Sri Lanka’s war allies turn enemies

(From left) Dharmasri Kumaratunga, Director - Payments and Settlements, Central Bank; Nanda Fernando, Managing Director, Sampath Bank; and Tharaka Ranwala, Head of Operations and Group Chief Marketing Officer, Sampath Bank

January 24, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s election this week features two men who emerged victorious on the battlefield of a civil war, but have since become bitter political enemies. President Mahinda Rajapakse, a veteran streetfighter politician who entered parliament aged 24, is taking on his former army chief Sarath Fonseka, a political novice who stepped down last year after being sidelined.

Rajapakse handpicked Fonseka for the top military role soon after he won his first term in 2005 and lauded him as the “best army commander in the world” last year in the afterglow of their victory over Tamil Tiger rebels.

But their friendship soured over who should take the most credit for winning the conflict amid suspicion that Fonseka was becoming too powerful and might even stage a coup.

In a measure of the bad blood between them today, Rajapakse was recently asked if he had made any poor choices during his first four years in charge, to which he replied: “Choosing my army commander was one of them.”

The relationship took a turn for the worse when local media reported Fonseka’s horoscope indicated he was powerful and would one day be president, making waves in a country