Criticizing a US to move ‘interview’ Chief of Defence Staff General Sarath Fonseka, now on a short visit to the US, the Sri Lanka government says an attempt is being made to target Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
Highly placed officials say the government is aware of a US move to use General Fonseka as a ‘source’ against the Defence Secretary, in their investigations targeting the retired infantryman as a possible war crimes suspect.
They said that initially the government believed the US move had been aimed at the Sri Lankan government as it came close on the heels of a recent US State Department report on war crimes, though subsequent inquiries revealed the target of the inquiry was none other than the Defence Secretary.
Nothing could as ridiculous as this as the US forces were facing severe criticism over excesses in Iraq and Afghanistan and cross-border attacks on Pakistan territory using unmanned aerial bombers (drones), sources said.
They said that the Sri Lankan embassy in the US had been advised by law firm Patton Boggs that Sri Lanka could resist the US move to ‘interview’ General Fonseka in relation to the conduct of the Defence Secretary
An authoritative government official told The Island that General Fonseka was the senior most serving soldier in the Sri Lanka Army and could not be subject to questioning regarding military operations conducted by a sovereign state. Responding to our queries, he said that those who had failed to save LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon last May, were now engaged in a witch hunt.
According to the Sri Lankan embassy in Washington, General Fonseka had alerted Ambassador Jaliya Wickremasuriya regarding the US move after being asked to face an ‘interview’ by authorities. The embassy has brought this to the notice of the Defence Secretary. The embassy said that initially the US had said that they wanted information regarding the Defence Minister before being told that President Mahinda Rajapaksa held the defence portfolio. Subsequently, the US had said that the target of their inquiry was Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.
Sources said that US Immigration and the Department of Homeland Security were involved in the inquiry. The latest US move came within two days after President Mahinda Rajapaksa assured a thorough internal inquiry into the US State Department statement.
Ministerial sources said that a section of the international community was trying to exploit an Opposition allegation that General Fonseka had been sidelined ahead of forthcoming presidential and parliamentary polls. Sources said that this was a transparent attempt to sow dissension among the armed forces, thereby boosting the Opposition campaign against the government.