SF: Cabinet never discussed how to counter war crimes allegations

...responds to PM’s 2030 leadership change move



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By Shamindra Ferdinando


Sustainable Development, Wildlife and Regional Development Minister Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, yesterday, acknowledged that there hadn’t been any Cabinet discussion on how Sri Lanka should respond to Geneva allegations of war crimes against the country.


Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.


The war-winning Army Chief said that his views in this regard were never sought by anyone since the change of government in January, 2015. Fonseka said so when The Island asked the Sinha Regiment veteran whether the Cabinet ever sought his advice to counter allegations before the ruling coalition co-sponsored Geneva Resolution in Oct 2015 or after. Fonseka emphatically said: "Not a word!"


Recently, SLFP spokesman Mahinda Samarasinghe also admitted that the Cabinet had never discussed the decision to co-sponsor Geneva Resolution.


The Island raised the issue, at a media briefing, called by Fonseka at his ministry at Rajagiriya to explain a major project undertaken by his ministry to build an electric fence to prevent wild elephants raiding villages.


Asked why such a vital matter hadn’t been taken up at the Cabinet level, Fonseka said that security matters had been discussed with him in the run-up to the 2015 elections.


 Presidential and parliamentary polls were held in January and August 2015.


 The Island also sought Fonseka’s views on the wartime British High Commission dispatches, which contradicted the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) allegation that deliberate military action caused the deaths of 40,000 Tamil civilians. According to UK dispatches obtained by Lord Naseby courtesy British Right to Information Laws, of the maximum 7,000-8,000 killed in the last phase one fourth were LTTE combatants.


Fonseka stressed that during two-year-and-nine-month long campaign, launched in Aug 2006, the LTTE lost approximately 23,000 cadres while 12,000 were captured.


The Island pointed out that the government had not only co-sponsored Geneva Resolution in Oct 2015 but reiterated its commitment in March 2017 to fulfill its obligations by March 2019. Field Marshal Fonseka didn’t respond but emphasized that loss of civilian lives was exaggerated.


Fonseka said 4,000 to 5,000 civilians may have perished in eelam war IV though they had not been deliberately targeted.


Fonseka also recollected the presence of the ICRC in the North except during last weeks of the war and that the international community operated a ship between Puthumathalan seas and Pulmoddai to transfer the war wounded.


Although Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana, PC, assured parliament in Nov 2017 that British dispatches would be used at appropriate time, the government is yet to officially inform Geneva where the UNHRC sessions are now on.


Responding to queries from electronic media, Fonseka denied speculation that he was waiting for anticipated change in UNP leadership in 2030. He was responding to UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s declaration at the party’s 72 anniversary celebrations at Sirikotha on Thursday (Sept. 6) that he was grooming young leaders to take over the party in 2030.


Fonseka said that though he was two years younger than Premier Wickremesinghe, he was not going to remain in active politics for such a long time. "In addition to the current term, I’ll serve parliament for another five year term. That is all."


Fonseka assured that he would be out of parliament by 2025.


Former President and Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa was now struggling to cope with his age, Fonseka said. Fonseka referred to Rajapaksa experiencing difficulties in moving within parliament.


Responding to our query on his status as a member of the Democratic Party, Fonseka said that he was now an UNPer. Fonseka insisted incumbent leader Wickremesinghe should contest the next presidential polls from the UNP as the so-called common candidate concept seemed to be a futile exercise.


Fonseka insisted that the next presidential battle should be between the two major parties and whoever in command of the UNP should be its candidate. He wouldn’t throw his weight behind the campaign if the party again fielded a common candidate, he added. The war veteran said that he had doubts about the concept of a common candidate.


Fonseka recalled how he had accepted the 2010 challenge as there was no one to take on Rajapaksa. Fonseka lost by a staggering 1.8 mn vote.


The UNP led coalition that backed Fonseka campaigned for Maithripala Sirisena’s candidature at the last presidential poll in January 2015.


Responding to another query, Fonseka asserted that a lot could happen between now and 2030. He however said that what Premier said could have been misinterpreted as the UNP leader first mentioned 2025 and then 2030 during the course of his speech. Fonseka said that anyone, including himself could make mistakes.


Fonseka said that in case Wickremesinghe quit the leadership, it would be the incumbent leader’s choice to pick his successor.


The war hero launched a scathing attack on the Army. Fonseka compared the present Army with the institution that he took over in late 2005. Fonseka expressed doubts about the current status of SLA’s fighting capabilities and its strength to meet emergencies.


Commenting on the post-war national reconciliation, Fonseka said that the releasing of northern land once held by the military should be done in a professional manner.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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