According to the leaked cable the Ambassador met the Secretary of Defense Gorabhaya Rajapaksa on November 3 and discussed the matter with him and Gotabhaya said to her the story would be used by the JVP against the president. In a meeting with Ambassador, current Sri Lankan Army commander Jagath Jayasuriya said he had no current plans to visit US.

“The general could have quietly gone to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) interview then discretely reported the event to his political superiors upon his return. Instead, presumably he or someone close to him decided to leak the story to SL press, emphasizing the USG desire to question  about Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Fonseka may have been aiming to shift blame for war crime accountability from himself to Gotabhaya while appearing to be the dutiful soldier reporting to his commander. At the same time, the Rajapkasas would like to see Fonseka eliminated as a political competitor – but not through arrest and conviction abroad, where he presumably would quickly turn state’s evidence on potential war crimes. Thus, they wanted him back in Sri Lanka as quickly as possible. Whatever their deeper meaning, this week’s events will further the view among many here that there is at least a desire by some in US Government to remove the Rajapaksa from power.” the US ambassador Butenis further wrote.

Read the below cable for further details;

VZCZCXRO2653
OO RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHLM #1018/01 3101226
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 061226Z NOV 09 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0736
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 2022
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 9058
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 7296
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 5205
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 3451
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 5157
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0030
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 0692
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 4268
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 9621
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 6915
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 0004
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 3815
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 02 COLOMBO 001018

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INSB

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/21/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM PTER EAID MOPS CE
SUBJECT: FONSEKA'S U.S. VISIT AND RECALL MAKE WAVES IN SRI
LANKA

REF: COLOMBO 1006

COLOMBO 00001018  001.4 OF 002

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

1. (C)  News of CHOD General Sarath Fonseka's visit to the
U.S. and subsequent interaction with DHS dominated the local
headlines in Colombo during the week of November 1.  Many
news outlets and political actors strongly criticized the
U.S. for this apparent attempt to question Fonseka and
possibly use his testimony against the Rajapaksa brothers in
an investigation of possible war crimes committed at the end
of the war.  The JVP was much more vocal in its support of
Fonseka himself, which likely  indicated their continued
desire to enlist him as their presidential candidate in
opposition to President Rajapaksa.  They attempted to give
the appearance of being in direct contact with Fonseka
throughout this time, being the first to announce publicly
that he was in fact on a plane and returning to Sri Lanka.

2. (C) The official government response included a strong
statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (see reftel).
On November 3, Ambassador also met with Defense Secretary
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, relaying the same information to him
regarding Fonseka and his scheduled DHS interview as she had
given earlier to the Foreign Minister.  The Defense Secretary
responded that this story would be used by the JVP against
the president.  Upon Fonseka's arrival back in Sri Lanka in
the early morning of November 5, the entire airport was
reportedly placed in lockdown while he was flown by
helicopter from the airport to his official residence,
ostensibly for his protection.

3. (C)  Various media reports and political commentators
remarked that the U.S. would now be virtually off-limits to
the Rajapaksas and to Fonseka, since they would not want to
run the risk of interrogation or arrest on war crimes
charges.  The National Freedom Front claimed that Defense
Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had been questioned for at
least one hour by DHS officials upon entry into the U.S.
during his visit in late September.  Many of these
commentators speculated that Fonseka and the Rajapaksas were
likely planning to retire at least partially in the U.S., and
this was now out of the question.  In a meeting with
Ambassador, current Sri Lankan Army commander Jagath
Jayasuriya said he had no current plans to travel to the U.S.
 The JVP questioned Foreign Minister Bogollagama on the issue
during a parliamentary session, and the FM claimed that the
government had the matter completely in hand.

4. (C)  The furor surrounding this news story was only
amplified by unceasing recent speculation about whether
Fonseka might run for president in possible upcoming
elections.  The JVP's public statements were likely meant for
Fonseka as much as for the public, as they attempt to win him
over as their candidate.  In a continuation of their early
election campaign rhetoric, they challenged Gotabhaya and
Basil Rajapaksa to give up U.S. citizenship to affirm Sri
Lankan strength and sovereignty.

COMMENT
-------

5. (C) The Fonseka affair was a complicated, convoluted game
within a game that both Fonseka and the Rajapaksas were
trying to play to their own advantage.  The general could
have quietly gone to the DHS interview then discretely
reported the event to his political superiors upon his
return.  Instead, presumably he or someone close to him
decided to leak the story to the SL press, emphasizing the

COLOMBO 00001018  002.2 OF 002

USG desire to question him about Defense Secretary Gotabhaya
Rajapaksa.  Fonseka may have been aiming to shift blame for
war crimes accountability from himself to Gotabhaya while
appearing to be the dutiful soldier reporting to his
commander.  At the same time, the Rajapaksas would like to
see Fonseka eliminated as a political competitor -- but not
through arrest and conviction abroad, where he presumably
would quickly turn state's evidence on potential war crimes.
Thus, they wanted him back in Sri Lanka as quickly as
possible.  Whatever their deeper meaning, this week's events
will further the view among many here that there is at least
a desire by some in the U.S. Government to remove the
Rajapaksas from power.

BUTENIS

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