The Sunday Leader

Fonseka Can Unite The Opposition

Gardihewa Sarath Chandralal Fonseka has been able, in his military career and political life, to inspire fanatical loyalties and burning hatreds towards him.
Whether he is loved or hated, this battle-scarred veteran has emerged as the most colourful character in public life in recent years.
Having risen to be the Chief of Staff of the army after a lengthy and successful career he was appointed the Commander of the Army a few days before his retirement. He was critically wounded when a suicide bomber attacked him but survived and was back in harness soon.
A recipient of the highest military awards, he led the army to victory in a three decade old war defying predictions that such a military victory was not possible and was hailed as ‘the best military commander in the world’ by leaders of the Rajapakse government. But the brash military commander was not prepared to share the fruits of victory which he considered were rightly his and locked horns with the all powerful President and his brother the Defence Secretary and was kicked upstairs as Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) which Fonseka considered was a ‘nominal’ position. He resigned from the post of CDS, accepted the offer as the opposition presidential candidate, contested the presidential election and lost. In the parliamentary elections he obtained the second highest number of votes polled in Colombo and was elected MP but lost his seat after being sentenced to jail.
He was then accused of many crimes: attempting to stage a coup against the Rajapakse government, fraud in issue of army tenders, tried in civil and military courts, convicted and imprisoned. The once colourful personality whom the public was accustomed to seeing in all his military regalia was soon projected on TV screens as a common convict in white shorts and sleeveless banian. He took it all with martial disdain. In Welikada prison he rattled the iron bars that held him hard enough for the entire world to hear and after two years has been released without reasons for his release being given.
There has been much public concern expressed and a great deal of publicity given on the arrest and trials of the former army commander. Much public expenditure has been incurred in keeping him behind bars.
Though there have been consistent demands for Fonseka’s release, when the release was made it surprised many and more importantly the reasons of the release not being stated. Questions are also being asked whether his civic rights have been restored and many feel that the modus operandi adopted does not grant him his civic rights.
If not Fonseka, the people deserve better treatment. Sarath Fonseka was the army commander and is still a war hero to tens of thousands of Sri Lankans. He was a joint Opposition presidential candidate and an elected MP. No reason being given smacks of the allegations not being unfounded that the arrest of Fonseka was a private vendetta and therefore his release was also a private matter for Mahinda Rajapakse and his brother Gotabaya.
In modern democracies where transparency in public affairs is sine qua non, reasons for presidential pardons are stated on release of prisoners.
There is searching political interest in the reasons behind his release. One speculation is that the Rajapaksas may be trying out their Machiavellian strategy of buying over Fonseka to their side.
Such an eventuality is unlikely with Fonseka not being a person trying to dodge income tax, save indebted companies, caught in racketeering and other misdemeanours. Besides he is not playing for petty ministerial perks which he could have had when he was Amba Yaaluwo (Mango friends) with Mahinda and Gotabhaya and Fonseka’s post-release rhetoric goes contrary to such desires.
The other speculation is that Rajapaksa is attempting to please the Iron Lady of Washington who has been trying to knock the Rajapakse heads together to make them come to her point of view. While  Hillary Clinton has been drawing attention on human rights issues including Fonseka’s incarceration and even welcomed his release, there are far more pressing demands made and yet to be resolved that have soured US-Lanka relations. The Rajapaksas too will not want their anti- Western record blotched by giving into such a demand.
The arrest of Sarath Fonseka, however, was not popular even among the hard core SLFPers and its supporters who had been exulting on his military triumph. Whatever the ‘crimes’ and ‘misdemeanours’ may have been it was a political mistake to have thrown the opposition candidate in the presidential election and the acclaimed war hero into prison. Besides Fonseka’s health was deteriorating and  had anything untoward happened in prison custody there would have been hell to pay.
Certainly there is no love lost between Fonseka and the Rajapaksas but politics is the art of the possible. Therefore the release of the irascible prisoner was prudent.
Besides one way – if not to immortality – to national fame for a politician would be to be imprisoned. Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Mandela are examples of prisoners becoming world heroes while being behind bars. Even  in Sri Lanka incarceration of the Trotskyite leaders – N.M., Colvin, Leslie and others by the British gave them the stamp of national heroes while imprisonment earlier of leaders such as D.S. Senanayake during the Muslim riots made them heroes. Even President Mahinda Rajapaksa recalls on and off how he was in remand prison in the 1990s as an accused for an alleged offence during an election campaign. The imprisonment of Fonseka rubs such a veneer of heroism on him.
While Fonseka is today a much wanted politician by opposition parties and has many options open to him, it is likely that his deprivation of civic rights will  prevent him from taking part in active politics, for some time. With Opposition parties in near disarray he could play the role of a statesman building up a bulwark to prevent the Rajapaksa juggernaut rolling over the rights of the people.
To do that he will have to control the whiplash of his tongue because the political field is not the barrack room or a parade ground.

13 Comments for “Fonseka Can Unite The Opposition”

  1. Lal.Fernando

    Dear General Sarath Fonseka, you saved this great country Sri Lanka from the terror of LTTE.Now please save the opposition from in fighting and back biting, we in Sri Lanka need a more powerfull opposition.

  2. N. Wimaladasa

    Due to reason he has been to prison is different of your editroal mention .
    SF not come the under the such Leaders catogery, SF not belongs to politics elite class.
    SF was army-officer turn politican for power monger and hunting for power and position. White Flage stament made by himself,such text of mean to undermine HARDLY WON OUR COUNTRY NATIOAL SOVEREIGINITY AGAINST TAMIL-TERRORSIT OUT-FIT.
    Is our history shows long-term colonial rule by WEST and invaded by of South Indian since downfall of Polonaruwa era AD 1190, Sri Lankan island has been united under the politicail leadership of MR>
    SF is one soldier or high ranking officer of war against LTTE-TERRORSIT OUT-FIT.
    This war NOT against our fellow Tamil people.MR recived electrioial mandate
    from public of nation to end war by battot.SF having no claim to be challange MR people authority been granted by People of Sri lanka.
    War end, but TASK OF uniting and protected our sovereginity still INCOMPLETED.
    After over 45 yeras of terrorism and anarachism in Island SOTUN AND NORTH since 1965,is not quite easy TASK to RESTOR SATBILITY AND PEACE IN ISLAND WITH ALL COMMUNITIES.
    Look back our history of reading says the connection among ethnic difference,conflict,and terrorism,are not automatic.
    Separatist conflict in Sri lanka by moving beyond the familiar bipolar Sinhalaese versus Tamils antagonism to show how the form and content ETHNICITY are sharp by histroial and CIVILIZATION social forces.
    Sri lanka social differances and historicial back ground 2600 of back ground,its developement a multipolar analysis whih take into ACCOUNT on diverse ethanic groupes,intra-ethnic,social class and other variables factors to country REGIOANL and Global leval.
    The intervention of SPLITTING FORCES against country and internationl interveation of SECESSIONISM are still BEHAIND the bargaing with island state are more powerful.
    SF is out of such knowledge of politics as army man.
    He may be HERO in one stage againt war with terrorism , but NOT hero of TASK ahead of our country is concern.
    I my opinon SF is lack knowledge and political exprinces to meet such leadership to move our island for progress as UNITED nation
    Needless to say even MR with such 40 yeas in politics,he still lagged behind.
    Ours era and reality of world politics are radically changing of Economy politics and social forcres in Globe scale
    Specially Indian Sub continental is more crucial than any other reagion..

  3. Supun Perera

    It is about time the entire Opposition unite to save the Nation from a Power Crazy Lunatic who acts like a self appointed King and who believes our mother Lanka is his private property. The Country is heading towards disaster and the corrupt family is robbing it to bankruptcy. The citizens have lost all their rights, no law & order or independent Judiciary and our democratic Sri Lanka is now a corrupt lawless Banana Republic.

  4. Kumar Pathirana

    Good article… Gen Fonseka should thread his political path carefully. He must chose his words carefully and be the inspiration as an alternative to MR..

  5. Hatrick Perera

    Dearest editor madam,

    Now that you have secured an interview with Gota also, better start polishing up language skills.

    Dodging income tax, saving indebted companies, racketeering are not “misdemeanours”. They are “crimes”.

    Have access to a good dictionary.

    The profile



  7. vintage voter

    OH !!!!!NO!!!!!!!!!!!!PLEASE MR.FONSEKA,

  8. CW

    If you chose him it will be the beginning of the end of opposition.

  9. W.A.D.Gunewardena

    I am surprised at the tone of this article.Sure enough Sarath Fonseka was a brave soldier, and he was an integral part of the armed forces that ended the terrorism in SriLanka. Full credit should be given to Gotabaya Rajapakse for uniting the three leaders of the Armed Forces(who were at each others throat like ferrets in a bag) to complete the difficult task of ending terrorism.If the Airforce and the Navy had not destroyed the large amount of modern arms that would have been smuggled in to the country,the fighting would never have ended.However, all that is water under the bridge.
    We have a population of about 20million and it seems to be that eighty percent or more of our people are finding it difficult to live within their means in these difficult times and that is what our political leaders of all hues should be thinking about.
    Our main foreign earners are the poor men & women from the villages of our country who rough it out in the Middle East and other parts of the world so that our political leaders can roam the world.In the present economical set up even that may dry up.
    The Media in our country are not helping the situation. The local media is following the same pattern as the BBC, which adopts the holier than thou attitude.Ofcourse there is corruption in the country and it has been endemic for a long time, and every body is at it.
    Your editor FJ, in her interview with Gotabaya Rajapakse tried her best to trap him on the release of Sarath Fonseka, but he made it clear that Fonseka`s release is not the main concern in the country at the moment.The BBC tried the same and he rightly repulsed the BBC.FJ was successful with Sarath Fonseka a few years ago as he was a novice in politics and caused enough damage to herself, the country and your paper.
    The media should not bow down to those in power but for god sake think of the suffering masse and not your ego.
    By the way where is the leader of the UNP,when the country needs him, ?

  10. jaliya


  11. HUMAN


  12. The “law of those who rule” is applied more than the “rule of law” to the people in the North and East(NE) of Sri Lanka(SL).

    The rule of law anywhere, is the legal dimension of the democratic process, which seeks to ensure that government decisions are impersonal and subject to legal restraint. It also guarantees individual freedoms from arbitrary government, and entitles the individual to due process of law.

    The constitution of any country is the foundation for its rule of law.

    But the document called the “constitution” of SL, prepared first in 1972, did not coform to the definition of a democratic constitution in its formation. It was simply a docment for the Sinhalese to administer the island, which SL wrongly called as its “constitution”.

    Violating the rule of law, the government decisions are not kept impersonal but are based on ethnicity. Lack of legal restraint on Tamils is the reason for gross violation of Human rights and military repression leading to genocide.

    Also, there is no guarantee of individual freedoms for the people of NE of the island, and the due process of law is postponed indefinitely for those in custody.

    Sarath De Silva, the former Chief Justice of SL, made this observation lamentfully, when he visited the IDP camps in 1979.

    This week, the US has asked for justice and speedy trial for LTTE suspects, but was rebuked by a cabinet minister of the GOSL.

    To correct the fundamental error, the US may have to ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ), to adjudicate on the validity of the first republic “constitution” of SL of 1972.

  13. Shaik Anwar Ahamath

    Sir, had Fonseka not been charged with the crimes, you would have been the first to decry the Rajapakses deploying one law for their Amba Yaaluwo and another law for the rest of us. We should bear in mind that SF may be released but not absolved of his convictions and there are still charges remaining he has not been tried on yet. He should stop dreaming of ever becoming our President as he is woefully lacking in the most basic of qualifications i.e. Street Cred. His entire adult life had been spent in a disciplined environment i.e. the Army, and he would be clueless attempting to govern a country.

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