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General Sarath Fonseka
සරත් ෆොන්සේකා

Opponent(s) Mahinda Rajapaksa (UPFA) and numerous others.
Incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa

Born December 18, 1950 (1950-12-18) (age 59)
Ambalangoda, Southern Province, Dominion of Ceylon
Nationality Sri Lankan
Political party New Democratic Front
Spouse(s) Anoma Indumathi Munasinghe
Children Aparna and Apsara
Alma mater Madawalalanda Maha Vidyalaya, Ampara Dharmasoka College, Ambalangoda
Ananda College, Colombo
Occupation Soldier
Website Official Website
Military service
Service/branch Sri Lanka Army
Years of service 1970-2009
Rank General
Commands Chief of Defence Staff
Commander of the Army
Battles/wars Sri Lankan Civil War,
Insurrection 1987-89
Awards Rana Wickrama Padakkama,
Rana Sura Padakkama,
Vishista Seva Vibhushanaya,
Uttama Seva Padakkama,
Desha Putra Sammanaya
(partial list)

Gardihewa Sarath Chandralal Fonseka, known as Sarath Fonseka (Sinhala: සරත් ෆොන්සේකා, Tamil: சரத் பொன்சேகா, born December 18, 1950) is a former commander and General of the Sri Lanka Army and a former candidate for President of Sri Lanka. As Commander of the Army, he played an instrumental role in ending the 26 year Sri Lankan Civil War in 2009, defeating the militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the process. He later had a public falling out with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and unsuccessfully challenged Rajapaksa in the 2010 presidential election.

Fonseka joined the Sri Lanka Army in 1970 and saw extensive action throughout the 26 year civil war, culminating in a term as Commander of the Army from December 6, 2005 - July 15, 2009. As commander, he oversaw the final phase of the Sri Lankan Civil War, which resulted in the total defeat of the militant Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam organization. He also survived an assassination attempt when an LTTE suicide bomber attacked his motorcade in April 2006.[1] Following the end of the war Fonseka was promoted to a four star rank in the Sri Lanka Army, becoming the first serving officer to hold a four star rank.[2] He has been described as Sri Lanka's most successful army commander,[3] and his successful conduct of the war led the Indian National Security Advisor Kelath Narayanan to describe him as the "best army commander in the world".[4]

A few months after the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, Fonseka was appointed Chief of Defence Staff by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. While his new post was of a higher rank, Fonseka saw the move as an attempt to sideline him. Amid rumors of his desire to enter politics, he subsequently retired from the post on November 16, 2009.[5][6] On November 29, 2009, Fonseka formally announced his candidature in the 2010 Sri Lankan Presidential Election. His candidacy was endorsed by the main opposition parties, and Fonseka became the main opposition candidate challenging President Rajapaksa. He campaigned under the sign of a swan, and the slogan Vishvasaniya Venasak (A Credible Change). In the election, held on January 26, 2010, he was convincingly defeated by President Rajapaksa, who obtained 57% of all votes cast. Opposition accused the government of rigging the election, which was denied by the government. Opposition proceeded to file an election petition.

Following his election defeat, Fonseka was arrested on February 8, 2010, and the government announced he will be court-martialed for committing "military offenses."[7]


Early life

Fonseka was born to Peter and Piyawathie Fonseka in Ambalangoda, a coastal town in the south of Sri Lanka. He in initially attended Madawalalanda Maha Vidyalaya (1955–1957) in Ampara,[8] later receiving his secondary education from Dharmasoka College, Ambalangoda (1958–1965) and Ananda College, Colombo (1966–1969). In school, Fonseka participated in swimming and water polo events, later representing defense services in these sports.

Military career in the Sri Lankan Army

Fonseka joined the Army during peacetime, in 1970, and held a large number of staff appointments. He rose to the rank of Chief of Staff of the Sri Lankan army, a post he relinquished to take reins as Commander of the Army in 2005.

During his career, Fonseka, was involved in the operations Balawegaya and Jayasikuru, which led to the capture of the Elephant Pass and Mankulam. The 6th Battalion of his Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment, which was under siege at Elephant Pass in 1991, repulsed the LTTE attack with reinforcements. He served as Deputy General Officer Commanding during Riviresa, the capture of Jaffna from the Tamil Tigers in December 1995. Later, troops commanded by Fonseka offered stiff resistance to Tamil Tigers in 2000 following the Fall of Elephant Pass, ultimately having to flee since they were unable to withstand the attack. Fonseka was wounded in 1993 in the Yaldevi operation.

Among other appointments, he commanded the 23 Brigade of the Sri Lankan Army at Polonnaruwa in 1993, he served in the General Staff at Army Headquarters, he was a Centre Commandant of the Sri Lanka Sinha Regiment, Brigade Commander in Operation Balawegay, Deputy Commandant of the 5 Brigade Group, Mannar and Coordinating Officer for Gampaha.


"Midnight Express"

In 1993, the Jaffna Fort was under siege by Tamil Tiger rebels. Then Colonel Fonseka led troops in the Midnight Express operation to relieve the besieged position. Several hundred soldiers were saved due to the operation.

Suicide bomb attack

On April 25, 2006, Lt. General Fonseka survived an LTTE suicide bomb attack by a pregnant LTTE operative who infiltrated Army Headquarters by attending the regular maternity clinic provided for civilians at the military hospital.[9] Fonseka was seriously injured in the attack, and nine others were killed. The General was rushed first to the military hospital at Army Headquarters, transferred to the Colombo General Hospital and later flown to Singapore for medical treatment. After recovering from his injuries, he resumed his duties in July 2006.[10]

Defeat of the LTTE

On May 18, 2009, the Sri Lankan military completely defeated the LTTE after 26 years of civil war.[11] Foneseka played a key role in the final stages of the conflict as Commander of the Army, and is considered as a national hero by the majority of Sri Lankans due to this achievement.[12][13]

Chief of Defence staff

Fonseka was appointed Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) by President Rajapaksa effective July 15, 2009. He was the first person appointed CDS under the newly approved Chief of Defence Staff Act, which was supposed to give the CDS more responsibilities in coordinating the armed forces.


Fonseka officially handed over his letter of resignation to the President through the Defence secretary on November 12, 2009. He requested to serve as CDS until the end of the month, He resigned from that post to compete as a candidate for the presidential election which was held in January 2010. He left office on November 16, 2009,[14] President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed Air Force Chief Roshan Goonatilake to succeed Fonseka on November 16, 2009.


Post War Politics

There were newspaper reports published about General Fonseka entering politics after the war victory, beginning in August 2009. One of the articles explains it as follows, "General Fonseka launches political campaign - I will make a supreme sacrifice to defend my land against the politicos who ever they may be joining hands with India. Now we have a daunting task to protect our motherland from India" [15]. Gen. Fonseka entering politics was a debate even during the war against LTTE.[16]

Gen. Fonseka was installed as the common candidate by a coalition of political parties mainly United National Party (UNP) and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP). Gen. Fonseka however declared himself as a non party candidate. The reason for such installation as a common candidate was the general understanding of the people of the country that President Mahinda Rajapaksa was so popular after his win against the LTTE that he was not possible to be beaten by a person other than another war hero. This was evident from the Local Government elections held after the war. In those elections, President's party defeated all other parties and claimed massive wins.

With support of UNP and JVP Fonseka claimed that he himself defeated the LTTE.

Immediately after declaration that Fonseka was ready for candidacy, President Rajapakse called for new presidential election two years before expiration of his term.

Gen. Fonseka, UNP and JVP led a fierce battle against President Rajapakse. They claimed that Gen Fonseka was the real hero who won the war against LTTE and Fonseka government was ready for good governance along with the support of all the minorities , eliminate prevailing corruption under Mahinda Rajapaka government and also promised a massive salary increase for public servants which had been denied thus far. They also promised to change the constitution to remove executive powers from the presidency and transfer such powers to the parliament. Further they promised to establish the 17 amendment to authorize independent commissions as a measure to counter the ongoing mishandling of public money.[17] Mahinda Rajapakse on the other hand vowed to establish unity between Sinhalese and Tamils while promising a better future for the country in his manifesto "Mahinda Chinthana".

Fonseka suffered a number of setbacks in his election campaign. In December 2009, A news item was published in local newspaper "Sunday Leader" quoting Sarath Fonseka saying that during the final few days of the war against LTTE, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse (who is a brother of the President) gave orders to the army senior officers to execute LTTE cadres who surrendered to the Army.[18] Due to the massive publicity given in the state media, this statement was taken by the whole country as betrayal of army officers by the retired army commander himself.[19] Although Gen. Fonseka later issued a statement saying that his original statement has been published by the Sunday Leader out of context, many analysts say that Fonseka lost the election from that moment.[20]

Meanwhile, in the next attempt government put some evidence before public that Gen Fonseka was corrupt while he was the commander of the Sri Lanka Army. There was evidence that he removed the tender board chairman from the office and he himself became the chairman only to offer all the tenders to a company owned by his son-in-law. Adding fuel to the fire, one of his close friends living in Oklahoma USA "Upul Illangamge" spilled the beans by disclosing to the media in a press conference how the company was formed, registered in USA and Fonseka's son-in-law sold 3 million rupees worth equipment necessary for the war during the final three years of the war. Fonska claimed that the company referred in the accusation has no connection to his son-in-laws company although both companies share one name: Hicorp. But this allegation was on all the media supporting the government day and night and it had been used as a mean of discredit his reputation and attempts were also made to label him as a traitor by key spokespeople in the government.

Then Sri Lanka's Tamil political party faithful to LTTE- Tamil National Alliance (TNA) agreed to support Sarath Fonseka in the Presidential Election after having several discussions with both Mahinda Rajapakse and Gen. Sarath Fonseka. Then government disclosed a secret agreement between TNA and Gen Fonseka in which Fonseka had promised merger of North and East provinces and an autonomous status for Tamils in return for the support of the north and east Tamil population in the Presidential election. Majority Sinhalese reacted with anger to this agreement since the army fought 30 year old bloody war against LTTE only to reject similar autonomous state "Ealam" claimed by the LTTE. Then the document was proved to be a made up one to stir up the public against Gen. Sarath Fonseka. Also opposition revealed a secret written agreement between Mahinda Rajapaksa and EPDP Leader Douglas Devananda who was a tamil politician faithful to Rajapakse.[21]

Sarath Fonseka however sincerely expected that he was set for a massive win on the 26 Jan 2010. There were reports that say that he intended to arrest President Mahinda Rajapakse and immediately execute Gotabaya Rajapakse and Basil Rajapakse(two brothers of the president). He booked 70 rooms of a five star hotel some hundred metres away from the President's House for the night of the 26th Jan 2010.

Media reports say that a large number (some 400) of deserted army soldiers spent the night with Gen Fonseka at the hotel to enjoy the election results. It was then learned that the whole allegation was false but the government arrested 9 persons that left army legitimately for supporting Sarath Fonseka in his election campaign.[22]

Election results were released by the independent election commissioner electorate by electorate in the morning of 27th Jan 2010. Sarath Fonseka and his friends were anxiously waited the night only to learn that Fonseka has been defeated by the President Rajapakse by a record number of majority votes over 1,800,000.

After Presidential Election 2010

Sarath Fonseka refused to accept the election results published by the Election Commissioner.[23][24] He also said he would consider legal action but did not indicate against whom. There are reports that say Sarath Fonseka is making every possible attempt to leave the country as early as possible quoting him saying "I cannot even leave the country, Rajapakse has blacklisted my passport along with my family, including my daughters' who are still studying in USA".[25] Some newspapers reported that he is seeking asylum in Australia, UK or India. Meanwhile BBC announced that Gotabaya Rajapakse is intending to take legal action against Sarath Fonseka for leaking top secret government information. Later he stated in a press conference that he does not intend to leave the country, rather would stay with the people who voted him to see the justice is established.

On 28th Jan 2010 CID began its new investigations on claims made by several ministers of Rajapakse government that Fonseka was planning a coup to remove Rajapakse in case of close election results on 26th Jan. In connection with this investigation, a media institution "Lanka" run by JVP who helped Fonseka during presidential election was sealed on 30th Jan 2010 by the CID with a court order. Within few days the court accepted the appeal and ordered CID to re-open the office.[26] Sri Lanka Army has arrested Sarath Fonseka for committing military offences on the 8th of February 2010.


Fonseka was arrested at his office in Colombo on February 8, 2010 by Military Police,[27] and taken into military custody. The military announced he will be court-martialed for "committing military offences" during his time as Chief of Defense Staff.[28] Military says he will be charged according the SL ARMY ACT, Section 57(1).


His awards and decorations include the Gallantry Medals; Rana Wickrama Padakkama (RWP), Rana Sura Padakkama (RSP), distinguished service medals; Vishista Seva Vibhushanaya (VSV), Uttama Seva Padakkama (USP) and other notable medal campaign medals; Riviresa Campaign Services Medal, Purna Bhumi Padakkama, North and East Operations Medal, Desha Putra Sammanaya and several others. However there have been allegations that some of these medals were awarded to him by himself when he was the Army commander. Also there have been military punishments for his behaviour which questions his eligibility to some of the awards. It was a hot topic during the election time.

Sri Lankan awards

In Order of Precedence

Personal life

Sarath Fonseka is married to Anoma Indumathi Munasinghe, daughter of D.J.and Eugine Munasinghe of Dematagoda, and has two children Aparna & Apsara.

See also


  1. ^ Profile: Gen Sarath Fonseka. BBC News, Retrieved on 12th November 2009
  2. ^ Armed Force Commanders promoted to next higher ranks. Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order, Retrieved on 18 May 2009
  3. ^ The hard-nosed realism of General Sarath Fonseka. The Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN Office at Geneva.
  4. ^ The best Army Commander in the world, says Indian Defense Secretary. Lankaweb, Retrieved on 15th January 2009.
  5. ^ Haviland, Charles (16 November 2009). "S Lanka army head leaves abruptly". BBC News (BBC). Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  6. ^ "Sri Lanka military chief resigns". BBC News (BBC). 12 November 2009. Retrieved 22 January 2010. 
  7. ^ Former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka in military custody, Media Center for National Security
  8. ^ General Fonseka visits his first school in Ampara. Lanka Truth, Retrieved on 07 January 2010.
  9. ^ If This is Called Peace Time Magazine, Retrieved on 30th April 2006.
  10. ^ "Bomb targets Sri Lanka army chief". BBC News. 25 April 2006. 
  11. ^ "'He Told the task accomplished'".  Press Release, Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order.
  12. ^ Sri Lankan warrior has president in his sights. Telegraph (UK), Retrieved on 17 January 2010.
  13. ^ "General intentions". The Economist. 2009-11-19. Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  14. ^ Tribute to the fallen. Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka), Retrieved on 16th November 2009.
  15. ^ General Fonseka launches political campaign. Lanka News Papers, Retrieved on 17 August 2009.
  16. ^ Is Lt.Gen Sarath Fonseka nurturing a Political Ambition After Retirement?
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Fonseka to face Court Marshal: MCNS". Ada Derana. February 9, 2010. Retrieved 10 February 2010. 
  28. '^ [1], Daily Mirror

External links

Official sites

News media


Military offices
Preceded by
Shantha Kottegoda
Commander of the Sri Lankan Army
Succeeded by
Jagath Jayasuriya
Preceded by
Donald Perera
Chief of Defence Staff
2009 – 15 November 2009
Succeeded by
Roshan Goonatilake


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