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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2762

Prabhakaran and His Cohorts will be Destroyed - Army Commander

By Ruwan Weerakoon in Colombo

Colombo, 27 January, ( What is described as a revealing close-up of the battle front in the north, Sri Lankan Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka vividly answered the question ‘is Prabhakaran dead” thus: “Though Prabhakaran is alive, he is merely like a dead person,” he added “We launched attacks on accurate information. But we do not know whether he was directly hit. I need not lie. We have not received adequate information to confirm his death. But we can see that somewhere he is facing serious problems, although we do not know whether he’s injured or dead,” Army Commander emphasized.  Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: "It was not easy to kill the Leader of the LTTE Velupillai Prabhakaran, a brutal killer.  It has to be done to save a number of lives. I am sure at a certain time during this war, it will happen. As we continue the war." Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: "It was not easy to kill the Leader of the LTTE Velupillai Prabhakaran, a brutal killer. It has to be done to save a number of lives. I am sure at a certain time during this war, it will happen. As we continue the war."

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka added that the LTTE has been weakened and is on the verge of collapse. There are also those killers who are around Prabhakaran and they will also be destroyed.

Commander Fonseka was in an interview with Independent Television Netwoek in Colombo, perhaps one of the longest in the recent times. Army Commander continuing said: “It was not easy to kill the Leader of the LTTE Velupillai Prabhakaran, a brutal killer. It has to be done to save a number of lives. I am sure at a certain time during this war, it will happen. As we continue the war. We are certain that at a certain time, we will see the end of Prabhakaran. In the process, a large number of his comrades will also be destroyed.”

Army Commander said that once Prabhakaran is gone and the situation in the country would be changed. He said that the people are the south will hold hands with Tamil people who are waiting for peace to dawn. He further clarified that the Tamil people as a community are not brutal like Prabhakaran. Tamil people like the, Sinhalese Buddhists or Sinhalese Catholics in the South are cultured, peace loving people and like to mind their own business.

He further said that he personally respect the culture and the way of life of the Tamils, very much.

“They will be united with the people in the South. Therefore, I don’t think that germ of terrorism could continue to infect after Prabhakaran death. The Tamil people will annihilate these germs from the North and East. The terrorism will be definitely come to an end on the day this brutal killer’s life comes an end. Nowadays he is like an insane person; like a brute. This problem will come to and end with him, Sri Lanka Army Commander said...

When asked whether Prabhakaran’s son Charles Anthony would succeed his father, Army Commander expressed his doubts. He said, “Charles Anthony is there. But going by our information he is a very lazy person, who is inefficient and a weak man. He is not as par with a normal person with regard to efficiency. Therefore, if Prabhakaran has provided certain leadership, I don’t think Charles Anthony could even come up to that level. As suggested he has not shown his skills in the battlefield or elsewhere. Therefore, I do not think we should entertain any fears about him. After Prabhakaran, there are people who expect to take his position like Pottu Amman or Soosai. We believe that Prabhakaran will be eliminated with them.”

Army Commander participated in a “Thulawa” program in the Independent Television Network, Colombo on 24 January, 2008. He was Interviewd by Sudarman Radaliyagoda, Deputy General Manager News and Cultural Affairs. Given below the full text of the interview with Sri Lanka Army Commander Lt.General Sarath Fonseka:

Part - 1

Good Evening. You are turned to “Thulawa” the political dialogue. Today we have invited a special personality to this program. You already know that it is the Army Commander of Sri Lanka, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka. We had earlier planned to conduct this program today with Ministers Dilan Perera and Rajitha Senaratne. We will conduct the programwith them on another date. Today we have invited the Lt. Gen. on the request of a large number of people. Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka being interviewed by Sudarman Radaliyagoda  of the  Independent Television Network in Colombo on 24 January 2008.Army Commander Lt. General Sarath Fonseka being interviewed by Sudarman Radaliyagoda of the Independent Television Network in Colombo on 24 January 2008.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: A lot of interest has been generated in the modst of the people regarding the operations carried out in the North during the past few days. They ask as to how the operations are carried out in the North. Whether the information provided by the media and the army was true. Certain groups and certain sectors of media accuse the government and the army of trying to create a misleading picture of the war to cover up the other problems in the country. That is why we invited the person who is directly responsible for the operations. We are honored to have you here after a short notice. You are the army commander of this country. A war is being waged in the country for nearly 30 years. The terrorist leader who is topping the list of terrorists launched his terror campaign with the murder of Alfred Doraiappa in 1975. He is carrying out his terror campaign in a brutal manner killing civilians and unarmed security forces personnel. A ruthless war has been waged for nearly 30 years. If you look back as the army commander, why is the war being dragged in this manner?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: We were in the army since its beginning. There were certain weaknesses in the way we faced the war. Although we achieved success at a time, but we committed terrible blunders and faced serious disasters at other times. That’s one point. The other is making political decisions. I do not think that firm political decisions were made in the past like today. Weak decisions were made to start an operation and in the midst they were discouraged. The past political leadership was such. In addition, Prabhakaran created a racial mentality. Prabhakaran advanced little by little with the blessings of 4 million expatriate Tamils and 60 million Tamils living in Thamil Nadu. He gained mere strength from our military and political decisions in the past. Now we are suffering the consequences of those actions.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: We captured the unprotected areas under the LTTE during certain periods in the history but after a short period they had to be handed over to the LTTE. Why was such a situation created? The areas were captured following fierce battles. But they were given back?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: For those we have to accept responsibility at military level as well. A common feature during those days was, if one area was captured another was lost. The army commanders of the relevant areas should definitely take the responsibility for that. Those days there was political leadership. But there was no overall strategy like today. If we were fighting in Mankulam, we only thought about that area. We did not think that terrorists will do something in the East or in Jaffna. If we were fighting in Jaffna, it was confined to those bunker lines only. They were not conducted with overall plans. That was a major reason. Sometimes there were more political motives than military motives. Now there is a big difference. We are on the path of military targets, and the President is in the path of political solutions. There is no confusion. That is why during the past 1 ½ years we did not face such disasters, when advancing. In the past several defeats were experienced after one win.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: Some politicians accuse that the liberating of the East did not bring any military gains. It was said that Thoppigala is a dense forest. Can you explain the military benefits in liberating the East?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka:Prabhakaran said that the capital of Eelam is Trincomalee. During the past, more people were recruited for the force from the East. The aim was to deprive him of Trincomalee and the human resources of the area. In addition, he had a force of 3000 and large numbers of weapons. 2000 T-56 firearms were captured in the area. There were artillery ammunition, mortars, heavy weapons and ammunition dumps. Destroying all that was a victory. You cannot say that it was useless to capture the jungle area as they had storehouses of weapons, schools and training centers in the jungle. It’s from the jungle that they led the war. If we captured the villagers and stayed in them, terrorism would not have come to an end. From a total of 3000 terrorists, about 300 finally escaped through the jungles and the sea. We destroyed the others. As we seized 2000 T-56 firearms, we can imagine how many were eliminated. No body can under estimate a victory achieved in the East. 50 percent of Prabhakaran’s Eelam was in the East.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: During the Eastern operations, the biggest accusation was that Karuna Amman was leading the attacks. Even certain foreign groups said that Karuna Amman carried out the operations. As the commander of the army what do you have to say about this? Did he assist you?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka:Actually, the LTTE initiated the operations in the East. It was not Karuna Amman or us. As LTTE closed the Marvil-aaru sluice gates and carried out an attack at Kattaparichchan in Muttur, we launched the operation. During that time Karuna Amman did not have the ability to clash with the LTTE. If he could, he would have faced LTTE head on and chased them away. About 200 to 250 in his group were in small camps in the jungle.

Although they assisted, they were unable to extend large-scale support to us. The attacks were planned by us. We started where we wanted, at the desired time and brought it to an end. As we have studied warfare and had experience we did not have to learn from Karuna Amman. We have carried out many operations. We have stayed in the area even before the war. We were familiar with the terrain.

Our soldiers were in the battlefront. They sacrificed their lives. But Karuna or other groups in the East did not have to face the enemy. After we captured it, Kaurna’s TMVP political wing has come forward and they wanted to engage in politics. They did not have the strength to help us in the warfare. But they would have definitely been our well wishers.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: Are there armed groups in the East other than the LTTE?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka:We are not saying there are armed groups. But Karuna’s people who were in the jungles were armed. They have not surrendered their weapons to us. They said they need the weapons for their self defence. May be there are weapons hidden by them in certain places. The LTTE has not been eliminated in the East. The pistol gang is operating there. Once in a while a claymore mine explodes. As long as we can provide security for all the people in the East, we should not try to disarm them. We should first disarm the LTTE. After that we must find Karuna’s people and disarm them.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: In some countries we have seen armed groups joining the government forces in the course of time. Is there readiness in Karuna Amman’s people or Pillayan’s groups to join the security forces? Is the Sri Lankan Army ready to provide them that opportunity?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka:Karuna’s people are interested in engaging in politics. The area had been suppressed by the LTTE. Now they want to see democracy in the area. As we understand they do not want to take weapons again. We must encourage them on that path. Now hundred Tamil youths are recruited to the police force. As long as we feel the area is not fully safe, the security forces will not be withdrawn from the area. If the youths from these areas join us, we will warmly welcome them. It is strength for us. We are there to protect them and their areas. We should encourage them to join us.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: Sir, the dream of Prabhakaran is an eelam. This brutal campaign has been launched to achieve that. You said the Tamil youths could join the security forces or the developmental activities if they wish. Do you think if there are signs of realizing the Eelam dream wouldn’t the Tamil youths want to join them?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: From the way the Eastern people welcomed us, we can’t say that. Still they are providing us information. Their signals show that they don’t want the LTTE again. They say that they are pleased about the developmental work of the government and the democratic process to be introduced in the area. We feel it. The youth have suffered for 20-25 years. We don’t think they would want to return to an unpleasant past. The present generation has only seen the war. Now they see the other areas of the country. They know who are living in the south. The LTTE has created false fear to misguide them. When they understand this they will not want it again. LTTE will not be able to think of the east again. First they have to secure the north.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: Are you saying that there is a mutual understanding between the Tamil youths and the security forces?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: Definitely. Not only the youth, but the entire population of the area is working together with us. As we see it, there is now no racism in the area. The Sinhalese, Tamil and the Muslims are working united. Specially in Trincomalee, a programme was held recently with the participation of ministers. People of all communities worked in that programme. I do not think these people will stick to the idea created by certain politicians that they are not receiving just treatment.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: If we consider the 30 year history, Velupillai Prabhakaran has become the undisputed leader. But it was not Prabhakaran who started this. There were others who had gone further than Prabhakaran. Prabhakaran achieved this status by killing all of them. What has made him such a strong character? Some say it’s done by the media? Others say politicians and the international community is responsible for it. What do you think about this?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: I think all 3 factors contributed towards it. Many countries in Europe where expatriate Tamils live contributed towards securing weapons and created the environment for him to build the force. The other thing is that certain politicians used to say that Prabhakaran can never be defeated. They accepted that certain areas were ruled by him. That he is on par with us. That we should hold discussion on an equal level. All that made him a hero. Now we have proved that all this was wrong. Now he is a mere individual who is running from bunker to bunker for dear life. His forces are weakened. His world is shattered. His Eelam dream has ended in the east. In the north it is not relevant to 3 districts. Out of 2 million Tamils in Sri Lanka, only 2 lakhs are with him in Kilinochchi and Mulaitivu. Now you can see his fate. Earlier it was all created. By others as we lacked political as well as military will. We did not face him bravely. Now we are fighting under a true leadership. All our forces are united as one. We are fighting with great determination to eliminate the wrong views.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: Sir, a lot of people ask where Prabhakaran is and whether he is still alive?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: Although he is alive, he is merely like a dead person. The security forces attacked several of his hideouts on the information provided by the intelligence wings. We launched attacks on accurate information. But we do not know whether he was directly hit. I need not lie. We have not received adequate information to confirm his death. But we can see that somewhere he is facing serious problems, although we do not know whether he’s injured or dead. There was an important man in the LTTE called Charles, such as Soosai, Pottu Amman. Prabhakaran did not even come to his funeral. We carried out an air strike on day before yesterday on a hideout of the LTTE called X-ray bumker.

After the attack all the phones in Kilinochhci area were switched off. They do not answer the phones. A-9 road was closed. Black flags had been hoisted in some places. We have evidence that a powerful person was caught up. But we have no evidence whether that it was Prabhakaran. I do not say that he’s not alive. But he’s living like a dead man.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: The main target of these operations is Veluppillai Prabhakaran. How can we know that Prabhakaran has been eliminated? Although it can’t officially known how can we be assured that he is no more?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: When he is dead, we will receive adequate evidence at a certain time. I earlier said that there isn’t enough evidence to come to that conclusion. We have a good intelligence network. If such an incident takes place, they cannot stop such information from reaching us.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: Earlier they said without Anton Balasingham there wouldn’t an LTTE, without Tamilselvan or Charles LTTE would not survive. Now there more. But LTTE is still continuing attacks. They show their military power at certain times. If we take the statistics appeared in the media, the numbers of LTTE cadres killed are more than the Tamil population of the country. People ask us how still they are active. Whether they are progressively multiplying?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: After the deaths of Tamilselvam, Anton Balasingham and Charles, LTTE has become weak although not completely extinct. They were the strength. Prabhakaran’s face at Tamilselvan’s funeral showed how discouraged he was. Still the leader is there. Somehow they can survive as long as he is alive.

That’s why we want to continue these operations to eliminate the LTTE. LTTE is multiplying because every time when they became weak, certain government gave them a breather. Our successive governments were been deceived and gave them a resting period. Like during the past ceasefire, every time they became strong. During the 4 years, the ceasefire was in operation, they bought arms 10 or 20 times. More than what they had. Their numbers were increased four-fold. The government and the leaders were duped. But now the President is firmly saying that we do not want to give a respite to the LTTE. The fight will continue as long as the LTTE agree to lay down the arms. When we are convinced of that,we can stop the war.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: Earlier also the LTTE laid down arms. During the 1987-Indo-Sri Lanka Areement,the LTTE officially laid down arms. Can you trust the LTTE?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: In 1987 they surrendered some outdated weapons. Even before the lapse of a month, they challenged and entered into a war with the Indian army. They had adequate weapons. We were duped by their actions. I do not think we are foolish enough to be deceived again. But if we will be foolish, we will have to face the consequences. If they surrender arms we can go inside their territory for verification.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: During the signing of the CFA, it was opposed by many at the time Ranil Wickramasinghe was the Prime Minister of the UNP government. There was a stiff opposition to it, even from inside the party while many other parties vehemently opposed the CFA. Was there any opposition to it inside the forces?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: During those days I was a Major General. We didn’t even know about it.

I do not think opinions were sought from the security forces. But definitely the chiefs of the forces and the Defence Ministry officials would have discussed it. The then chiefs of the security forces agreed with the Government. I was in charge of Jaffna. When it was negatively affecting us I expressed my protest and got the conditions adjusted to suit us. If the chiefs of the security forces agreed to it, it was a foolish act on our part. Due to the CFA, the LTTE became strong and they were globally recognized. They built a force of about 15,000 and demarcated borders. They brought communication equipment and set up police stations and courts. They were on the verge of becoming a separate nation. It was a foolish thing to sign such an agreement. We did not even observe it. Our intelligence officers were killed. The foreign Minister was killed. I was attacked as well as the defense secretary. The forces hands were tied. I think the decision to abrogate the CFA was taken with love for the country.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: You pointed out the negative effects of the LTTE. But some say it was beneficial to us as no blasts were taking place. There were no road barriers in Colombo. A-9 road was open. Politicians said that you could go to the north or east at your free will. There were no check points. Did we derive any benefits?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: It reminds me of the Sinhala saying that a man enjoyed honey with ‘three deaths in sight’. That a crab is frolicking till the water is boiled. It’s true you could go anywhere. Those facilities were enjoyed by the LTTE as well.

They brought as many bombs as they wanted. Found hiding places in Colombo. Suicide bombs were sent to Colombo. In addition they said dead bodies are not arriving in the south. It happened because we allowed the LTTE to do as they pleased. There was no requirement to carry out the attacks. Even now if we allow them to have an Eelam nothing of the sort would happen. A man who loves the country would not keep his eyes closed when another man is building a force and a separate a part of the country for themselves. Such people are born in the country for its ill luck.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: despite the CFA, there were attacks and counter attacks. The brave soldiers are carrying out operations to secure the north. What type of victories have you achieved so far?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: When I assumed office after the present President came into power, there was only one brigade of additional troops. We won the east. Now there is 99.9% security in the east. Now I have 5 additional brigades to conduct operations in the north. We rectified all shortages in the army, while the war was on. We strengthened the forces. 32,000 personnel were recruited last year. In five brigades there are 25,000 personnel. Altogether there are 39,000. This year 1,500 joined. Now we are attacking the remainder of the LTTE Eelam from five directions. We conduct operations from Mannar and Vavuniya. While the operation was ongoing in the east, the 57th brigade was involved in the operations in Vavuniya from March last year. A large number of LTTE fighters of the ranks of Colonels and LT. Colonels were destroyed. There are 200,000 people in Kilinochchi. These days they are being forcibly recruited. Two people are some times recruited from one house hold. He will do this until these 200, 000 are killed. But they are not volunteering to join. They are less capable and not well trained. Therefore they are losing strength. In Vavuniya the 57th brigade has killed about 2400 in 11 months. Going by the NGOs and the politicians coming from the area about 15 of them are killed daily. In Mannar about 700 are killed since September. In Weli-oys 25 were killed in 1 ½ weeks. On our side also, thousands have been injured. Considering our fire power, we know the number of deaths increase by 4 or 5 fold on their side. Some do not like to accept the fact. They ask such questions.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: You recently said that you will not hand down this problem to the next army commander. Are you optimistic that this will be destroyed during your tenure in office?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: I think it’s my responsibility by the country. This problem has been handed down from one to another army commander for a long period. There is no future for this country if things will be like this. I am optimistic that we will be able to end this when looking at how far we marched in the last 1 ½ years. We are committed and determined. That does not mean that I will remain the Army Commander for the next 10 years. My term is that of an ordinary Army Commander. During that period this can be eliminated. Already we have proved this. Even the British High Commissioner said after the Sampur victory, although the troops achieve limited victories, they cannot achieve an overall victory. But we captured the entire east. This can also be done, but they should be patient because LTTE is an experienced army.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: Our brave soldiers are fighting with great commitment. Some say they work for the salary. But our troops are above that. Are you satisfied with the contribution made by the politicians and the general public?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: Yes, the public are with us. Even some sectors attempted to misguide them, not only the people in the south, even the people in the north are also with us. The People in Kilinochchi have said that they will kneel down before our soldiers out of respect, if they arrive. We have their blessings. The recruitment of 32,000 personnel shows their view point. Earlier not even 3000 could be recruited. There was no enthusiasm. The government has provided all our necessities. We have built many camps in the east with facilities. The troops in Mannar, Vavuniya and Weli-oya have to suffer much. The troops are working hard as they are well looked after. They are not working for the salary only. Anyway they have to have salaries to look after their families. Some troops have been in the jungles for the last 11 months. That shows their commitment. They trust the government. They know their efforts would be meaningful. From the Commander downwards that confidence is there.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: In the past we saw that the number of army deserters were increasing. They had joined the underworld gangs. Why did this trend take place?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: Soldiers are not deserting due to the fear of the war. During the Ceasefire period, more soldiers have deserted. When they have no confidence in their own leadership and that of the country and if they feel what they do does not serve any purpose they become discouraged. If the administration is weak they become discouraged and leave. Now they know everything has been put right. Some have problems in their homes. Then they become absent. Most of the personnel are poor. They have to solve their problems themselves. This year we called for the return of the absentees. 3,500 came in the beginning of the year. 4,500 cane in Nov. 2007. During one year 8000 have returned. We helped those who were absent for more than 4 years to leave the army. About 2000 who were officially retired have also returned. They are deployed in Colombo as well. They like to be partners in this.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: The security forces personnel of lower ranks complain that while the high ranking officers are enjoying they do not even have a vehicle to return home to Colombo after engaging in operations for 3-6 months. Have you solved these issues?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: Yes but it cannot be 100%, because the government has other things to do such as development works. But it is spending a large sum of money on the forces. As an example, we built 100 vehicles such as buses, trucks and other vehicles to be used by the soldiers. About 300 vehicles including ambulances were brought during the past one year. About 500 motor cycles required for the operations were bought. About 150 small vehicles including what is called single cabs were also bought. The other problems will be solved in the next one or two years. I have said that the soldiers should be looked after first and the officers come next. The officers get some benefits. We do not allow them to rob what is due to the soldiers. If they are caught, stringent punishment will be given to them.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: Sir, the soldiers morale is very important. When we gave publicity about this program many army personnel including officers asked us whether we can ask about the problems of transfers and promotions. Are there any such problems in the army?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: With regard to soldiers there are no such problems. They are promoted under the traditional system. There have been personnel in the conflict areas for 10-12 years. They like to have some relief. Even I receive phone calls from their wives and mothers. About 75% have not got transfers.

They have to stay in the battle front as we have to continue the operations. Therefore that freedom cannot be allowed. I am also spending all my time in the headquarters. I am not going to my house on the Bullers Road. We have to make commitments against our desires. For the officers we have introduced a system of promotion where promotions are made according to the skill and commitment and not on seniority. There can be some who are disappointed. Earlier the 5th in line of seniority was sent to Jaffna. I have sent the 15th. in the line, as I felt he was right person for the job. Some of the commanders of the brigades are junior. But when the task was handed over to them, they brought results. Earlier it was done according to the seniority and as a result, we faced many disasters. As an example it took 3 years to capture Mankulam, but the Generals and the Brigadiers gave it up in 2 days. I do not like to commit that blunder again. But it was not done by me alone. Committees were appointed for that purpose. Those who are promoted should be above average. Then everybody cannot be promoted and they should pave the way for the best.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: Are you satisfied with the patronage of govt. in the welfare of the forces?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: Earlier there was no such intent commitment or patronage. We must appreciate the attempts of the defense secretary towards the welfare of the army personnel, with his knowledge and the background. The plan to build 50,000 houses is enough to show his interest. In addition a school was opened up for the children of the security forces personnel. Other schools will also be opened. Vehicles will be provided for them to return and facilities in the transit camps will be improved. At Habarana there is a large transit camp which has been put under a Minister. We must appreciate the program launched under the advice of the President and by the Defence Secretary. The forces appreciate it. But one cannot lead a luxury life in the battle front. But we don’t complain about it.

Part - 2.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: So far we discussed about the military might and the morale of the army. We continuously discussed about what is expected by the people in the country. ---That there should be an end to the war. I asked you directly whether Prabhakaran is alive. The majority of the people in the country would be pleased to hear that Prabhakaran is dead. As we people belong to a religion which is against killings and none of us like killinga. However, the whole country would be happy on the day when this terrorist Veluppillai Prabhakaran who carries out brutal killings is dead. Do you think terrorism will come to an end when this character Prabhakaran or this killer is eliminated?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: Like you said Prabhakaran, is a murderer. It is not easy to kill such a brutal killer to save a number of lives. It has to be done. I am sure at a certain time during this war, it will happen. As we continue the war. We are certain that at a certain time, we will see the end of Prabhakaran.

In the process, a large number of his comrades will also be destroyed. The LTTE has been weakened and is on the verge of collapse. There are also those killers who are around him. They will also be destroyed. With that Prabhakaran will also be gone and the situation in the country would be changed. The people are the south will hold hands with Tamil people. They are waiting for peace to dawn. The Tamil people as a community are not brutal like Prabhakaran. Tamil people like the, Sinhalese Buddhists or Sinhalese Catholics in the South are cultured peace loving people and like to mind their own business. Personally I respect their culture and the way of life, very much. They will be united with the people in the South. Therefore, I don’t think that germ of terrorism could continue to infect after Prabhakaran death. The Tamil people will annihilate these germs from the North and East. The terrorism will be definitely come to an end on the day this brutal killer’s life comes an end. Nowadays he is like an insane person; like a brute. This problem will come to and end with him.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: But Sir, even if he believe that killings will come to an end with the killer, even the Foreign Media as indirectly suggested that Charles Anthony is there to take Prabhakaran’s place, when he is no more? Like the executioner’s son becomes an executioner certain foreign and the local sectors are attempting to point out that there are signs that the killer’s son will also be a killer. From your experience in the battlefield, is there a Charles Anthony? The character of the Charles Anthony, as a son of Prabhakaran, engaged in the military activities in the battlefield?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: From what we have known it is a character attempted to be created by the people in the South and a weak section of the media and foreign forces.

Charles Anthony is there. But going by our information he is a very lazy person, who is inefficient and a weak man. He is not as par with a normal person with regard to efficiency. Therefore, if Prabhakaran has provided certain leadership I don’t think Charles Anthony could even come up to that level. As suggested he has not shown his skills in the battlefield or elsewhere. Therefore, I do not think we should entertain any fears about him. After Prabhakaran, there are people who expect to take his position like Pottu Amman or Soosai. We believe that Prabhakaran will be eliminated with them.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: You projected Charles Anthony; as a person who is lazy and has not made his mark in the battlefield, like a terrorist who has still not matured. Recently we heard about LTTE air attacks. Now we don’t hear about them. Some said Charles Anthony came to the central stage with these attacks. How did you observe the fear created by those air strikes in the public? How did they take place? Do they have this military strength?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: They have some strength. It cannot be called military might. If they fly in a helicopter and drop something that will definitely fall down. Prabhakaran has various types of bombs. They can be dropped. That, I think it’s only a rumor that Charles Anthony led them. According to our information he has some little knowledge of computers. He is not qualified to be a pilot or a commander of the air force as rumored.

They have a force that has been training for this purpose. The Iranamdu airstrip has been there since we were engaged in Jayasikuru - since 1997. The aircrafts were brought during the ceasefire. Action was not taken against it. Therefore, we had to face this situation after this government came into power. When we came into these positions we had to face it. But the situation was not created by us. Now we are ready face the situation not 100% but 1000%. A new Radar System has been introduced. Now those aircraft that can attack during day and night from mid air can be tracked. I think if Charles Anthony’s air force will come towards here, they will not be able to return. Their experiences will be very unpleasant.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: If they have some air powers, there are times when attacks continuously take place. The LTTE terrorism is confined to small area of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. Why can’t you find those aircraft. Why have you been unable to seize them?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: In the area where the Iranamadu air strip, we believe that there are one or two craft. It’s a large area barb wired like our Katunayake Airport area. It is guarded. If we are to enter that area they have to advance like we do now, continuing operations. That is to destroy them. The air force frequently raids this area. They are very small craft. We think they are hidden in under-ground concrete bunkers. If a bomb is dropped over a vast area, if it does not make a direct hit, it might not be harmed. Therefore, the aircraft still remain. In addition, we earlier suspected that they were hidden in the residential area west of the A-9 Road, especially at Thunukai. The Army cannot still enter the interior villages without being seen. The operations are successfully carried out in the jungles. So if they are hidden in a village, they have to be attacked from above. We have still not received information that the aircraft are in an area of 10 square yards.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: Do you have any suspicion, that their air raids were supported by foreign countries. We have heard of mercenary soldiers. Is there a suspicion that this was carried out on a contract?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: They have received assistance from foreign countries to obtain the aircraft and for training. Foreigners and Tamil people in those countries who support terrorism. The pilots were definitely trained abroad. Certain companies, businessmen or their well-wishers in these countries would have supported.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: We saw in the past that when terrorists were being arrested or questioned, human rights organizations specially when searching suspicions location in Colombo, Human Rights Organisations make a hue and cry. Don’t these groups pose obstacles on your path?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: With or without their outcry, we take action to conduct operations without violating human rights. But even if a small mistake take place, as an example round of artillery fire accidentally hit a place where people assemble and they were injured and if attacked accidentally. But there had been people and they make a big noise about it. When compared with wars in other countries, this is a very small incident.

Hundreds of Thousands of people have died in theses wars. Large numbers have been missing. In the East we have known that less than 25 people were injured. Therefore, we take necessary action towards this. Even though a wrong was done or not, organizations belonging to the LTTE, NGOs and other organizations in the world said that violations are taking place and they should be taken to a war tribunal. They must have bribed them. There are people all over the world who take bribes. They accuse us. But there is no essence in it. Despite being Sinhalese, Muslims or Tamils, we trust them as citizens of this country. We don’t like to injure or kill innocent people. We track down terrorists and attack them. They try to project these as attacks on civilians. When a terrorist is killed they try to show them an innocent man is killed, even in areas such as Jaffna. So we know their intentions. They do not discourage us.

As long as we are abiding by the international laws, we are marching forward. They try to discourage us. But it has not posed an obstruction. We carry out our duties based on certain principals.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: Although you mentioned this, many human rights organizations point their fingers towards you. They say the army continues to violate the human rights of Tamil people. How did this come about? During 83 troubles also, fingers were pointed at the Army. That the troubles in the North started after raping incidents, concerning Tamil youths and behind these accusations there are local as well as foreign powers. Have you identified the officers or authorities responsible for this?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: During the past few days, a name of a female officer of an international organization regularly appeared. Her accusations were also criticized. Certain people came here and made accusations. A female officer of the U.N. has said that human rights are violated and they should be taken to the international tribunals. There are no reasons for all that.

Although they point fingers that so many people are killed, so many human rights violations have taken place and so many people are missing, complaints have not been made in this connection. There are no eyewitnesses. The reports are provided by the terrorists themselves, their family members and those support them. There is a law in this country. Just because they accuse that ten soldiers have committed the murder nothing can be done, they have to prove it. We can’t just lockup soldiers. They say the murders of 17 aid workers in Muttur were carried out by the Army. There is no evidence. The Army went to the area after two days of the incident.

We can’t punish or imprison soldiers just because for their accusations. They also have human rights. They will file HR cases against us. There is a law in the country. We can’t take any action against innocent soldiers because of those who protect and sympathizes with Tigers and those who wish for the welfare of the Tigers, wanted us to take actions against innocent soldiers. In that case then they have to prove it with evidence. Anybody can say anything. The Tigers have given money and bribes and got hold of many people, for this purpose, the propaganda campaign. I don’t think it affect us.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: Sir, Now the East has been completely liberated, in North they are limited to a very small area. When you make such statements, civilians were subject to attacks in Buththala, Moneragala. In one bus alone 27 people were killed. About 10 villagers were brutally killed. Now when you are liberating the North and East from their grip, as the LTTE come to the other side. Is that what is shown by these incidents.

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: In a country where there are vast jungle areas, 3 or 4 people can walk through jungles and shoot un-armed innocent civilians. It can be done even in Colombo. An underworld gang member can come to Galle Road with a T-56 assault firearm and kill about 15 people. It is difficult to stop such action in one or two days. We can solve their problems after winning the North. But it will take some time. It does not mean that there is no security in the South. We cannot arm all the people in the country. Can the army protect 19 million people in the country? If a brute is ordering massacre of innocent people, it is difficult to stop it. We can protect this as a country. It is difficult to provide security to all the individuals. It has to be done. But it will take some time. We are destroying a terrorist force of 10 to 12 thousand. It is difficult to destroy all the terrorists in the jungle. On the other hand, those who speak of human rights, don’t speak of the human rights of the innocent people killed in the South of Yala and Buththala. Nobody said that the LTTE is killing innocent people, and they are violating human rights.

So are they looking into the rights of the reasonable people or terrorists? Why doesn’t talk of the innocent people killed in Buththala. When all these are generally considered, it shows that some are supporting terrorists and trying to give oxygen to them. They are trying to prevent their decimation.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: So far, none of the terrorists said to be hiding in Thanamalwila and Buththala have been arrested or killed. Why haven’t you been able to track down a small number of terrorists?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: We have captured one terrorist alive who was involved in the Yala attack. With his assistance, we have obtained much information. Our commandos opened fire on terrorists and found a body of a female terrorist. Again we attack their hiding place. They had given saline to 4 to 5 people and left the equipment near Kumbukkan-oya. Yala blocks 1,2,3,4 have been protected. They went to the other side of Kumbukkan-oya to do this.

We are carrying out an operation with a large number of troops. We think in a few days we will be able to attack them. It is a vast jungle area of 50 square miles. It is difficult to track down 3 or 4 persons. If there are 100-200 terrorists we can attack them in one or two days. It is like tracking down a big pin with a mark and it’s cumbersome. Our task is similar to that. But from Siyambalanduw to Moneragala and Lunugamvehera security has been provided. 2500 home guards, 1000 police personnel and 800 army personnel have been deployed South of the Menik Ganga to provide security. Now we are trying to flush out the terrorists inside the jungles.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: Sir, similar to Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi, why do incidents continue to take place at Kebithigollewa? Several claymore mine explosions took place at Kebithigollewa. Why is this happening?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: A jungle is laying North of Kebithigollewa up to Kilinochchi. From the South East the jungle is above Trincomalee. They can infiltrate from the North. There is a bunker line. But they can penetrate. There are a few terrorists in the North of Trincomalee, who are fed by some people in Sambalthivu and Nilaveli. They are the ones who do this. Due to the jungle around Kebithigollewa the terrorists can carry out these attacks.

But security is being strengthened in the area. We have deployed about 300 troops on the Padaviya – Kebithigollewa Road, earlier there were only 25 troops. There were 300 home guards. We have deployed about 800 more. We have also strengthened the Padaviya – Pulmudai Road. Troops and home guards were deployed on Horawapathana – Kebithigollewa Road. These areas were neglected in the past. While the war is being waged, the security in those areas is being strengthened. We request the people in Buththala, Kebithigollewa and Thanamalwila to be alert and be concerned about their security.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: After the Buththala incident, the issue of closure of schools came up. Many parents worry whether the schools will be closed. Some say schools should be closed. There is a rumor that you also requested the President to close the schools for three months. Has the security forces made such a request?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: It is completely untrue, we don’t make such requests as a principle, even to close a road. If security is lacking then we strengthen. We don’t allow action to be taken to disrupt normal life. It is not true that I made a request to close schools. Those who are on duty in Colombo are under us.

Before this rumor was spread, we were interested in the security of schools. There is no threat now. Those who are anti-government elements attempted to make political gains from the explosion at the Nippon Hotel and the assassination of the Minister. They are the ones who are spreading these rumors to create difficulties for the government. The two minor explosions at the telephone booth and the Fort Railway Station were also carried out by these rumor mongers and not the acts of terrorists. They are trying to fish in trouble waters. There is a section who only wants to topple the government. They would mislead people or set fire to the country.

They are power crazy. They are doing this. But our people have forgotten as to what happened in Colombo earlier. There were number of explosions. There were explosions at the Central Bank, and at the Galadhari hotel. Those are incident which cannot be forgotten. We have not allowed such disasters to take place. We are optimistic that security measures can be maintained.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: For all parents, their children are valuable. Have you formulated a security scheme for the protection of school children? Can you give an assurance for their security?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: Yes, definitely security has been successfully strengthened around schools, when children, arrive and leave schools. We will not deploy the troops inside schools. We have deployed the police near the schools. We have provided back-up support to schools. Security forces personnel are displayed close to schools to check vehicles.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: People say that when the CFA was in operation, people could freely move around without road blocks and barriers. Although we can’t challenge orders of the Supreme Court regarding the removal of road barriers, which has been since of late a subject to controversy. It has been criticized. Some people say the blasts in Colombo took place as a result of the removal of road barriers. How do you view this? Can checkpoints stop bomb explosions?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: Definitely, certain measures should be taken to strengthen security. Road barriers should be set up. Searching houses and vehicles has to be done. The terrorist can find some relief if there are loopholes, as they can get through them. Therefore, certain duties have to be performed. The court order did not direct the removal of all road barriers. It was only for those that were harassment to the people and did not serve any purpose. Accordingly we have not removed all the road barriers for a few days there was a misunderstanding. But now there are road barriers in the required places.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: During the past we saw that you were directly accused of being politically biased. Certain politicians directly accused you of being politically motivated. What was the reason for that?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: Actually, the army commander is fulfilling political needs. The army is maintained in a country on political requirements. We are obeying them. But the government is not getting us to perform any political activities. They advise us to carry out our professional responsibilities. The government has the right to make decisions. We are waging a war. If we hatch a coup and go against the government, then it is wrong. There is nothing wrong with the present situation. If we have even indirectly criticized people having other political views, that was only when it was relevant for us. If somebody is creating a distorted picture of what was done by us, it is their responsibility to correct it. Otherwise people will not know what is right and what is wrong. Other than that we are not politically motivated. So far, the government has not asked me to make either an appointment or a transfer in the army. They don’t ask us to appoint or transfer the personnel even in the President’s guard. That is also done according to the regulations. Therefore, nobody can tell that the army or the army commanders are politically motivated. Protecting the country is our responsibility. It is in writing. Our duty is not protecting the politicians who are anti-government.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: You have repeatedly said that if the killer is killed, the war will came to an end. There has been a national problem in the North and East. The history shows that the Tamils in the North and East have a problem. As a civilian do you think that a political settlement is required for the North and East after defeating terrorism?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: There are political problems in every country even if we take Hambantota or other under-developed areas, there are political problems. There must be such problems in the North and East. The President has said this openly, that they will look into their problems and take the necessary action. A political solution is going to be presented by the government. We accept that the action to be taken by the government is correct. If they have problems they should definitely find a solution for it. We are not fighting the Tamil people or the North & East. If anybody in this country has such problems, they should be solved. But I do not agree that certain people inherit motherlands. What I believe is that anybody in this country should have the right to live anywhere. There are ethnic minorities in the country. I don’t think it’s fair to divide the country into separate motherlands. Everybody should be able to live anywhere in the country. The country belongs to everybody. For the people in the North and East, instead of a small portion in a corner, this whole country belongs to them. I believe that even regarding a political solution.

Sudarman Radliyagoda: Yesterday the All Party Representatives Committee handed over their proposals to the President. Some were suspecting that a strategy to halt the operations was being implemented by certain forces. As the army commander what are your views about this?

Lt. General Sarath Fonseka: There is no need to think that way. President has openly said that operations are being carried out to destroy the terrorists and the political solution is for the general public. The political solution is not to solve the problems of the terrorists, so that the two need not clash. The government has ordered us to carry out our duties. A situation has not arisen, where we were asked to do it halfway or to stop when required. The political solution is being carried out and the leadership of the president but the anti-terrorist operations will be conducted by us they are destroyed.

We pledge people of all communities of Sri Lanka that we will destroy the killer and his associates who are engaged in terrorists’ activities and usher in peace. We will protect the people and provide the desired freedom.

Editors Note : The interview with Lt. General Sarath Fonseka was held in Sinhala language. This is an unofficial translation from the Sinhala language to English.

- Asian Tribune -

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