Fonseka is new Army Commander

[TamilNet, Saturday, 26 November 2005, 20:39 GMT]
Major General Sarath Fonseka, to be promoted Lieutenant General, will be Sri Lanka's new Commander of the Army, The Sunday Times reported this week. Lt. Gen. Foneseka will become the 17th Commander of the Army and will succeed Lt. Gen. Shantha Kottegoda, against whom he had unsuccessfully competed for the post in 2003.

Though due to retire early this month when he completed 55 years, Lt. Gen. Kottegoda had been given an extended tenure of 18 months under controversial regulations, gazetted just three weeks ahead of presidential elections, which increased the upper age limit for retirement of senior ranks, permitting commanders to serve up to 60 years.

The Sunday Times reported last week that the new regulations, which President Mahinda Rajapakse termed as both "unfair and discriminatory" are to be annulled, probably next week, clearing the way for Maj. Gen. Fonseka who also turns 55 in December.

Maj. Gen. Fonseka is regarded as one of the best battlefield commanders in the near two decades of war with the Tamil Tigers, the Sunday Times’ Defence correspondent, Iqbal Athas writes.

He triggered a storm of controversy in December 2002 when he flatly refused to honour the Army’s obligations under the Ceasefire Agreement to withdraw from occupied civilian areas.

Maj. Gen. Fonseka began his 35-year military career after he joined the Army on February 5, 1970, the Sunday Times reported.

He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on June 1, 1971. He rose in the ranks over the years and served in a number of important positions including Director General-General Staff at Army Headquarters, Commander, Security Forces Headquarters (Jaffna), Commandant of the Sri Lanka Army Volunteer Force and Deputy Chief of Staff. He is currently Chief of Staff.

Maj. Gen Fonseka has undergone training stints in the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The training included a Commando officers' course, Infantry Officers Advance Course, Senior Command course and a stint at Britain's prestigious Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS).


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