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Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka and Sir Ian Warwick Blair




“Lt-Gen Fonseka’s immediate superior is the President. Constitutionally, President is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. Whilst the President has a political role to play, the General is appointed to exclusively carryout the military responsibility of the President.”

by R. Jayadevan

(October 04, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) The hues and cries about the Army Commander Lt Gen Fonseka’s antagonist and anti-nationalistic comments published in the National Post (Toronto) has to be considered in the context of how such issues are dealt in mature democracies. A similar situation has arisen in the UK few days ago following the resignation of the most senior police officer Sir Ian Blair and this has created real political furore here in the UK.

Sir Ian Warwick Blair, is a senior British police officer who holds the position of Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, or head of the Metropolitan Police Service. Blair is responsible for the policing of London, with the exception of the City of London. As the head of the Metropolitan Police, Blair has often been regarded as the most senior police officer in the United Kingdom, though technically his authority was confined to his own force. His rank, Commissioner, is a higher one than the Chief Constables who are the heads of other territorial police forces.

Several months into his tenure, he was heavily involved in an investigation into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes by anti-terrorist police who mistakenly believed he was a suicide bomber. After Blair learned that the shooting of de Menezes had been mistaken, he briefly considered resigning. On 1 November 2007, a jury convicted the Metropolitan Police of violating health and safety laws, highlighting 19 ‘catastrophic errors’ but said it was an ‘isolated breach under quite extraordinary circumstances’. Blair continued to receive the support of the Metropolitan Police Authority, the head of which said that he would not have accepted any resignation offered by Blair. There was further accusation that he awarded lucrative contracts to a friend.

Sir Ian took the decision to resign after the London Mayor Mr Johnson made clear at a meeting that he did not want him to continue in office. The outgoing police chief said: ‘I am resigning in the best interests of the people of London and the Metropolitan Police.’

There were wide ranging comments about Sir Ian’s resignation. The most important of those was from Ken Jones, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers. He said: ‘We do need to avoid the politicization, even by implication, that we see in some American forces where law and order and politics are bound together in a toxic way. We can't ever get to a position in this country where that happens.’

Comparing the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Sri Ian Blair, what is debated in Sri Lanka is about the comments made by the Commander of the army, Lt Gen Fonseka who is the most senior army officer entrusted with the responsibility to fight a war- ‘a just war’, in a democratic country. He has created uproar amongst the Sri Lankans following his comments and this could only be expected from dictatorial tin pot regimes of Uganda’s Idi Amin Dada, Cambodia’s Polpot and other dictatorial junta’s.

The comments of the commander Fonseka are that: ‘We (Sinhalese) being the majority of the country, 75%, we (Sinhalese) will never give in and we (Sinhalese) have the right to protect this country. We (Sinhalese) are also a strong nation ... They (Tamils) can live in this country with us. But they (Tamils) must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things.’

‘We (Sinhalese)’ and ‘they (Tamils)’ comments of the commander reflects the domineering influence by his ‘we (Sinhalese)’ community over the ‘they (Tamil) community. As a military man, if he had restricted his comments to ‘we (the army) and the ‘they’ (LTTE) there would not have been any arguments or consternations.

In the news published, the reporter had stated: ‘Lt.-Gen. Fonseka talks candidly about the war, which he believes will be over in less than a year, and his views on the militant Tamil nationalism that has spilled from Sri Lanka into countries with ethnic Tamil diasporas, Canada included. In the general's view, the war is driven by Tamils who want a homeland and have chosen Sri Lanka as the place. But he says the country's ethnic Sinhalese majority will never allow the ethnic Tamil minority to break the island apart’. Can we adduce this comment is the government policy on the handling of the burdening national conflict that is plaguing the country since independence?
Lt-Gen Fonseka’s immediate superior is the President. Constitutionally, President is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. Whilst the President has a political role to play, the General is appointed to exclusively carryout the military responsibility of the President. So far, the President has not disassociated from the damaging political comments made by his subordinate.

There is wider cry amongst the Sri Lankans that the Lt. General should resign. Will he resign or will he be sacked is one hundred million dollar question? Sri Lanka is not a mature democracy for accountability to play its part. Lt Gen Fonseka is a deeply hurt man. He narrowly escaped death in a suicide attempt by the LTTE. The deeply hurt man is showing all that he is an angry man and he is now directing the anger not only against the LTTE but against the entire Tamil population.

During the JVP insurrection in the late 1980’s, the Deputy Inspector of Police (DIG) Udugampola was entrusted with the task of dealing with the situation. He too was an angry man when his mother was killed by the JVP. The angry man became vicious and did not spare the JVP men. He head hunted them and thousands of them died under dire circumstances. Lt Gen Fonseka too is in a similar situation and adducing from his interview, we can expect the worst behind the iron curtain in the north under his command.

The President has proved that he will not succumb to any public pressures. Despite the disreputable Labour Minister Mervyn De Silva coming under severe public scrutiny, the President has not budged an inch even. But the ruffian minister is on his merry making ventures without any fear of being removed. We need to look at Fonseka’s situation within this context. The hate mongering Gen. will continue to be in office as head of the army as he will not be pushed nor he will have the moral courage to resign over the public outcry.

Now that he has the public support of the Buddhist monks and extreme parties like JHU and the Weerawanse group, he will remain a king maker without any feeling of remorse for his conduct.

A massive army of 230,000 men is entrusted under his command, only can be a dangerous army. The message in Gen Fonseka’s comment is clear. They are not going to target the Tigers but the entire Tamil people. It is clear the General wants to subdue the Tamils and make them manageable minority in the country, which is the established political agenda of the successive governments. For him and the army, everyone killed in the battlefield behind the iron curtain are enemies and they will be counted as terrorists.

Shooting of one Jean Charles de Menezes (one soul) by the police in London was one of the factors that ended the carrier of Sir In Warrick Blair but our Lt General Fonseka will not become accountable for the killing of hundreds and thousands of Tamils. His comments are unbecoming for a commander responsible to fight a war against the enemy-the LTTE- the so-called terrorist.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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