Can Fonseka Be More Than The Cat Among (Opposition) Pigeons?
The release of Sarath Fonseka with a pardon, the implications of which have still not been clearly indicated, has led to speculation of a kind not recently encountered from the punditocracy of this country. And, in a country where political theories run rampant on a continuous basis, that is really saying something!
Let me very briefly make reference to what seem to be the two more plausible explanations for the fact that Sarath Fonseka, recently stripped of everything except his right to life, has been set free with a large question mark hanging over what civic rights he might or might not now have.There is little doubt that Fonseka’s release from jail has a plethora of conditions attached to it. The fiction that Mahinda Rajapaksa epitomizes everything good, kind and forgiving in this land has been very seriously eroded recently and the manner of Fonseka’s release, contrary to hopes in some government quarters, appears to have put paid to what little was left of that reputation.
That the health of the man once described by this regime as “the greatest general in the world” was failing was apparent to anyone who had access to any of the local media. While his demise while incarcerated would not, in my opinion, have led to anything resembling some massive uprising of the Sinhala chauvinist horde that constitutes the very lifeblood of the current government, it would have accelerated the current rate of desertions of its supporters from its current trickle to a veritable flood. As it is, one hardly needs a vivid imagination to appreciate what is going through the minds of a public that sees those who promise us the Miracle of Asia driving around in Rolls Royce ‘stretchlimos’ while the observers are hard put to provide the bare necessities for their families and themselves. And when I speak of ‘Rolls Royce Stretch Limos’ it is NOT as a figure of speech!
The other theory is that Fonseka’s re-emergence would cause more fissures among the growing numbers of those opposed to the current regime, many of whom were moving to Ranil Wickremasinghe who constituted Hobson’s Choice in the circumstances.
Given the absolute suppression of democratic practice in Sri Lanka, one expressed hope has been for an extra-parliamentary removal of the current government. I, for one, hope that such an eventuality never occurs because of the chaos and violence that will inevitably follow, as it has in the case of the Arab Spring, where the ‘cure’ has proved worse than the ‘malady’ in several instances.
However, Fonseka’s release offers the opportunity for the coming together of a coalition of honest individuals, with a broad democratic platform without any of ‘the usual suspects’ in the matter of bribery and corruption being involved in such an endeavour. Fonseka has the potential to be part of the leadership of such a grouping for a couple of reasons. No. 1, there is a general perception that he is ‘above board’ and not a crook or a ‘Komiss-Kaakka.’ More important, if his limited exposure, post-release, is anything to go by, he has cultivated a degree of self-control that belies his old reputation of being Sri Lanka’s No. I Political Loose Cannon! Also, he doesn’t seem to have the baggage of political dogma that some of the more financially honest politicians of this country would carry into a coalition-building endeavour.
What I am suggesting is not unlike what has already begun to develop around Ranil Wickremasinghe who has displayed the ability to work effectively with groups such as Mano Ganeshan’s, Vickremabahu Karunaratne’s and the TNA for the primary and limited purpose of establishing democratic practice in this country once more.
Fonseka could well provide a very important piece in this little jigsaw, something that was previously bruited about at the time that the opposition parties, desperately casting around for an opponent to Mahinda Rajapaksa, picked him to run for the Presidency. Then, there wasn’t enough time to develop this strategy and Fonseka tended to act like a bull in a china shop!
There are a couple of caveats to this suggestion however. No. 1 would be that Tiran Alles, that most unprincipled of politicians be dumped. Holding this guy to one’s bosom would be tantamount to replicating Cleopatra’s fate when she got too familiar with the asp. The very clouded conditions of Fonseka’s release bear the stamp of Alles’ duplicity and, if for no other reason than this, the man needs to be avoided like the plague in any effort at consensus-building to restore democracy.
The totally inappropriately-nicknamed ‘Captain Cool,’ Arjuna Ranatunge, needs also to be relegated to the background. He lacks maturity and is quite capable of returning to the Rajapaksa fold if the right inducement is proffered (Sports Minister, perhaps?). Also, isn’t one Sanath Jayasuriya in politics enough?
The concept of broad coalitions is being given flesh in one of the western nations with a reputation for good democratic practice: Canada. In the oil-rich province of Alberta that provides the US with something like 75% of its petroleum, the Provincial Liberal Party, admittedly in an act of desperation, opened voting rights at its leadership convention to ANYONE displaying an interest in supporting what they stood for. While the ultimate aim of restoring the party’s influence in provincial politics was not achieved, it appears that this step saved the party from political oblivion.
The Liberal Party of Canada, perceived as that country’s ‘Natural Governing Party’ for decades, was decimated at the last Federal General Election. It too, seems committed to a similar line of action at its leadership convention to he held next year, seeking to draw into its fold not just card-carrying members but the public at large that broadly supports its aims and objectives in governance.
Canada’s surging Federal New Democratic Party elevated, for the first time in its history, to Official Opposition status has also moved away from the rigidities of previous political and economic policy to a more small ‘l’ liberal one and its recently-elected leader, Tom Mulcair, successor to Jack Layton who advanced his party to unimaginable heights before his untimely demise, is giving clear evidence of a ‘centrist’ approach to policy and operation.
There have also been mutterings, both in the Liberal and New Democratic Parties, of the need for a progressive coalition to fight the reactionary Stephen Harper Conservative Government which has dropped the ‘Progressive’ part of its name both in name and political conduct.
Sri Lanka is more than part way down that same path insofar as the opposition parties are concerned and all they have to do is adopt broad policies that are acceptable to all the parties and stick with those policies, not jettisoning them for the convenience and self-aggrandizement of its members, something the current Banditry parading as government has done at such enormous cost to us and our country.
Simply holding to fiscal honesty and not indulging in criminal activity will put our country back on a track from which it has deviated for a large part of its post-independence history. While it might be a sad commentary on our plight that merely being honest and law-abiding constitutes a quantum leap in the matter of good governance, it is a very necessary beginning that can and MUST be made.
Sarath Fonseka, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Mano Ganeshan, the TNA, ‘Bahu’ Karunaratne and other TRUE patriots of this country can make that a reality. It will then be up to the rest of us to make sure that we hold their feet to the fire and ensure that Sri Lanka does not return to the morass of greed and corruption that is the current reality.