Field Marshal Gardihewa Sarath Chandralal Fonseka born 18 December 1950 is a Sri Lanka’s highest rank soldier and politician who was the first Sri Lankan Army officer to be promoted to the rank of Field Marshal. He was the eighteenth Commander of Sri Lankan Army, and under his command the Sri Lankan Army ended the 26-year Sri Lankan Civil War in 2009, defeating the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam; he thereafter briefly served as the Chief of Defence Staff. After retiring from the Army with the rank of General, he entered politics as the common opposition candidate in the 2010 presidential election contesting against President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Following his controversial defeat in the presidential election he was elected to Parliament in the general election that followed. Soon after he was made a political prisoner and lost his parliamentary seat. Fonseka supported Maithripala Sirisena in the 2015 presidential election and following his victory, the newly appointed President Sirisena gave Fonseka a full pardon reinstating his civic rights, military rank and decorations. Later he was promoted to the newly created rank of Field Marshal on 22 March 2015. On 9 February 2016 he was appointed to Parliament, and he was appointed Cabinet Minister for Regional Development on 25 February 2016.
Fonseka joined the Sri Lanka Army in 1970 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in June 1971 and rose through the ranks while completing training stints across South Asia and in the United States and the United Kingdom. He saw extensive action throughout the 26-year civil war and over the years acquired a reputation as a tough battlefield commander and was often in the thick of the action in fighting against the Tamil Tigers, culminating in a term as Commander of the Army from 6 December 2005 – 15 July 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. He also survived an assassination attempt when an LTTE suicide bomber attacked his motorcade in April 2006. 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. He has been described as Sri Lanka’s most successful army commander.
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 rumours of his desire to enter politics, he subsequently retired from the post on 16 November 2009. On 29 November 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).
Following his election defeat, Fonseka was arrested on 8 February 2010, and the government announced he will be court-martialed for committing “military offences”. He was convicted for corrupt military supply deals and sentenced to three years in prison. After serving more than 2 years in prison, Fonseka was released amidst local and international pressure on 21 May 2012. As per the pre-election statement, President Maithripala Sirisena, gave him the Complete Presidential Pardon and acquitted him of all the charges against him on 22 January 2015, restoring his Civic Rights.
Fonseka was born on 18 December 1950 in the coastal town of Ambalangoda in the south of Sri Lanka. His father was Peter Fonseka, a school principal and his mother Piyawathie Fonseka was a teacher. He initially attended Madawalalanda Maha Vidyalaya (1955–1957) in Ampara, later receiving his secondary education from Dharmasoka College, Ambalangoda (1958–1965) and Ananda College, Colombo (1966–1969). Fonseka represented his alma mater in cadeting, swimming and water polo events. He was the college swimming and water polo captain in 1969 and later represented the defence services and the country in these sports.His interest in cadeting inspired him to join the Army.
Sarath Fonseka is married to Anoma Indumathi Munasinghe, daughter of D.J.and Eugine Munasinghe of Dematagoda, and has two daughters Aparna & Apsara.