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Sri Lanka general hits out before possible poll bid
Fri Nov 13, 2009 11:22am EST
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By Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez
COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka on Friday accepted the resignation of its top general, who delivered a scathing departure letter accusing the president he may challenge at polls next year of unjustly sidelining him over unfounded coup fears.
General Sarath Fonseka, widely credited for the army's dominant role in winning a 25-year war with the Tamil Tiger rebels, stepped down on Thursday after weeks of rumors he and President Mahinda Rajapaksa had fallen out.
The main opposition United National Party and the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna have united in fanning rampant speculation they will back Fonseka as a common candidate and antidote to Rajapaksa's dominating post-war popularity.
Fonseka on Thursday said he would decide whether to run after he left uniform, and on Friday the government gave him his wish.
"General Fonseka had been granted permission to retire with immediate effect by the president," Anusha Palpita, head of the government's information department, told Reuters.
Palpita did not say if Fonseka would get the military security he requested to protect him from remnants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Last year, a suicide bombing blamed on the Tigers killed retired Major-General Janaka Perera, a popular opposition politician who had requested government protection in vain.
In a letter to the president, Fonseka wrote he had felt sidelined with his appointment to the newly created post of Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), which many analysts saw as a hollow promotion to diminish the general's power.
"Your Excellency's and the Government's unwillingness to grant me with command responsibilities leads (me) to believe in a strong mistrust in me, which is most depressing after all what was performed to achieve war victory," he wrote.
For a related factbox, see
Although a war hero, Fonseka is not without his critics including those in the army who say he has shown a ruthless, win-at-all costs mentality throughout his career.
A U.S. State Department report into possible war crimes at the end of the war said some officers had questioned whether their orders could be violating humanitarian law.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security asked to question Fonseka when he visited his daughters in Oklahoma this month, but Sri Lanka protested and Fonseka left without being interviewed.
The 39-year army veteran was given nearly unbridled power as he prosecuted the war in tandem with his former comrade-in-arms, Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the president's brother. Continued...
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