Following orders issued by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa for his “unconditional release” former General Sarat Fonseka walked out of prison after a 2-year incarceration on charges of corruption while in harness.
Sources in Colombo maintain that Fonseka is being set at liberty by President Rajapaksa with all honours restored under reported pressure from the White House and after the wife of Fonseka met with the man who trounced her husband at the hustings some two years ago in the Presidential race.
Lankan foreign minister GL Pieris had completed a 4-day state visit to Washington preceding the release.
This is not the first time that a Lankan head of state has bowed to external pressure for seeming to set right internal political hassles.
In 1971, upon the orders of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the Indian army pulled Sri Lanka’s chestnuts out of the fire created by a Marxist Leninist extremist movement started by Rohana Wijiweera who later founded the Janatha Vimukti Peramuna [JVP]. That left some 15000 Sinhalese youths dead but saved the day for then Lankan PM Sirimao Bandaranaike and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
The JVP never forgave India for it, or neither did the Sinhalese.
Rather very infamously, Lanka stabbed India in the back within a few months during the Bangladesh Liberation War when Pakistani planes were allowed to refuel in Colombo.
In 1987, India’s PM Rajiv Gandhi rather naively signed an accord in Colombo to give the island's minority Tamils an honourable existence within the unified Sri Lankan regime in an undivided Tamil homeland through it. In return, Rajiv offered to underwrite Lanka's defence - once and for all. Almost immediately, Rajiv was butted with a rifle by a Lankan Sinhalese naval rating and some 4 years later on this day, Rajiv was assassinated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sriperumbudur apparently because Indian soldiers allegedly misbehaved with Tamil females.
In short, neither the Sinhalese wanted India's protection, nor did the LTTE agree to remain within unified Sri Lanka under orders from New Delhi. The talk of India's refusal to handover Eelam on a platter to the LTTE is a cruel joke, because the same LTTE had drawn sustenance with another India baiter President Ranasinghe Premadasa to spite India [wherein both the Eelam Tamils and the Sinhalese called their civil war a minor skirmish amongst brothers within a family]. This period became the opportunity for the LTTE to hunt down every other group and chase all Muslims from the Tamil areas away - well almost all of them - and to gather so much arms, ammunition and gumption that they soon added the same Premadasa to a long list of Lankan politicians [both Tamil and Sinhalese] assassinated by them.
And there are more holes in the Rajiv killing story than Swiss cheese to which we shall soon come.
Many in India have forgotten Rajiv Gandhi's supreme sacrifice and would prefer not to give Tamil killer Fonseka the time of the day mainly because of what he did to the minority Tamils in Lanka in the name of putting down separatist terrorism and therefore ignore his release this day under international pressure.
Lanka draws weekly subsistence allowances in the form of doles from various NATO nations and that includes the US of A.
The other donor that is helping Lanka keep its head above water is India.
And it is in India's domestic interest that something needs to be done about the suffering Lankan Tamil minority that continues to be caged inhumanly behind barbed wires as the clamour in Tamil Nadu has begun straying too close to separatist tendencies [courtesy discredited politicians led by Karunanidhi for one] in the name of the never-ending travails of the Tamils of Eelam.
The four-star general was sent to prison on graft charges two years ago.
The not-too-polite whisper doing its rounds in Colombo is that Fonseka had fallen out with President Rajapaksa over who deserved most credit for defeating the Tamil separatists on May 18 2009.
The anniversary of that event was celebrated last weekend by Sri Lanka's armed forces and Rajapaksa took his army's salute.
For the third year running, Sri Lanka has patted itself on the back for the so-called decimation of Tamil Tiger Terrorism and dispatch of its boss Veluppillai Prabhakaran into nothingness.
Too many unanswered questions persist making a chimera of the end of Tamils’ quest for a decent life in their homeland that once was the peaceful Emerald Isle.
Globally disseminated data:
May 18 2009: V Prabhakaran, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE], while “trying to escape”, was shot dead by the Lankan Army under the leadership of the then General Sarat Fonseka.
Various videos were flogged on television world-wide. No other proof has even been made available.
Holes in this story:
1. ‘Tiger’ Prabhakaran was arrested and fingerprinted in Chennai in 1981 and 1986 after the shoot-out between Prabhakaran and Uma Maheshwaran in Pondy Bazar and during Operation Tiger conducted by the then DGP K Mohandas respectively. Why were fingerprints from the body paraded before television May 18 2009 not taken and compared with those available with Tamil Nadu police for the benefit of the same television cameras?
2. The parents of Prabhakaran were within the reach of the Lankan regime in 2009. Why DNA tests were not conducted?
Now, a three-year-delay would be inexplicable. Death certificates from Colombo are a penny a dozen.
A little note:
Any comparison with Osama bin Laden would be totally inappropriate.
Obama is on record saying the USA has the DNA to prove the end of the world’s most wanted terrorist. The Sri Lankan authorities have gone into “Do Not Ask” mode on the DNA question.
3. India’s Home Ministry withdrew the Red Corner notice against Prabhakaran from a local court on the outskirts of Chennai only in December 2010 – a full 17 months after Prabhakaran’s claimed demise and after Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had repeated seven times publicly that the Government of India is ‘convinced’ of the elimination of the LTTE supremo.
The queries yelling for an answer:
I. Why would the interior ministry of a sovereign nation staffed by a flock of IPS officers apparently of sterling quality commit such a gaffe?
II. Is the 17-month delay owed to procedural reasons taking precedence over substantive reasons?
III. If yes, what are they?
4. In 2009, former General Sarat Fonseka touted as the ‘He-Man’ who ruthlessly but heroically ended the Tamil separatist terrorist menace in the island. He was in a Lankan prison for 2 years apparently on charges of corruption and wee bit worse. He had had some 35 years of ‘meritorious service’ for which he had been showered with every award Lanka could muster.
a. Did the Lankan establishment require 30 odd years to detect corruption of monumental proportion that shook the Lankan Presidency by a man who managed to be the main challenger to the incumbent President representing the main opposition in that nation?
b. Was the former general detained merely for his political challenge to Mahinda Rajapaksa as is being loudly whispered by outfits like Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the United National Party?
c. Or was Fonseka being punished for his January 18, 2009 gaffe when he said Prabhakaran may have escaped?
Excerpts from agency reports quoted in The Indian Express January 19 2009
Prabhakaran Can’t Have Fled to India: Lankan Army Chief
As Sri Lankan troops advance towards the last Tiger bastion of Mullaittivu, Army Chief Sarath Fonseka has said he was not sure whether Velupillai Prabhakaran was in the island nation but felt that it was not possible for the LTTE supremo to find a shelter in India.
“Well, I am not sure whether he is in Sri Lanka. There are ways to escape. But it is not possible for Prabhakaran to have gone to India. He will not be permitted there,” Fonseka told a group of Journalists in Colombo on Saturday evening.
“Prabhakaran [may have] escaped in [a speedboat with the help of a flotilla of] suicide crafts around him. But we are keeping a close watch,” he said.
5. Lanka can attempt to explain away the whole thing as a series of mistakes.
There is this rub about one ‘Colonel’ Karuna alias Vinayagamurthy Muralidharan, currently a vice president of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, but who once had been the virtual number two in the LTTE.
Some salient points in the recent career of the ‘Colonel’:
Karuna quit the LTTE saying that boys from his region – Batticoloa –were being used as cannon fodder by Prabhakaran in 2004.
Karuna briefly led the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal [TMVP] and dropped out of sightfrom Lanka sometime after 2004.
In November 2007, he was produced before a court in the UK for allegedly entering London using forged papers. The ‘Colonel’ claimed he was carrying a diplomatic passport issued by Lanka and handed over to him personally by Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
In March 2008 the ‘Colonel’ was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment in the UK.
In June 2008 the ‘Colonel’ managed to reach Lanka by air after having been held in a high security prison in the UK. In Sri Lanka he was installed as a Member of Parliament by SLFP.
Among other things, Karuna also announced the start of the pogrom against Prabhakaran in August 2008.
In March 2009 Karuna sworn in as Minister for National Integration in Lanka.
April 2009 Karuna made Vice President of SLFP.
Karuna was quoted as saying that Prabhakaran, the hated man who had made cannon fodder of boys from the east [meaning the Batticoloa district] was ‘killed’ May 18 2009.
The searching queries:
[a] Did Lanka spring Karuna from London using its diplomatic connections?
Colombo has not denied issuing a diplomatic passport to Karuna!
Or for that matter, none from Temple Trees [residence of Lanka’s President] has ever charged the British regime with abusing the human rights of one of its citizens who now is a cabinet minister!
[b] Was Karuna’s incarceration in the UK engineered to help Lanka end the Tamil Separatist Terrorism and then was he was allowed to be ‘rehabilitated’ in Lanka for that endeavour?
After all, Karuna had fled Lanka sometime between 2004 and 2007 because he was frightened for his life being snuffed out by the Tigers and opposition to him from his own group as there had been one too many shoot-outs within the TMVP.
So, is Karuna’s being made a minister and a VP of SLFP part of the quid pro quo?
One should not forget that the Lankan regime itself had accused Karuna of having employed child soldiers and having indulged in genocide!
[c] Did Sarat Fonseka see through the game, allow Prabhakaran to escape to help UNP do a deal with the Tamils later to win the elections and even casually mentioned the matter in press reports tobriefly let the cat out of the bag to test the water? Was Sarat Fonseka being punished on that account?
[d] If this whole thing isn’t a sinister q-p-q, what else can one make of this series of one too many seemingly connected incidents?
6. In 2009, despite all sorts of doomsday predictions, the United Progressive Alliance won a comfortable majority in the parliament to form government in Delhi.
For what seemed like an inexplicable reason, the Tamil Nadu allies of the Congress – the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam [DMK] – supposedly in support of Lankan Tamils, in their different ways, could and did push Congress President Sonia Gandhi into some kind of corner over the allocation of plum ministries to DMK nominees, despite the Congress not being too dependent on the DMK for survival.
Everyone alludes to Niira Radia and the other scandals.
But here is something else as well:
M Karunanidhi had repeatedly warned his MPs would resign in support of the aspirations of Tamils in Lanka throughout the second half of 2008 threatening to trigger the fall of the UPA regime.
VCK boss Thol Thirumavalavan displayed himself as the Tamil Nadu based incarnation of Prabhakaran and his party workers bludgeoned Khadi-clad party workers within Satyamurthy Bhavan the Tamil Nadu HQ of the Congress! This was despite the LTTE having openly admitted to murdering former PM and former Congress President Rajiv Gandhi!
The DMK government was surviving solely on the basis of the support of the 35Congress MLAs in the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly and Karunanidhi had resolutely refused to allot any worthwhile post to any Congressman even after the DMK wangled the best for itself in the UPA regime. The situation stayed that way for 2 more years till the rout of the alliance in the 2011 assembly elections in Tamil Nadu. So, why could the Congress not demand the same pound of flesh in the state assembly? Or for that matter, why did the Congress not demand the ouster of VCK from the UPA despite Thirumavalavan openly displaying himself as the next Prabhakaran?
The Congress and the DMK are still political allies despite the rout during the 2011 Tamil Nadu Assembly elections at the hands of the AIADMK-led rainbow alliance. The two UPA allies – the DMK and the Congress blamed each other for brinkmanship tactics. In spite of Kanimozhi, the daughter of DMK supremo and A Raja an erstwhile member of the cabinet spending several months in prison besides the ignominious exit of Dayanidhi Maran from the UPA cabinet, in spite of Karunanidhi alleging a conspiracy against Tamils by the ogres in New Delhi, DMK continues to be represented within the Union Cabinet of the UPA!
The Central Bureau of Investigation [CBI] has searched the offices of Kalaignar TV, owned by the wife of the DMK boss and finally Karunanidhi had alleged that the Congress is using the CBI to settle political scores.
All these centre around one point – the issue of Sri Lanka because:
I. The 2009 parliamentary polls were won mainly on the plank that Sonia Gandhi had gotten even for the killing of her husband Rajiv Gandhi by heavily punishing the LTTE.
II. Rajapaksa managed to win his second term and three other main political battles in Lanka on the same plank – saying he put down Tamil separatist terrorism with an iron-hand and turned India – a nation that had once supported separatism in Lanka – into a pliable ally.
III. Lanka has become an international pariah owing to its despicable record in decimating human rights. India even feebly said something in the UN get-together in Geneva a few months back … but it proved to be the classic case of prepared to strike but afraid to wound.
IV. Despite the ongoing corruption cases against mainstays of the DMK filed by the CBI, the DMK and the Congress are on the same page on the emotive issue of Sri Lankan Tamils saying India always stands for the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka.
V. The DMK had said things differently when the Indian Peacekeeping Force returned to India in shame in 1989 and has gone on record saying several times that the only solution to the ills of the Tamil minority in Lanka is the establishment of a separate homeland – Eelam.
Now for the rather difficult questions seeking answers:
A year before the 2009 parliamentary polls, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra visited Nalini Sri Haran – the woman proven to be one of those who helped in the assassination of her father Rajiv Gandhi in Vellore Central Prison.
[That the then Tamil Nadu government did a series of flip-flops over it is another matter altogether.]
Priyanka has clearly ruled out forgiveness as the reason for travelling some 5,800 km by air on a single day all the way from New Delhi to visit one person in a prison but has not given out any other reason other than saying ‘it was personal’.
So what was so personal in meeting the killer of one’s father if it was not for forgiveness?
Was it a signal being openly given to those abroad who mattered that a major game of political chess will be underway soon that will decide the future of Sonia Gandhi who will been seen to have gotten even with thousands of Lankan Tamils but allow the possible escape of the terrorist group’s mainstays go unquestioned?
Is the continuance of the unexplained delay in the final denouement in the matter concerning 3 killers of Rajiv – the question being to hang or not hang for over 12 years after the Supreme Court threw the book at them a q-p-q to the LTTE and the Lankan regime to look the other way over the issue of what exactly happened to V Prabhakaran?
Did the DMK manage to corner the Congress on this issue and consequently managed to get plum cabinet posts despite Sonia not really needing the DMK support to stay afloat?
Is the VCK boss being allowed to have a darshan of Sonia Gandhi on the ‘nothing-issue’ of a cartoon supposedly belittling Dr B.R. Ambedkar and cornering political limelight in parliament despite calling himself the next Prabhakaran as a reward for diverting public attention from other major issues – one of them being the emotive Lankan Tamil issue and the anniversary of the so-called assassination of Prabhakaran that fell on May18?
Undoubtedly, there could be a simple explanation to all this.
The Lankan government can grin sheepishly and blandly say, “Sorry folks, we had bumped off Prabhakaran earlier, disposed of his body and showed a dummy for public consumption.”
Most in India will even be prepared to buy that story, because almost everyone in India knows that Prabhakaran and his hordes killed more Tamils than the Lankan army. If someone is really responsible for the sorry plight of the Tamil minority in Lanka, it is the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka ... in that order.
But, most Indians will ask the following supplementary questions:
i. When was Prabhakaran really assassinated and if that was so simple, why go through with this elaborate charade and kill so many thousands of Tamils?
ii. Why is the Congress leadership allowing itself to be abused on this issue by Sri Lanka which has now become a security question mark for New Delhi in the light of Chinese presence in southeast Lanka’s Hambantota harbour, and Colombo is openly shopping for military hardware in Islamabad?