Sri Lanka’s war general tipped to head police ministry

Sri Lanka’s war-time general Sarath Fonseka emerged as the front-runner to be the Law and Order minister in a revamped cabinet, senior aides of the president and the prime minister said Sunday.

President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are expected to finalise a cabinet that will see the outright sacking of some and the demotion of many, the sources said.

Law and Order minister Sagala Ratnayaka took the fall last week as many legislators of his United National Party (UNP) criticized the failure on the part of the police to prosecute corrupt members of the former regime.

The premier told reporters on Friday that the main reason for the UNP’s humiliating defeat at the February 10 election was their failure to arrest those accused of large scale corruption during the Rajapaksa regime.

Wickremesinghe said Ratnayaka had said he had too many responsibilities and was willing to give up the Law and Order portfolio. However, Ratnayaka himself told senior police officers on Friday that he wished he had another year to complete reforms he had planned.

It was believed  that Ratnayaka was being made the sacrificial goat as Wickremesinghe deflected criticism of his leadership by getting his Royal College alumnus to take the fall, sources close to the UNP leadership said.

There was strong support to make Field Marshall Fonseka the next Law and Order minister with responsibilities over the police, sources said adding that both the president and the prime minister favoured the idea.

“The next minister in charge of the police will have just three months to show results,” a political source said. “If it is Fonseka, he could be a loose cannon, but there is no doubt that he will get the job done.”

Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne was also mentioned as a possible law and order minister, but he had opted out.   

Ratnayaka was accused of protecting former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and also leaking sensitive information from CID investigations to the Rajapaksa camp, but with Fonseka there is no fear of any such thing happening.

It was Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who initiated highly controversial action against Fonseka and ensured that he was jailed following kangaroo-court style military and civil trials that were internationally condemned as a sham.

Political sources said although Sirisena who came to power in January 2015 overturned the convictions against Fonseka and promoted him, the military and judicial officers complicit in the controversial action against the former general flourished under the new regime too.

Fonseka is currently the minister of regional development. A position of greater power and authority could see him take a leading role in restoring the electoral fortunes of the UNP government, party sources said.

Fonseka fell out with former president Mahinda Rajapaksa over who should take full credit for successfully crushing Tamil Tigers in 2009 and ending a decades-long Tamil separatist war. Before the two men fell apart, Rajapaksa had described Fonseka as the world’s best war general.


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