26 May, 2022


SF & RW Backtrack On Democracy

By Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

Malinda Seneviratne

A few weeks ago, Krishantha Cooray, member of the United National Party’s ‘Working Committee’ and a well-known mover-shaker of that party, especially when it comes to positioning the party in the media, wrote an article titled ‘The Ranil-Factor in 2016 and Beyond‘. Krishantha correctly pointed out that defeating Mahinda Rajapaksa was just one necessary element in a longer and a broader struggle to establish democracy and good governance. “We are in the infant days of reform,” he pointed out correctly. He also said, correctly, that this is a vulnerable time and argued, therefore, for patience. To Krishantha, the man who could deliver was Ranil Wickremesinghe.

This is how Krishantha put it:

“We are not out of the woods yet. We need a road map and we need the courage to walk a difficult path where light at the end of the tunnel is so dim that it is barely visible. As things stand, Ranil Wickremesinghe appears to be the one individual who has a map and has the will to walk the talk, at least until the cement dries to the point that the foundation laid on the 8th of January can hold a sturdy democratic edifice. His record shows that he is a logical and not an emotional leader who has the country’s interests at heart.”Ranil and Fonseka

When you take the current lot of Parliamentarians Krishantha might appear to have a point. Ranil is logical. However, Ranil’s notion of ‘country’s interest’ is not necessarily correct. His ‘country’s interest’ between 2001-2004 almost handed victory to the LTTE. Sarath Fonseka, back then, would have agreed. But back then Sarath Fonseka was a soldier. A good one. And ironically, it is Sarath Fonseka who is in the middle of a process that ought to make Krishantha think again about the character certificate he has given Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Even his strongest critics will admit that Sarath Fonseka was THE MAN to lead the Army in the national effort to rid the country of the scourge of terrorism. He was clearly a necessary element but certainly not a sufficient one. He believes otherwise of course. However if you imagine Fonseka as Army Commander during a Chandrika Kumaratunga presidency heavily under the sway of LTTE sympathizers disguised as federalists or under the defeatist Ranil Wickremesinghe, you would quickly conclude that he would have been rendered impotent. But he was THE MAN of THAT moment. No debate there.

After the successful conclusion of the campaign against the LTTE there was nothing to stop Sarath Fonseka from enjoying a retirement akin to that of the first Indian military leader to be conferred the rank of Field Marshal, Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, better known as Sam Bahadur (Sam the Brave). Nothing, that is, except himself. He did get the title, he is considered a brave soldier, but Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka is certainly no Sam Bahadur. You can blame politics for this, or rather Fonseka’s (probable) belief that what he knew of military engagements could be applied to politics. He was naïve. He paid the price for naiveté.

Here’s a recap of his post-military political life: Fonseka decided to run against a popular president and was backed by a UNP (and its leader) that knew the outcome was a foregone conclusion; Fonseka was unceremoniously and scandalously put behind bars immediately after the election and was thereafter dropped like a hot potato by those who backed his election campaign; Fonseka decided to contest the General Election believing in all likelihood that a chunk of the votes he received would be cast for his party; Fonseka tied up with the JVP and the results were utterly disappointing; Fonseka’s party fared even worse five years later. Fonseka finally entered Parliament through a slot in the National List made vacant by the death of an MP.

Six years after he entered politics, Sarath Fonseka has found his political maximum: a national list MP. The ‘national list’ was unfortunately always a refugee camp for the politically displaced. And that’s what Fonseka is: a political refugee who has to depend on the largesse of men he has ridiculed. His achievements as a soldier will always be dulled by his dismal record in politics. He is no Sam Bahadur.

But that’s his problem. There are claims that Fonseka, since he holds the lifetime rank of ‘Field Marshal’ cannot enter Parliament unless he ‘retires’ the rank, so to speak. Indeed, some would argue that the rank should have been taken away the moment he submitted nomination papers for the General Election. Perhaps it is respect and gratitude for services rendered as a soldier that is stopping the courts being petitioned on this matter. Considering the ‘credentials’ and abilities (or their lack) of the current set of Parliamentarians, Fonseka is certainly parliament-worthy. No debate there. He might recover some glory. Indeed one hopes that he does.

However, even as we wish Fonseka all the very best as a Parliamentarian, one has to question the wisdom of those who paved the way for him. This is not because of who Fonseka is. It has to do with the implications.

Fonseka did not contest under the United National Party. Let’s forget the fact that he said that Ranil Wickremesinghe doesn’t have a clue about the economy (“And Fonseka does?” did someone whisper?). In politics one forgives and forgets. However, Fonseka was a defeated candidate. Maithripala Sirisena voluntarily wiped off quite a bit of the gloss of his victory and looked quite your run of the mill politician when he opened the ‘national list’ to defeated SLFPers. The UNP leader, this time around, seemed determined to charter a better course. However, with this decision regarding Fonseka, the UNP has shown that it is still comfortable with ‘same old, same old’.

How can we conclude under these circumstances that Ranil Wickremesinghe is THE leader of the future, the only man who could steer the country towards democracy and decency, the statesman who can ‘change the game’ by setting up the rules necessary for good governance and a wholesome system of representative democracy?

Human Rights Watch, that dodgy outfit, is opposed to Fonseka entering Parliament. Given this Government’s servility to those who take such groups seriously (or lap up their rhetoric because they happen to be useful) this decision might cause some embarrassment, but that is not something that the general population will worry about. Apart from the legal issues alluded to above, few if any will begrudge Fonseka’s right to be in Parliament. The fact that he was rejected by the people will matter, though. And that’s why the wisdom of the UNP’s decision has to be questioned.

What is the signal that the UNP (in its latest avatar – they went through ‘Dharmista Samaajaya’ in the 70s and 80s before they discovered ‘Yahapalanaya’) gives the electorate? That the will of the people counts for nothing? The ‘slot’ was obtained because the people voted for the UNP, not for Fonseka’s party. Is the UNP telling us that political expedience is what matters, not the basic principles of democratic representation?

The SLFP leadership (post-Mahinda) cannot find fault with Ranil of course. The UNP membership ought to, or else we will have to, conclude that this ‘Yahapalanaya’ talk is hogwash and so too all the democracy-rhetoric, as far as that party is concerned.

The UNP has given a clear signal: democracy is not their thing. What’s most disturbing here is the fact that this ‘signal’ is not news. If anyone had illusions about the UNP having turned over a new leaf, well it’s time to shed them.

Krishantha concludes thus: “Wickremesinghe, as the most senior politician in the country, the most experienced leader and the one individual who has vision and political will, has an unenviable task ahead of him. He has many easy ways out. He can be just another ruler and be successful too in terms of securing power for his party and himself. That will not make history remember him as a statesman. He has to take the difficult path and has to convince the people that it is for everyone’s benefit. That would be his challenge in the coming months.”

Wickremesinghe has taken the easy path. He will find it difficult to convince Krishantha that this move was for his (Krishantha’s) benefit, and we are not talking about the fact that Krishantha, being the UNP’s ‘national list’ could have been chosen instead of Fonseka. It seems that Wickremesinghe has has slipped.

Fonseka, unwittingly perhaps, has finally done something politically significant. He has undressed the UNP, or rather has got the UNP to undress itself.

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Latest comments

  • 22

    Malinda Seneviratne

    Sarath Fonseka is better than Sarath De Silva.

    Sarath De Siva messed up the whole bloody system of governance but Sarath Fonseka did not.

    Sarath Fonseka is accused of war crimes but no one accuses Sarath De Silva of colossal damage to the socio=political fabric of Sri Lanka. In the balancing scale, Sarath De Silva stands heavier than Fonseka. He rottened the nation with the pagar he received from Mahinda. Do you know what is pagar is? It is side kick in all forms from human flesh to monetary values.

    • 6

      This boy who is said to have gradudated at Harward for some reasons- seems to be singing the very same song in favour of Rajas.

      How come a boy of that kind could ever be accepted by most prestigious colleges of the world ? Normally even if a healthy person just had few visits to such premises, they would tend to see anything and everything right. But using his talents at writing- to abuse the readers further is a greater puzzle to me.
      DayanJayathilaka has been sealed off to some extent – by whom is not known. Anyways, his appearences are limited to few programs. Nor has he brought any article of his kind lately to CT. But MS to stay cemented- as no other woudl do – I believe the size of perks he enjoyed then – could be the key reasons.

    • 3

      You cannot blame the politician for military failures unless there was political intrusion
      CBK may have faults, but she cannot be blamed when the forces got a hammering, she furnished the military better than the successor
      Can blame JR & credit Ranil (Karuna) for politics, the 9/11 & Tsunami too
      Prior to that can even blame SWRD, GG, Ponambalams, to a much lesser extent even DS…

  • 2

    Malinda’s detractors seem to be asleep!!!! Given the language they use they are not missed however.

  • 26

    How the hell can you pontificate on “backtrack(ing) on democracy” when you spent the past many years with your head up the Rajapakses’ collective asses?

    Stop acting like you are God’s gift to our political awareness, as your history betrays your bullshit!

    And that’s no ‘inconvenient truth’!!

  • 20

    This is Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans’ mentality. My God, no wonder it is the wonder and miracle of Asia . Man what’s wrong in giving pride of place for the person served the country good and well. Look at Isreal, so many generals were in their parliaments. Man country needs their experience and expertise. Please dump your dirty yarn in the dustbin. He did the job for us with his tri forces men and police in the field, risking his life for us, including you and your children to live in peace, my dear friend. Use your head well when you write some thing like this, and don’t be a utter dumb and fool. Remember, the country and people are more than any thing else for a good leader.

  • 6

    Ten minutes in the presence of Fonseka the politician is enough for anyone to reach the conclusion that this man will inevitably end up as a political liability NOT an asset. In short, a career disaster.

    Field Marshall Fonseka should have the good sense to go gracefully. He is now going to lose much as the feral dogs who habit our political sphere will show complete disregard for rank and send him home with his trousers round his ankles. Don’t be surprised when before long some snivelling politician shouts ‘pakaya’ when Fonseka opens his mouth.

    Ranil however has a thick skin, and those who think he is god’s gift to democracy had better think again. He only appears as a beacon because the lights around him are rather dimmer.

    WE the People will have to keep dashing a lot of coconuts before we can exorcise our current body politic (and the includes the last lot still waiting in the wings for another go).

  • 2

    Thus it is neither chance nor influence of this or that doctrine of UNP neo-Liberal policies that determined this peculiar attitude towards democracy of “good governance and rule of law” the part of democracy that are fighting in the Sri lanakn revolution.

    The UNP-Ranil W… peculiar attitude is to be explained by the current conditions of US, UK and Indian-RAW by requirement of neo-liberal capitalism at this stage of development. All UNP’S and US Indian counter-revolutionaries foreign bourgeoisie stand for foreign capital by private domination.

    The whole Sri Lankan an opposed to US and Indian intervention of capital market, Trade and plundering Sri lakan national wealth by Forced back Indian state by manipulated UNP anti-Democratic rule.

  • 2

    Very interesting article. Thanks for reminding everyone the UNP’s then policy of not allowing defeated UNP candidates into parliament through the national list. Oh, dear Rosy Senanayake.
    In my view, RW is still vigilantly looking out for any leadership challenge that may be lingering under the ashes. Given the recent conflict between Wijedasa and Fonseka, it is likely that Ranil, by bringing Fonseka in, is trying to balance the Ying and Yang that can be turned against him at any point of time. Just remember Ranil’s leadership trouble has just been moved to the back end of the queue, never resolved. Even if you and I don’t remember, he knows it all well. That’s why I rank him the cleverest politician alive.
    The war crime investigation is imminent and quite rightly as pointed out by HRW, it is impossible not to implicate Fonseka in these investigations. From Fonseka’s point of view, as I believe, parliamentary privileges may give him a bit of a breathing space. Hence this move.

  • 8

    Malinda Seneviratne

    RE: SF & RW Backtrack On Democracy

    “We are not out of the woods yet. We need a road map and we need the courage to walk a difficult path where light at the end of the tunnel is so dim that it is barely visible. As things stand, Ranil Wickremesinghe appears to be the one individual who has a map and has the will to walk the talk, at least until the cement dries to the point that the foundation laid on the 8th of January can hold a sturdy democratic edifice. His record shows that he is a logical and not an emotional leader who has the country’s interests at heart.”

    Should they take some lessons from POLITICAL THEORY of Niccolò Machiavelli? Mahainda Rajapaksa, had some lessons.

    Machiavelli’s name is a byword for immorality and political scheming. But that’s deeply unfair. This was simply a political theorist interested in the survival and flourishing of the state.


  • 4

    There is another sarath embracing a vintage actress.

  • 7

    Oh My Well

    A better place for you is a deep well with frogs and croak for rain

  • 7

    it will be interesting to know whether the writer still retains his his important office in the BBS. Bensen

  • 3

    Looks as if RW and Co. are stuck in a time warp and are somewhat behind in everything!! Ever since they got into power, they’ve been barking up the wrong trees…first the Port City and China, and now having to go back with the begging bowl to those they insulted for months. And now, after decrying the Hambantota Port Devt., MR, rock and all, for the last couple of years, they have now recognized the value of that Port and are happily proceeding with Phase II. The Megapolis a la Singapore is not the best idea for Sri Lanka, NOR is the tunnel/bridge to Rameshwaram.
    We have to find economic solutions for the Local unemployed youth by providing a higher level of vocational training or opportunities for obtaining better skills …NOT by importing unemployed Indians, after having promised 100,000jobs for the locals within an year.
    When will this lot get their priorities straight???

  • 5

    Govt somewhat slow to keep promises
    ‘Sage’ Wijedasa Rajapaks for example
    But unfair to point at FM
    Unless one is a MR fan

  • 3

    Sarath Fonseka saved the day not just in 2002-4, but 2005-9, no difference RW or MR
    In fact, if not for CBK, Kadirigama, Ranil (Karuna) and 9/11, there would br no Rajapaksa to talk about !!

    Sarath Fonseka, yes, cause he’s the soldier that ceased the unceasing-waves and that too during CBK’s time

    Unlike Sarath Fonseka, the deserter-psychopath that wrote a book with his ugly name on it is the one to proclaim your ‘sufficient one’

    Sam Bahadur or Sarath Fonseka is a matter of opinion, just as much as Muthaiah Muralitharan or Shane Warne.
    Whilst, Sam the Brave showed it in the field, the Lion of Ambalangoda did it both on and off the field.

    The fact is that, Rajapaksa are no Gandhian Nherus

    What this shows is that there is noting firm to your thrust and that you are just a bend-over and not a v good one at that !

    (N.B: If Fonseka was patient, he may well have been the president now and the Rajapaksa confined to history akin to Gaddaffi, yet the paradise isle, seems yet to be under the spell of the Kuveni’s curse)

  • 3

    Malinda even with improved Technology, no one could make a better washing machine than you!

    • 1

      Let promote his name as the best WASHING/DISCHING MACHINE of the srilanka.

      Good idea great :)

  • 1

    presidential bouts,

    played 1 , won 1 , lost 0 , Maithripala Sirisena
    played 3 , won 2 , lost 1 , Mahinda Rajapaksha
    Played 1 , won 0 , lost 1 , not played 2 , Ranil Wickramasinghe
    played 1 , won 0 , lost 1 , Sarath fonseka

    The most successful man is the leading the country right now. Malinda Seneviratna’s article is mathematically correct.

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