Sunday, 13 February 2011

Is Sarath Fonseka a National Hero, or a selfish egoist full of hatred, and a traitor to those who fought along with him?

In 2005 the future of Sri Lanka was bleak. It had been going through a number of years of an almost endless suffering under terrorism . Its citizens had no safety place to hide. They were living in terror of uncertainty, not knowing where a bomb will explode killing thousands of innocent people.

No political leader was safe they would be the target of a suicide bomber any place any time. The terrorist money could buy any one from an Army Officer, Security Guard, or a police officer, (not to speak of the media, and foreign NGOs, diplomats, or politicians) allowing terrorists easy passage to security zones any where in Sri Lanka. Suicide bombers were even said to have been transported in official vehicles. The Commander of the Armed Forces was nearly assassinated by a suicide bomber - a pregnant woman .

Added to that an unexpected tsunami struck the East coast of Sri Lanka killing more than 30000 people and causing immense damage to property leaving thousands homeless. Innumerable numbers of NGOs landed in Sri Lanka under the guise of helping the tsunami affected people .

Some of these NGOs were paid Agents sent by foreign companies engaged by expatriate terrorist front organisations to help the terrorists construct air strips, factories to turnout landmines and bombs, construct submersible boats , and under sea passages. The evil of NGOs invading Sri Lanka after tsunami became evident only after the terrorists were eliminated.

In the meantime peace negotiations with the terrorists were begun with a Norwegian mediator which ended up with Ranil Wickramasinghe a most shortsighted political novice as Prime Minister acceding to a Norwegian proposal to sign a CFA with the terrorists which demarcated territories in the North and East of Sri Lanka as terrorist controlled areas.

The peace negotiations with the terrorists were unsuccessful as far as the Government was concerned, but benefitted the terrorists to strengthen their terrorist forces, and even to purchase more than ten ships enabling them to import unlimited quantities of arms and armaments, heavy and small artillery and even airplanes, heavy tractors for construction work.

The terrorists were therefore, very much stronger in military power, and was in a position to dictate terms to a government with an armed force which was no match to that of the terrorists. The Government Armed Forces were further weakened by a CFA that madder it difficult for them from taking retaliatory action against terrorist attacks and massacres not only because of their weak military power , but also because of the terrorist controlled areas demarcated under the CFA into which they could not enter.

The Commanders of the Armed Forces were unable to take independent action due to political intervention, and that of the Norwegian Mediation Mission which was favourable to the terrorists. A previous President was even said to have procured arms armaments to the terrorists. Everyone thought that terrorism had come to stay and that they have to learn to live in fear and uncertainty.

The consensus was that at least the South had to be protected leaving North and East to what ever fate.

It was into that depressively dark , cloudy atmosphere Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse was elected as the President of Sri Lanka in November, 2005.

Respective of the democratic system, the new President was determined to see an end to terrorism first by a face to face meeting for a dialogue with the terrorist leader Prabhakaran. Prabhakaran refused such a meeting, but instead agreed for a peace negotiation. However the negotiations which was begun with sum hope were disrupted by the terrorist Prabhakaran and he showed all his opposition to a negotiated settlement by having a claymore bomb exploded in a bus full of passengers in Kebetigollawa, and closing the sluice gates of a tank depriving water to the farmers.

Therefore, in this rude “ war and no negotiations” reply of the terrorist leader, there was no alternative to the President Mahinda Rajapakse other than to resort to a military solution to end terrorism.

He wanted trusted military officers to carry out the Military Operations against the terrorists to a finish. He began by appointing in November, 2005, his brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse a veteran of the Sri Lanka Army who had retired as a Lieutenant Colonel after 20 years of active service. He had won medals of gallantry from several former Presidents of Sri Lanka for his military role in the then military operations against the terrorists.

The President apparently had sat with his brother Gotabhaya Rajapakse the Defence Secretary to put in place a reliable Military hierarchy to end the nearly 22 year of terrorism. They selected in December 2005, General Sarath Fonseka as the Command of the Army with Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda as the Commander of the Navy , Air Chief Marshall G.D.Perera , and then the Air Marshall Roshan Goonetilleke as the Commanders of the Sri Lanka Air Force, and Mr. Chandra Fernando, followed by Mr.Victor Perera as Inspector General of Police .

The Defence Secretary was to coordinate the Armed and Security Forces, and provide them with the necessary military equipment etc.. The President leaving the Military Operations in the hands of the Armed Forces, occupied the political aspect anticipating possible foreign intervention to force the government to follow a political settlement to come into terms with the terrorists.

That was the preliminary to winning an all out military offensive against terrorism.

The President had many hurdles to jump before the final victory. In April 2006 his Army Commander Sarath Fonseka was the victim of a suicide bomb attack which nearly cost his life. He was disabled and it was only in July, 2006 the General Sarath Fonseka resumed his services as the Commander of the Army. On the 1st December,2006 the Presidents brother and Defence Secretary escaped a suicide bomb attempt against him.

The terrorists rammed a truck loaded with explosives on to a convoy carrying navy sailors killing 92 of them at Habaran in October,2006. The soldiers had the most bitter experiences. They risked their lives either being drowned or being shot by the terrorist while wading lakes and rivers in heavy rain carrying their back-sacks holding their guns over their heads lest they fall into water and become unusable. Number of them were drowned many more were shot by the terrorists. They may have gone without a satisfactory meal for days.

The terrorist had built earth bunds to protect themselves against the advancing Sri Lanka Armed Forces. The terrorists had deployed two battle tanks T55 to counter army onslaught and many of our poor soldiers climbing these bunds were sitting ducks for the terrorist guns. But the 58th and the 53rd Divisions of the Sri Lanka Armed Forces breached these bunds sacrificing many of their comrades in the attempt.

While in the Defence Secretarie’s Office coordination work were being carried out and the the Commanders of the Armed Forces met with Generals and Brigadiers to plan the strategies and monitored the movements of the armed forces in the field, the Major Generals, Brigadiers, Captains, Sergeants and Soldiers faced the terrorists face to face and adopted adhoc strategies to meet the immediate situations..

We saw Video clippings where we were witness to Major General Jagath Dias of the 57th Division, Brigadier Shavendra Silva of the 58th division, Major General Nandana Udawatta of the 59th Division Major General Kamal Gunarathne of the 53rd Division, Brigadier Prasanna Silva of the 55th Division, each gaining control of Kilinochchi, capturing Poonaryne, capturing Elephant Pass, Paranthan, Kilinochchi, Sundarapuram, Pudukudiyiruppu and finally the eastern coast of the country.

These Major Generals, Brigadiers, and the Captains, and Sergeants under them and the corporals and simple soldiers were all contributing in their different ways with the object of finally eliminating the terrorists. It was very moving once to sea Brigadier Shavendra Silva instructing a group of soldiers in the war front with sounds of gun shots all around and ask them to disperse, and going back he stopped, turned around and called the group of soldiers and told them “take care of yourselves”. How many of those soldiers may have come back ?

In the mean time the Air Force supported the Armed Forces on ground using its famous Kfir Aircrafts for precision bombing. The Sri Lanka Navy destroyed ten of the ships belonging to the terrorists that traversed the high seas keeping up the supply of arms and armaments to the terrorists. The Navy also acted as a barrier against any terrorists attempting to escape through the sea. It is worth mentioning those brave pilots and the navy fast boat teams that put terrorist Soosai’s deadly power boats completely out of action.

The Sri Lanka Police Force too did yeoman service despite criticism. The Police minimized the activities of the terrorists in the south. The Police also carried out surveys and checked for terrorist suspects in possible hide outs as tenant or lodgers, and recovered large hauls of hidden weapons and explosives .

Many road blocks manned by the army avoided deadly suicide bombers entering the south, but that too was opposed by a Chief Justice- now retired , who ordered them to be lifted, for the simple reason that he did not want to be caught in his romantic escapades.

This shows how many persons from the three Armed Forces and the Police force were brought into the effort initiated by the President Mahinda Rajapakse in November, 2005, to eliminate terrorism from Sri Lanka and with great sacrifices succeeded in that collective effort.

In the mean time there were hectic efforts by the foreign governments to stop the military operations to elimination terrorism in Sri Lanka. The UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Activists, and even the International Red Cross stepped into thwart the efforts of the Government by bringing in accusations of violation of human rights, shooting willfully into hospitals and schools.

Fortunately the President was able to keep them at bay until terrorism was successfully eliminated. In that effort the Secretary of Defence too kept the situation under control without allowing unnecessary interference by the foreign Governments, Diplomats and NGOs.

Hence the successful elimination of terrorism does not go to the sole credit of any one person, though the President played the key role, to let the Armed Forces carry on its activities unhindered by political intervention at home, or Diplomatic intervention from abroad.

However, the credit for the final end of terrorism does not go to the President, the Defence Secretary, Commander of the Armed Forces , the Commanders of the Naval Force, the Air force , Several Major Generals, Brigadiers, Captains Sergeants, Corporals, the Soldiers or the Inspector General of Police or the police officers and constables. Because it was a collective effort in which every one shared in the effort to end terrorism that began with the determination of a President elected in November, 2005 until it was brought to a successful halt at Nandikadal in May, 2009.

Therefore, if any one tries to take credit for oneself for the elimination of terrorism from Sri Lanka, it is the most ungrateful act towards innumerable number of those who gave their lives or limbs in that “sacred” attempt. On the other hand it should be a great pride for every one who actively participated in the audacious effort to eliminate terrorism. The names of every one of them will be written in gold in the history of our motherland as National Heroes.

Above all we have to remember that the greatest of credit for the elimination of terrorism from Sri Lanka goes to every one of those Sri Lankan citizens who used their ballot to elect Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse as the President of Sri Lanka in 2005.

In that situation if Sarath Fonseka tries to steal the limelight by saying that he alone was responsible for a successful military operation to eliminate terrorism, he will by that act forefit his right to be a National Hero, but instead becomes an egoist, selfish traitor if not to the cause , then to all those who selflessly participated in the combined heroic effort of elimination of terrorism from Sri Lanka.

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