The JVP says the UNF-JVP presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka has denied a statement attributed to him in The Sunday Leader on Dec. 13, 2009 that he had learnt from a third party that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa ordered 58 Division Commander Maj. Gen. (then Brigadier) Shavendra Silva to gun down LTTE leaders who surrendered. He is reported to have given that newspaper a choice between publishing his denial and facing a costly law suit.
Fonseka addressing the media immediately after the publication of the news item at issue said he would not take any action against The Sunday Leader, which had, he said, not acted with a malicious intention he was sanguine that the paper would put the matter to rest on its own. The following Sunday, The Sunday Leader carried a clarification by Fonseka, which, instead of clarifying anything as such, muddied the water further. For, he repeated the allegation that, according to information he had received from some embedded journalists, Gotabhaya had issued `an illegal order` to the army he added in the same breath that the army however had not carried it out!
The UN, which had been looking for an opportunity to press war crimes charges against Sir Lanka, swung into action. UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston fired a letter at the Sri Lankan government calling for explanation as regard Fonseka`s allegation. Alston is obviously clinging on to a claim which lacks legal validity, but that can certainly be used to harass this country and its political and military leaders.
It is puzzling why Fonseka took so long to issue a denial. Now that the UN has made an issue of his reported statement, he should seriously consider copying his denial to Alston for the latter s information.
There weren`t many journalists embedded with the army on the battlefront and they may be able to enlighten us on this score. Fonseka has sought to deny what an editor has written quoting him and it will be interesting to know what the formerly embedded journalists have got to say about the former army chief`s claim that some of them told him that Gotabhaya issued an illegal order to the ground troops. What journalists are supposed to do is to file stories for the consumption of the public and not to carry tales to military bigwigs and cause schisms within the defence establishment. So, the war correspondents, who were with the 58 Division, are duty bound to speak up.
The government claims that some of the journalists concerned have offered to give affidavits denying Fonseka`s claim. If so, they must be obtained and made public forthwith.
Make MR and SF pay
Politicians seek popular mandates to restore the rule of law, among other things, but they themselves blatantly flout the election laws! The Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake reads them the riot act frequently but to no avail. They carry on regardless putting up massive cutouts and defacing the wayside walls, lampposts and road signs with posters.
The Elections Secretariat is reported to have instructed the Police to see to it that all election related cutouts, posters etc. in unauthorized locations be removed without further delay, as a sum of Rs. 12.8 mn has been allocated for that purpose.
Although there are 22 presidential candidates in the fray, the blame for aggravating visual pollution and violating the laws governing the display of election related material must be placed at the doorstep of the two main contestants, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka. Every day we are treated to waves of posters advertising their candidacy. The whole country knows them but they still want to make sure that we do not miss their grinning mugs. They need not ruin the environment and bust so much of funds in a bid to make us remember them we are trying our best to forget them!
It may not be fair for us to pressure the poor Elections Commissioner, who is being kept in that post against his will, to exert himself anymore to have posters and cutouts removed he is already doing his utmost to conduct free and fair polls against tremendous odds.
We only suggest that the cost of removing election posters etc. be recovered from the main culprits, President Rajapaksa and Fonseka.
The harried public must not be made to foot the bill.