The Editor

The Island

I am grateful for your highlighting some sections of my interview with the BBC regarding the US Report on Human Rights, as also for carrying my critique of some improprieties in it.

I did not hear the BBC version of what I said, though as always they seem to have highlighted what they wanted, which has led to a misconception. I have asked them to send me recordings of interviews, but this does not seem possible for the Sinhala service of the BBC, though other journalists oblige.

Sarath Fonseka

My emphasis was on the political angle of much criticism of the Human Rights situation in Sri Lanka, and I pointed out that there would be howls of execration if investigations were pursued into any connection Sarath Fonseka might be suspected to have had with the killing. This is part of the current great concern for Mr Fonseka, whereas previously I had been shown, at the British High Commission, a note suggesting Fonseka had squads engaged in illicit activities reporting to him. This was not connected with the killing of Lasantha Wickramatunga, and my informant did not claim the note amounted to evidence, but at that stage it seemed clear to me that he thought it might be true.

I cannot comment, and the note itself is obviously not evidence, but I have pointed out that there are different views in government and in those with executive and administrative responsibility (of which I myself have none at present, so it is a mistake to represent anything I say as that of a government spokesman). My own view is that government policy, as laid down and directed by the President, is inclusive and pluralistic, but obviously there will be differences of opinion, as we had to grant when for instance the then Army Commander made what seemed inappropriate remarks about the status of minorities and about politicians in Tamil Nadu. He was entitled to his views, but they should not have been confused with the views of the government.

I should note that my beliefs were vindicated absolutely by Sarath Fonseka’s letter of resignation, in which he berated the President for not having increased the size of the army, and for having released the Displaced too early. The policy of government on both these counts was admirable, and those who flocked to the Fonseka banner during the 2010 election completely ignored all this.

Though Mr Fonseka may hold and express his views as an individual, I should note that control of squads engaging in illicit activities is not acceptable. I do not think those who pretend to think him totally innocent have taken cognizance of the presence with him or armed deserters from the army in the immediate aftermath of the election. That may have some bearing on the allegations in the note I was shown, but I am sure the British High Commission have studied the matter more carefully than I have. Individuals therein may have reached different conclusions, though we must accept as trustingly as they do our official statements, that the UK Government, with Mr Miliband still Foreign Secretary, ‘did not favour any candidate in the Presidential Elections in Sri Lanka in 2009’.

The Island 13 April 2011