General Sarath Fonseka stated that the majority in the country needed to assume the responsibility of creating an environment of trust in order to combat ideas of separatism while slamming politicians for stirring racial tensions to gain political advantages.
The General made these comments while conducting a forum yesterday at the Kingsbury Hotel under the theme ‘The Untold Story by General Fonseka’, which recounted in detail the final Eelam War.
When questioned about elements of the Diaspora still harbouring the thoughts and dreams of creating a separate state within Sri Lanka and how this could be combated, General Fonseka stated that instead of trying to combat them and eliminate those sentiments through fear and intimidation, the people of the country needed to create an atmosphere of trust and harmony to quash those sentiments.
“We can’t stop the people from having their own sentiments. Even Tamils have all the right to think how nice it would be to have their own country. You can’t stop people from thinking like that. In a democratic country if someone says that they want a certain area to live in with their own Government, again we can’t, the way we eliminated terrorists, eliminate them. We are talking about good governance, so we can’t intimidate, we can’t terrorise people and change their thinking,” he stated.
He said that the people of the country should not place the blame solely on the others who were suspicious of the majority or who felt unsure of their place.
“The only way you can stop that thinking is, we being the majority community, will have to do whatever possible to ensure that minorities also live without mistrust, suspicion or a feeling of insecurity. We have to create that background and environment. We have to do it sincerely with commitment,” he explained.
The former Army Commander drew examples from present day politics claiming that politicians these days were trying to create those sentiments of disharmony to create racial tensions once again. He also criticised certain groups that were actively looking to create a divide between cultures and races within the country.
“You get various ‘Senas’ and ‘Balayas’ going around doing what they are doing. Crazy things. Naturally the minorities will also think that these people are given a free hand, ‘They will come and wipe us out’. So you can’t blame only the people who don’t trust the majority, we also need to take the responsibility for that,” he said.
He also stated that politicians in the North were engaged in a similar tactic where claims of genocide were creating tensions around the country while calling on all politicians to stop nurturing such damaging sentiments.
The General also fielded questions regarding the war crimes allegations levelled against the Government and the military while accusing the previous Government of not handling the situation well and instead creating further doubt and suspicion amongst the international community.
“The war crimes allegations are there and whether there is any truth in that we have to find out. My policy has been that if there are allegations they have to answer and clear the name. The allegations may have come with other interests. Maybe some people have tried to take political advantage. But we as the Army know that our hands are clean. There is no reason to avoid any complaints levelled against us. I am confident that we did not commit war crimes and we didn’t violate basic humanitarian law or the Geneva Convention,” he stated.
He added that the Army fought the war to protect the civilians and their property and were not a crazed group going on a “shooting spree.” He highlighted the fact that those who were supposed to have been answering the war crimes allegations were unaware of the realities of war and were instead trying to win sympathy for themselves.
He stated that the authorities should have requested the international community to hand in information regarding the accusations and conducted an investigation if the information was deemed credible. Instead, he claimed, the politicians tried to win the sympathy of the people by claiming that the international powers were coming after them personally.
“They didn’t mind the Army being taken to task or the Generals being hanged somewhere. They didn’t mind that the Army would be punished for nothing. They were only focused on gaining sympathy and winning votes in the South,” he said.
The General also took on the previous administration in his presentation claiming that those who tried to bury the truth have now been buried themselves, adding that the virtue of patience has cleared his name amongst the public who now recognise the work that had been done during the war.
Speaking on the new Government, he said that the conditions were ideal for the politicians to finally make a change in the country and hoped that the new President would take this opportunity to do so.