President Rajapakse vs General Fonseka
Posted on November 13th, 2009

By Mario Perera, Kadawata

This looming contest has all the ingredients of a best seller and also a total sell out. Sectors of the general public surely ask themselves the question; why had this to happen? Like with most major political events, this situation too has much more to it than meets the eye. Was the great general slighted to the point of feeling humiliated? That question is as it may be. What I ask myself is will the General take up the gauntlet? It would seem so. The possibility is enhanced by the General resigning from his post right at this crucial time when the President is to decide as to his course of action about what comes first, the presidential or the parliamentary elections. Here too, to all appearances the presidential will prevail. The simple reason being that the sooner the presidential is held the more advantageous it would be for the incumbent president while the country is still basking in the war victory over the ruthless and so called unconquerable foe. This is the trump card of the president.

 Yesterday Minister A.P.Yapa asked to pronounce on the merits of the General’s part in the war victory, rightly pointed out that it was the president’s determination which was the decisive factor. He galvanized the local forces, engaged the help of friendly countries for his cause and tamed the international conspirators. He won on all fronts which paved the way for the victorious siege and annihilation of the despicable enemy. The other matters the minister touched on were less convincing, being even counter productive. He spoke of Churchill’s part in the Second World War. What the minister did not say (indeed how could he have said it?) is that Churchill was dethroned from the prime minister’s seat at the very next elections held a very short time after. The Englishmen made a distinction between the battle front and the economic front. For the English mentality each one plays his role, one in war and another in peace.

 Besides his decisive role in winning the war, the President is portrayed as being a claimant for national gratitude. Recently a monk drew a parallel with the Lord Buddha fixing the Sri Maha Bodhi with unblinking eyes during one whole week as a sign of gratitude. Indeed gratitude is part of our national ethos especially as a very ancient Asian civilisation. We are also referred to the massive construction work in progress directly under the supervision of the President though the biais of his brothers.

 What are the counter arguments? Some argue that gratitude need not mean that the president should be kept in power. There are so many ways of expressing gratitude, they say. There is the issue of his kith and kin dominating on the power platform. But, when was this country ever free of nepotism? Right at the beginning the UNP was called the uncle-nephew party. Then the Bandaranayakes took over and the family held sway. A member of the clan a retired army man with a physical handicap and dubious military expertise was brought into politics and made a general overnight. So no one can grudge the Rajapakses continuing the tradition. Furthermore family support is indispensable in today’s political context of backstabbing, backbiting and of political gamesters adept in disciplines such as long jumping, high jumping and pole vaulting from one to the other side of the house of parliament. A daily display of such ignominy having made it good are the faces of the unscrupulous seventeen, one of whom vaulted back, not displaying the least embarrassment or qualms of conscience. With such people on board, trust and confidence have become the greatest political victims. Indeed it can be well assumed that the role of defense secretary given to the brother was absolutely vital towards winning the war.

 Is there a debit side of the Rajapakse rule? The main one has taken the corpulent form of a thug brandishing a Ph.D and become a right hand of the president even accompanying him on his foreign jaunts and displaying himself in the company of foreign dignitaries and Heads of State. The well know saying; tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are cannot be overlooked. How can President Rajapakse promise the rule of law and order while promoting such an obnoxious individual and his family? This is a serious matter and not something to be glossed over. For many a respectable person this glaring contradiction of the so called good governance is a major stumbling block for returning Rajapakse to power. There is little being done to control the tide of thuggery, violence, bribery and corruption. With these infernal elements still unleashed with impunity, the country will be derailed whatever be course it is geared towards. Then there is the skyrocketing cost of living which cannot be stemmed through mitigatory arguments.

 Where does Fonseka score? He is also a man from the south. His integrity seems beyond question. Coming into the fray from outside the existing party system is well to his advantage. Being the greatest general of Sri Lanka’s modern history his challenge cannot be sidelined. There are some grass root factors that also go in his favour. He is an embodiment of those village warriors who fought the field battles which crushed the terrorists. This feature will probably be a solace to the innumerable families who offered their children and sacrificed so many of them for the survival of the motherland. There is no doubt a lot of praise being lavished on the soldiers who did their duty. But their “ƒ”¹…”General’ being at the helm of government will instill into the soldiers and their families the feeling of a continuing triumph, and not one the glory of which is withering with time, with only lip service as consolation

 Most important of all, a Fonseka presidency will be a welcome diversion from what we are used to here in Sri Lanka. He could bring a very positive change to our political horizons and serve as a guarantee against the rule of thuggery and corruption. He is a combat general, a battle front hero. He has no children to follow him into the presidents’ office. Should he win he will have only the mission of serving the country and not family and clan. The fact also that he has no party allegiance will not make a prey to party machinations.

 The present state of the country which is appalling already spells out his priorities. There is no doubt that the Fonseka drive for the presidency could engender a new optimism and unleash a new hope for Sri Lanka. There are many who think that the enforcement of some army discipline on the country is the only way to salvage it. The battle lines are hardening which means that journalism, national and international is going to have a field day.

 At the moment President Rajapakse would seem to be on the winning horse because of the hold he already has on the population especially through the recent overwhelmingly one-sided elections. He will however be well advised to keep better company than that of inveterate thugs who cannot be converted by doctorates just as donkeys cannot be made to take “ƒ”¹…”sil’ through “ƒ”¹…”bana’ preaching. What more, is it not a living disgrace that there are institutions that try to pour Ph.D deodorants on stinking carcasses?

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