30 May, 2024


Will Fonseka Do The Job?

By Namini Wijedasa –

Namini Wijedasa

Sarath Fonseka left prison last week with his right foot forward. Now if only he can keep it out of his mouth. We might have some chance at a viable opposition.
Indeed, Sri Lanka is in dire need of an opposition – and at this point, it doesn’t even matter who leads it. A strong opposition is central to maintaining a healthy balance of power. Even if the Abominable Snowman were to turn up now and make a success of it, he would be welcome.  Surely, anyone is better than the vacillating pussy willows that purportedly make up our opposition today.
But will Fonseka do the job? A lot seems to depend on whether he has learned to put a lid on it; on whether, while contemplating the four walls of his prison cell to the sound of his whirring table fan, he had finally realised that his wayward gob was one of the main reasons he got into so much trouble. He was blabbering so much that his tongue started to run away with him-fast. That wasn’t too prudent.
Sri Lankan politics is a queer phenomenon. Some people can get away with saying or doing anything. Mervyn Silva is a case in point. Whatever he does – and much of it isn’t pleasant – the worst he gets is a slight tap on his furry rump. Then off he trots down the same path to carry out the same tomfoolery all over again.
But some people, particularly those aspiring to be a country’s president, cannot behave like this. They are expected to exercise more restraint. And restraint was not something Fonseka evinced partiality to, particularly towards the end of his presidential campaign. He much preferred to disseminate his thoughts (whatever they might be) in lively, often derogatory, prose that did not sit well with his opponents.  He even started calling people names. That’s hardly prose. Or nice. Or necessary.
Whether or not he returns to this format remains to be seen. One possibility is that Fonseka will now start roasting the individuals he believes threw him in jail. While the media would love this-it doesn’t get any better than a short-tempered ex-general with an extensive vocabulary – it might not sit well with the millions of people who still support their rulers without automatically backing their governance and economic record.
Or, this could turn out to be a slinging match between Fonseka and the establishment: “I-won-the-war” versus “No, I won the war.” There was a lot of that as the last presidential campaign drew to a close. Although this is not a question worth dwelling on (how, even by the wildest stretch of one’s imagination, can war or victory belong to a single person?), it does have a certain animal magnetism.

Nothing to lose

The possibilities for stuff to get peevish are endless. And that will once again deprive Sri Lankan politics of a vibrant, constructive counterforce that could bring out the best in our government, instead of the worst – if that were possible. It doesn’t matter who does it, but this regime needs a good challenge. And since the existing opposition is too busy plucking the body hairs off each other, somebody else has got to do it.
The government let Fonseka out because it had nothing to lose. He was becoming more of a hero inside than when he was outside. The few words he uttered while whizzing in and out of various courthouses or while entering or leaving hospital were eagerly digested whereas his long speeches, made while he was a free man, did not garner the same attention.
Fonseka was seemingly falling ill and it looked rather ugly keeping a sick man in jail on charges that were far from heinous. And, not that it mattered, but by releasing him from jail meant the government would have something “to show” in America.

Comatose opposition

President Rajapaksa signed the pardon papers on the night of May 18. In the US, this was the morning of that day when External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris and his delegation were scheduled to meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It was no secret that Washington treated Fonseka as a political prisoner. Again, not that it mattered. Wilder coincidences have happened.
Besides, he was discharged from prison on a tight leash. Fonseka can’t contest an election for seven years. He is not a “real” threat to the incumbent president.  And yet, he could be a challenge to systems that do not work properly. Isn’t that good enough?
A comatose opposition is running us to ruin. Even certain ministers confess that they have become complacent because nobody holds them to account. There has to be a check on this unbridled power.
Not that there is any guarantee that Fonseka will perform that task. And we’re still not sure about that foot and where it would end up. In all likelihood (and if we know Fonseka) probably some place where it shouldn’t. ( Lakbima News)

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Latest comments

  • 0

    He couldn’t do it as a war hero. There is little chance he can do it as a victim. The way he came out of prison isn’t heroic either. The rulers have set the monks rampant about some mosques just to take him out of the prominence he is getting from the media after his release. He is more likely to be a short bubble rather than the liberator of the nation from the shackles of the Rajapakses.

  • 0

    @Namini. We all love your courage and congratulate you on your speech and writings. As far as Fonseka is concerned his 30 months in Welikade has not changed anything as far as his political acumen is concerned. He is his usual self, arrogant and selfish.
    The Singhalese should not grudge him his title as War Hero, despite the fact the Tamils regard him as the real butcher of Mullivaikal and incarcerating 310,000 Tamils in concentration camps instructed or otherwise by the Rajapakse brothers.
    He is still suffering from the “Foot and Mouth” disease and he certainly has already put his foot in his mouth from all what he has said so far. But I would say that he has not put both his feet yet.
    As far as the JOB TO DO is concerned, he simply has been denied to be a candidate in politics or even vote. That is wrong, and I hope the Bayagullahs will change that decision due to national and international pressure.
    If he is allowed to contest a Presidential elections, he cannot expect the UNP despite being accused of “Pussy Willows” to hand over the leadership and opportunity to be the President on a silver platter. Secondly, the Tamil and Muslim minorities would not support his candidature without which the opposition candidate cannot win. There are substantial Tamil and Muslim votes, in the Western, Northern, Eastern and Central Provinces and smaller amounts in the other provinces. Fonseka is still silent on the attacks on the Muslims in Dambulla, and Kallady, and the SLMC leader is the Minister of Justice who ordered his release with the President.

    Please read my comments on Malinda’s article, and I will repost what
    D B S Blogsite carried on Fonseka’s past statements which you have alluded. Keep up the good work in your writing and speeches.

    I hope journalist like Malinda, KTR, will learn from your writings about character, integrity and courage, and how not to compromise your profession for personal benefits.. Journalist Uvindu is also doing a terrific job with CT.

  • 0

    D B S Blog posted again for reference.

    The minorities will not support a Fonseka candidature, even if UNP foolishly make a mistake (again), by offering him to contest.
    I have a suspicion that the Rajapakses hope that Fonseka will cause split in the opposition and leadership problems for Ranil at the UNP.
    This is to be seen, but I doubt it.

    Let us also see what What Fonseka has to say (quickly) about Dambulla and Kallady and what he has to offer the Muslim minority if and when he is permitted to contest. UNP rebels including Premadasa would only be a liability, and if they join his brand new party, they will only succeed to split the vote among the opposition in future Parliamentary elections, thus losing the district and the bonus seats that come with it, as well as the National List MP’s numbers.

    Fonseka cannot hunt with hounds and run with hare for the sake of the elections. He should focus on uniting the opposition than dividing it, just because he is proud, arrogant and ambitious for selfish reasons. It is time to face reality in the political world and be pragmatic.

    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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