Fonseka's arrest is testimony to the fate of those who earn the wrath of the Rajapaksa brothers
By Satheesan Kumaaran
Feb 17, 2010

"Not every country has a Nelson Mandela" Bishop Desmond Tutu. Only Sri Lanka can have a Mahinda Rajapaksa

The arrest of the former Sri Lankan army commander who also contested in last month's presidential election, Maj. General Sarath Fonseka, shows that the Sri Lankan State apparatus will be activated to its fullest to ruthlessly crush anyone who dares oppose Mahinda and Co. While in his Colombo office Fonseka was arrested in the most ignominious manner like a common criminal undeserving of a former army commander. Only a few months ago, Fonseka was looked upon as a hero. On February 8, he was punched and dragged before being abducted into a van by the Sri Lankan military police.

It has been announced that they would charge Sarath Fonseka of conspiracy against Sri Lanka's president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, while Fonseka was leading the Army in the war against the LTTE. After the end of Eelam War in May last year with the LTTE, Fonseka was appointed to head the newly established position of Staff of Defence, a nominal position with no real power. Fonseka, slighted, decided to contest in the presidential election retiring from his new military post in November last year.

Fonseka made several accusations toward Mahinda Rajapaka. Fonseka said publicly that he would identify the perpetrators of the human rights abuses during the final phase of Eelam War- 1V and the persons who were well-known soldiers close to government leaders and who had a hand in the murder of the journalists in Colombo.

Despite Fonseka's serious allegations, Mahinda Rajapaksa diverted these by winning the presidential election for the second term with 58 percent of votes. Most of his votes were in the Sinhala dominated provinces. Fonseka got 40 percent of the votes, and the Tamils overwhelmingly voted for him. Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brothers, Basil and Gothabaya Rajapaksas, who hold high government portfolios, charged Fonseka that he was involved in corruption scandals in the purchase of arms for the Sri Lankan army. They also charged that Fonseka attempted a military coup to overthrow the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa which Fonseka has denied.

Sri Lanka hunted down Fonseka loyalists
In the aftermath of the presidential election, Mahinda Rajapaksa, in ten days after he got elected, left to Moscow where he received an honorary doctorate from the Peoples' Friendship University of the Russian Federation. He was awarded the doctorate for his outstanding contribution towards fostering world peace and his success against terrorism, according to the University. However, many western countries, including the U.S., agree that Mahinda conducted an unfair war where he used Tamils as shields. Further, he was accused of fundamental human rights abuses conducted during the final phase of Eelam War- 1V. Over 20,000 Tamils were massacred within a matter of days, while destroying billions of dollars worth of properties and creating 300,000 Tamils refugees.

Though he's now the president of Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa is accused of human rights abuses by human rights organizations. Further, the European Union urges that the real perpetrators of the human rights abuses be brought to justice. The Sri Lankan government still detains more than 15,000 citizen in undisclosed camps who are suspected of being members of the LTTE and /or supporters of the LTTE where their fates are not known. The elderly father of the LTTE leader, T. Veluppillai, was also kept in an undisclosed army camp where he died recently. This shows how the Rajapaksa regime deals with the minorities on the island. In this context, the doctorate award granted by the Russian university should be seen as rewarding a leader who led state sponsored terrorism with his hands soaked in pools of Tamil blood.

After Mahinda was re-elected, he set his eyes on arresting the loyalists of Fonseka. At least 37 former members of the military were connected to Fonseka, while a dozen senior Army officers who backed him have been forced into retirement. The Sri Lankan government has also closed down two newspapers and arrested a number of journalists. The brothers of President Mahinda Rajapaksa are also acting as the supreme leaders of the country in nullifying Fonseka's popularity.

The Sri Lankan government would risk any consequences to keep the Fonseka's loyalists from conducting peaceful protests. The opposition parties argue that Fonseka was influenced by leading Opposition parties like UNP which have led the country for decades after the country gained independence in 1948. The coup story is nothing but a canard to divert the growing support to Fonseka evidenced in the recently concluded presidential election. Unlike Pakistan or Thailand which have close links with Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka has no history of successful coups, but had a tradition of parliamentary democracy dating back to the introduction of universal suffrage in 1931 and brought to an end in 1972. The myth of the governmental coup is an invention to curb the Fonseka loyalists.

Will Fonseka face life or death sentence?
Fonseka was arrested by the military police, but his wife, Anoma, accused the government of abducting her husband, treating him like an animal, and preventing her from seeing him or giving him his much needed medication. She said: "He was dragged like an animal... Is this what he gets for ending a 30-year war? ... What I want to tell the government is, 'Just be reasonable. Treat him like a human being'."

Legal experts predict that Fonseka may be charged with life imprisonment by the Military courts. He was allegedly charged with attempting to topple the government by joining the opposition parties while serving in the post of Military General and Joint Forces Commanding Chief, attempting to divide the military, and for granting shelter to army deserters.

The experts predict that in view of these accusations against him, he may be hauled up before the military courts, and if the charges are proven, there are laws to grant him life imprisonment. The charges could carry the death penalty, or a long prison sentence, such as those involved in the last coup plot in 1962 who were jailed for 10 years. However, Mahinda and Co. cannot remain in power for long with such an undemocratic leadership. The hardliner Sinhala leaders managed to win the elections when they raised the issue of Eelam Tamil struggle. However, things will change as months go by.

On the return of Mahinda Rajapaksa from Russia after receiving the honorary doctorate and signed an arms deal with the Russian government for $300 US, he dissolved parliament and announced fresh parliamentary elections two months ahead of schedule. Although the independent Elections Commissioner is supposed to decide the timing of the poll, he is widely expected to choose Rajapaksa's preferred date of April 8.

The election announcement came a day after Fonseka was taken into custody as the Opposition called for nationwide protests over the arrest of Fonseka. The arrest of Fonseka is another tactical ploy by Mahinda and Co. to show it as a threat to the Opposition, so that any Fonseka followers would know that they also face the same consequences.

Hours before Fonseka was arrested, he told reporters: "I am definitely going to reveal what I know, what I was told and what I heard. Anyone who has committed war crimes should definitely be brought into courts." In response, Sri Lanka's government Information Department said in a statement that those comments proved the general's disloyalty to the armed forces.

This shows that Mahinda and Co. are deeply worried about two things. One is that they fear that they would be forced to face investigations over the human rights abuse allegations demands constantly made by UN agencies and sections of the international community. Second, the government wants to maintain a sense of fear so that they would not challenge the government in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The government really fears the winning of 40 percent votes by Fonseka in the presidential election. Mahinda and Co. also feel that Fonseka would sweep the parliamentary seats if he is allowed free.

Fonseka's arrest is another political strategy of Mahinda and Co. to keep their regime safe from the leaders in the Eelam War - 1V, where the killing of over 20,000 Tamils and many dozens of other abuse and war charges are still recorded in the world court. But, the testimony by the army commander will definitely make the charges against Mahinda and Co., along with the military officials who were loyal to Mahinda, stronger. Further, Mahinda wants to secure the parliamentary elections towards a victory so that Mahinda and Co. can remain in power for the next six years without hindrance. Human rights activists and the democratic countries around the world have the obligation, once again, to stand for justice in order to stop a bloodbath which would erupt within the Sinhalese.

(The author can be reached at e-mail: satheesan_kumaaran@yahoo.com)