23 July, 2024


Fonseka’s ‘Reduced Circumstances’ And Options

By Malinda Seneviratne –

Malinda Seneviratne

Democracies don’t need oppositions, they need vibrant, effective and sober oppositions.  Decent oppositions are about the hard work of informed and coherent appraisal of government and governance, and the grind of organizing and keeping spirit alive in anticipation of opportune political moment.  It needs leaders but personality dependence is not indicative of strength but flaw.

Even powerful personalities need the backing of organizations as well as decent plans of action and the wisdom and maturity to assess with reasonable accuracy the overall political equation.  Sarath Fonseka was not endowed with this kind of resource package in 2009.  As JVP firebrand Lalkantha put it, Fonseka served a purpose.  He was, therefore, used. Discarded.

He was released after being imprisoned for a little more than 2 years in a move that smacked of political vengeance notwithstanding the reasonable arguments for incarceration on account of being a threat to national security.  He had strange friends back then and was clearly ill-advised.

There were 5 key people who backed Sarath Fonseka in 2009/10: Ranil Wickremesinghe, Mangala Samaraweera, Somawansa Amarasinghe, R. Sampanthan and Rauf Hakeem.  When Fonseka was released last week, none of them were around to greet him.   Tiran Alles, Parliamentarian and political associate is widely held as the ‘broker’ in getting Fonseka released.  Arjuna Ranatunga, another party member, clearly chagrined, said ‘everyone should get the credit’.  Some (like Jehan Perera) said Fonseka was released because the President was pressurized to do so by the USA, a wild claim considering that President Rajapaksa didn’t bow down to far greater pressure levels (to stop the military operations against the LTTE) in the last years of the conflict.  Alles says, ‘No, the USA had nothing to do with it’.

Wickremesinghe has faulted Alles for not obtaining a full pardon from the President, although he himself did not lift a finger in the entire exercise.  Fonseka wryly observed that the President cannot be proud of himself for holding back his (Fonseka’s) civic rights.  The President has said that he doesn’t want to interfere in matters decided in a military court which is essentially saying ‘I used my discretion in one way about release and another about granting civic rights’.  The political implication is obvious: Fonseka cannot run for President.

Fonseka’s wife, Anoma, claims that some UNPers secretly (that’s a keyword) back a UNP-Fonseka alliance.  Another report says that UNPers have been warned not to be close to Fonseka.  Prominent UNPers were seen welcoming the former Army Commander when he was released, among them some whose ‘discipline’ is being queried by the party.  The JVP, although their parliamentary presence is largely thanks to having clung onto Fonseka’s coattails in April 2010, has distanced itself from Lalkantha’s dismissive comment, but hasn’t exactly been bubbling with excitement after Fonseka was released. Neither has Fonseka been chummy with his main election-ally.

In 2009/10 many anti-Rajapaksa elements in the I/NGO community backed Fonseka, betraying thereby their true political objectives; they were closer UNPers who had nothing nice to say about Fonseka when he was Army Commander.  Fonseka has gone on record (after his release) to say that he took a budu pilimaya to the battlefront and took it to prison as well, a statement of fact that cannot sit too well with that crowd.  He is unlikely to back ‘devolution’.

R. Sampanthan’s party, the TNA, which backed Fonseka’s presidential bid, even getting him to agree to re-merging the North and East in the event that he won the election, went on a hunger strike in support of ‘political prisoners’ (read LTTE cadres, ex-terrorists).  The fact that Fonseka, who had far better credentials as a political prisoner, was not seen to deserve similar protest is not lost on alert political observers.  Rauf Hakeem has since joined the Government.  Mangala Samaraweera, apart from getting his time-trusted minions to run ‘news’ websites that give journalism a bad name, has not been seen or heard of for quite a while.  Chandrika Kumaratunga, who gave a guarded ‘yes’ to Fonseka days before the election, has not offered any comments.

Fonseka’s true political worth was revealed in April 2010 by the number of votes his party secured, sans UNP support and with just the JVP (in its reduced circumstances) backing him.  The JVP has since split in two.

The end of the road for Sarath Fonseka? 

No.  An online poll carried out by www.nation.lk asking voters who they believe Fonseka should align with, shows ‘Mahinda Rajapaksa’ comfortably leading Sajith Premadasa and Ranil Wickremesinghe, but lagging behind the 5th ‘choice’: ‘None of the above’.  That could be a reflection of general sentiment.  In other words, Fonseka should consider leaving these politicians alone (he’s certainly been used and bitten by them).  Makes sense if he wants to be principled and untarnished by the machinations politicians are generally known for.  Lack of an organization, however, doesn’t do much for achieving political goals.  Good men and women have played and lost. Badly.

Perhaps Fonseka should seriously consider a different path.  Perhaps he could ignore the lure of party politics, parliamentary and presidential aspirations and re-invent himself as someone who stands for justice, good governance and democracy.  There has always been a need to address these issues, but the addressers have been such shady characters that such projects have never captured the wider public imagination.  Fonseka has a history, a lot of shine and some dubious spots, but he has not covered himself with the kind of embarrassment that those mentioned above has.  Harping on wrongs done to him and decrying person and not office/abuse won’t get him far, for he has a handicap: the possibility of having the ‘sour grape’ tag pinned on him.

He needs an organization, but that’s for later.  He needs people, lots of people, but he has enough to start things rolling.  He needs a project and one that is not about capturing power but getting the country back on track.  In this he will need to be wary, more of his friends than his known detractors.  It’s mine-ridden, this path, but it seems, as of now, the only sensible direction for this colorful and controversial man to take.





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Latest comments

  • 0

    Yes Gen. Sarath Fonseka should prepare a list of all the perpetrators who stole, rob, swindle, murdered, commissioned, and all the corruptions did against Sri Lanka and published and also bring them to justice…until and after he become the President.

    • 0

      Whatever did Fonseka do to you? Because,if a list is prepared, only Fonseka will lead the list with such vast amount of money that he swindled and kept in safe vaults of his sis-in-law. Or do you think he will be able to explain it unambiguosly?

      • 0

        Rubert Vanderkoon:
        Isn’t it time you went to bed and sucked your thumb until sleep overcomes you?
        The moderators of this website really need to ignore the monumentally stupid nonsense you keep spouting.
        Oh, well, I suppose Bell Pottinger needs you to put in the regulation number of vowels and consonants each week. Otherwise they don’t pay you, right?

  • 0

    @Malinda. Please read the DBS blog, on Sarath Fonseka.

    You lament that Sampanthan was not at Welikade to meet and greet Fonseka? Surely you were not serious that the Tamil leader with self dignity would have been there, just because political parasites like Karu Jayasuriya, Sajith Premadasa, (UNP’s Deputy Leader) and a few Singhala political desperadoes were there in their desperation.
    Good luck to them, and it is their democratic right to do so. They should leave the UNP and join Fonseka’s new political party which will be the best thing to happen to the UNP.

    Fonseka desperately needed the Tamil votes in 2010, and he begged Sampanthan and Mano Ganeshan for support. UNP leader Ranil persuaded them to join him to support Fonseka in the Presidential elections. That was a “One shot Deal” – One and Done.

    There will be no Tamil support for Fonseka, if he is permitted to contest elections again. I personally feel, that the Rajapakses should permit him to contest elections without being bloody Bayagullah’s.

    UNP will definitely put forward their own candidate for the Presidential elections, and Fonseka without being arrogant and pompous ……., he should support the UNP candidate. If the joint opposition proposes Fonseka to be the Presidential candidate (Assuming, Rajapakses relent to international pressure in the interest of democracy and not be known as Bayagullahs), the results would be worse than the last elections. It will also mean, Ranil will have to give up the leadership and politics if he is not able and willing to provide leadership to the opposition to challenge the Rajapakses.

    Knowing what I know, Ranil is not going to hand over anything to Fonseka. So it is time that Fonseka better get off his high horse, ignore the political losers who are surrounding him, and cooperate with the UNP (not the rebels), and form a strong opposition to challenge the corrupt regime. Anyway, before all that, Fonseka will have to provide all the truth about the killing fields, concentration camps where 310,000 Tamils were incarcerated under cruel and inhuman conditions, Total Tamil civilians killed, White Flag incidents, and all the weapons used. (Both legal and illegal, and from where). That would be starters.

    Since he was a US Permanent Green Card holder when these alleged HR violations, disappearances, (Including fellow journalist-Malinda), he comes under total US jurisdictions. There is no escape to that, although the DHS, DOJ and DOS has been very slow in moving on it. But Fonseka was a political prisoner of the Rajapakses for 30 months in their own Sinhala jail, so the focus was not on Fonseka. But please remember, Fonseka was equally or more guilty than the other alleged war criminals because he was the only active army officer. He cannot have the cake
    and eat it, being the War Hero and not the War Criminal.

    Well, all that has to be seen, and all should support that Truth, and Justice prevail!. Why not?

  • 0

    Here is DBS Blog:

    DBS Blog!

    1. Irritants between Sarath and Gotabaya were not restricted within the defence establishment alone. Sarath Fonseka in media interviews would drop very heavy bricks causing adverse fall-out. On one occasion he called Tamil Nadu politicians “jokers in the pay of the LTTE”. When New Delhi remonstrated Fonseka was asked to issue an apology. He refused. It was left to Gotabaya to patch up by issuing an apology for no fault of his own.

    Then there was the infamous interview given to the Canadian newspaper “National Post”. Fonseka said Sri Lanka belonged to the majority Sinhalese and that the minorities can stay but have no say.He was asked to do some damage control by clarifying matters in another interview to a state controlled newspaper. In that he was even worse, saying the minority communities could not make “undue demands” like federalism.

    Sarath Fonseka’s “attitude” was resented but accommodated because he was considered crucially important to the war effort. He was humoured greatly but when the war ended and Fonseka was perceived as exceeding his limits the Rajapaksa regime came down heavily on him. This situation was compounded by paranoia on the one hand and pique on the other.

    Another incident was the felicitation ceremony at Dharmasoka College , Ambalangoda on July 10th. All traffic was stopped along the Galle road for hours. There were massive security arrangements made arbitrarily by Sarath’s security personnel causing much hardship to people.

    Sarath waxed eloquent about his role in winning the war alone to an appreciative “home” audience. In the process he shot himself in the foot by allegedly admitting that tigers who surrendered with white flags were shot dead in cold blood.

    There were increasing signs that Sarath and his merrymen in the army were becoming a law unto themselves. It was as if a parallel authority was being exercised by Fonseka in certain spheres.


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