Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, during a pre-recorded programme, telecast on Sirasa, on Saturday, said that had Prabhakaran survived, he would have been in an influential position today.
Referring to one-time LTTE commander Karuna receiving privileged status, after switching his allegiance to the then Rajapaksa administration, Gampaha District Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) candidate Fonseka said Prabhakaran could have secured an influential position.
The Sinha Regiment veteran said that he was really glad that the LTTE leader, and his top lieutenants, had been killed.
Fonseka said that the government had never asked him to capture Prabhakaran alive, though some foreign envoys explored the possibility of a ceasefire, to enable the LTTE leadership to surrender.
Field Marshal Fonseka dealt with a number of issues, including how the LTTE had brazenly exploited the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), signed in Feb 2002, to its advantage. Fonseka attributed the disastrous failure, on the part of the Intelligence Services, too, also, to, the CFA.
The retired infantryman alleged that at the time the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe entered into the CFA, in Feb 2002, the total LTTE strength was 12,000 cadres but when the Eelam War IV erupted, in August 2006, it had 35,000 members.
The Field Marshal maintained that if the army had failed to thwart an LTTE advance on the Jaffna peninsula, the enemy would have achieved Eelam. He acknowledged that the military had lacked confidence, or overall proper strategic plans, to regain control of the Northern and Eastern Provinces. “Our response to enemy challenge was limited to operations not geared to achieve larger objectives.”
Recalling a meeting the Army top brass had held with the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga in the late 1990s while Operation Jayasikurui (Victory Assured) was on, Fonseka said those who planned Jayasikurui had not taken his views on board; a General had even inquired from the President why the government couldn’t enter into fresh round of negotiations with the LTTE, he added.
He refrained from naming the colleague, who was only described as third senior most officer in the Army, at the time he retired.
Responding to a query, the Field Marshal said that the then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had given him a free hand to introduce changes, required to transform the Army.
Fonseka said the LTTE had, on some occasions, deployed only 300-400 men to hinder as many as 20,000 soldiers, on a mission. The fall of the strategic Elephant Pass base, in April 2000, was a case in point, the Field Marshal said, pointing out some 12,000 officers and men, deployed there couldn’t hold the base.
Field Marshal Fonseka said that Tamil political parties couldn’t have opposed the LTTE under any circumstances. How could they have opposed the LTTE when successive governments meekly succumbed to enemy pressure, Field Marshal Fonseka asked, alleging that the vast majority of those who propagated lies, on social media, condemned opponents as traitors, had remained silent.
The Field Marshal said that he never dreamt of being the Commander of the Army.
Asked whether he got the command as he was about to retire, the retired soldier said that he had received an assurance from President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga that he, too, would be given an opportunity. He said Kumaratunga, in 2005, had issued a special gazette that extended the period the Commander of the Army could serve, from 55 years to 58 years, while he was to succeed Lt. Gen. Shantha Kottegoda. However, the change of government, in 2005, led to the swift rescinding of Kumaratunga’s gazette notification; the then Maj. Gen. Fonseka received appointment as the Commander of the Army.
The Field Marshal said that successive governments, except on one or two occasions, elevated an officer to the rank of Lt. General and appointed him as the Commander when he was on the retirement age. However, in the Navy and the Air Force, those eligible received the top post at a much younger age.
“The LTTE triggered claymore mine explosions, in the Jaffna peninsula, on the day I received the appointment,” the war veteran said, adding that he had always been on the enemy’s hit list. According to Field Marshal Fonseka, the LTTE had trailed him, since his tenure as the Security Forces, Commander, Jaffna.
Recalling that the LTTE had exploited the CFA, the former Army Chief said his cook for five years had been an LTTE operative and the latter had helped a woman suicide cadre enter the Army headquarters in a special bus that brought in pregnant women to the Army Hospital.
At the conclusion of the interview, Field Marshal emphasised that he had retained the overall command of the five fighting Divisions, deployed on the Vanni front, contrary to the usual practice of the Vanni Commander being in charge.
“In consultations with the relevant authorities, some 2,000 deserters were rounded up and brought to Welikada prison. Their families protested against the move, but desertions stopped,” the Field Marshal said.