26 February, 2024


Fonseka’s Arrest And Release: On The Inclusivity-Clause Of Historiography

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

The word in the street is that the former Army Commander, Sarath Fonseka will be released, not ‘someday’ but within the next few days.  In February this year, I wrote about the man in the context of history-writing.  That note included some comments about his politics, his personality and the world of political machinations he stepped into without any preparation whatsoever.  I believe it warrants a re-read.

Dr. Udaya Meddegama, Sinhala Department, University of Peradeniya, once wrote a poem about the Mahawamsa, clearly the most comprehensive account of what happened in this island.  Those who vilify it cannot counter it with any other account written with scholarly rigor that can match it and flounder in a sad process of myth modeling, extensive cross-quoting and other cheap propaganda devices wrapped as historical account.
They claim it was written by ‘racist Buddhist monks’. The breadth and depth of the tract is such that it would warrant an entire Department or even School (like those in India dedicated to the study of the Mahabharatha and Ramayana), but Sri Lanka lacks historians and people with academic vision.  Vilification is easier.  Such people would be humbled if they read the meticulously researched commentaries of Kuliyapitiye Prananda.

Meddegama observes: the ‘Sinhala’ race was fathered by the ruffian son of a patricidal and incestuous father whose mother’s sexual fascination was bestiality.  Some start to a ‘racist’ account written by a chauvinist.  The Mahawamsa, then, is an unforgiving narrative.

History’s players are never one dimensional; the chronicler should not be swayed by great deed to footnote or erase blemish; not in hero and not in usurper.  If history is indeed written by the winners for the glorification of winners, then the Mahawamsa is quite a poor account.

The above preamble was provoked by the second anniversary of former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka’s arrest and talk of updating the chronicle to include that which came after and especially the struggle to free the nation from terrorism.  History will remember and forget and the particular mix of the two is never predictable.  Key facts, however, can and must be recorded.

Fonseka played an historic role. Fonseka, thereafter, lost it.  He was hero, undoubtedly, and he was villain too. Undoubtedly.  The villainy dilutes heroism but rigorous chronicling is unmoved by such things.

The man’s ambition, inflated self-worth, political naiveté etc., and a now proven inability to operate in unfamiliar terrain cost him dearly.  His mean-spiritedness, treacherous and irresponsible ways don’t exactly make him paintable in heroic colours alone.

He did not win it all single-handedly, but he was key enough to warrant special mention, as much as the Navy and Air Force Commanders, the Defence Secretary, the political leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and those who stoutly resisted all efforts to derail the drive on the diplomatic front did.  Perhaps less, all things considered, but certainly not more.

He has immense spoiler-potential as I have argued: ‘He has been flip-flopping so much about the white-flags story that no government tasked with safeguarding a nation’s sovereignty can afford to risk mouth-shooting from Fonseka; not because truth should be suppressed, but because he cannot be trusted to be honest.  He can lie in order to exact revenge for perceived wrongs and has proved he is not above putting vengeance above nation.  And he’s not Private Fonseka, he’s the former Army Commander.  Even a lie from a mouth that big can have disastrous consequence for nation and citizen.’  (Daily Mirror, October 20, 2010).

I also stated the following: ‘All this is irrelevant when placed in the context of the overall framework of the law.  Laws should not be broken or twisted and principles should not be selectively applied even in the best interest of the country because it creates bad precedent.  Regardless of the ‘necessity’ element, there is clear ill-will in the execution of proceedings against Fonseka and it does not matter whether the man intended to slaughter the Rajapaksas and their friends within 24 hours of being elected President (if that had happened of course).’

We are talking history here though, not law.  There were many others who erred and in far more serious ways. Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan aka ‘Colonel Karuna’ for example.  There is a time to fight and a time to forgive, forget and move on, but even these things are irrelevant to the spirit of the law.  ‘Karuna’ is officially a ‘good boy’ now; Fonseka is officially a ‘bad boy’.  But history, when it is recorded, must mention both good and bad.  Either way, both warrant mention, for happy and unhappy reasons.  Write them out, or write them partially, and the error will amount to misinforming generations yet unborn.  It may not matter, but it could. That is the danger.

A story is not story enough when key incident and key player are written out. It must include the soldier who laid down life for country, the LTTE cadre who marked the earth and memory with his or her heroism, the errant combatants, the suicide bomber, the criminals against humanity and those who marshaled forces to win back a nation, civilization and a tomorrow for our children.  In all their colours, with all the good and bad, the unforgettable and forgettable.

Malinda’s Blog ; http://malindawords.blogspot.co.uk

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Latest comments

  • 0

    …History is the Past.. which will never come back for us to make any corrections… Even our education is based on the past …. which somehow threatens to suffocate me ….
    Isn’t there something better to do to step into the future ? …. .. like HOPE, INNOVATION, IMPROVISATION, …. than delving into the History which is the sad Past …..
    Come on … let’s be more Optimistic of the Future with Hope, Courage & Enthusiasm ….

  • 0

    Errant combatants? There were thousands of soldiers who have erred from the 250,000 strong forces including the Police for the whole 30 year war.

    The captain of the team was General Fonseka. He knows a lot about the war crimes and crimes against humanity. Until the end of 2009, he was part and parcel of that murderous regime, and government. So much as his claims to be the War Hero, The War Crimes also will haunt him for life. Not just one government but two since he was a permanent resident of the USA when such crimes were committed in Sri Lanka.

    The call for independent international investigations is not just to punish the war criminals. But for the country and communities to know the truth, serve some justice and have a closure so that such crimes are never perpetrated ever again to any of the communities. This is not about sending the murderers and rapist to jail.

    Or those who used chemical and banned weapons.

    So why is the resistance?

    The fear about Fonseka is that he might expose the War Criminals and that all know will lead to the full chain of command right to the first family and first citizen. lol. This cannot be done in 3 years for the IC and UN. It could take 17 years like the Yugoslavs, Lord’s army, Taylor, or in Cambodia and Sudan. But the resoluteness of the world is already there and it will continue despite the firece fight the Singhalese put up like in Geneva for that harmless resolution.

    Once the US courts take a bite on their own citizens who do not enjoy the immunity, that will be “Game Time”. The day of reckoning could be much faster than people like Malinda think!!!!

  • 0

    who is milinda [Eited out] milinda playing double game his friend is milinda moragoda the traitor who sold our country

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  • 0

    tlease do not be in a hurry to write the real histoey of the recent war related events. It cannot be done objectively till the actors are around with us.It will be like Mahanama’s account of Parakramabahu I who ignored that the King was not as brave as he makes out.He did not take to the field but sent his Generals to fight against that valiant woman Queen Sugala who held the Rohana for years fighting sword in hand on horse back against many of P’Bahu’s Generals.Mahanama hid the defeats of his General Lankapura who had to return after his troops contacted Syphyllis (Upasagga, must be Upadamsa in south India) and reverses in Burma.
    one should read a book like Dr Upali Wickremeratne’s recent historiogrphy entitled ” Hearsay& Versions in British Relations with the KAndyan Kingdom, March 2012, Vijitha Yapa, to realisee the new approach to histeriography. Upali with his experience as Legal Council as a Bar-at Law of the Lincol’s Inn, in addition to his scholarship and teaching experience in England, brings in the English Law of Evidence for the first time to re-examine a number of vexed issues like the first White Flag issue in Kandy over which the reputation of Kandyans remained besmeared for long, Plimatalavve’s and Ehelepola’s and Mahanayake’s roles.In his new aproach,the author did not spare re-examination of any evidence but even found fault with the conclusions of his mentor, historian Dr. Colvin R de Silva whom he accused of accepting British sources without scrutiny.
    So let us leave the writing of real history to the progeny. it is their right to do afer the dust has settled. Let us not wrest it from them. Whatever we write now will remain only ‘opinions’ and not history.

  • 0

    SF has been punished by God for the crimes he caused on the Tamils now its the turn of Mahinda & Family to serve their part of the sentence, so let us wait & see what happens. Ho! Ho!

  • 0

    Malinda Seneviratne:
    It is your turn, as one of the prime opportunistic apologists for a corrupt and evil lot,to twist in the wind even as the Rajapaksas pay your keep at The Nation.

    Perhaps, while you are killing time, you should tell your readers that the paper you are now the Editor in Chief of is owned by a Wickremesooriya who is a cousin of your President and the brother of the man appointed by the same President as Ambassador to Washington.

    In this case, success makes strange and interesting bedfellows1

  • 0

    Load of rubbish written here by a hired writer. He writes for a pay. We don’t need to see the events through your eyes man, we have seen it all as they happened. The public know more about SF. It is the very people like you who feted and worshipped SF, who slung mud at him. Typical behaviour of Sinhala bigots.

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