Colombo Telegraph

A Soldier & A Learned Man

By Sarath De Alwis

Sarath de Alwis

“To hell with the truth! As the history of the world proves, the truth has no bearing on anything. It’s irrelevant and immaterial, as the lawyers say.” – EUGENE O’NEILL, The Iceman Cometh

The Minister of Justice Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe describes himself as a ‘Maha Pragnnaya’ – a great intellectual. Undoubtedly he is a learned man.

He made a frightening and shocking pronouncement on Saturday 9th January 2016 –the first Anniversary of the Maithri Ranil consensual coalition. Intervening in a live program on Sirasa TV he said that Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka was a mentally retarded – ‘Mandha Budhdhikayek’ b. was corrupt and had amassed a sum of Rupees 887 lakhs in questionable tender deals while being the army commander.

If the former Army Commander was guilty of corruption his elevation to the rank of field marshal has to be revoked. If indeed, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka is mentally retarded reason dictates that those who decided to confer on him that singular honor – President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe should ensure that their cerebral capacity is not as impaired as the Minister of Justice seems to suggest.

The ease, the resolve and the speed with which the Minister of Justice convicts Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka of financial wrong doing by arbitrary fiat and his equally vehement exoneration of former defense secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksea and ‘Avant-garde’ Chairman Nissanka Senadhipathi undermines the entire raison d’etre of the Maithripala Presidency and the platform of the so-called consensual coalition.

If the Minister of Justice is to be believed, the Presidential pardon and the elevation of the former Commander of the army to the rank of Field Marshal was a farce. It was nothing less than an expedient political circus. His earlier convictions and incarceration under the former dispensation was no aberration of justice. The remonstration that the war winning general was the victim of a political vendetta of the Rajapsaksa sibling’s stands exposed as blatantly empty rhetoric of the anti Rajapakse coalition. Mr. Wijeyadasa Rajsapakshe cannot have it both ways.

The vast majority of the public are determinedly skeptical about lawyers and politicians. In the case of lawyer politicians, the skepticism is quadrupled. Jonathan Swift said it best. Lawyers make up a society of men bred up from youth in the art of proving by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black and black is white, according as they are paid”

We have already witnessed how overzealous representation and loyalty to his client compelled the former Minister of Law and Order to tender his resignation. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The mandate of 8th January 2015 is not to ‘bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheel of injustice but to drive a spoke in to the wheel itself. ‘

Mr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe the eminent president’s counsel is fond of describing himself as ‘the great intellect ‘ [Maha Praagnnya] . He may not see the odious irony of his peculiar logic. He is the archetypal lawyer who qualifies in legalese pulp fiction as the ‘shyster mouthpiece’. In his public indictment of the decorated soldier he has presented a new stumper to the Prime Minister and the President. They will have to decide whether Field Marshal is entitled to hold that rank or the Minister of Justice can continue to hold office as a member of the cabinet.

Field Marshal Fonseka has come a long way from those early days of the quick-tempered irascible soldier thrust in to the whirl pool of politics. With great dignity he told the President and the Prime Minister that they cannot hunt with the hounds and run with the hares.

The current political landscape is hopelessly devoid of firm convictions and moral content. The meandering with no purpose has allowed opportunists of the caliber of the Minister of Justice to hold sway.

Truth is an essential part of morality. That places truth far removed from the game that is called politics. So much so that a politician is identified more with deceit and deception in this current circus that promises us good governance and transparency.

Plato writes in his “Letters VII and VIII” of his hopes and disillusionment with the ‘Thirty Wise Men’ who promised reforms. “I expected that this government would bring about a change from corrupt to an upright administration. I found that it took these men no time at all to make the previous government look like an age of gold.”

On the first anniversary the President and the Prime Minister must undertake a serious and honest introspection. That will enable them to realize how far behind they are in terms of the objectives they set out to achieve.

They have allowed democratic freedoms. They must now lead the nation in regaining the lost morality in public life.


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