Sri Lanka’s top military commander general Sarath Fonseka was on his way back home on Wednesday without having to appear for the much publicised questioning session with the US’ department of homeland security (DHS).
``The Chief of Defence Staff General Sarath Fonseka left the United States this morning to return to Colombo. He was not subjected to any questioning prior to his departure by the United States Department of Homeland Security or any other agency of the US Government,’’ the Lankan foreign ministry said in statement issued here on Wednesday evening. Fonseka was expected to reach Colombo on Thursday.
It could be recalled that in October-end, Fonseka, in the US on a partly private visit, received a letter from the DHS requesting that he present himself for an interview on November 4 in Okhlahama City. Subsequently, there was also a telephone call from an official of the Department of Homeland Security to the General. US officials, it was learnt, was seeking to make Fonseka source of information against defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for his alleged human rights violations in the last phase of the war against the LTTE. The Tamil Tigers were militarily defeated in May this year.
But in the end the interview did not take place.
Soon after the controversy broke, the Lankan foreign ministry had summoned the US ambassador Patricia Butenis to inform her that it would be illegal to quiz Fonseka. Butenis was told that information related to the war was ``privileged’’ and could not be shared with a third party without the government’s consent.
A similar representation was made to the US State Department in Washington, through the Lankan embassy in the US.
The Sri Lankan government’s arguments against Fonseka being quizzed seems to have worked and, at least temporarily, averted a diplomatic flashpoint between the two countries.