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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
10COLOMBO85 2010-02-03 06:18:00 SECRET Embassy Colombo
Cable title:  

DEFENSE SECRETARY ON FONSEKA AND POST-ELECTION

Tags:   PGOV PREL PREF PHUM PTER EAID MOPS CE 
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1. (S) SUMMARY: On February 2, Defense Secretary Gotabhaya
Rajapaksa summoned DATT to a hasty meeting under the pretext
of discussing an upcoming engagement activity with the U.S.
military. As expected, Rajapaksa also wanted to explain the
government's position on the treatment of General Fonseka
following the January 26 presidential election. He did not
mention a coup attempt, as had been charged in the media, but
said Fonseka was planning violent reprisals against the
Rajapaksas and their supporters if he had won. He claimed
Fonseka his supporters had no reason to fear government
reprisals but also warned there would be more transfers and
compulsory retirements of officers who were seen as Fonseka
supporters in the security forces. END SUMMARY.

LEGAL ACTION AGAINST FONSEKA


--------------------------





2. (S) Rajapaksa said the government would have to take legal
action against Fonseka for illegal involvement in politics
while still serving as Chief of Defense Staff (CDS) and for
enticing serving officers to support his campaign for
president. He stressed that unlike outrageous claims by
regular political opponents, Fonseka's threats and betrayals
had to be taken more seriously. He said the "white flag"
accusation (that Rajapaksa had ordered the killing of
surrendering LTTE leaders at the end of the war) was
particularly egregious.



3. (S) The defense secretary said the government had to beef
up security after the election because it had become aware of
Fonseka and JVP plans for violence. He said that many in
government feared for their lives if Fonseka had won. "If
you don't believe me, just ask the family of former Navy
Commander Wasantha Karannagoda. They were afraid to come
outside." Rajapaksa said he knew that Fonseka had deserters
and ex-Army soldiers with him at his hotel and that was why
he had sent additional security there. Nevertheless, Fonseka
and his supporters had always been free to come and go from
the hotel as they pleased.

HYSTERIA IN THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS


--------------------------





4. (S) Rajapaksa accused Fonseka of manufacturing hysteria
among the diplomatic corps, senior religious leaders and
others by claiming the government wanted to harm him. He
also accused Fonseka of inventing grievances as CDS in order
to appeal to the opposition. The defense secretary claimed
Fonseka and his supporters had no reason to fear government
reprisals. He pointed out that there had been no reprisals
carried out after the 2005 election, and there was no reason
to expect such behavior now. At the same time, however,
Rajapaksa warned there would be more transfers and compulsory
retirements of officers who were seen as Fonseka supporters
in the security forces (reftel).

DISCUSSIONS WITH RANIL WICKREMESINGHE


--------------------------





5. (S) Rajapaksa mentioned several conversations with UNP
leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. He had told Wickremesinghe that
no one had anything to fear from the government, but that
Fonseka was plotting violence. He said Ranil replied, "I
don't know anything about that. That's all Fonseka and the
JVP." Rajapaksa told Ranil, "You should have been the
candidate. You would have got more votes." He said Ranil

COLOMBO 00000085 002.2 OF 002


was very reasonable, a professional politician, but a UNP-JVP
alliance was unsustainable. The parties were diametrically
opposed ideologically, and there was too much bad blood
between those who remember the JVP insurrection against the
UNP government of the late 1980s. But Rajapaksa cautioned
the JVP was very dangerous. He said the JVP had played hell
in the villages during the presidential campaign.

COMMENT


--------------------------





6. (S) Fonseka held a press conference yesterday and the
opposition leadership with Fonseka met with the diplomatic
corps today. The hasty summoning of Embassy DATT was an
effort to get the Rajapaksa spin on developments. Gotabhaya
Rajapaksa is not known as a moderate voice, and his remarks
were emblematic of his downplaying government actions while
exaggerating the opposition threat. It is interesting that
he did not mention the allegation of coup plans by Fonseka,
but his promise of more military purges to come was ominous.
BUTENIS