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Generals & General Elections: Retired Military Officers in the Politics of SJB and JVP

12 February 2024 02:50 am - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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“The follower is always far behind the winner” emphasizes the idea that those who follow, copy or imitate are usually not as successful or accomplished as the original trailblazer. This sentiment suggests that true success often comes from innovation, leadership, and being at the forefront of progress, rather than simply mimicking the actions of others. 


When faced with the opportunity to assume leadership in government, Sajith Premadasa exhibited a hesitant approach. His initial reluctance to take over the reins became evident, creating a perception of indecisiveness. In contrast, when Ranil Wickremesinghe appeared poised to accept the responsibility, Sajith swiftly changed course, making a hurried message to the President’s House. However, his attempt was futile as he arrived too late to alter the unfolding events.


This pattern of tardiness and reactive decision-making has become characteristic of Sajith’s leadership style. The recurrent instances of him trailing behind rather than taking the lead have raised questions about his ability to provide decisive and proactive guidance. The delay in seizing opportunities to lead and make critical decisions implies a lack of assertiveness and a propensity to follow rather than initiate. The follower is always far behind the winner.

 

When faced with the opportunity to assume leadership in government, Sajith Premadasa exhibited a hesitant approach. His initial reluctance to take over the reins became evident, creating a perception of indecisiveness

 


Furthermore, an apparent pattern has emerged in Sajith Premadasa’s political approach. Over the past few months, the National People’s Power (NPP) actively sought to engage retired service personnel. Intriguingly, Sajith appears to be adopting a similar strategy, reflecting the NPP’s initiatives in this aspect. A parallel trend is evident in his approach to the Indian leadership. When Anura Kumara toured the subcontinent upon invitation, Sajith also applied for a similar tour. This inclination to emulate the actions of others rather than pioneering innovative strategies or leading independently raises concerns about Sajith’s originality and his vision for the country.
In summary, Sajith Premadasa’s leadership style is characterized by hesitancy, reactive decision-making, and a tendency to follow rather than lead. The repeated instances of being late to seize opportunities and the apparent replication of strategies from other political entities raise questions about his competence, originality, and overarching vision for the future.


“Sacrificing ethics at the altar of expediency is a tragic but time-honoured ritual.”― R. N. Prasher
The military in Sri Lanka continues to stand as one of the nation’s most trusted institutions, enjoying widespread confidence among the public. It distinguishes itself as one of the few entities perceived as free from overt political bias. The unwavering trust placed in the military is indicative of its historic role as being a stabilizing force and protector of the nation, transcending political affiliations. This commendable reputation is not only a testament to the military’s commitment to professionalism and non-partisanship, but also reflects the crucial role it has played in safeguarding the country’s security and territorial integrity. Amidst a backdrop of diverse political landscapes, the military’s steadfast dedication to its constitutional duty has contributed significantly to its credibility among the Sri Lankan populace.

 

 

One can argue that, retired officers share common rights and obligations with civilians, allowing them to actively participate in partisan politics

 


As time goes on, we’ve started to see a clear difference between doing things because they’re practical (expedient) and doing things because they’re morally right. This difference shows a kind of conflict where what makes sense in a practical way might not be the same as what’s morally good, and the other way around. It’s like realizing that what’s helpful or smart to do might not always be the same as what’s the right thing or vice versa. 
One can argue that, retired officers share common rights and obligations with civilians, allowing them to actively participate in partisan politics. Their valuable expertise and experience, particularly in leadership and military capabilities, make them valuable assets in government management roles. However, distinctions arise, especially among the most senior officers, as they bring unique mindsets and experiences to military oversight. The ongoing debate questions whether meaningful differences exist between civilian and military preferences on policy issues.
The commencement of military involvement in politics is linked to Gotabaya. During the 2019 Presidential campaign, some Generals now affiliated with the SJB were seen campaigning for Gota while still in uniform. After assuming the Presidency, Gotabaya appointed several retired high-ranking officials to key positions within the administration. The engagement of organized ex-military personnel in political activities by both the NPP/JVP and SJB raises concerns about setting a potentially perilous precedent.


As a result, the military’s perceived lack of overt political bias serves as a source of reassurance for citizens, fostering a sense of national unity and confidence in the country’s institutions. This unique position places the military in a pivotal role, not only in maintaining security but also in upholding the public’s faith in the principles of democracy and civilian governance.


In times of political uncertainty or transition, the military’s commitment to remaining apolitical becomes increasingly significant. It serves as a stabilizing force, offering continuity and a sense of assurance to the public which looks to the armed forces as a symbol of national unity and resilience. In summary, the enduring trust that the people of Sri Lanka place in their military is grounded in its reputation for impartiality and dedication to its constitutional duties. 

 

In times of political uncertainty or transition, the military’s commitment to remaining apolitical becomes increasingly significant

 

This trust underscores the military’s pivotal role as a respected and unbiased institution, contributing to the overall stability and confidence in the nation’s democratic processes.
Amendments to military ordinances are essential to introduce regulations wherein officers aspiring to become Generals or Admirals commit, as part of their employment contract, to refrain from endorsing partisan candidates for a specified period of post-retirement. The controversy surrounding recent political statements and endorsements by retired General and flag officers spark debates on the military’s non-partisanship norm. A unique survey of retired flag officers reveals consensus on the norm against partisan speech, but notable divergence on its applicability and justifications for violating it. Despite ongoing debates, there remains a limited understanding of how retired officers, particularly senior ones, perceive publicly commenting on political matters. 


Retired military leaders vary in interpreting the non-involvement norm, its boundaries, and the justifiability of violating it. Despite acknowledging social pressures, their decisions to speak out are primarily driven by personal assessments rather than external influences. While scholars widely agree that certain actions by retired senior officers are considered inappropriate, there is noticeable variation among officers regarding behaviours aligned with their professional obligations. Retired military leaders exhibit diversity in their perceptions of their connection to politics, political engagement, and the boundaries of the non-involvement norm in partisan politics. By documenting these diverse viewpoints, we contribute nuance to the ongoing debate about political and partisan behaviours within civil-military relations.


The writer can be contacted on -  kksperera1@gmail.com


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  Comments - 2

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  • THE TRUE. Tuesday, 13 February 2024 09:27 PM

    ZERO MILITARY OTHER TWO PARTIES??????????? WHAT A WONDERFUL.

    THE TRUE Friday, 16 February 2024 01:27 AM

    ALL NORTHEAST PARTY HAVE EX-MILITARY LEADERS, UNP, SLFP, AND SPP HAVE HAD EX-MILITARY CADER.


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