Former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka told the High Court Trial-at-Bar that it was ironical that he had to spend time in jail when Karuna Amman, a former military wing leader of the Tiger guerrillas, who was responsible for the killings of civilians, was enjoying privileges as a minister without facing any charges.
Mr. Fonseka was making his dock statement in the 'White Flag' case this week for the fourth consecutive day.
Mr. Fonseka is accused with having stated in an interview with The Sunday Leader newspaper that the Defence Secretary had ordered not to spare any of the LTTE cadres surrendering even if they were coming with white flags during the last stages of the military assault on the guerrillas in May, 2009.
He is charged for making a false statement to The Sunday Leader, arousing communal and anti-government feelings among the public and creating disputes among them.
The Trial-at-Bar consists of Judges Deepali Wijesundara (President), W.T. M. P.B. Warawewa and M.S Razeen.
May 23 (Monday's) proceedings:
Mr. Fonseka resuming his dock statement said:
Despite financial difficulties I never used illegal means to find money. I had no reason to fraudulently collect money in the last four years of my 36 years of honourable service.
I took part in an operation to rescue soldiers trapped in the Jaffna Fort in September 1989. In that operation we liberated the areas of Kayts, Mandativu and Karainagar. The current Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa was commanding a Gajaba Battalion and I was leading the Sinha Regiment Battalion in the same operation".
Major General Kobbekaduwa had entrusted (Colonel) Rajapaksa to capture the Mandativu island. Rajapaksa instead of using the access route from the Kayts island to Mandativu had got the entire battalion into the lagoon and was trying to enter an open area in Mandativu. We would have lost a large number of soldiers and it could have been a disaster. Though it was not my duty I led my battalion to the Mandativu island and captured it in 40 minutes killing 60 Tigers and recovering 75 weapons. Rajapaksa's battalion was still in the water trying get through the lagoon.
Thereafter the battalions led by Rajapaksa and myself carried out operations to take back the Jaffna Fort. A large number of soldiers were killed. Thereafter Rajapaksa, on personal grounds, resigned in 1991. I too would have resigned, but stayed on as the country was facing a threat.
In 1991 when the Elephant Pass Camp was under siege Maj. Gen. Kobbekaduwa wanted two officers to lead brigades, usually done by a Brigadier. Since the Brigadiers and even senior Colonels were reluctant to undertake the task I was selected though I was one of the junior-most colonels. We liberated the Camp eventually.
In 1993 we carried out an operation to liberate the Kilali lagoon area. The LTTE's Balraj was seriously injured. In an explosion I too was injured in the lungs and was admitted to the National Hospital.
In 1994 I was promoted as Brigadier. The LTTE carried out an attack on the Mandativu island and we protected the island though we lost 100 soldiers.
|Former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka gives the thumbs-up sign as he comes out of Court on Wednesday after giving his dock statement.
Pic. by J. Weerasekera
In 1995 an operation was planned by General (Rohan) Daluwatte and senior officers to recapture Jaffna. Along with Brigadier (Anton) Wijendra we strategically launched the operation and in 30 days we took control of the Jaffna peninsula.
In 1996, Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman who is currently a Minister was maintaining camps in Thoppigala in the East and was putting pressure on the Army.
In 1997 the LTTE carried out an attack on the southern part of the Elephant Pass Camp and removed the heavy weapons. I was told to restore the camp which duty I carried out.
In 1998, during the Jayasikuru operation our headquarters in Mankulam came under LTTE attack. The operation was planned by Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan who is currently a Minister. I was injured for the second time. A piece of shrapnel which entered my body still remains there. While I was engaged in this operation part of the Elephant Pass area was lost to the LTTE.
No action was taken against Karuna Amman, but on false charges framed against me for political reasons, my pension has been withdrawn. It is an irony that I am spending time in jail when Karuna who killed innocent civilians and caused damage amounting to millions of rupees, is free.
In 2000 the Elephant Pass Camp with 12,000 soldiers was under siege by the LTTE. For the first time the LTTE was using 130 mm guns to fire at the Palaly Army Headquarters. Even Indian assistance was sought to evacuate soldiers. I went to Jaffna and was able to put up a forward defence line at Muhamalai when the troops were withdrawing from Elephant Pass. Until the situation was stable I remained there for five months away from my family.
When I was the Security Forces Commander the former President called four Major Generals and asked them how long it would take to end the military operations. One of the officers senior to me said it would take eight years, the other officer made a long speech without giving a time frame, the other officer said the war cannot be won and I said it could be ended in three years. I was proved to be correct.
In 2002 when I returned from training in Great Britain there were plans to remove the High Security Zone in accordance with the Ceasefire Agreement and my views were sought. I expressed my opposition to the proposal.
During my service in the Army I did not work in support of or against any political party. In 2002 President Mahinda Rajapaksa who was the Opposition leader at that time visited Jaffna. I was informed of this by former Defence Minister Tilak Marapana. As it was my duty to ensure his security and since there was no other vehicle I drove my official vehicle taking Mr. Rajapaksa to all the locations he wanted to go to in Jaffna. It is doubtful whether the present SF commander will come out of the camp if the present Opposition leader visited Jaffna. If he comes out he would have to go home the following day. In 1999 during the Presidential election the former Defence Secretary Chandrananda de Silva sent me a letter asking me to ensure the security of Presidential candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe when he was visiting Trincomalee where I was the SF commander. I ensured his security. But after the election the President did not take political revenge against me and even the then Defence Secretary took it in the correct context. I cannot imagine that taking place now.
During the 2002 - 2003 period when I was in Jaffna I realized that the enemy should be fought using different strategies. I introduced a new concept of introducing teams of four and eight soldiers. In 2005 when I took over as the Commander and led the operations the main reason for the successes was the strength of the special infantry soldiers trained by me.
When I was the second in command of the Army I was appointed as the Chairman of the Tender Board of which the Navy and Air Force Commanders were members. The Treasury accepts the Army Commander as the Chairman of the Tender Board. The large purchases of military hardware was done by Lanka Logistics of which even the Attorney General is a director.
In 2005 before the Presidential election Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa met me and asked for addresses of Army personnel. I refused the request as it was against the discipline of the Army.
May 24 (Tuesday's proceedings)
The day I was appointed the Army Commander the LTTE set off claymore bombs in Jaffna. I cancelled the traditional party and visited Jaffna.
Today I can see how the people have benefited with the war ending. I know that the people are sorry that my family and children do not enjoy the same benefit. My daughter who was returning from the United States was harassed at the Katunayake Airport and questioned by the CID. Her human rights were violated. The officials there had said my family members have been blacklisted and therefore she had been detained. The family which saved the country from terrorism has been blacklisted. This goes on to prove how our rulers violate human rights. This type of action proves that what Ban Ki-moon has said is correct.
Two years have gone since the end of the conflict. Families have been able to enjoy the Sinhala - Tamil New year. I was dreaming of celebrating the New Year with my family after the war. Because I was in the battle front they celebrated the New Year without the head of the family. The last two years I have been forced to mark the New Year in jail.
I made many changes in the Army introducing reforms and I did not count only on seniority of officers. I left out weak officers from the command structure. I selected talented officers and promoted them. If not we would not have won the war. If not for these changes Shavendra Silva would not have been a Major General until 2016.
There were days where I got into a helicopter flew to Batticaloa then to Vavuniya and returned to Colombo.
I took responsibility for victories as well as for debacles. For example at Muhamalai we lost 150 soldiers. The President and Defence Secretary were saddened. Shavendra Silva who was one of the officers who led the operation was disheartened. I not only took the responsibility, but took steps to encourage them and carry on with the battle. The people who claim responsibility for the victory now, did not claim responsibility when we suffered set backs.
Even Major Gen Jagath Dias who was a brave officer was saddened when he spoke to me about 25 soldiers who had gone missing.
Though I was on a foreign trip to China from May 11 to 16, 2009 I was monitoring the operations. I returned on May 17, around 9 p.m. and from two 2.30 a.m. the following day I led the operation until the victory on the 19th.
Before I took over command in 2002 there was an attempt to assassinate me. My cook had been co-opted as an LTTE cadre. He had been injured in an accident and while receiving treatment at the Army Hospital LTTE members posed off as his relatives and visited him.
On April 25, 2006 I suffered a suicide bomb attack. About 10 others were killed in the blast. I got off the vehicle on my own and waited for the ambulance. Later it was revealed that another suicide bomber was placed near the Slave Island railway station. But later Pottu Amman had thought I had been killed and had withdrawn the suicide bomber.
The doctors at the Accident Service made a great effort to save me and it took me seven days to recover. Soon as I recovered Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa visited me and embraced me and said "you sent me a body armour, but you did not wear a body armour".
He told my daughters that he will get two scholarships of US $ 750 each per month for them to continue their studies in the US. Before they left for the US he got them the scholarships.
I have injuries in my intestines and the lower part of my lungs is damaged. There is shrapnel in my body which cannot be removed.
I did not leave the Army. Though I had serious injuries my love towards the Army was not reduced. I love my country.
I went to Singapore for treatment in June 2006 and returned on July 25, 2006. Soon after, I was invited to lead the Mavil Aru operation.
In 2009, despite my objections the President announced a ceasefire on January 31 and February 1. The terrorists made use of this and launched suicide attacks. A large number of soldiers was killed. The Army had to retreat four kilometres. If we had retreated three more kilometres it would have been the same situation as in 1999 when we lost Mankulam.
Two months before the military operations were concluded Army Director (Operations), Major General Udaya Perera was sent as the Deputy High Commissioner of Malaysia. Also Maj Gen Jagath Dias was posted to Germany (as a diplomat).
On May 16, 2009 the Tigers were cornered in an area of two square kilometres. We had three rings of soldiers preventing the LTTE from escaping. We were trying to complete the operations on the 18th, but fighting intensified the previous day. We killed 350 Tigers.
On the 18th we killed 75 more Tigers. On the 19th fighting was on till 10.00 a.m. The bodies of Prabhakaran, Sea Tiger leader Soosai, Pottu Amman's wife and 30 to 35 other bodies were found. That was the end of the 30-year old Eelam War.
On the 18th I was called to President's House along with other service commanders. Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa embraced me and congratulated me.
During the war we killed 23,000 Tigers and captured 12,000 more. Seven out of the 10 Tiger ships destroyed by the Navy was due to intelligence provided by the Army. Over 1,500 Tigers were killed in air strikes on intelligence reports provided by the Army. That included the strike on Thamilselvan. Of those war heroes killed 98 per cent were from the Army and 94 per cent of the Tigers were killed by the Army.
On July 12, 2009 I was called to President's House by the President and told to take over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). In no country is the Army Commander not given an opportunity to congratulate the soldiers after completion of an operation of this nature.
I had no powers as CDS, but had only to work as a deputy to the Defence Secretary. I wanted to mark the 60th anniversary of the Army as the senior most officer and the President had agreed to that but my picture had been taken away from the exhibition centre.
When I was supervising the rehearsals of the Army parade on October 15 the President had told the Indian High Commissioner that I was trying to topple the Government. Through various sources it was learnt that Indian assistance has been sought (by the Government) in view of this. I was disgusted at hearing this.
During a discussion with the Defence Secretary about the responsibility of the CDS I pointed out that in other countries the operational duties are performed by the CDS. The Defence Secetary said that cannot be done, though it was done in other countries.
May 25 (Wednesday's proceedings)
Because of this comment (referring to the Defence Secretary's statement) I realized that I cannot work in trust with the President and his brother.
I regretted that I was not trusted though I led the Army for three years and seven months.
Media persons informed me that the Rupavahini and the newspapers had been told by Lakshman Hulugalle not to publish any articles about me.
At this time my name too was being mentioned as a possible Opposition candidate at the Presidential election. I did not have a liking to contest nor had I given the consent.
I had drawn plans regarding resettlement of the displaced, but I felt the President or the Defence Secretary had no interest in them. Up to date no proper welfare scheme has been drawn up for the soldiers who fought in the war.
When I was the Army Commander, the Defence Minister and the Defence Secretary were involved in corrupt deals, over which I did not have control. One of them was involving four bullet-proof BMW cars purchased at Rs. 88 million each when they could have been purchased at Rs. 45 million each. For the SAARC Summit bullet-proof Benz cars were imported at Rs. 55 million each. In addition the purchase of military hardware for military operations was done by the Defence Secretary.
The commanders only informed the requirements to the Defence Secretary. As an example, when Eelam War IV started each of the 130 mm shells used for artillery guns was purchased at US $ 250 and towards the end of the operations they were purchased at US $ 650 for which the Defence Secretary had signed agreements. All deals were corrupt. The Commanders had no voice. The Government has not started paying for the artillery shells purchased.
During this time various emissaries were sent to me. Among them were Bank of Ceylon Chairman Gamini Wickremasinghe, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Champika Ranawaka, Ven. Ellawala Medhananda Thera and Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka Thera requesting me not to enter politics. Mr. Lalith Weeratunga also met me and inquired about the dispute with the President and the Defence Secretary.
On November 12, 2009 I resigned from the Army and since then there were requests from the Opposition, civil organizations, businessmen and intellectuals for me to be the Opposition common candidate. Thereafter I decided to contest the 2010 Presidential election.
During this period The Sunday Leader journalist Rashmik Wijewardena had requested to interview me. Ms. Fredrica Jansz and owner of The Sunday Leader Lal Wickrematunga turned up with a cameraman. Rashmik Wijewardena asked questions from me for about half an hour. Ms Jansz did not ask any questions. Thereafter after Rashmik Wijewardena and the cameraman left. Ms. Jansz and Mr. Wickrematunga spoke to me for about five minutes. It was about the UNP giving one million rupees each week to The Sunday Leader and how it would be used for my election campaign.
Thereafter Ms. Jansz asked whether a news item which had already appeared on websites and newspapers that Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordered Major General Shavendra Silva to shoot all terrorist leaders who came with white flags to surrender, was correct.
I told her two journalists who were in the battle front in the final stages too had told me that, but I did not know anything beyond that. I explained that to my knowledge no one came with white flags and the Army did not kill any persons who came in that manner.
Ms Jansz's logic that since I gave this answer and since it came from a former Army Commander and since there was sufficient time for me to check the veracity of the statement my answer would be the most acceptable explanation, is an immature statement made to the Court by her (Ms. Jansz).
No army commander will inquire into a rumour that the Defence Secretary made such a statement.
I never used the words "Gota ordered them to be shot" which has been used in quotes in The Sunday Leader. I never mentioned Mr. Basil Rajapaksa's name to Ms. Jansz. What has been published is the imagination of Ms. Jansz. I never mentioned about three LTTE leaders coming to surrender. She has picked those points from web sites and the Daily Mirror which had been published earlier. The similarity of the words used in The Sunday Leader article proves that.
Ms. Jansz did not take down notes when she spoke to me. The note book produced to Courts has been written later to evade the allegation that she fabricated the news.
It would have been clear to the Courts that from the manner Ms. Jansz gave evidence she is a person who is revengeful, a person who lies and changes words according to what suits her.
A person of this nature who has been charged for Contempt of Court and who does not follow the instructions of the Court is not even suitable to serve tea to the staff in an editorial department.
On December 13 when I read The Sunday Leader article I noticed that Ms. Jansz had made out a news item on the discussion we had in addition to the interview with Rashmik Wijewardena published elsewhere. I noticed that things which I had not mentioned too had been published.
I called Mr. Wickrematunga and asked for a correction. He met me the next day. I told him that what has been published was Ms. Jansz's version and not what I had said. He accepted that and agreed to publish a correction in the next week's paper.
Two hours later Ms. Jansz and Mr. Wickrematunga came to my office. Ms. Jansz was almost in tears saying if I denied the story completely she would be arrested and not to allow that to happen. Mr. Wickrematunga too pleaded saying it would be a loss to miss the services of Ms. Jansz at this point. He said there were already two cases filed by Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa against her and she could be arrested.
I summoned a news conference to clarify the matter. I refrained from denying the entire news item, but for the December 20 Sunday Leader I sent a clarification. At the news conference I explained that I heard it from a third party and my answer had been published incorrectly.
I later explained the issue at public rallies at Anuradhapura and Ampara. But only two minutes of it was carried in the Derana TV and it was not in the correct context.
Ms. Jansz said the news item had been read out to me before publication. That is not correct. The Court may have already noticed that she is a person who could make a false statement for her benefit and is a very revengeful person.
May 26 (Thursday's proceedings)
After the Presidential election was over on January 27, 2010 the witch-hunt of my supporters started. About 60 of them were arrested. All my documents, videos and computers were illegally taken into custody. We were alerted that the Opposition leader and I would be arrested. Therefore I had limited time to see that the news item was corrected.
Ten days after the Presidential election I was arrested by an illegal gang of the Army. Thereafter false allegations were made against me in military courts and civil courts without granting of bail.
Those in the tribunal in the first Court Martial against me had been reprimanded by me earlier and the Court Martial was presided over by the brother-in-law of the Army Commander who took unfair decisions against me.
As I fought against terrorism I will provide the leadership to fight against corrupt and unpatriotic politicians. If justice is to be done to the public there should be no political influence of the judicial system. I will accept any judgment given by an independent judiciary.
Charges in this case have been brought to politically victimize me and to mislead the people based on a false sense of patriotism.
I have not been able to read the Ban Ki-moon report, but Parliamentarians who visit me tell me that our war heroes and the country have been shamed due to the immature politics practiced by some who do not think of the consequences.
I am ready to face any war crimes investigation, but I am sorry that I have been made a political prisoner. This gave them the opportunity to show me as an army commander who was a murderer, a rapist and a man charged for fraud.
My political principles cannot be destroyed by jailing me as I have not committed any crime. Nature and their own conscience will destroy those responsible for harassing me. My family is scattered and my children are not allowed freely to come to the country to visit their parents.
Today I am a political prisoner due to a conspiracy carried out by The Sunday Leader and a plot by those close to the LTTE and powerful persons in the Government.
It is clear that the allegations against me have been framed by the Government. Recently it was disclosed in Courts by a former intelligence officer of the Army that he had been promised money, a foreign job and benefits to his family by TID OIC Prasanna Alwis if he makes a statement in Courts to the effect that a senior Army officer had ordered him to assassinate The Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunga. I suspect that it was reference to me.
The next hearing is on May 31.