All indications are that the "war hero" would enter public life as a consensus opposition candidate against Mr. Rajapaksa in the event of a presidential election.

The four-decade-long military career of General Sarath Fonseka, who led the war against the LTTE, ended on Monday with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa naming Air Force Chief Roshan Gunathilleke as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

However, General (retired) Fonseka may not adhere to the dictum “Old Soldiers never die, they just fade away”. All indications are that the “war hero” would enter public life as a consensus opposition candidate against Mr. Rajapaksa in the event of a presidential election.

The guard of honour offered to the General was a low-key affair and the chiefs of the three forces were conspicuous by their absence. To questions about his future role, General (retired) Fonseka said: “Wait for two or three days”.

He was granted early retirement last Thursday within hours of writing a letter to the President listing 16 reasons that prompted him to leave military career.

On Friday, secretary to the President, Lalith Werathunga, wrote on behalf of Mr. Rajapaksa to the CDS and the letter was made public on Sunday.

On Monday, it was announced that Mr. Rajapaksa had appointed a successor to General Fonseka. The new CDS, Gunathileke would also continue to be Air Chief.

General (retired) Fonseka had asked to be relieved of military responsibilities from December 1. However, he was asked to retire immediately. “ have already overstayed your date of retirement by four years, you will be retired from the Sri Lanka Army with immediate effect,” the President’s response said adding that the government was left with no option after the General had complained that the President and the government had lost trust in him.

The government has promised to respond to “numerous statements” made by General (retired) Fonseka in his resignation letter.

A senior Presidential aide told The Hindu that Mr. Rajapaksa was convinced the General was dancing to the tunes of his political opponents. “There is no clear policy to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil people, which will surely ruin the victory attained,” General (retired) Fonseka had said in his letter to the President.

That matters have reached a point of no return was evident when Mr. Rajapaksa indirectly hit out at the retired General at the national convention of his party on Sunday evening.

He said when the notion to develop the country was set in motion, there could be patriots who could become traitors for political reasons. “Such elements will only honour the last wish of LTTE leader Prabakaran who wanted to divide the military and the people.”

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