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Sri Lanka's president Friday gave the country's top military figure
permission to leave his post immediately, a day after the army general
submitted retirement papers to his commander-in-chief.
2,200-word retirement request submitted Thursday General Sarath Fonseka
says he was misled about his promotion this year to chief of defense
staff, finding that he had "basically no authority."
intense speculation that Fonseka, who is saying he will continue to
serve his country, will soon challenge President Mahinda Rajapaksa in
The general, credited with leading his troops to
victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels, in his letter to Mr. Rajapaksa,
accuses senior government politicians of spreading rumors about him
being a "traitor." He is referring to reports that the Army was
planning a coup following the end of the 25-year-long civil war.
Fonseka, in the letter, says Sri Lanka asked India on October 15 to
place troops on alert in case they would be needed to intervene to foil
a coup on the island.
A veteran Indian army intelligence
officer, retired Colonel Ramani Hariharan, in Chennai tells VOA News
there has been anxiety in India about what he calls Sri Lanka's
"That had been a matter of concern for
not only Sri Lanka's government but all the areas around - 300,000
armed men in such a small island after the war," he said. "It would be
a potential threat to sort of a democratic government. So the
government of India is capable of responding.
peacekeeping forces were invited to the Tamil north of the
Sinhalese-dominated island nation by Colombo in 1987. India's soldiers
withdrew in humiliation three years later after failing to neutralize
the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Retired Indian army Major
General Dipankar Banerjee, dismisses worries of a potential coup and
Indian re-intervention, but says Fonseka may desire to use the latter
possibility for political currency.
relations are very good," he said. "And [Sri Lankan] military expansion
or capability poses no threat to India. But Sarath Fonseka would play
onto the sentiments within Sri Lanka, trying to play up the Indian
military threat to Sri Lanka, in order to gain popularity within his
Both the president and the general are highly popular figures in wake of the victory over the Tamil rebels.
his request to be relieved of duty, General Fonseka asked the president
to allow him to keep a security detail, including trained combat
soldiers, and a bullet proof vehicle, saying the defeated rebels are
yet capable of trying to kill him.
Fonseka, in 2006, survived an assassination attempt when a suicide bomber attacked his motorcade.