Sri Lankan Chief of Defence Staff Sarath Fonseka, the architect of the military offensive that led to the annihilation of the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam, quit his post on Thursday and is widely tipped to be the opposition candidate for the presidential elections next year.
Fonseka's likely entry in the fray would pose a serious challenge to the re-election of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was hoping for a cakewalk after the rebel Tamil Tigers were wiped out by the army in May. The 58-year-old Army General submitted his resignation to the authorities after a ceremony welcoming Myanmar's junta leader at the airport. "He (Fonseka) has given a letter seeking to relinquish his duties as chief of defence staff," defence spokesman and senior cabinet minister Keheliya Rambukwella told PTI.
Soon after the civil war ended in May, Fonseka, who was the army chief, was promoted as chief of defence staff which is a largely ceremonial post. The country's only four-star general had said during a visit to the US last month that he was willing to shed his uniform and take up "social work" if politicians did not take advantage of the end of war to push for economic revival.
Sri Lanka is set for parliamentary and presidential elections before April 2010. Media reports here had been suggesting over the last week that Fonseka has emerged as the consensus presidential candidate of an alliance of opposition parties.