11/13/2009, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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General Fonseka resigns. Possibly to run for president

by Melani Manel Perera
With a five-page letter the architect of the military victory over Tamil rebels announced his retirement at odds with the government. The General accuses Rajapaksa of wanting to dismantle the army and being unable to secure the peace promised to the country and refugees.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - General Sarath Fonseka (photo) has resigned from his role as commander of the Defence Forces of Sri Lanka. One of the main protagonists in the victory over the Tamil Tigers thus abandons the armed forces at odds with the Colombo government led by Mahinda Rajapaksa.  

After the defeat of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Fonseka was moved to a position of pure representation, the commander of Defence Forces.   For many commentators the Fonseka’s farewell to the army announces his descent into politics ahead of presidential election in 2010 in which the general could challenge the same Rajapaksa.  

The government has not yet responded officially to the resignation of Fonseka who has stated his intention to retire on December 1, ahead of the end of his term which ends December 18. "I have my reasons," the general said in announcing his decision to the government with a five-page letter which explains in detail the reasons for his choice.

In the letter, dated November 12, bitterness and controversy emerges. Fonseka claims the merits of the victory over the Tamil Tigers and lamented the treatment received after the end of the war. He defines his shift to commander of Defence Forces as a lack of respect for his 40 years of service. He accuses the Colombo executive of wanting to dismantle the army that has achieved the historic victory over the rebels and remove the most capable, from positions they hitherto occupied.  

Fonseka also mentions the situation of refugees of war and the current military leadership, accusing the government of not being able to guarantee the future peace of Internally Displaced People which had been promised the refugees at the end of the conflict.

Answering questions on his upcoming presidential candidacy, Fonseka said "I know that my name has been mentioned a little 'everywhere." But then he added: "The authenticity of these items should be verified by asking the authors who reported them”.  

Sarath Fonseka is known as a strong supporter for Sinhalese nationalism, and more than once made statements in which he called the majority that inhabits the island the only true people of Sri Lanka.

In October, in a recent private trip to the United States, the General risked being called upon by the U.S. to answer for war crimes against civilians committed by the military during the conflict. Fonseka had rejected the accusations. Even then the General had declared his willingness to leave aside the uniform to get into politics if the government of Rajapaksa failed to exploit the end of the war with the Tigers to boost the economy, to permanently close the Reign of Terror and ensure true peace to the country.

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Freedom of movement for Tamil refugees, real or election promise?
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