One on one with the Defense Secretary

Secretary to the Ministry of Defense Gotabhaya Rajapaksa spoke to Daily Mirror online on the trial of General Sarath Fonseka, the support of the international community in apprehending the remaining elements of the LTTE and other issues.

How successful have you been in getting vital information from Kumaran Pathmanathan (KP), who is in Sri Lankan custody and will be he be produced in front of a court any time soon?
We are yet to decide on the matter of presenting him before court.  We are still in the process of gathering information from him because he was a person who was working with the LTTE especially on international affairs, business and procurement. Therefore we want to get as much information as possible and especially to break into their (the LTTE) network and get their assets.

In this area we have been very successful; this is why we were able to apprehend Rajan and also we have already possessed one ship. Further we have come to know about a lot of businesses the LTTE had, operating in various parts of the world. We have been able to educate those countries to close down some of these activities. That is the most important thing; that through him we came to know of this network of various operations taking place in various countries, which we didn’t know earlier and those countries themselves were unaware of. Therefore we were very successful, in getting information from him.

There are different businesses they were running and for those countries those were legitimate types of business and those are LTTE owned or LTTE investments. Therefore if we had not given the information these governments would not know; that these are LTTE businesses.

Naming countries if of no use, because when we name the country those countries don’t like it. Those countries don’t want to know that certain LTTE groups were operating within their borders and we had a very bad experience with Eritrea.

It came out in the papers and now Eritrea has completely shut down everything; they don’t talk to us and they completely cut us off.

We know that there are certain assets that belong to the LTTE; but because it came out in a newspaper they refused to cooperate with us. It is very counter-productive giving out the names of these countries. Because it may have news value but it is very counter-productive for intelligence.

Now we are in the process of redeveloping our ties with them, from scratch. There were plans to open a consulate there; but even that they refused.

In your opinion have we really seen the end of the LTTE or does the threat of them re-emerging still exist?

They have no ability for them to regroup and attack or do any military work. But of course there a lot of things that can be done, both locally and internationally, to prevent them reemerging.

Everyone knows that there are still people in camps and some people whom we have still not captured, who may have gone underground. We still have a lot of intelligence work, so that we can arrest those that are still remaining. Also we have to take legal action against those that have been arrested. We also have to plan our military operations so that they will not regroup. We have to take precautions, locally.

These steps are local; but internationally these are networks that were operating for over 30 years, they had fundraising networks, procurement networks, they had business networks all over the world. Therefore we have to work with the intelligence agencies of those countries and their governments, to close down these businesses and break into these networks.

With most countries it is easy but with the western countries it is very difficult because there is a very big pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora and we don’t get much cooperation from western countries; especially the European countries. So without their cooperation it is very difficult to catch these people.

Therefore what they (the LTTE) could not achieve through military means they will try to achieve through other means with the help of these governments. And this is why they are trying to establish this Transnational Government of Tamil Elam.

But what I see is that although there is a big Tamil Diaspora, the majority of them are moderates and don’t support the Elam concept. Most of them want to come back to Sri Lank and live peacefully. It is only a very small extreme element that is trying to re-organize; not militarily but trying to achieve the same goal through other means.

As an IT expert, do you think that it is ethical for a government to infiltrate into the online privacy of Sri Lankan citizens by gathering information, with regard to their political affiliations?

Actually, if we could do that it would be good, however as a third world country we don’t have that facility. But in all other developed countries they monitor emails, telephone conversations, SMS and people in the streets. So they have a lot of monitoring systems and also all their systems are integrated. Unfortunately, ours is not. All security agencies in these countries could, by simply giving a number; they can obtain all the details of a person. But we don’t have that facility and in fact we have to develop such a system.

Our ID card system is not effective, so we have to introduce a better system. We faced a situation in the past 4 years, we saw the weakness of the ID card system, where every suicide carder and terrorist had a bogus ID. Further our passport system is not fool-proof.

We don’t have a close CCTV surveillance system in Colombo; whereas in all the other big cities they are monitored.

We cant monitor SMS’s or email, we need to have such a system but we don’t and we are not doing it.

Your interview with the Strait Times of Singapore has sparked a lot of controversy. With the US and Norway denying that they backed the Presidential Campaign of Gen.Fonseka, do you still stand by your comments?
I went into more details when I spoke to them but they had condensed, it in such a way that it gave a vey different meaning. What I really meant was; I have proof that

Norway had backed Sarath Fonseka by paying journalists to write against the government and paying NGO’s. It was not direct hard money given to Sarath Fonseka, they have used various methods to give money; they paid certain Human Rights activists, a huge sum of money. For a month they have given millions, making it very clear that this money was given to work against the government and in support of Sarath Fonseka. So I stand by that statement.

In the case of the US, what I said was; for the slightest thing they issue a statement against the government but when Sarath Fonseka publicly claimed that he was going to arrest the President and arrest the Secretary and put us behind bars, the US didn’t issue similar statements. But for any rumor, even hypothetical, they issue a statement against the government.

We have arrested Fonseka and will give him a trial according to our rules and regulations, what need does the US have to issue a statement? They should not have issued a statement, this shows their intentions. This is what I said and I stand by it.

You said, also in that interview, that he was responsible for the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunga. What evidence do you have to back these claims?

What I said was that all the attacks on media people were being investigated and I have very firm, not evidence, but firm indications that it was done by Sarath Fonseka.

“Indications” in the sense…

I know that it was done by him but I have to prove those things. I have to have definite evidence. I have said that he is the person who is responsible for attacks on media not that he killed anyone and that I am carrying on investigations on the matter.

If he was the one responsible for these attacks, then why is it still happening, even after he retired from the Army?

No it didn’t happen after that; tell me anybody who was attacked?

Eknanigoda went missing recently…

Eknanigoda he himself disappeared. I know he had a complain over one year ago and the he resurfaced again. We don’t even know who this Eknanigoda is, what had he done?

Anyone can claim that he is missing but there are a lot of people who are missing for their own advantage.

There was a pattern those days; when real journalists wrote something, they were attacked. We didn’t even know if Eknanigoda was writing to some paper.

What you are saying then is that this is one isolated incident and the trend has changed from the time of the war?

This has nothing to do with the war. If you analyze the situation you see that it is personal. When the government, the President and Ministers were criticized nothing happened to them. But when anyone had an incident with Sarath Fonseka, this type of disappearance happened.
And at that time the UNP, Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe, John Amaratunga, Micheal Jospeh and Range Bandara very clearly said in Parliament that these things were being done by Sarath Fonseka.

The government has constantly claimed that there was this “international Conspiracy” by the west against the President. And some might see the presence of the UK’s Foreign Secretary at the Global Tamil Forum as a means for the west to get our attention, because we haven’t been engaging with them as much as they would like. What is your response to such speculation?
In the last 4 years our foreign policy was excellent. We followed a foreign policy which was beneficial to

Sri Lanka. We are not there to satisfy the world we were there to satisfy the people.

For instance we engaged with India and developed the best relationship with them and everyone knows that India is the main factor. Our relationship was strong enough that we were able to finish the terrorist problem without any hindrance.

Similarly we developed a good relationship with the South East Asian countries, which is an important factor when it comes to terrorism. Because a lot of LTTE activity their ships, procurement and leaders were operating in this region.

Likewise we developed good relations with China, Russia, Pakistan and Middle Eastern countries so that they supported us at forums.

But if someone wants to follow their agenda we can’t allow that, if it is not in the best interest of Sri Lanka. The west wanted to negotiate with the LTTE instead of defeating them militarily. We don’t want to be in their good books and suffer here.

But what political speculators say is that our connections with China and Russia are indicating to the west that we no longer need them…

No that is not diplomacy, these countries should understand that we had to be good with

Russia and China because we depended on them a lot. Most of our development projects are funded by China and we were depending on them for our arms. Russia understood our position and they never told us to talk to the LTTE, they supported our effort to defeat terrorism. Obviously we had to be friends with Russia who was towing our line, like India and Pakistan.

We don’t want to be angry with any country but by doing that we don’t want to sacrifice our unitary state, our sovereignty or give in on any issue.

With regard to the Military tribunal required for the trial of General Sarath Fonseka; how is that going to be handled, since it is customary to have an officer of a similar or higher rank sitting on such a bench?
It is customary, but not a necessity in the regulations. If he is the highest officer then obviously we have to use equal or junior officers, because if we don’t have a Field Marshall what can we do.

Despite everything that happened in the past months there was a time when you, the President, and the Retired General fought the battle side by side and you’ll hailed him as the greatest General. So do you in any way feel betrayed?
I’m frustrated; because I felt it was not done. The way he entered politics and also the way he behaved during the campaign. This is a democratic country and anyone can come into politics.

~ ~ By Dianne Silva