Victory day not far off
Days of pampering ‘arm-chair’ Generals over:
that the national problem could only be solved through political means,
the Army Commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka said that not only Tamils but
also Sinhalese and the Muslims need political solutions to solve some of
He said that the political solution should be completely different
from what the LTTE and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) were clamouring
for. Their ultimate goal is to destroy Sinhalese as was revealed by the
‘Eelam Pandiyan’ cadres, who had surrendered earlier.”
They admitted that they were motivated by the LTTE during their
training period not only to kill the Sinhalese soldiers but also the
Sinhalese people as well”.
The Army Commander said that numerous problems faced by the innocent
Tamils in the North and East due to LTTE terrorism would not be solved
by making R. Sampanthan or someone else the Prime Minister of the
Welcoming President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s invitation to the LTTE to
resume peace talks provided they lay down their arms, the Army chief
assured that the Army’s forward march to liberate Wanni would continue
without any hindrance.
Commenting on recent allegation on the attack on the media, Lt. Gen.
Fonseka said that he has a huge military arm with a strength of over
162, 000 men who have been trained to kill but not to assault.
“Certain media personnel, who have been misled by certain disgruntled
military officials, do not write in the interest of the people and the
country. How can they demand media freedom when they do not follow basic
ethics”, he queried.
Q: What is the strategic importance of Vidathalativu and what
would be the impact on the LTTE which had lost its main Sea Tiger base
after 18 years of control?
A: Vidathalathivu was a major Sea Tiger base in the Western
coast, where most of the sea operations of the LTTE were launched. They
maintained this base to smuggle in arms and ammunition from India via
the Mannar islands.
Now all their operations in the West are blocked and have to operate
from Nachchikuda side, where the movements are quite difficult. The main
thrust has now reached very close to Thunukai. The Kokkadival and
Kadavan have to be captured to protect the Western flank.
Q: But the Opposition has claimed, that Vidathalativu, was
abandoned by the LTTE some weeks ago and now dominated by the military,
has become a show piece to get political mileage during the forthcoming
North Central Provincial elections?
A: I feel the Opposition must be conducting some
reconnaissance missions in these areas. The military is no doubt
entitled to get a political mileage especially after capturing areas
like Vidathalathivu and Mannar.
Most probably we will capture many more places before the elections.
Are they expecting us to sit and wait until the elections are over? We
would like to know who the people are keep monitoring our movements from
Q: They also claim that the Army helps the government to take
political mileage through some of these military victories. How do you
see these allegations?
A: The President of the country being the Commander in Chief
is entitled to get the credit for all these military victories. He is
the one who takes decisions and responsibilities of launching these
major offensives. Wars are launched by the governments and credit of its
success will naturally go to the government and not to the Opposition.
Do they expect the Army to lose these battles and face reversals? So,
then the credit will not go to the government like what had happened in
Q: You have set deadlines to capture Wanni in the past and
also gave an assurance of a turning point in August. Is the military
ready to go for this target now or do you have to reset another
A: No, I never gave specific deadlines as such but what I said
was that I will here to capture Wanni during my tenure of office. And, I
never said as to when I will be finishing my term. That depends on how
long the President wants me to serve. I will do my best to finish it
within a reasonable time.
I don’t think any layman would ever think of capturing such a massive
area killing 8,000 to 9,000 terrorists in the process within an year. We
captured Vidathalathivu and the troops have advanced 3kms within a day.
In Chirandikulam we killed 25 terrorists few weeks ago. Now we have
seven km north of Chiraddikulam and three km in the south of Thunukkai.
The changes are taking place in the battle fronts. The Army could not
move even 100 metres further up and we fought for months to inch
forward. But now the troops are getting into a faster mode. We had only
12 casualties last week whereas those days there used to over 40
soldiers who get killed.
Now they do not confront us as earlier, where we were able to kill
more than 150 terrorists a week. Last week only 15 terrorists were
killed. The LTTE is avoiding confrontations with us as they do not want
to suffer high number of casualties. They have now changed their way of
Q: Isn’t this pattern changing because that they are facing a
severe shortage of manpower?
A: Yes, that has resulted to a greater extent. They have lost
over 9,000 in the last two years. The number of cadres were killed in
the East was over 2,000, then over 1,000 in Jaffna, 3,000 in Wanni, over
2,000 in Mannar, and over 1,000 in Weli Oya. The Air Force has killed
about a 1,000 and the Navy has killed 329. These official figures were
officially released at the last Security Council meeting.
The total number of casualties is very high. According to
intelligence there are over 5,000 cadres in the North including their
political cadres, home guards in bunkers and Nadeshan’s cadres. The LTTE
has recruited over 3,000 people forcibly. The quality of their fighting
In addition to the shortage of manpower, the LTTE lacks leaders,
after the death of their so called leaders, Anton Balasingham,
Tamilselvam and Balaraj. Prabakaran is as good as dead and is too old to
lead a terrorist outfit. Normally terrorist leaders are aggressive and
young people. So the LTTE is fighting a losing battle while the Sri
Lankan military is becoming stronger day by day.
Q: According to a certain media, the number of LTTE cadres
killed is different from the figures that you give. So some claim that
it is a numbers game to continue with the war. What do you have to say ?
A: The Army gets these numbers from our intelligence by
listening to the LTTE transmissions. After every confrontation, the LTTE
updates these numbers and they are not decided by the Army.
In Vidathalathivu, the LTTE has lost over 30 terrorists and these
numbers are confirmed by their transmissions. People who claim that this
is a numbers game are the ones who believe that the terrorists, and also
have more faith in the LTTE than the Sri Lankan Army.
Q: You have said that the LTTE’s days are numbered. How
confident are you that you can eliminate the LTTE before the end of your
A: Yes, why I say that their days are numbered is by comparing
what had happened during the last two years. In the last two years they
have lost territories, the East and now Mannar. Over 1,200 square km
area in the North have now been captured. This same trend was there for
two years when we liberated the East and the same will followed until we
capture the North.
LTTE has lost two thirds of its manpower and a large stock of weapons
including 2,500 rifles and other heavy weapons. They are running out of
arms now. As the fighting is going round the clock the LTTE could not
remain without ammunition and weapons to face us. So, I don’t think that
the LTTE can keep pace with this schedule. It is an impossible task for
Q: How do you assess the input of the intelligence services?
Are they more efficient than it was some years ago?
A: Yes, at the moment they are doing a tremendous job. In the
past when we were in the field we did not have confidence in their
services. They were actually doing basically, ‘post mortems’ on the
movements of terrorists and how their planned attack.
Now the situation has changed and we can rely on them who give us
accurate intelligence information on terrorist activities, their
strength and possible actions that they may resort to. We revamped the
intelligence services with some important changes.
Q: Innocent people in Yala still come under LTTE attacks. Why
has the military failed to capture the LTTE terrorists who have a free
run in Yala?
A: It is a long 90 km stretch of jungle terrain, with a width
of 40 km from Yala to Kanchikuddichchiaru in the Eastern Province
towards Ampara. The group which had shot at the bus was the same group
that had fired at the Army patrol in Panama about a month ago.
They have used the same weapons this time as well. When they are
defeated they use very cheap tactics under the instructions of
Prabhakaran, who has never being humane. After the Army clears the
Kanchikuddichchi area, the STF will set up new camps in this area to
deter them. We have already taken steps with the STF to hunt them.
Q: You have taken part in almost all the major military
operations in the last 25 years. Where do you think that we had failed
A: We had failed due to many reasons. The main reason was the
Army did not have an overall strategy to fight and capture the LTTE
controlled areas. We were only going for very limited operations. We
launched offensives without aiming to capture Jaffna and there were no
plans to liberate the East.
We commenced operation ‘Jayasikuru’ and fought for three years
without a proper plan to eliminate LTTE cadres from that area. We merely
captured camps. We were limited only to certain operations like the
rescue of Jaffna Fort or the Elephant Pass. The Army started Eelam war I
and II just to rescue camps.
At that time we did not have plans to deploy troops to hold on to
these camps. While we were conducting operations in the North the Army
vacated all the camps in the East. When I was the Brigade Commander,
Welikanda, I remember how we vacated Mavil Aru, Vakarai and Kadiraweli
in 1993 and in 1994 because we were attacked from the Punani -
Today, we have an overall plan and this plan did not come up from
nowhere. We worked very hard, trained troops, then created over 40 new
battalions, and then we have deployed over 8,000 additional troops in
the East. And we have a reserve about 12,000 in the North, where we had
only 1500 earlier.
In Wanni, Mannar and Weli Oya, over 13,000 troops are going on the
offensive operations. We have filled almost all the vacancies. The Sri
Lanka Army which had a force strength of 118,000 has now gone upto
We have put lots of efforts on training and the expansion of the
Army. Although we are fighting in Mannar, Weli Oya and Vavuniya we are
also planning ahead to capture Kilinochchi or Mullaithivu. The top
officials of the Army do not sit in well secured offices and give them
orders. Guidelines are very clear and don’t give impossible tasks, so
the soldiers are going ahead with lots of confidence.
Q: The Chief Opposition Whip, Joseph Michael Perera has
accused you of having a special squad to attack media personnel who are
critics of the military. Is there any truth in what he says”?
A: I have a large force operating with a strength of 162, 000
who have been trained to kill and not to assault. He who says all these
things must furnish all the details to the police if he has all the
information. I think he has lots of sympathy for me. No point in him
talking inside the Parliament, where nobody is going to take any action.
As far as what he has mentioned all what I can say is that these are
Q: But it is reported that the Army is behind the attack on
Keith Noyair of The Nation newspaper who had written a military story
criticizing the military few weeks before the attack. What do you have
to say about this allegation?
A: How many other journalists write political or military
columns? Why should the Army attack only on Keith Noyair. I have never
seen anywhere that Keith Noyair had said that the Army had attacked him.
Some people are trying to put us against him. He has never accused that
the Army had assaulted him. And I think perhaps he is guilty that he has
done something wrong by writing against the military.
Q: Is he tight-lipped because he is supposed to be in fear of
A: If he has not done anything wrong, he does not have to live
in fear. If he has done some damage to our organisation or to a person,
especially when he has done something which he is not suppose to do,
then it is natural he must be living in fear. If they think that they
have done something of that nature the best thing for them is to correct
themselves and rectify the mistake.
Q: What is the role you expect the media to play during the
time of war?
A: War or no war, the media should write in the interest of
the country and not to please their favourites. The media is supposed to
play a neutral role to educate people. They are not supposed to create
situations where they groom people and make heroes out of them. I do not
think that certain media in this country is doing their duty with a
sense of responsibility.
We know that they are being bribed, given ‘drinks’, treated in
restaurants and they have their own vested interests. And is it ethical
them to go for agendas misleading people?.
These so called media guys are not responsible to the people and they
are not entitled to such media freedom. Media freedom is there for you
to do the right thing and to be fair by everybody. Nobody has given
freedom for anybody to drive their own agendas. We know very well about
those media people who take bribes, write and voice their opinion for
some personal gains.
That Keith Noyair who was assaulted was returning from a restaurant
with his friends and they were drunk. We do not know that somebody in
the restaurant had got annoyed with them, followed him and assaulted.
So, especially the media people should behave well and set an example
to others. To me, those who stage protests with unshaven beards, long
hairs and wearing costumes like in fancy dress competitions are not
scribes who are clamouring for media freedom but a gang of thugs.
Q: Journalists too have the right to stage protests demanding
media freedom, justice and their appearance seems to immaterial. Can you
deny that right?
A: They can stage their protests in a decent way. I do not
mind learning from them if they can behave properly. Behaving like
thugs! Is that what you call media freedom? They can talk if some thing
goes wrong in the interest of people and the country. They can point it
out. I am ready to learn from those who have a sense of responsibility
towards national interest.
Q: Some media organisations claim that the military wants to
cover up reality in the name of war. What is your comment?
A: I hope I have explained the reality of some of the media
people in this country. Those who are criticising on the progress that
the Army has made, by confining to their editorials can come with us to
have a look at most of the bunkers.
It is a shame that some of these journalists who criticize the
military have never gone beyond Madawachchiya. When the offensives were
going on in the East they had never stepped beyond Manampitiya.
This is how they write their criticisms claiming the military assault
and the media to cover up the reality. So, we can arrange these media
personnel to listen to terrorist transmissions. But they have to write
what exactly that they listen to.
Meanwhile, I want warn these media guys to beware of those
disgruntled high ranking military officials. They are the ones who are
leaking out misleading information to the media. We know about them and
have sidelined them now.
Q: There is a claim that certain top military officials are
frustrated as they are not getting their due promotions. What are the
steps taken to rectify the situation?
A: Yes, they are frustrated because we are now not looking
after them. I want the Army to look after the welfare of the country.
Our army officers can not walk around like US or British Army officers.
These people are frustrated because I am not going out of my way to
look after their welfare at the expenses of the Army welfare. If I put a
weak man to command a division and thereby sacrifice hundreds of
soldiers like what happened in Mullaithivu, Elephant Pass and
Then I will be really looking after them. Those who ran away leaving
their command posts in Mullaithivu, kilinochchi and Elephant Pass are
senior Generals in the Army now. Their welfare have been perfectly
looked after that time. But who looked after the welfare of those who
died and went missing? Do they want me to do the same? No, I will never
Those who can’t produce results will not be looked after and the only
way that I can help them is by helping them to get a job outside.
Because, there are lots of jobs for retiring Generals and Brigadiers.
There are others in the Army who deal with anti-war NGOs and the
media to insult the Army. These are the people who leak information and
pass the wrong information to create unfortunate situations.
So the media should be careful about these disgruntled top military
officials. I am not occupying this seat merely to look after those
Q: President Mahinda Rajapaksa has reiterated the willingness
to resume talks with the LTTE, if they lay down their arms. Do you think
that holding peace talks is necessary when the LTTE is getting cornered?
A: Yes, only if they lay down arms and come for peace talks
after totally stopping terror activities. In such an environment, the
President’s willingness to negotiate with the LTTE is absolutely a
Q: If the LTTE accept the condition to commence peace talks
will the military be confined to the barracks?
A: That will never happen. They can continue with the Talks
but we will clear the North. The President had never said that forward
march of the Army to liberate the North will have to stop. Our troops
will carry on.
Q: We can achieve military victories against LTTE terrorism.
But do you agree that the national problem can be solved only through
A: Yes, I think the whole country needs some political changes
to solve certain problems. So these political solutions have to come not
only for Tamils but for all the communities.
Some Tamil political, especially the couple of TNA MPs who say some
thing here and utter differently when in the LTTE controlled areas may
have some serious political problems which no one can address as their
aspirations are totally different.
In those war torn areas the people are facing tremendous hardships.
The damage due to war is huge and they do not have better
infrastructure like roads and bridges like in other areas.
People are uneducated and children are suffering from malnutrition.
These problems cannot be solved by making R. Sampanthan or somebody
else the Prime Minister of the so-called Eelam. These people need
solution for these problems.
Who is Gardihewa Sarath Chandralal Fonseka
The teacher couple, transferred to a primary school in the remote
jungle village moved in with their newly born son. Both, trained
teachers, taught at that school for a few years and their little son
started his primary education in the same school.
35 students with no uniforms wore sarongs and shirts to school and
had their hair knotted. Little Sarath too went to school wearing a
sarong and a shirt carrying a slate in his hand cutting across paddy
fields, ponds and jungle patches, with his parents travelling over 25
kilometres daily in a bullock cart to the school which was located
between Ampara and Akkaraipattu.
Madawalanda Primary School, a cadjan housing all the students, was a
haven for animals and birds. Though they lived happily in that jungle
village the villagers were in constant fear of attacks from wild animals
and also Tamils who attacked Sinhala villagers.
“I can still remember how the villagers used to run to a rocky cliff
when Tamils attack our village. We spend two to three days there until
the situation comes back to normal’’, says the Commander of the Sri
Lanka Army Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, recalling his bitter experience as a
five year old who was caught in the web of communal ill feelings some
Today, commanding his men to defeat the terrorists to liberate Tamils
caught in violence and terrorism, he says his biggest challenge in life
is to command his forces to destroy terrorism.
After a brief period studying at another primary school his parents
enroled him at Ambalangoda Dharmashoka Vidyalaya, his home town. There
he excelled in sports but paid less attention to his studies. The
parents received regular complaints that he spent more time in the
He had to say good bye to Dharmashoka when his parents wanted him to
do well in his studies and decided to send him to Colombo Ananda
College. Change of school did bring some changes in his report and he
brought home several medals and certificates.
The boy who excelled in swimming in the seas off Ambalangoda became
the captain of the Ananda College swimming team. With no idea of
becoming either a teacher or a doctor, the guy who excelled in sports
and in many other fields had only one ambition and that was to become a
Later his unending love for the Army uniform made the young cadet
sergeant of the Ananda College to top all the candidates at the
“I always wanted to join the Army. So I joined the cadet team when I
was 10 and being very small I was not even allowed to go camping but I
got the training”, the Army Chief says.Soon after his 18th birthday he
sent in his first job application at a time when politics played a major
role in selection.
“I joined the Army under the UNP government which sacked my father
from service who was a SLFPer. Without any influence I came first in all
tests. Otherwise it was difficult to get into the Army those days
without doing politics” says the Army Chief.
When he was young, his role models were his parents and when he was a
young Army officer the world famous and renowned Generals became his
role models and as and when he was getting promoted from one rank to
another, he became his own master guiding him in the correct direction.
“Now I think I do not follow anybody as I know what I am doing. I
have found my own way of doing things”, were the views of this battle
hardened war veteran who displays several medals for his bravery.
The MOTO in his life: Always do things right.
“When I get promotions I only tried to do my duty as best as I can. I
tried to do things better than others and I tried to become the best
when it comes to military operations. To fulfil my desire I took lots of
efforts and made lots of sacrifices” says the Army Chief, who says that
he does not wish to step into politics because it is not his field.
“I can hold whatever the responsibility given to me in this field but
I do not think that I could make a good politician as I cannot do things
what the majority of politicians do”, he laughs.
Having the experience of suffering from several war wounds, the Army
Chief who had narrowly escaped from a suicide attack at his own
headquarters says that incident did not bring forth any psychological
impact or instill fear in him, whereas it renewed the vigour in his
battle with terrorism.
“I was fit enough to step out of the ambulance after reaching the
hospital and then I realised that there was internal bleeding as my
abdomen was getting a cramped feeling and was short of breath. I have
had a similar experience earlier and so I asked them to put in the tube
to suck out the blood!”, recalls the Army Chief.
* LTTE’s route to ferry across ordnance is blocked with the capture
* Some more LTTE controlled areas to be captured before NCP
* President and the government will no doubt deserve the credit for
the military victories.
* LTTE avoid confrontations with the military to minimize their
* LTTE have lost over 9,000 cadres in the last two years and 3000
have been forcibly conscripted.
* LTTE Leader Prabhakaran is good as dead and is too old to command a
* Prabhakaran’s true nature shows when he kills unarmed civilians
whenever defeat stares at his face.
* Army never had an overall strategy earlier to fight and capture
LTTE controlled areas.
* The strength of the Sri Lanka Army has risen from 118,000 to
162,000, with a reserve of 12,000 well trained soldiers in the North.
* The Army was not responsible for the attack on Keith Noyair.
* Some disgruntled high ranking military officials provide misleading
information to the media.
* Top Army officers are frustrated because their personal welfare is
not looked after at the expense of Army welfare.
* Officers who ran away from Mullaithivu, Kilinochchi and Elephant
Pass battle fronts are senior Generals in the Army now today.