US examines Gen Fonseka’s candidacy Jan 2010 prez poll
Posted on December 5th, 2014

By Shamindra Ferdinando  Courtesy Island

The then Chief of Defence Staff General Sarath Fonseka claimed that he didn’t want to lose his popularity, within 24 hours, by seeking a political career.

The Sinha Regiment veteran was responding to a query, at a packed media conference, at the Joint Operations Headquarters, situated within the army headquarters premises, on the morning of July 15, 2009. The writer was among those present on the occasion.

The war-winning army chief was meeting the media after having handed over the command to the then Vanni Commander, Maj. Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya, under acrimonious circumstances. In fact, an officer, at the behest of Gen. Fonseka, queried the newly appointed army commander, whether his briefing could be cut short to enable the newly appointed CDS to address the media. Having being promoted to the rank of Lt. Gen, over nearly a dozen Majors General, a confident Jayasuriya continued with his scheduled briefing. The armoured corps officer revealed that he hadn’t been aware of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision to name him as Gen. Fonseka’s successor, until the evening of July 11, 2009.

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Gen. Fonseka’s choice had been the then Chief of Staff and one-time Jaffna Commander, Maj. Gen. G.A. Chandrasiri, incumbent Governor of the Northern Province.

Gen. Fonseka reminisced the fate of two of his senior colleagues, Maj. Gen. Lakshman Algama (assassinated on the night of Dec 18, 1999, at the final UNP rally, held in Ja-ela, in support of its candidate, Ranil Wickremesinghe) and Maj. Gen. Janaka Perera (on the morning of Oct 6, 2008, in Anuradhapura). LTTE suicide cadres carried out both attacks (“Politics not for me,” says Gen. Fonseka-The Island, July 19, 2009).

For want of a better strategy to deprive incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa of a second-term, the Opposition fielded a disgruntled Fonseka at the January 26, 2010 presidential election. Enticing Gen. Fonseka had been a stunning political coup that caused panic at the highest level, though President Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa resorted to immediate damage-control measures. The defection sent shock waves through political and military establishments.

With the UNP-led Opposition, again engineering another high level defection (SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena), ahead of the January 8, 2015 presidential, it would be pertinent to examine the last presidential election.

MR called ‘tinpot’ dictator

Having publicly ruled out a political career, on July 15, 2009, Gen. Fonseka announced his candidacy for the January 26, 2010, poll at a media briefing, at JAIC Hotel, on the morning of November 29, 2009. Gen. Fonseka informed President Rajapaksa of his decision to leave the army at a one-on-one with the President on Nov 11. There had never been such a mega press conference, with Sirasa giving live coverage of the event from the venue – JAIC Hotel. Fonseka didn’t mince his words when he lambasted President Rajapaksa for failing to take advantage of the LTTE’s defeat to win over the Tamil community. Calling President Rajapaksa a ‘tinpot dictator’, Gen. Fonseka declared that he was ready to work closely with UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and UNP, MP Mangala Samaraweera, in spite of having serious differences with them during the Eelam War IV. Emphasising his readiness to work with anyone, to ensure a regime change, Gen. Fonseka declared that he would even accept the support of Prabhakaran’s parents to see the back of the Rajapaksas. The first four-star General revealed that the JVP extended an invitation to him on behalf of those political parties, opposed to President Rajapaksa. (Fonseka ready to secure even support of Prabhakaran’s parents to defeat MR-The Island, November 30, 2009).

Responding to a query, raised by the writer, at the media briefing, Gen. Fonseka said that far reaching constitutional amendments were required to prevent MP’s from switching allegiance for personal gain. The retired Gen acknowledged that crossovers caused political instability, therefore constitutional measures were needed to address the issue (Fonseka promises to prevent crossovers-The Island, November 30, 2009).

Consequence of US visit

Even before President Rajapaksa proclaimed the presidential election, during the third week of November, 2009, the US approached the then CDS Gen. Fonseka in a bid to obtain a statement from him that could be used against Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. The war veteran, a long term permanent resident of the US, had been visiting the country (late Oct-early Nov, 2009). The US felt that Gen. Fonseka’s statement could be used to implicate Defence Secretary in ordering Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva (General Officer Commanding 58 Division) to execute surrendering LTTE cadres on the Vanni east front. Fonseka had been contacted by the Department of Homeland Security to obtain a special statement on Nov 4, 2009. Sri Lanka thwarted the US attempt (US seeks info on Gota from Fonseka, The Island, Nov 2, 2009).

The Department of Homeland Security had contacted Fonseka on Oct 28, 2009, whereas he alerted Defence Secretary, Rajapaksa, on Oct 30, 2009. (Gota says Gen. Fonseka alerted him to US move, The Island, Nov 3, 2009). Fonseka returned to Colombo on Nov 4, 2009.

In spite of failing to obtain a statement from Gen Fonseka, as regards an alleged execution order given by Defence Secretary Rajapaksa, the US had been closely involved in the ‘events’, leading to the nomination of the former army commander as the Opposition common candidate.

Thanks to Wiki Leaks, Sri Lanka knows the US involvement in the Opposition project at the January, 2010, presidential election. The whistle-blowing website, in collaboration with international media agencies, commenced releasing confidential US diplomatic cables, in November, 2010 much to the dismay of the administration. Among them were classified documents that dealt with the January, 2010, presidential election and related matters, including accountability issues. Possibly, one of the most important cables, originating from the US mission in Colombo, was dated Nov 6, 2009.

The classified missive revealed that the US Embassy had been exploring ways and means of uniting Opposition forces for a specific project, meant to deprive President Rajapaksa of a second-term. It would be important to keep in mind that discussions between US diplomatic staff and leaders of Opposition political parties had taken place many days before Gen. Fonseka informed President Rajapaksa of his decision to quit the defence establishment. In other words, Sri Lanka’s top soldier had been talking politics, while being in uniform.

Unfortunately, the government did not make a genuine effort to examine diplomatic cables, relating to Sri Lanka. Due to the lethargic attitude of the External Affairs Ministry, the country missed a golden opportunity to study US perspective. In fact, the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS) should have closely examined the US cables, relevant to Sri Lanka, in accordance with overall strategy, to meet post-war challenges. Even five years after the conclusion of the war, LKIIRSS hadn’t made a cohesive attempt to conduct a thorough study on international dimensions of the conflict.

Let me examine the Nov 6, 2009, dated US diplomatic cable, titled ‘Muslim Congress leader on elections, Fonseka and Tamils’

US told of SLMC strategy

SLMC Chairman and Eastern Provincial Council Opposition leader, Basheer Segudawood, had told the Political Officer, at the US Embassy, in Colombo, that President Rajapaksa could be deprived of a second-term by forming a broad coalition, that included the UNP, for the specific purpose of abolishing the executive presidency. Segudawood had been confident of securing the support of minority political parties, and Tamil Diaspora, for the project. Segudawood expressed support for Gen. Fonseka’s candidature, during his covert meeting with the US Embassy representative.

Interestingly, Segudawood had discussed the signing of a political pact, involving the UNP, SLMC Mangala Samaraweera’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP-Mahajana), Mano Ganeshan’s Western People’s Front, as well as 19 other organizations. Segudawood declared that the UNP-led grouping had the backing of many Tamil political parties, including the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and other Tamil groups.

An understanding on the abolition of the executive presidency, and the restoration of the parliamentary system of governance, paved the way for the grand coalition. The UNP and MP Mangala Samaraweera’s outfit had publicly declared their support for the coalition, wheres the SLMC was silent. However, Segudawood pledged SLMC’s support to defeat President Rajapaksa at the January, 2010, presidential poll.

Segudawood had stressed that UNP leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, couldn’t defeat President Rajapaksa, though the minorities liked him. The then US Ambassador, Butenis, too, endorsed Segudawood’s ascertain. Butenis said: “SLMC Chairman underscored UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s popularity with minorities but echoed the sentiment, expressed privately by many political observers in Colombo of Wickremesinghe not being the ideal candidate to beat President Rajapaksa. Segudawood also discussed the pivotal importance of having a common strategy, instead of the Opposition making disputed statements at the expense of the coalition against the Rajapaksas.

MR and SF compared

Gen. Fonseka’s Sinhala nationalistic ideology was similar to that of the Rajapaksas, Segudawood said, emphasizing that there couldn’t be a better person to be fielded at the presidential poll. Interestingly, Segudawood had claimed that the major Opposition political parties and minorities would throw their weight behind Gen Fonseka, depending on an agreement to do away with the executive presidency, within 90 days.

According to Segudawood, Gen. Fonseka had sought clarifications from the Opposition as regards two matters. The war veteran had queried about his future, following the abolition of executive presidency and his security, as well as safety and security of his family. Gen. Fonseka had feared that the Rajapaksas would resort to violence to prevent him from contesting the poll, Segudawood said. Segudawood discussed a JVP effort to guarantee security of retired senior military officials by moving a bill in parliament.

Commenting on the Tamil Diaspora, Segudawood said those living away from Sri Lanka would play a critical role in the presidential election.

Butenis, is on record, as having said that she wanted to meet TNA leader, R. Sampanthan, before the Trincomalee district leader left for the UK to attend a two-day conference, on Nov 12-13, to discuss post-LTTE future of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. Butenis was reacting to Segudawood commenting on the forthcoming meeting in London. There had been an exchange of views regarding the Tamil-speaking electorate and how the Diaspora could be used to influence a national election here.

Segudawood also revealed the possibility of engineering two defections from the UPFA to the UNP to undermine President Rajapaksa’s campaign. The SLMC Chairman asserted that had the Opposition succeeded in convincing two members (undoubtedly, he was talking about members of parliament) to switch their allegiance, more UPFA members could revolt. (UPFA National List MP, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, switched his allegiance to the UNP on Dec 2, 2009).

Segudawood declared that people resented President Rajapaksa repeating the war propaganda. Due to growing unpopularity of President Rajapaksa, among the Tamils and Muslims, the SLFP needed at least 75 per cent of votes from the Sinhalese electorate, according to Butenis’s cable to Washington.

While expressing the belief that Gen. Fonseka could eat into President Rajapaksa’s vote base, Segudawood stressed that the common candidate’s success would largely depend on the Tamil and Muslim voters.

Butenis advised Washington that the Tamil community would find it extremely difficult to exercise their franchise for Gen Fonseka, who had conducted the war, though the community disliked the Rajapaksas, too. Butenis, however, admitted that Gen. Fonseka was the only one who could split the Sinhala vote and also deprive Rajapaksas of using the war victory to their advantage. Butenis quoted TNA leader, R. Sampanthan, as having said he (TNA) would support the Rajapaksas as they were lesser of the two evils.

Butenis asserted that the difficulties experienced on the political front, as well as other issues, including GSP plus, and Gen Fonseka coming forward, as his main rival, may prompt President Rajapaksa to drop plans for early polls. Butenis was wrong. President Rajapaksa declared presidential poll on Nov. 15, as planned.

Butenis made another significant miscalculation on the basis of Sampanthan’s statement. The five-party TNA supported Gen. Fonseka, at the January, 2010, presidential election, in spite of its earlier decision to back President Rajapaksa. Had the TNA given a free hand to the Tamil electorate, it could have had much better relations with President Rajapaksa.

At the Nov. 2005, presidential election, the LTTE-TNA combination engineered the defeat of UNP presidential candidate, Ranil Wickremesinghe, that led to the bloodiest phase of the conflict. The grouping deprived Wickremesinghe of the Tamil vote, especially in the Jaffna peninsula.

At the last presidential poll, the TNA told Tamils to vote for the senior most army officer who executed the war, at the expense of President Rajapaksa, who gave the political leadership.

In another classified cable, dated January 15, 2010, Butenis dealt with the contentious issue of war crimes accountability. Butenis implicated President Rajapaksa, his brothers, Gotabhaya and Basil, and Gen. Sarath Fonseka. Butenis pointed out “that responsibility for many of the alleged war crimes rests with the country’s senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa and his brothers and opposition candidate.

To be continued on Dec 10

 

12 Responses to “US examines Gen Fonseka’s candidacy Jan 2010 prez poll”

  1. OaO Asithri Says:

    Alas, now don’t we have history repeating itself again? This Common Candidate’s sudden and astounding rise to that role (truly a mind boggling mystery!), coupled to the same sort of bottom-feeding, parasitic entities coming out of the woodwork and making the same strange bedfellows yet again (including the like of GTF/BTF!) – that too not with any sound politico-economic manifesto to uplift the nation, but to only “Dump Rajapakse” – makes this whole sordid affair stink to high heaven in my view. I hope the average and intelligent Sri Lankan voter sees through all this and makes a wise decision when casting the X at the polling booth.

  2. Samanthi Says:

    Unfortunately, most Sinhalese people don’t have the opportunity to get the first class information in this valuable news article in English! Can someone translate it into Sinhala along with it’s second part to be published next week?

  3. Ananda-USA Says:

    Palwatte Gamaralage Maithripala Yapa Sirisena’s MOU’s are not MOU’s but MOM’s: Memoranda of Misunderstanding … designed to PANDER to potential ALLIES, CONFUSE the PUBLIC, and embed enough VAGUENESS to ALLOW REVERSAL!

    The “Common Opposition” is a VAST CON GAME being inflicted on the VOTERS of Sri Lanka to USURP the Government and engineer a REGIME CHANGE with foreign money!

    The GOSL should monitor SUDDEN INCREASES IN WEALTH of all Politicians seeking election and inflows of REGIME CHANGE funds.

    This will REQUIRE all candidates to DECLARE THEIR ASSETS to the Dept. of Elections, as an integral part of the candidate registration process, ENACT NEW LAWS with SEVERE PENALTIES that define PERMISSIBLE campaign contributions, and to DISCLOSE all sources and amounts of CAMPAIGN FUNDS after the election. Individual campaign contributions from a single individual, company or organization should be LIMITED and the DIVERSION of campaign contributions for any other purpose, such as the private accounts of the candidates, should be made ILLEGAL.

    This will allow Foreign Regime Change Funds to be DETECTED and STOPPED, REDUCE bribery and corruption by identifying politicians who GROW RICH IN OFFICE, and PREVENT wealthy individuals from buying elections!

  4. Ananda-USA Says:

    “Butenis, however, admitted that Gen. Fonseka was the only one who could split the Sinhala vote and also deprive Rajapaksas of using the war victory to their advantage.”

    They used Sarath Gonzeka to SPLIT the Sinhala Vote THEN, they are using Maithripala Sirisena to SPLIT the Sinhala Vote NOW!

    The Common Opposition is NOTHING BUT A BUNCH OF TRAITORS to the Nation working in COLLUSION with the same set of Sri Lanka’s ENEMIES to ENGINEER a REGIME CHANGE NOW as they did THEN!

    The PATRIOTIC People of Sri Lanka DEFEATED that TREACHERY THEN, as they will DEFEAT that TREACHERY NOW!

  5. Lorenzo Says:

    Ananda,

    At the same time who UNIFIED the Tamil and Muslim vote?

    Look at the EPC and NPC election results.

    Strange that some have realized there are Sinhalese in SL ONLY 1 month to the election!! Until now Sinhalese were forgotten. NO Sinhalese has been resettled in the north and the east. Still. All beautifying activities are in Colombo city which has a Tamil speaking majority of 77%.

    Jaffna schools get swimming pools, computer labs, EXCESS computers but Sinhala schools don’t even have desks. There are MANY Tamil only schools and Muslim only schools but NO Sinhala-Buddhist only schools.

  6. Ananda-USA Says:

    ONE MORE Regime Change Bribe by the US: “two US scholarships, green cards and a house to live in US” to BETRAY One’s own Motherland, REJECTED!

    PATRIOTS of Sri Lanka REJECT the US Bribe, saying

    Dulce’ Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori!

    Stay tuned folks, for MORE REVELATIONS of Western skulduggery!

    …………………….
    US denies Sri Lankan minister’s allegation of ambassador offering bribe

    ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

    Dec 06, Colombo: The United States has denied a claim made by a Sri Lankan government minister that he was offered a bribe by the former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Michele J. Sison to pursue a hidden US political agenda in Sri Lanka.

    Rehabilitation Minister Gunaratne Weerakoon had told a political gathering that US Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Michele J Sison had offered him inducements to pursue a covert US political agenda in Sri Lanka.

    “The allegations by Minister Gunaratne Weerakoon are baseless. They reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of our engagement with senior government officials and our policy towards Sri Lanka as well as the US political and economic system,” a statement by the US embassy said.

    The Minister, speaking at a political rally in Aranwela has claimed that Ambassador Sison offered his two children US scholarships, green cards and a house to live in US in return for his cooperation to pursue the US agenda.

    Weerakoon had said that it is how foreign agents buying the government politicians and charged that Sison and the US government were “pumping money” to defeat President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the upcoming presidential election.

    Ambassador Sison, who is appointed as the Deputy Representative of the United States in the Security Council of the United Nations and left Sri Lanka Friday, said that within the past week she met President Mahinda Rajapaksa, External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris and other senior government officials and that they have extended their wishes to strengthen the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

  7. Vimutti Says:

    Thank you, Shamindra Ferdinando, for providing that US history of using the same Executive Presidency abolishment campaign issue with Fonseka for the same purpose in the 2010 elections.

    There should therefore not be any doubt in any reasonable person’s mind the MR is doing the regime change bidding of the US, using the IDENTICAL strategy they used in 2010 with Fonseka.

    The problem this time around is MS is far less popular than Fonseka, and while he may get more Tamil votes than Fonseka got, he will get considerably less votes from Sinhalese Buddhists.

    I agree with Samanthi, that the November 2009 USA cables should be PUBLISHED IN SINHALA LANGUAGE and handed to the major Sri Lanka news agencies for wide circulation and dissemination. The US meddling has to stop, and the only sure way to stop it is WIDE exposure of the identical USA scheme in the 2010 election so the Buddhist voters unite behind Rajapaksa.

  8. Ananda-USA Says:

    My Presidential Election Prediction!

    Total Number of Registered voters = 15 million

    Percentage voting for the top two candidates = 66.7 %
    Percentage of non-voters and those voting for other 16 candidates = 33.3%

    Number of VOTES CAST for the top two candidates = 10 million

    Percentage of VOTES CAST for President Mahinda Rajapaksa = 62.5%
    Number of VOTES CAST for President Mahinda Rajapaksa = 6.25 milllion

    Percentage of VOTES CAST for the Common Candidate = 37.5%
    Number of VOTES CAST for the Common Candidate = 3.75 million

    Margin of VICTORY of President Mahinda Rajapakse as a Percentage of VOTES CAST for the top two= 25 %
    Margin of VICTORY of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Number of VOTES CAST for the top two = 2.5 million

    This is my CONSERVATIVE estimate, folks!

    My OPTIMISTIC ESTIMATE is that President Mahinda Rajapaksa could get over 2/3 of the VOTES CAST constituting a LANDSLIDE VICTORY!

    Mewa Ranga Dena Baila; Mewa Liya Ganilla!

  9. Vimutti Says:

    Ananada-USA,

    That is about right – 62% – for MR, which is an improvement of 4% from 2010.

  10. Independent Says:

    yes. ASSUMING
    * all the Tamil votes from the North and East for him , since he has done a lot of service to Tamils and Muslims.
    * all the JHU votes gone to him because all JHU supporters fed up with rattan Thero
    * all the JVP votes gone to him because Anura Kumaya is such a bad speaker
    * all the fonseka votes gone to him too

  11. Independent Says:

    After getting 66% votes he knows he has done everything correct.

    * First of all he will pay back to Tamils by giving full police powers and land powers. This will help him win 100% Indian support followed by a landslide win and the next UNHRC – problem solved peacefully, political solution implemented.

    * Demand of the Muslims will be certain area exclusively for them. Full Muslim votes at UNHRC

    * Sajin Vass is given Prime Minister position for his excellent performance at UNHRC

    * Mervyn Silva is made Kathanayaka for his excellent communication skills.

    * Duminda Silva will leade Mathata hitha program

  12. Vimutti Says:

    Independent – your analysis of the vote is wrong. MR just need the upcountry Tamils, half the Muslims and he has got 62% nationwide. This assumes he can at least maintain his 66% current share of the Buddhist vote (which I think may grow to 70% because of a weak, relatively unknown and unproven opposition candidate like Maithripala). Doesn’t need TNA North and East Tamil vote at all, and if they vote for Maithripala as expected I would move into a full-fledged Buddhist ‘integration’ (settlement) of the North and East, starting with Trincomalee where Buddhists already have a presence. We have to change the ethnic and religious mix of the North and South from Tamil-only to Tamil, Buddhist, Muslim or we are going to continue to have problems down the road.

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