An article by Sunalie Ratnayake and Sanath Jinadasa published by the Asian Human Rights Commission

SRI LANKA: The Rajapakse doctrine and a decree of unreserved malice

Sunalie Ratnayake and Sanath Jinadasa

From within a climate of autocracy gone customary as of late, and oppression of all possible aspects of our lives in a land like no other, another culmination was discharged, as the first military tribunal that conducted the trial against (Rtd) Gen. Sarath Fonseka, expressed its views in a report on August 13, 2010, as per the charges filed, indicting him of insulting the Army by politicking while in uniform.

Following same, Sri Lanka President and Commander-In-Chief Percy Mahendra Rajapaksa, who later in life modified his birth name to Mahinda Rajapakse, to suit the audience, perceptibly for reasons better known to him, shortly, as the initial court martial’s convening, confirmed the ruling of the first general court martial by signing off same, that the first ever four star general of the Sri Lanka military, General Gardihewa Sarath Chandralal Fonseka, be stripped of his rank. An abrupt gazette notification to this effect is anticipated.

We evidently recall, a few months ago, Sri Lanka Defence Secretary and Presidential sibling Gotabaya Rajapakse’s threatening interview given to BBC’s Stephen Sackur, on Hard Talk BBC, where Rajapakse threatened to propel war hero Fonseka to the scaffold. If one may recall the aforesaid interview, which inevitably we all do, even without going into depth and detail, it was palpable that Rajapakse went into a state of extreme wrath, unable to even sit straight on his chair, throwing his arms all over the air, and going in to state the subsequent, as response to Sackur’s question as per the odds of (Rtd) Gen. Fonseka testifying on possible war crimes conducted in the final stages of Eelam war IV, between the Sri Lankan military and the LTTE ; “He can’t do that. He was the commander. That’s a treason. We will hang him if he do that. How can he betray the country? He is a liar, liar, liar.” Rajapakse’s threat in vehemence, to send the highest ranked officer in Sri Lanka‘s military history, to the platform where criminals are executed, along with the unveiling of the verdict of the first military tribunal accurately indicates the fact, that his BBC statement above is no resentment at rest.

Similarly, with an objective in highlighting on human rights, as per the present day media freedom in Sri Lanka, the Defence Secretary was interviewed by BBC as of late. In an interview pertaining to same, given to the BBC in the most recent history, in responding to the questions forwarded to him by the interviewer, with regards to early last year’s assassination of Sri Lankan national English weekly – The Sunday Leader founder editor Lasantha Wickrematunge, Gotabaya Rajapakse went into a similar state, yet one further filled with mockery mingled with absolute disrepute, in aspects of the murder of the aforesaid globally renowned journalist, a matter of grave apprehension that clutched authorities worldwide, needless to point out the downright tension that escalated in Sri Lanka alone, concerning media freedom and the articulation of facts as is, as means of enlightening the general public and their right to know. It is justly a dignified, customary and ethical human right, for which, once president Rajapakse himself stood up for, not so long ago, when power was not significantly within the reach of the Rajapakses,’ let alone having modes of abusing same, as at present.

In the Defense Secretary’s words at sarcasm at it‘s best, he made the following statements, with irrepressible mirth, absolutely out of place in terms of a stern interview, moreover on a cold blooded murder that saw daylight, in a high security zone, under the governance of his sibling and him as Defence Secretary of the same constituent ; “Who is Lasantha Wickerematunge ? He is just a…..there are so many murders in everywhere, in the whole world there are murders. Why are you asking about Lasantha ? Who is Lasantha ? He was somebody who was writing for tabloids. I’m not concerned about that. People are panicking. Why people are so worried about one man…?”

Just like any other entity of high concern in history up-to-date, Wickerematunge’s brutal murder too has been contentedly swept under the carpet with much ease, only with so called appointed committees to hold ostensible investigations, moreover those consisting of desired personal, those who only would passionately fulfill the agendas of the supremacy, concerning same.

The previously stated most recent BBC’s Hard Talk interview pivoted with reference to the grounds as per the detention of the General and him volunteering to testify before an independent war crimes investigation of possible war crimes, and the authenticity behind the Defence Secretary’s command to one of his senior officers to shoot white flag bearing LTTE’ers that were ready to surrender. In this interview too, the Defence Secretary’s response, not only in aspects of the subject matter that he was questioned upon, but also in his body language, seemed deplorable and out of place. Moreover, with the latest occurrence as per the malicious and absolutely disproportionate sentence of the tribunal, followed by the President’s sanctioning of same, proves nothing but the callousness of the Rajapakse hatred. Moreover, it demonstrates a premonition of entities yet to come.

Following the defeating of the LTTE on May 18 2009, subsequent to the 26 year long brutality that affected the island’s all walks immeasurably, the fitting distinctiveness of Sri Lanka has already been slaughtered by President Rajapakse, and the once upon a pearl of the Indian ocean has already begun to lose it’s benevolent disposition in the eye of the world. Today the self styled Aasiyaawe Aashcharyaya in the world map stands unaccompanied, reduced in importance to a mediocre state, thus being eulogized only by those in power and their ardent followers.

A once relatively fair minded politician, President Rajapakse by today has undeniably committed mind-boggling misdeeds since attaining the throne, in a free and fair or rigged Presidential election in January this year (2010), and a correspondingly debatable election back in November 2005. Today, the “Rajapakse Doctrine” symbolizes the notion that going against the Ruling Family is the vital crime, and thus, one has no other choice but to be prepared to face the consequences for same, sooner or later, the latter being a verified likelihood, or to lock thy jaws and merely gaze.

Taken the reality into consideration, the first military tribunal that convicted (Rtd) Gen. Fonseka, of politicking while in uniform, followed by a rancorous decision to strip him of his rank, honours as well as medals accomplished throughout an extensive and demanding military career of four decades, thus the sentencing of him to a dishonorable discharge is not much of a bolt from the blue, given the attributes of the aforesaid Rajapakse doctrine. Likewise, a verdict of guilt was by no means a doubt, yet the absolute malice of its nature truly is hitherto an alarm, in the eyes of those who are yet to be accustomed to the dogma stated above.

Moreover, taken the average nature of Sri Lanka’s opinionated environment into consideration, a dip in politics while clad in uniform is nothing unusual, nor had this been the first time it may have occurred, if judgements are accurate as per the above state of affairs. If one may recall, during January’s race for Presidency, more than a few top ranking military personnel merrily emerged on state TV, obviously in uniform, shielding the government aspirant Rajapakse. Politicking in uniform did not conclude at that, but soldiers were further instructed by officers to vote for non other than Rajapakse.

Be that as it may, true enough, political prying of military personnel is not a fine practice, yet, despite concerns of human rights groups as well as the voicing of other diverse activists, the Rajapakse tenor in meddling (Rtd) Gen. Fonseka obviously denotes the fact that Rajapakses’ not only intend in punishing him, but also mortifying him to the utmost in modes inhumane. The series of demeanors consisting of utter malevolence carried upon since February 2010 to date concerning the General, only symbolizes the power hunger and deplorable trepidation in losing same, of these egotistical bureaucrats in the land like no other.

Being tried for political bustle while in uniform, the accusations on the General is as follows ; The primary charge, for making certain remarks as Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to then United National Party (UNP) Parliamentarian Johnston Fernando. The second charge, as CDS, in point of fact for asking support of Fernando to suggest his name to the UNP Working Committee as presidential candidate. The third charge is linked to UNP MP cum the party’s Deputy Secretary General Lakshman Seneviratne and the charge is Fonseka as CDS discussing politics, in means of over forty phone conversations between the due. Seneviratne stood before the first court martial and presented evidence against the (Rtd) General. The other two witnesses were Johnston Fernando, and former Executive Director of Airport & Aviation Services Ltd., Gamini Abeyratne, a.k.a. Taxi Abey. Fernando consequently adhered to the government, merely weeks prior to the conclusion of the presidential election in January and presently serves as Minister of Cooperatives and Internal Trade.

What is more, proving injustice at it’s zenith, the court martial proceeded in the absence of defence council. It was known that due to court vacation, the defence council were not appearing for the case, and the court martial had been notified of same, by the defence council, prior to the court proceeding held in preconception.

Besides the instigators of this entire episode of vengeance and cowardice, simply taking moral values and humanity into consideration, each individual behind the ultimate consequence of the court martial, and further possibilities with regards to retribution of the victim Fonseka, possibilities which are yet to see day light, including those who may have contributed to same, in the slightest possible manner, should in fact be mortified in aspects of their conscience, if at all they have one. They, in fact, should be feeling guilty and humiliated of themselves, in the presence of the universal judge, beyond possible words.

However, for those driven to change their vision and mission, along with colour and schema in the blink of an eye, with no ethics in life whatsoever, whose lips maybe pusillanimous enough to twist in the opposite direction, within the matter of dusk and dawn, all these occurrences maybe nothing further than changing their garments, thus a way of life. For a moment of disgraceful gluttony, for disgraceful intentions of revenge, and for reasons known to them better, all these individuals, forgot the undying fact that it was Fonseka, as Commander who oversaw the final phase of the Sri Lankan Civil war, which resulted in the total defeat of the militant LTTE organization, the most brutal terrorist organization named thus far, in the world. It was he who survived death too near, in the April 2006 assassination attempt of an LTTE suicide bomber who attacked his motorcade.

Fonseka, following the war’s end obtained the Sri Lanka Army’s four star rank, becoming the first serving officer to hold the rank of full general. His outright triumphant conduct of the war led Indian National Security Advisor Kelath Narayanan to depict him the “best army commander in the world.” He indisputably is to date, and has been described Sri Lanka’s most successful army commander.

For a brave soldier who survived death in numerous occasions within a forty year military career, in his journey filled with towering sacrifices for his motherland, especially in the last suicidal attempt, being severely wounded, yet carrying his very own organs in his hands, revealing phenomenal guts for survival, the removal of stars, medals and ranks, and being incarcerated shall not be too much to abide. Such mentally robust men themselves are superior to any star, medal or rank, which are merely material entities in life.

As Fonseka had eternally stated, the imperative facts that eradicated terrorism from Sri Lanka included strategizing the army, especially in acting as a guerilla group, eradicating corruption within the unit by restructuring the army, augmenting it’s force and firepower as well as a chain of unswerving command that ran from the zenith to the grass root levels. For all that and much more, doesn’t the architect responsible for strategy, reform, streamline and implementation of the entire war against the most brutal terrorist organization in the world deserve at least a slightly tolerable treatment, even if he had committed wrongdoing? Aren’t we Sri Lankans human after all? Or, are the callous, yet pusillanimous dictators inhuman by it’s true meaningful essence?

The truth is that history could in fact be re-written, if fabrication is passed into same. If all were brainwashed and all accepted deception implemented by the sovereign, just like the present day statute in Sri Lanka, (through juvenile acts of removing credit), recreating history is nothing but peanuts. For the rulers to be in command of “reality” is of much ease in a society like ours, where people are willing to bend, modify and alter its reminiscence.

The Rajapakses’ may be infected with many a superfluous disorder due to gluttony yet, humanity shall be the victor of all inborn or infected cowardice and attempted vindictiveness. The ultimate decision shall be of no court martial, but that of the universal judge out there. The truth is out there.

Fact Box :
*Joined military service in 1970
*Appointed Army Commander on December 6, 2005
*Appointed Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) on July 15, 2009
*Resigned as CDS on November 12, 2009
*Contested Presidential Election on January 26, 2010
*Contested General Election in April 2010, under the newly formed Demcratic National Alliance (DNA)
*Sri Lanka Army arrested him on February 8, 2010
* The first military tribunal convicted him on August 13, 2010 of dabbling in politics while in uniform and stripped him of all ranks, medals, honours he won during his military career

The views shared in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the AHRC, and the AHRC takes no responsibility for them.

About the Authors:
Sunalie Ratnayake and Sanath Jinadasa can be reached at

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Document ID :AHRC-ETC-008-2010
Countries : Sri Lanka
Date : 18-08-2010