The General Disgrace: Who’s Fooling Whom, And How…
What’s all this fuss about arresting the General? He’s an ingrate and a traitor, we’re told, and, worse still, he doesn’t have the basic decency to accept defeat disgracefully. He has claimed that the election was rigged and that Tamil IDPs were denied their right to vote.
How is this relevant? The best man won in the way we Sri Lankans know best. Ask the much-syndicated columnists of our courageously kept press and they’ll tell you all about it. Or ask our civil society luminaries and they’ll tell you all about choosing “the known devil.” The question to ask them, of course, is exactly how much they know. Some of them I know knew only too well, it seems, and used this knowledge devilishly well. Even that arch-conservative T.S. Eliot wrote “after such knowledge, what forgiveness?”
Why should Tamils be allowed to vote anyway? Aren’t they grateful that they’re allowed to live, even if it is by the skin of their teeth? They should realise that this decision (about living, that is) can go either way, depending on how they choose to vote at the parliamentary election? The point is that you can never trust the Tamils, or, for that matter, the Muslims: assisting them not to vote is clearly the best policy in the circumstances, but there’s no harm in letting them dream that they can get their revenge by casting their ballots against the enemy. It is true that every dog has its day, but Tamils are not dogs, are they? Come to think of it, in terms of ingratitude the General is behaving like a Tamil. Maybe he is one in disguise, and that’s why he started all those lies about white flags and surrendering.
We’ve been reliably informed that he’s in the pay of the horrible Western powers whose every waking moment is spent in working out nasty ways of destroying our beautiful country. In an interview with Ravi Vellor of The Straits Times published on February 11, the Defence Secretary referred to the General’s election campaign backers as follows: “We are 100 per cent convinced. Even the United States and countries like Norway spent lots of money for his campaign. I have proof of the Norwegian government paying journalists to write against the government.” The extent of Western perfidy is indeed shocking, even to those of us who have chosen to be citizens of these terrible countries.
Besides, judging from what our honourable gentlemen in the government have told the mass media during the last two days, I’m not even sure that the hospitality extended to the General can be termed an arrest at all. According to our Media Minister he is being treated “like a General” and has a full complement of security, which he couldn’t get when he was gallivanting around the country spreading sedition and disharmony, not to mention lies and ingratitude. I’m a little confused about the need for special protection when he’s under arrest and already in custody, but then it is only perhaps to protect him from the military personnel with whom he allegedly planned a coup. They too are under arrest and may even now be plotting to do him in for misleading them.
The point is that we should not worry our heads about these issues because everything is being taken care of on our behalf. How fortunate we are to have such a tireless and thoughtful leadership that disposes of our problems with such gravitas, and so visibly-invisibly! We know we’re being looked after, while the recalcitrant few amongst us are constantly being taught the folly of their ways, and often voluntarily choose oblivion to expiate their sins. A few, like the General, publicise their pettiness by trying to bring this great nation and its even greater leaders into disrepute, and yet they are treated with exemplary courtesy and magnanimity. We’re told the General is in “luxurious surroundings,” and yet he doesn’t have the courtesy to be thankful.
He resisted arrest, it seems, and wanted to know what he was being charged with. Didn’t his heart tell him that his perfidy had finally caught up with him? We have been reliably informed by his superior and our President’s own brother that he was “a serial liar who misused his office.” The Defence Secretary has clarified that General Fonseka may also be tried for the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge. Apparently Lasantha’s murder fit a pattern for all those who criticised the General. How different this is from the leaders of our country. They encourage and nurture criticism of their regime. In fact, we see that so many of those appointed to high posts are not relatives or sycophants but genuine critics with independent points of view.
But to get back to the General, The Straits Times has the following comment about the General’s hand in the assassination of Lasantha, attributed to the Secretary of Defence: “We are very convinced …. In fact, I know for sure. Now I am going after the people who did the executions. The truth will be out very soon.” If it is known for sure that he committed this heinous crime, does it matter that this knowledge only surfaced after he contested the presidential election? Not at all. Better late than never, and now people like him will learn never to contest elections. Two birds and one inconvenient editor killed with one stone – who could ask for anything more?
I must admit to an error of judgment in a previous column. Referring to the regime in Myanmar I blithely said that their agenda was to keep the leader of the opposition out of politics through quasi-legal hocus pocus, and that our objective was the exact opposite. I naively wondered what they had to offer us, other than, of course, military advice from one of the oldest non-democratic administrations that the modern world has ever known. Mea culpa, dear readers, mea maxima culpa. Not only do we suddenly have a leader of the united opposition, a General to boot, whose dastardly crimes require that he be put away at least until the end of the general election, we also have incontrovertible evidence of a military coup that demands to be nipped in the bud.
Talk about patterns: Anwar in Malaysia is facing renewed sodomy charges that will put him out of action too. Mahathir and Lee Kwan Yew still rule over their dynasties in retirement. Why do we object to the creation of new empires, fresh ugliness, as if old brutality is less horrendous? All that has changed are names and faces. We have chosen to make new alliances and compromises to do our own dirty little deals and stay comfortable. If anyone is despicable, it’s us, alas.
It’s good to know that the General is guilty. Many honest and honourable men in the government have assured us of this, and we are anxious to be convinced, lest we become guilty of wrong-doing ourselves. The General’s exact crime will have to be worked out later, but there are many to choose from. As reported by ColomboPage on February 11, “Minister of Mass Media, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said today the Sri Lankan military has a right to investigate and arrest the former Army commander and Chief of Defense Staff General Sarath Fonseka as he released statements to the foreign media against the security forces.”
He adds that “several charges had been brought up against him and he is being investigated for engaging in political activities while serving in the force.” NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa echoes the same sentiments in his February 10 press briefing, as reported by ColomboPage, where the added charge that the General is “ready to give evidences [sic] to the International Criminal Court on War Crimes” is adduced.
Grievous crimes indeed, and grievously must he pay for them. Funny, that the most serious charge of fomenting a military coup is not high on their list. Now that so many officers and others have been retired, removed and otherwise dispensed with, it may not even be necessary to bring this up. Why rake up unpleasantness that has served its purpose?
Back to my original question. This is the regime of our choice; these are the leaders we have carefully selected to manage our affairs. Now that they’re doing the job in the best and only manner that they can, why do some of us complain? A waste of time and a dangerous dalliance, that. Tisaranee Gunesekera writes logically and movingly about our predicament, but logic and good sense have long left us (at least in part due to our past acquiescence and complicity). What’s left is real-life absurd drama, egged on by elite self-interest and middle-class apathy. Supporters of undemocratic dispensations do so not because they are unaware of crimes committed, but because their own self-interest provides a more persuasive argument!
Let’s vote them in again. Saves them a lot of trouble trying to make it appear that we’ve done so. They are absolutely what we deserve anyway.