Former Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka, the leader of the Democratic Party announced yesterday that his party would support the common candidate Mr. Maithripala Sirisena at the upcoming presidential polls. Sarath Fonseka who was the common opposition candidate of the 2010 presidential elections said that his party had taken this decision to defeat the present ruler in the country.
Q You took part in the MoU signing ceremony with the common candidate, Maithripala Sirisena. So this must mean that your party is supporting the common candidate?
Initially our stance was to support the UNP leader as the common candidate because the UNP is the main Opposition party in the country. However since UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe decided to field a candidate from outside instead of contesting himself, we had to consider whether that would be the best decision for the benefit of the country. After much contemplation and discussion we decided to support the common candidate Maithripala Sirisena. We are in agreement with him about the constitutional reforms put forward by him and the UNP and his policies. We signed the common document, the MoU which deals with the main issues.
Along with the MoU we signed another agreement with Mr. Sirisena pertaining to our party and its principles. In that document he agreed to give our party and the members the recognition they deserve and he promised that our party would be treated justly and fairly at all times. We made our political stance and our political ideology very clear to him and he agreed with us.
However, at any upcoming General Election our party will stand on its own.
Q What do you think about Maithripala Sirisena crossing over from the government and joining the Opposition?
I applaud his brave and courageous decision. I am happy that he had the guts to stand upto this corrupt system. I am also glad that he chose the symbol of the swan as his party symbol because the swan is a pure animal that doesn’t get any dirt on itself.
Q Realistically speaking, do you think Maithripala Sirisena can defeat the present incumbent in the upcoming presidential election?
If it is a free and fair election, Mahinda Rajapaksa can never win against Maithripala Sirisena; we will definitely win. But President Rajapaksa is a corrupt ruler and we don’t accept him as our democratic President. We are his close associates and we know that in the past he was not a wealthy man. But now he is one of the richest men in the world. Even his children are among the wealthiest. So this is all through corruption – it is the money earned from people. In such a background, he cannot win elections.
"I don’t think Ranil and Chandrika will be able to take the power to their hands and do as they wish. They have had their time and term but this time they are coming with a common understanding that they cannot run on their own. Anyway at some stage you have to start believing in people."
Of course he is intimidating people, he is threatening and harassing his ministers and MPs. This is the present political culture inculcated by the present ruler. He intimidates people and discourages others from disagreeing with him by harassing and threatening one man as an example to others. That is what he did when he put me in jail. He doesn’t believe in sincere democracy. So he will definitely lose if the election is free and fair.
However we cannot expect free and fair elections. The corrupt leader will go all out to stop our victory. He already opened this dansal system at Temple Trees where thousands and thousands of people were fed with government money. His cut-outs are all over the country. Each cut-out costs at least 10,000 rupees; this is public money. Government media has already started a campaign for him. So the election process is also not justified. Obviously, the elections are not free and fair. He is not ready for a free and fair election, he is already abusing the system. Like last time, he will try to destroy the results, he will attack our representatives in the counting centres, he will force and threaten the Elections Commissioner, who is already corrupt and he will intimidate the police and the judiciary. Unless there is some interference from the rest of the world it will be really difficult for the Opposition, who are starved for a free, fair and decent election system, to confront this corrupt system. However, we won’t adopt a similar practice and we hope that justice will prevail.
Q As you see, what is the main goal of the Opposition?
I am part of the Opposition and we are all working toward a common goal. Our first priority is to get rid of the present ruler and then to get rid of the present government. Mahinda Rajapaksa is ruining the country. He is only looking after his own family. He is corrupt. He is destroying the economy of the country.
They are trying to fool everyone by giving false economic figures and data but the reality is that the people are suffering. He is inculcating a corrupt and dirty political culture. The murderers, thieves and drug dealers are safe in this country. Our leader keeps the thieves on his lap and uses files to blackmail them. He doesn’t take any action on these so-called files he has on individuals and punish the corrupt people but he safeguards the files so he can keep these crooks from leaving the party. He is the only leader who uses files and blackmail to rule the country! So, sending President Rajapaksa home should be the first priority in the interest of the country.
But that is not the only goal. Together we will develop the country and the people. We definitely need a new political culture in the country which is pure.
Q But do you think the Opposition, led by the UNP which has been in power before, will be able to stand up against this system and eliminate the corrupt political culture of this country?
Well the Opposition is the only alternative. When the Opposition comes to power we will also be a part of the Opposition; we will also be stakeholders in the opposition. So it will not just be the UNP. We have to ensure that we go on the right path in the future.
So anyway we are not joining the UNP but we are trying to give them political strength. In order to fight against this corrupt government we need to join a coalition and that is what we have done.
Q Do you believe that Mr. Sirisena is the best candidate to contest against President Rajapaksa and pose a challenge to him at the presidential polls?
Yes, Mr. Sirisena is a very genuine, sincere person. He is a straightforward man; he is not a liar, he is not a rogue. He understands sentiments and the concerns of the people. Compared with the present ruler he is a thousand times better.
Q Some are of the view that the Ranil – Chandirka alliance is a dangerous one and them coming to power would take the country back to what it was. What are your views on this?
All these people have their political differences and they have different political agendas. But here we have come to terms on common issues. And I don’t think Ranil and Chandrika will be able to take the power to their hands and do as they wish. They have had their time and term but this time they are coming with a common understanding that they cannot run on their own. Anyway at some stage you have to start believing in people.
Q If someone says that you are only supporting the Opposition to get your democratic rights back, what is your response?
I am not in a hurry to get my democratic rights back. I can wait for five more years for that. Even without my democratic rights I can run my party, I can build up my party and I can drive my political concepts through my party. If the country can come to the expected standards, if the country can come to the state that we are hoping for in the next five years that is good enough for me. Otherwise this country will never change.