By N. Sathiya Moorthy
Out from prison, former armed forces commander Sarath Fonseka has called for uniting and strengthening the Opposition parties that came together when he contested the presidential polls – but have gone their way since. He has said that the leadership issue could be decided on a later date. He may have a point, but his prospective compatriots may not take it on face-value. They could well suspect him of still harbouring political ambitions, which cannot fructify when his civic rights have not been restored. It starts with the right to vote and the consequent right to contest election. The presidential pardon does not cover the same, though others have since cited the 1986 precedent, set in the case of former Prime Minister, the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike.
As was to be expected, too the political Opposition has welcomed Fonseka, as if with open arms. It remains to be seen how the UNP’s appeal for him to join the party, and its decision to move Parliament for the restoration of his cashiered military honours – and more so of civic rights prior to the conclusion of the seven-year ban would turn out. Presidential pardon being what it is, the question will remain if Parliament can pass a law, even if it could at all muster a majority, or has to make do with a resolution appealing to the President in the matter. Or, is it only a political gesture on the one hand, and one more attempt at embarrassing the Government, on the other – and nothing more?
Post-imprisonment, Fonseka has said that he was floating a new, ‘Democratic Party’, and that his people had already moved the Election Commission for registration. It’s the third party to which he would have lent his name one way or the other, in as many years, with much of that time spent in prison, and fighting his own case(s). At the height of the presidential poll campaign, he was identified with the JVP, later with the formation of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), a new political party that evolved out of the presidential poll campaign -- and now, his very own Democratic Party.
At the decisive conclusion of ‘Eelam War-IV’, smaller parties in the Opposition like the JVP wanted a possible ‘winner’ against President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The bigger party in the UNP needed a ‘loser’ from outside the clan. As an ‘outsider’ to politics, Fonseka also bridged the ideological dilemma that the UNP and the JVP faced in wanting to work together.
His ‘war hero’ image came in handy. It could not win elections, whether Fonseka was out campaigning for self, or in prison, espousing a cause .When disenfranchised, Sirimavo Bandaranaike still had an SLFP organisation intact when she chose purpose-driven daughter Chandrika over indecisive son, Anura. As a Sinhala-Buddhist moderate, Chandrika was readily acceptable to the Tamil community at large. The crude and cruel slaying of her charismatic husband was a source of Sinhala-Buddhist electoral sympathy for her. The field was wide open for her too, as it became for President Rajapaksa after the war-victory, but no Fonseka was in sight then.
No Chandrika is in sight now, for Fonseka to prop up, if his civic rights are not restored in good time. His wife Anoma has been named a senior office-bearer of his new party, and her face, as the ‘wronged woman’ who stood by her ‘wronged husband’ could appeal to the already-converted.
Charismatic Hirunika Premachandra, fighting the criminal case against ruling party parliamentarian Duminda Silva for the killing of her politician-father, is another face now familiar to media audiences across the country.
When quizzed by the media, Hirunika seems unsure of her joining hands with Fonseka on the political front. In the past months, however, she had not ruled out a desire to enter politics.
Fonseka has said that he would be with the people – on domestic issues and concerns. He has indicated that he would also be with the armed forces in facing off the international community on charges of war-crimes. So, he will have to be with the Government, too. His withdrawal of the Supreme Court appeals against court martial conviction in the ‘White Flag case’ when the prison-term had not run out would imply that he owns up the conviction. His pronouncements on ‘civilian deaths’ in the closing days of ‘Eelam War-IV’ has the potential to embarrass the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), to which it was not an issue when it backed him in the presidential race, but is at present – possibly more than even a political solution.
All this would still be a cause to deny him his military honours and civic rights. It would also deny him the possibility of his having to go overseas, for medical exigencies of the kind that necessitated his hospitalisation ahead of freedom. The Government may be reluctant, for a variety of reasons. Questions could then be asked: If the Government could fly out Duminda Silva, charged with the murder of a fellow-parliamentarian, for medical treatment, why not it do so for Gardihewa Sarath Chandralal Fonseka ?
Dear General Sarath Fonseka, you are a battle hardened soldier.You won a war which was un winable at one stage.You can win the war of democracy. Name your part Democratic Sri Lanka Party, and please try to help to bring in true democracy to Sri Lanka.Freedom of speech, decent living conditions to all ect.I know it can not be done over night. Also our people should hold hands to gether and work hard to achive the goal to democracy.
Patriot Tuesday, 29 May 2012 06:08 PM
Dear General Fonseka. We are ever grateful for your contribution for winning the war, a war our country had to face due to the corrupt and selfish politicians who ruined our country ever since we got independence. Now that corruption has risen up to untold level, and your commitment to change it is appreciated. Remember you and the people in SL know that you have to fight with big sharks, but God will protect you. All our prayers are with you.
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