Monday, July 12, 2010

The King with Two Faces

Monday, July 12, 2010The King with Two Faces
In all honesty no one who has experienced it firsthand has any knowledge of what Fonseka is going through at the hands of his captors. Quite possibly the retired general's nerves just gave out. .................................

by Stewart Sloan
(The views expressed are the author's own)

(July 12, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) As an international observer I was fascinated by the Sri Lankan Presidential Elections which were held on the 26th January, 2010. While there were several contenders the main characters in the field were the incumbent president, Mahinda Rajapakse and the man who would be king, retired general, Sarath Fonseka.

Much has already been written about the election and it is not my intention to go into great detail about it here. However, I must say that I believe the results to have been rigged in favour of Rajapakse in the most blatant manner. So sure of the government's victory, and so arrogant as to believe that no one would challenge the results, ballot boxes containing votes in favour of Sarath Fonseka were discarded in a field adjoining a voting station at Ratnapura. This degree of arrogance is truly mind boggling.

It probably came as no surprise to anyone when the news broke that Fonseka had been arrested. But the manner of this arrest was surprising, even for Sri Lanka. The arrest was carried out with no form of due process and in the most horrendous fashion so as to cause maximum humiliation to Fonseka himself and the obvious intimidation to his family and followers. He was literarily dragged out of his election offices by the ankles.

For the next few months I, and the rest of the world watched as Sarath Fonseka was treated with the utmost contempt. A group on Facebook was created, Free the GENERAL has, to-date, 2,463 members. Every day I logged into the Sri Lankan news papers expecting to read the news that he had been killed while attempting to escape; that his wife had managed to smuggle in an AK47 and twenty hand grenades in his lunch box with which the general had tried to kill his guards.

Numerous articles have been written demanding his release, protests held in Colombo and elsewhere and the clergy both Christian and Buddhist have agitated for his release. And yet his court martial goes on. Then the general's courage shone through; he would testify, he said, before the UN on the issue of war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan Army at the close of the war between Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam, the LTTE.

This, I thought was a true test of the man's mettle. Incarcerated by the Rajapakse regime, completely at their mercy and suffering from the effects of his injuries he received in a terrorist bombing some years before, here was a man that was not going to allow the Rajapakses to intimidate him. He would testify before the UN and the world would have first hand evidence of the war crimes which included the slaughter of surrendering LTTE soldiers and that the orders to kill them had come from no less a person than Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the Secretary of the Ministry of Defense and Mahinda Rajapakse's brother. European journalists jostled for the 'honour' of interviewing Gotabhaya who made no bones about the fact that he would have Fonseka hung if he had the temerity to do such a thing.

All was quiet for a few weeks and I am sure that many of the other observers would dearly love to know what went on behind closed doors. Where there threats, or promises of leniency; perhaps even the promise a reward for changing his story? Whatever happened, last week Sarath Fonseka announced that, yes, he would testify before a UN inquiry, but it would not be to denounce the Sri Lankan army or Gotabhaya Rajapakse but rather to clear the 'good name' of the Sri Lankan army.

This was something of an about face and no one can help but wonder what brought it on. Suffice to say, Fonseka's stock fell badly in the minds of many of his followers and supporters.

In all honesty no one who has experienced it firsthand has any knowledge of what Fonseka is going through at the hands of his captors. Quite possibly the retired general's nerves just gave out. Whatever the case there can be no doubt that he has been effectively silenced. The man who would be king has two faces.

Stewart Sloan is the author of three novels and a collection of anecdotes about the Royal Hong Kong Police Force whom he served as a civilian from 1987 to 1997. He works as an editorial assistant for a regional human rights NGO in Hong Kong.