General Sarath Fonseka, Sri Lanka’s chief of defence staff (CDS) and an architect of the military victory against the LTTE, is likely to resign by the end of this month. The resignation could clear the way for Fonseka to contest in the upcoming Presidential election against incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa.
A coalition of opposition parties led by the United National Party (UNP) along with radical Marxists JVP are ready to field Fonseka against Rajapaksa, leader of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA).
Fonseka, as the army chief during the last phase of the war against the Tamil Tigers and Rajapaksa are popularly considered as the duo responsible for bringing the 26-year-old ethnic conflict to an end.
But HT has reliably learnt that the general – who survived an LTTE suicide attack with serious injuries in 2006 -- was unhappy at the treatment he received from the government within days of Colombo declaring victory against the LTTE on May 19.
Informed sources said that Fonseka promoted to CDS after the war was "unhappy to have been given an appointment without power and handover authority." Within weeks, from being the powerful chief of a 2-lakh strong army, Fonseka was made a ceremonial head.
In October, the government also appointed him as a "secretary" in the Ministry of Sports and Recreation. An acting secretary had to be appointed after Fonseka did not respond to the order.
Sources said Fonseka himself has been quiet on fighting an election being a ``serving officer.’’ But that did not prevent the defence ministry, headed by President’s brother, defence secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, from issuing a circular to the media against writing speculative political stories on serving officers.
But the friction caught fire earlier this month when President Rajapaksa ``summoned’’ Fonseka back from a visit to the US. The Presidential summons were issued after the US department of homeland security (DHS) sought Fonseka as a source of information against Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s involvement in alleged human rights violations against displaced Tamil civilians.
Sources claimed that green card-holder Fonseka did not know about the intentions of the US authorities before the DHS called him and sent a request letter to appear for an interview. In the end, Fonseka returned to Colombo without appearing for the questioning session.
Even if Fonseka keeps out of politics, his untimely resignation is certain to bring to surface the increasing animosity between him and Rajapaksa.
Fonseka is yet to meet leaders from any political party though some political representatives have made futile attempts. But that could change once the general sheds his uniform.