ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s government came face-to-face with military insubordination at a very high level when Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera visited Jaffna to launch a website for ethnic reconciliation.
The usually unflappable Samaraweera was surprised by the tone of Major General Chagi Gallage when he visited Jaffna soliciting public views on a new reconciliation mechanism after decades of war.
Jaffna Security Forces Commander, Chief of Defence Staff Kolitha Gunathilake and defence secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi were present when Gallage, a senior officer commanding a division, spoke out.
The provocation for Gallage’s outburst which sought to contradict the administration was not immediately clear, but the Minister did not raise it thereafter, but the military leadership took immediate action.
The saving grace was the transfer of Gallage as director general of infantry, a position in Colombo without command of troops.
Gallage was the head of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s military security unit.
The major general’s action has brought loyalties into question at a time when the government is moving ahead with addressing accountability and reconciliation after ending a decades-long Tamil separatist war.
Former army chief Sarath Fonseka being brought back into the political fold through the UNP national list is seen as a sign of the government’s willingness to ensure war crimes investigations despite opposition protests.
Fonseka, the man who actually led the war against separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has maintained willingness to face any international tribunal in contrast to his former boss, ex-president Rajapaksa.
The former regime’s opposition to any probe could be neutralised by Fonseka who can credibly claim ownership of the war victory while facing any investigation.
Fonseka has also maintained that no war crimes were committed under his command, but qualified it by adding that he was away in China during the final week of the war when much of the alleged high profile atrocities took place.
Former president Chandrika Kumaratunga who is spearheading a reconciliation effort of the new government said last year that they will go after command responsibility rather than individual soldiers who may have only been carrying out illegal orders. (COLOMBO Feb 19, 2016)