Former Army Commander, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka says some elements are attempting to reignite the ethic issue. Fonseka said that while he has no authority over National security, President Maithripala Sirisena and the security forces have taken measures to ensure the country does not return to the dark ages. However he noted that some politicians who were rejected by the people are attempting to scare the people by reigniting the ethic issue. He said that those politicians are attempting to create suspicion in the minds of the people in the South about the people in the North and East and also to lose faith in the Government.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
By Ashanthi Warunasuriya
Q: What is your view today on the victory over the LTTE?
A: The war victory has been written in the history books of Sri Lanka in golden letters. It is indelible. However, with times it has become an event being mentioned with mere words. The war victory was gained sacrificing many lives of soldiers and others. Today some segments try to take the ownership of the victory of the war even by writing books. But the tri-forces did everything that needed to defeat the LTTE. They produced the plans; they commanded and activated those plans. Therefore, the full honour must go to the soldiers.
Q: What you can you say about the post war situation in the North and East now? Was the country able to achieve reconciliation?
A: Not what many expected. The former ruler, the government and security forces had the responsibility to achieve reconciliation by addressing the social issues in war torn areas. But what we saw was that the former leader had no such objectives or suitable political mechanism to achieve ethnic reconciliation. Instead he followed his personal agenda. It has been only four months since the government came into power. But they succeeded in wining the hearts of not only the people in the North but in the whole world. The post war situation disappointed everyone. Suspicion was seen among ethnic groups. Extremist groups emerged saying they represented the Sinhalese people. The leader welcomed them. Now they have been somewhat suppressed.
Q: You had a role to play in the safety of the country. But even today you have that responsibility in accordance with the position you now hold. What is your message to the people in order to ensure the security of the country?
A: It is a must to have and protect the territorial integrity of the country. We must not forget the commitment of the soldiers in this regard. We have to commemorate those who sacrificed their lives in defeating terrorism. No one must disregard those acts. Even today some countries in the world commemorate those who were killed in the World Wars I and II. We do not have to define that these acts hurt the feelings of another ethnic group. Even the Tamils should look at this situation fairly. The defeated was of a terrorist organisation. They tried to divide the country. So the Tamils should not be disappointed. Terrorism in the East killed thousands of Sinhalese. If Sinhala people sought revenge for that instance from the Army, the whole nation might have been against the Tri-forces. But that is very unreasonable. Everyone should appreciate the soldiers who were committed to safeguard the country in any condition.
Q: Ok, are you less inspired now to engage in politics since you were given the rank of Field Marshal?
A: No. The Field Marshal rank is given not only to those who are serving in the army but also to those who have retired from their service in the army. A field marshal has freedom to engage in politics. Five star generals have engaged in politics in the world. So the honourable rank of Field Marshal that I was given is not an obstacle to my political journey.
Q: Is it an advantage to your political career?
A: Yes, that may be. Being the President, Maithripala Sirisena receives some political advantages constantly. Likewise, being a Field Marshal I receive some social acceptance. I can’t avoid that respect. But I do not use my rank for political gains. It is uncivilised. When I visit my party office I do not wear my army uniform or act like a field marshal in the party office.
Q: Did you engage in politics to receive a rank or position. What is your view?
A: My uniform was stripped by the former ruler, defence secretary and army commander. I entered politics because the people think that the politics in the country should be changed. To achieve their purpose, they invited me into politics and I accepted it. Even now I engage in politics because the people and I personally think that the country needs a different political approach. I do not need to enter parliament or be the president of the country. If those in the parliament and the government refrain from engaging in corruption and other frauds that destroy the country and make poor its people, I do not have to engage in politics. We selected a president on January eighth and if everyone supports him and the good governance, we do not have to contest the presidency or back another candidate. Our being in politics is based on the decision of the people and achievements of the present president.
Q: Today the president is the president of the SLFP as well. What is your view on this situation?
A: We knew this beforehand. We also agreed that there should be a national government. But SLFP top rankers lost in the election because they backed the wrong person. Whole country rejected them. The character of Mahinda Rajapaksa definitely should leave political arena now. If he is a gentleman that he shows off himself now and he has mental clarity even to the least, he must leave politics and give the rein to the ones who won the election. By being greedy and with stolen assets and wealth what he is doing now is extremely despicable and he must stop doing it.
Q: But those allegations of stealing public money have not been proved yet. Have they?
A: They will be proved in the near future. Within one or two days, you cannot expect to prove them. It took over 10 years to prove allegations against Jayalitha. The people, who have been brought by the corrupted rulers, try to prevent these people from being punished. But the investigations are going on uninterrupted. The country must be protected from these bad elements.
Q: Is there any rift between Ranil Wickremesinghe and you?
A: No, not entirely. Whenever we meet even now, we talk. From my side, I do not have any problem with Ranil.
Q: Do you fully agree with the good governance of Maithripala Sirisena?
A: He has done many that he promised. But I have some issues. Before sacrificing the presidential powers by bringing in 19A, there were many things that he must attend to. One is to reveal those fraudsters. He must have rooted out all corrupt people in the system. Since he has not done that, there are some problems now. Besides that, we fully agree with his achievements.
Q: How is your future political goal, going to join another party or your party will contest on it’s own?
A: We will contest from our party. We do not have any personal issue with the SLFP or the UNP. We will decide with which leader we must join thereafter.
Q: It is said that you have been targeted to many a revenge. Are you disgruntled because of that victimisation or have you still got any revenge against them?
A: Now we do not have anything to take revenge. They are already defeated. They, who tried to kneel down us, have already knelt down. They, who put us in prison, are now in jail. We only need to lift the country though we sometimes feel like taking revenge which is natural.
Q: What is your political perfection?
A: We have very different political ideals. We do not have labels, social, capital or any other. We definitely adhere to and follow democracy. We are in socialist concept as well. But we do not have a socialist concept that of dividing wealth by taking it from the rich. The rich must be in the country. We do not have that type of extremist ideas. We do not have live in historical concept always. When we were winning the war, we acted in the same way.
Q: Are you satisfied with the ground level support your party is receiving at present?
A: It is only two years, one month and 10 days since the inception of our party. Within this duration, we got many party organisers. We received over seven lakhs votes at the past election. Our strength now has improved very much.
Q: Will your spouse enter the politics in the future?
Q: Even now she is engaged in politics. She carried out all the political activities when I was in prison. In the last election, she was on every political stage that our party supported. She will shoulder much responsibility at the next election.
Q: What is your message to the people now?
A: For everything people have to bow down to the politicos at present. We must create a country where fairness reigns. We have to select good disciplined people to parliament. Then only we can create a good country where law and order prevail. In developed countries, people do not send corrupted people to parliaments and they do not kneel down in front of politicos. Everyone must sacrifice and commit to create just society. I request their unwavering commitment to achieve this goal.