Generally the guy with the guns has staged the coup and the other guy is in jail. Well, Mahinda Rajapaksa has all the guns and Sarath Fonseka is in jail. Coup is not the right word because that’s short and sweet. This government take over is long and getting more and more bitter by the day.
A coup is generally when a small group takes control of a country, usually through the military. They occupy key institutions, take over the media and then get legitimacy through fear and boots on the ground. Mahinda’s been doing that for years, so it’s not really a coup. It’s more of a long filing away.
Sarath Fonseka, on the other hand, gave up all the guns and power to run for office. He occupied no office, wore no uniform and his big ‘friend’ in the media was The Sunday Leader (so who needs enemies). He wasn’t able to use state resources in his campaign, he had to beg for personal security and as the votes were being counted, he was the one under siege.
However, we are so far down the rabbit hole that up seems down, right seems wrong, left seems right. Mahinda Rajapakse has used war to consolidate control over state institutions, he used those institutions to run an unfair election, then, finally, he politicised the noble military to seal the deal. Surrounding and arresting the opposition. And yet Sarath Fonseka is the one who was plotting a coup.
In reality, Sarath Fonseka is the only one that resisted this long and pervasive coup. He’s the only one who tried the democratic route, who gave up the perks and who — in his clumsy and embarrassing way — tried to make a change. Ranil was too weak and selfish to even run, he seems content to let the country suffer until power falls into his lap. It was only Sarath who put everything on the line, and now he’s the one in jail.
In a sense, we’re all in jail with him. Our Constitution is dead and — under Mahinda — not coming back. One family controls most of our budget, they have bought over most in parliament with perks and corrupted the judiciary to do whatever they say. A year after war’s end, we are still in a state of emergency, and this is the state that has emerged.
This has been happening for years, but we could really see it during the election. That’s when the state and Mahinda became one, and when the guns came out. Not against terrorism or the LTTE, but against legitimate opposition.
Sarath Fonseka ran legit. I don’t know if he ran fully legit, but he didn’t spend taxpayer money and use taxpayer resources to spread his name and lies around the country. This ‘coup leader,’ on election night didn’t surround any government institutions with guns. I was five feet from him at a press conference and he could barely secure his perimeter, let alone Temple Trees. So how on earth is he the one that staged the coup? It’s Mahinda that’s taken unconstitutional control of this government, largely with public consent.
This has been happening for so long (and so well) that no one really cares. For many, however, this has just gone too far. General Sarath Fonseka is still a soldier who has served and almost died twice for his country. He was a decent man who, rather than abusing the uniform, took it off to run for office. Whether you supported him or not, he is a brave Sri Lankan and he has done nothing to threaten or tarnish our country. Indeed, he may be the only one still defending it.
Yet such is the power of Mahinda (and fear) that he’s also done a clean sweep of our minds. People defend this arbitrary address saying that everyone is subject to the law. OK. What about the President and his family? People defend it saying Fonseka would talk about war crimes. Then are we all complicit in a cover-up? All of these arguments ring hollow. The only thing behind it is that Mahinda wills it and Mahinda is the state.
He took over the state under guise of war, used the state to campaign, and now he’s using the military to crush the opposition. If that’s not a coup, I don’t know what is.
I pretty much live on the fence and I try to understand where people are coming from, but this is just nonsense. I don’t expect a liberal democracy anytime soon, but I also don’t want to live in an Orwellian world where opposition is coup and oppression democracy. It’s not. This arrest is blatantly political, the language is backwards and something is seriously wrong. I’m not planning a coup here, but I’d just like the opposition back. Free Fonny!