Tipped to be the new defence minister in the Sirisena cabinet, former Sri Lankan army chief Sarath Fonseka said the new regime will never allow the Pakistani spy agency ISI to use Lankan soil to mount attacks on southern India. In an exclusive and wide ranging interview to TOI, Fonseka said he was prepared to face any international inquiry into his role as the army chief during the operations against the LTTE. Rajapaksa was largely ignorant of ground operations conducted by the army against the LTTE and in his election manifesto in 2005 had even proposed peace talks with Prabhakaran.
Q: How do you see the election results?
Fonseka: Rajapaksa was politicizing the military, judiciary, police, government administration and everything. There was never good governance at all. His family members were largely involved in the administration. Corruption was very high. All cross sections of people in the country thought he should be sent away from the government. So people have thrown him out from power.
Q: What will be your role in the new government? What kind of responsibility do you expect?
Fonseka: I will play a major in the security aspect. I like to work with the President on the national security. Though I am not a parliamentarian right now I am expecting a political post. (Indicating defense ministry)
Q: Rajapaksa was looking as an unbeatable leader. When did the opposition started believing he couldn’t be defeated?
Fonseka: When I came out the prison in 2012, I made a public statement that we will chase him before 2015. The main opposition parties decided to join together and fight against Rajapaksa. Senior leaders like Chandrika Kumaratuge, Ranil Wikramasinge and I expressed desire for a stronger opposition and Maithripala Sirisena left Rajapaksa. We strongly believed the united opposition can defeat him. The support of Tamil National Alliance and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress was crucial. The minorities played a very important role.
Q: There have been reports that the international community helped the formation of united opposition against Rajapaksa. Is that so?
Fonseka: Nobody from the international community gave me directions or encouraged me. We did it on our own. If international community really wanted to end Rajapaksa’s government then they would have done it even before since this man antagonized many countries. He was only friendly with China and ignored the rest of the world. His relationships with other countries were not correct. His foreign policy was not correct. There were no human rights in the country during his regime.
Q: You are talking about human rights. But many international organizations including UN want internal probe on war crimes in Sri Lanka. Will the new government cooperate for the probe?
Fonseka: We have not signed any agreement with any country for any probe. If there are any allegations of human rights violations or war crimes then the rest of the international community will be interested to probe. We can’t accommodate everyone. We can’t permit everyone. But our military court would conduct inquiries. Whenever there was mass killing our military did inquire into it. The government can take action against the military.
Q: But there were thousands of innocent people killed during the war. When forums like the UN demanded a probe why were you hesitating to face it if there were no violations?
Fonseka: If there is a legitimate inquiry then as a member of the country we have to face it. As far as the military is concerned I have to face it. If there is a legitimate inquiry then I am ready to face it since I was doing the ground operations. Rajapaksa was trying to get political mileage by saying I will not allow war heroes to face inquiry and all that. He made many nonsensical statements like this. But he knew only little about the war and what happened in the war field.
Q: Rajapaksa has been projected that he has decimated LTTE and ended the decades long war…
Fonseka: He gave only orders as a President which is what the previous Presidents did. But operations were not successful. He doesn’t know tactical and strategical operations. Every President wanted to finish the war. But in the 2005 election manifesto, Rajapaksa said he will have peace talks with Prabhakaran. When the army was chasing the LTTE, he didn’t even know what was happening on the ground in 2007. He did not even allocate money for ammunitions. I was recruiting additional 85,000 army men. When I became commander I recruited 4,000 men in a month. Earlier only 3,000 people joined the army for a year. I planned the entire operation and I was communicating with all levels of army persons.
Q: Still a section of leaders in India have been claiming that Prabhakaran is alive. What is the fact?
Fonseka: Everybody saw the dead body. We found the bodies of Prabhakaran and his elder son Charles Antony. We never found bodies of his wife Mathivathani and daughter. I saw one of the interviews of Kumaran Padmanapan who had said both of them were front liners in the war. We believe they were in the war field. Prabhakaran’s wife helped the militants with logistics support and his daughter was a female cadre of LTTE. No body would have escaped from the war field.
Q: What happened to his younger son Balachandran? He was a child. Why did the army killed him?
Fonseka: We don’t know. We never captured him alive. I have seen the pictures of his body only through media. If the army had killed him, I would have been informed.
Q: According to you, the army killed only Prabhakaran and his elder son?
Fonseka: We only found their bodies after the war was over.
Q: what will happen to LTTE leaders Kumaran Padmanapan and Karuna who later joined with Rajapaksa?
Fonseka: They have to face the legal action. They were hardcore terrorists.
Q: What happened to the seized assets of LTTE?
Fonseka: Kumaran Padmanapan (KP) has the large part of the money and gold. That is why he has been spared by the Rajapaksa government. Tons and tons of gold have been taken by Rajapaksa family through KP. There will be an inquiry in this regard.
Q: There has been a demand in the Tamils dominant North province for demilitarization? What is your view?
Fonseka: We have to maintain the army there. Not only for internal security, but also in the view of security threat externally.
Q: Do you think there may be a resurgence of the militant group in Sri Lanka?
Fonseka: As long as we are in power, we would not allow it to happen.
Q: Then what is the need for keeping larger number of military in Northern Province?
Fonseka: The military has far been positioned in the country. If people in North say you can’t keep the military in their area then people in South will repeat the same.
Q: What will be the foreign policy of the new government?
Fonseka: We will follow a non-aligned policy. We will not be friendly with only one country. We will maintain good relations with all.
Q: In the recent past, Pakistan’s ISI carried out anti- India operations from Colombo through their diplomats…
Fonseka: If it is happening we can’t allow any such kind of terror activities in a country which is a sovereign nation. We will not permit any kind of terror activities. (Times Of India)