A fresh row broke out with a magazine featuring an interview with the former Army Chief in which he has accused Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa of having instructed a commander to shoot all LTTE leaders who had come out to surrender to the military.

As the date for the filing of nomination papers to the January 26 Sri Lankan presidential election is fast approaching, the war of words between the camps of majority opposition parties’ candidate retired General (retired) Sarath Fonseka and President Mahinda Rajapaksa has intensified.

A fresh row broke out with Sunday Leader, an English weekly, featuring an interview with the former Army Chief in which he has accused Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa of having instructed a ground commander in the battle zone during the last phase of the Eelam War IV (May 16 to May 19) to shoot all LTTE leaders who had come out to surrender to the military.

Within hours after the weekly hitting the stands, the government categorically denied the charges and hinted that the retired General could face legal action. “The interview of the retired General is a great betrayal of the nation, people of Sri Lanka and his former colleagues. Since the end of the Eelam War IV in the fourth week of May, there have been so many attempts by so many quarters to defame the security forces of Sri Lanka on charges of human rights violations but the simple truth is up to now no one has been able to prove anything,” Human Rights and Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe told reporters.

He said the episode was a part of the effort to destabilise the country and pointed out that the six doctors, Prabakaran’s parents, Daya Master and Charles Master who surrendered were looked after well and still alive.

Flanked by Information Minister and two leaders associated with the ruling combine — Wimal Weerawansa and Champika Ranawaka — Mr. Samarasinghe said General (retired) Fonseka contradicted his own statement on July 10. The contents of the statement had not only been reported by the local and international media but found a place in the 68-page U.S. State Department report of October 22 to the Congress.

The U.S. report says, “July 10 – A media outlet reported on July 18 that at a celebratory event in Ambalangoda, Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka stated that the military had to overlook the traditional rules of war and even kill LTTE rebels who came to surrender carrying white flags during the war against the LTTE.”

Mr. Samarasinghe said the General had said he was under tremendous pressure from several quarters to order the ground troops not to shoot at the LTTE cadres and he had taken the position that the soldiers who had staked their lives were the best judges.

Hours after the interview triggered a storm, the retired General held a news conference along with ultra-nationalist Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) leader Somawansa Amarasingha. The candidature of General Fonseka is being supported separately by the United National Party (UNP), main opposition and JVP along with several other smaller parties.

At the news conference on the prompting of the JVP leader, the former Army Chief said he was eager to have a live television debate on various topics including the war with the President.

In the The Sunday Leader, the General has contended that he had no information in the final days of the war that three key LTTE leaders had opted to surrender to the military.

“Fonseka charged that communications were instead confined between the LTTE leaders, Norway, various foreign parties, Basil Rajapaksa, Member of Parliament and the powerful senior adviser to the President and such information was never conveyed to him as he supervised the final stages of the war,” the weekly reported.

The three LTTE leaders he is referring to are Balasingham Nadeshan, a former police constable of Sri Lanka police and the political head of the LTTE, Seevaratnam Pulidevan, head of “LTTE peace secretariat” and Ramesh, a senior special commander of the military wing.

General Fonseka told the weekly that he later learnt about what exactly took place from journalists embedded with forces.

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