The Editor of The Nation wrote his this week column based on the Colombo Telegraph news story which revealed Sampanthan – Fonseka pact. Below we give the full text of the Nation editor Malinda Seneviratne’s article.
Fonseka-Sampanthan pact shows up Butenis’ slip
By Malinda Seneviratne
A few days ago, www.colombotelegraph.com broke the news that Sarath Fonseka had signed a secret pact with R. Sampanthan, the leader of the Tamil National Alliance. It was always known that the Fonseka camp had come to some agreement with the TNA during the 2010 Presidential Campaign. What was not made public was the full text of the pact.
The key member parties of that coalition, the UNP and the JVP have remained silent about these revelations, culled from Wikileaks files, subsequently clearly painstakingly perusalby the ‘colombotelegraph’ people. It is hard to believe that the JVP, for instance, did not know the details of this agreement. If they did, then the question arises why they did not share the information with the voting public. If they didn’t know then that speaks volumes about their political immaturity and ignorance.
On the other hand, it is well known that politicians rarely bother about the nitty-gritty of manifestos and policy declarations. That’s just necessary frill for real intent, which is power-need. If, as can be argued, the UNP and JVP knew from the beginning that they were backing a losing cause out of sheer lack of options, then the fact of pact would not have even warranted discussion. The fact that the agreement was essentially one of confederacy, is therefore only of academic interest. What I found more compelling about this ‘leak’ and others related to the 2010 Presidential Election is the thinking of the USA, as articulated by that country’s representative in Sri Lanka, Patricia Butenis.
The communiqués to Washington from the office of the US Ambassador, carrying her signature, are not cursory reports of political developments. The selectivity and emphasis contained in them indicate political preferences.
The fact that the Sampanthan-Fonseka agreement found its way to the US Embassy and not the voting public indicates the true location of Fonseka’s (and by association, the UNP’s and JVP’s) political home was and is. It indicates that the USA had a huge stake in Fonseka’s bid while the track record of interfering in the politics of other countries makes it difficult to assume that support did not include funds and promises.
Butenis’ comments make sad reading, actually. A tendency to take seriously the calculations of those who allowed reason to be discoloured by hope may have given the lady reasons re entertain (cautious) hope herself, it reflects poorly on her status as a senior diplomat. Sampathan’s confessions, for example, have persuaded her to believe that ‘a Fonseka victory appears more possible each day’. This was the crux of her statement on January 1, 2010. Earlier, on November 10, 2009, Butenis makes much of Sampanthan saying that a Rajapaksa/Fonseka content would split the army and that the election campaign would get ‘hot’.
Although clearly at odds with the JVP’s stated ideological preferences (she says they are opportunists and were revenge-seekers – January 15, 2010), Butenis salivates about the Tilvin-Somawansa faction of the JVP splitting from the ruling coalition to support Fonseka. She doesn’t note, for example, the fact that the JVP’s start rhetorician, Wimal Weerawansa backed Mahinda Rajapaksa or that the JVP had suffered huge losses in popularity after the party left the coalition.
Butenis acknowledges that Fonseka’s soft-hands and weak-kneed relationship with the US might have some negative fallout, lamenting that he could have been more discreet about his dealings with US authorities (November 6, 2009 communiqué). The role of the US in Fonseka’s campaign is also evidenced by the fact that Fonseka treated Butenis as a key confidante with whom he shared all plans including a desire to travel to Singapore and stay there, after he lost the election (January 28, 2010 communiqué).
I believe that the account of a meeting with Sunimal Fernando (one of President Rajapaksa’s numerous ‘advisors’ – ‘hangers-on’ would be a better tag) is what shows Butenis up most. Fernando, well-known for survival footwork and hardly the pollster he (and Butenis) claims he is, was clearly hedging his bets when he a) met with US Embassy officials, and b) dubbed the race ‘statistically a dead heat’. Butenis cannot be expected to have the math skills necessary to read the Sri Lankan polity and Fernando would not be asked to read it by anyone who has any sense. Butenis, obviously ignorant about Fernando’s abilities, has fired a communiqué to Washington quoting Fernando (January 22, 1010 communiqué) and without taking the trouble to check with people who knew better. The sheer eagerness indicates political preferences and sophomoric intellect. Sad.
As hilarious is the fact that Butenis took former President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s observations seriously enough to quote her in a communiqué. Her incompetence is well documented, as are her shady deals and utter disregard for democratic practices. Her objections on these matters are therefore laughable. Butenis must have been thrilled to bits that Kumaratunga said Fonseka would win. As a responsible official of the US Government, though, one would have thought she gives a reasonable amount of context so that claim can be properly assessed. Kumaratunga’s opinions are not taken seriously in Sri Lanka. She could have mentioned this, but did not.
I am sure www.colombotelegraph.com will meticulously peruse relevant documents from Wikileaks. I believe that other documents from the US Embassy in Colombo will only confirm Patricia Butenis’ incompetence and further entrench the perception that she is a meddler who does little to improve relations between the USA and Sri Lanka.