Sri Lanka’s top general quits ahead of vote

November 12, 2009 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s top general Sarath Fonseka, a war hero at home credited with crushing Tamil rebels, quit Thursday, heightening speculation he will enter politics to challenge President Mahinda Rajapakse. “I gave my resignation. I have submitted my retirement papers,” Fonseka told reporters at a Buddhist temple he visited after sending his resignation as chief of defence staff to Rajapakse.

Fonseka is thought to have clashed with the president and the president’s brother, who is defence secretary, in a wrangle over who should take credit for the victory over the rebels in May, which ended a bloody 37-year conflict.

After overseeing a military campaign that was dogged by allegations of serious human rights abuses, he was named chief of defence staff in July — a more ceremonial position that has no command responsibility.

Asked if he would now enter politics, Fonseka said: “I will be able to answer that the day I leave the uniform. Right now I am officer in uniform. After I retire, I will have the rights of an ordinary citizen.”

He said his retirement will take effect from the end of this month. There was no immediate reaction from the government with which he is said to be at loggerhead