An army general and war hero who was imprisoned under the former Sri Lankan regime will be promoted as Sri Lanka’s first Field Marshal, the highest military rank of the three forces of a nation.
President Maithripala Sirisena will decorate him in a ceremony on Sunday, in appreciation of General Fonseka’s contribution to defeating terrorism in Sri Lanka.
Fonseka will be the fourth person to be awarded the title of Field Marshal in South Asia after Ayub Khan of Pakistan, and India’s Sam Manekshaw and M. Cariappa.
According to the military, a Field Marshal never retires and the position is equivalent to that of a cabinet minister.
Fonseka, who has been described as the mastermind behind the military’s victory in Sri Lanka’s three-decade war against terrorism, was imprisoned by the former government under several charges including treason.
Soon after the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2009, he resigned from the army to enter politics. The man, who was hailed as the greatest war hero by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother, then defence secretary Gotabhya Rajapaksa, fell from grace when he decided to run against Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 2010 presidential elections.
Immediately after a bitterly fought presidential election which Fonseka lost, the Rajapaksa brothers jailed Fonseka, who they said was organising a coup to overthrow their government. Fonseka was later granted a presidential pardon by Rajapaksa although he remained stripped of his military ranks, pension and civil rights.
However, president Sirisena, whom Fonseka backed during the January presidential elections, conferred the General’s titles and rights soon after he assumed office. While Fonseka who has escaped an assassination attempt by a suicide bomber has been hailed as one of the greatest war heroes and a brilliant tactician, critics have criticised him as a failed politician. (Khaleej Times)