Rise and fall of Fonseka
Posted on January 24th, 2010

H. L. D. Mahindapala

Q: When a man fights for 40 years of his life for a cause and then overnight joins the enemies he fought what do you call him?
A: Sarath Fonseka, of course!
Q: When a man who gets the biggest ride in his life to fame and glory in the most viable vehicle available and gets off without even saying thank you to the driver what do you call him?
A: Fonseka, of course!
Q: When a man, who is carried on the shoulders of his comrades, turns around and betrays them saying that they carried out illegal orders is there a name for him?
A: Yes, there is: Traitor Fonseka!

Practically, every act that Gen.(retd) Sarath Fonseka has committed since he decided to crossover exposes him as a man without a conscience, integrity, reliability, and credibility. He wants the nation to give him credit for the 40 years of his military career and, at the same time, accept him as a national leader for joining the enemies he fought to destroy.

Which Fonseka can we trust? Is it the Fonseka who fought with President Mahinda Rajapakse? Or is it Fonseka who is with the enemies he fought in the biggest battles of his life? When he was in the Army uniform he praised his Commander-in-Chief as the indispensable leader that gave leadership, political protection and the military hardware for him to succeed. After he got into his “kapati koat” (not the national dress) he claims that the victory belongs to him, with a sprinkling of credit distributed among the others.

These obvious contradictions known to the common man will not endear him to the voters who do not suffer from Alzheimer’s. On January 27 he will realize that he had thrown away forty years of his life’s work in one fatal mistake of joining the enemies whom he had condemned ceaselessly until November last year. His inconsistencies, his twists and turns, his blatant lies and false promises which he can’t keep have reduced him to a man without principles.

 It is the betrayal of his own principles “”…” principles for which he won fame more than his military exploits — that is unacceptable to any decent person who trusted him to be a man of his word. His betrayal of his own fellow-officers took away the gloss of being a hero who commanded one of the best armies in the world. His betrayal of the nation in the eyes of the world dragged him to the depths of depravity.

 In one sense, one can admire, even though grudgingly, Velupillai Prabhakaran’s dogged commitment to his cause. His strength was in his unwavering commitment to pursue a goal without falling for short-term gains. If Prabhakaran did a Sarath Fonseka which Tamil would respect him?

 The followers of Prabhakaran and Fonseka hero-worshipped them not because they had the power to kill or destroy the enemy but because they represented an ideology endorsed and embraced by the people. They represented their respective communities in the battlefield. Without that ideology they would have been nothing more than Godfathers of an Asian mafia. A hero does not exist in a vacuum. He belongs to a community and their ideals. If the hero betrays the ideals of the community he ceases to be a hero.

 Bertolt Brecht’s aphorism in his play The Life of Galileo is apt for both communities. His saying: “Unhappy is the land in need of heroes”, reflects the sad story of the Tamils. The Sinhalese, on the other hand, are faced with a surfeit of heroes.

 There is, of course, noting wrong with heroes. They are pathfinders and without them history could not have gone anywhere. But which community needs a hero like Fonseka who joins the enemies he fought and betrays all the fundamental values for which his men sacrificed their lives? Brecht’s other quote “Why be a man when you can be a success?” applies to the arrogant, self-conceited, egocentric character of Fonseka.

 Fonseka was a hero as long as he represented the ideals of the nation. In November when he joined Wickremesinghe-Hakeem-Mangala-SomaHANSA he was crossing over to another ideological agenda that was diametrically opposed to his own and that of the nation. How can he then expect the nation to back him?

 He was hoping to cash on his military exploits. So did the Wicky-Haki-Mangy-SomaHANSA combination. This weird mob of cut-throat rivals went Fonseka because they thought that was the best option available to them to gain a winning majority by dividing the Sinhala vote. They had no Sinhala hero to split the Sinhala votes which were in Mahinda’s bank. But like Fonseka, they overestimated the power of his hero status. His military adventures are valueless if they are not representative of the ideals of the nation.

 If the voters are to be swayed on military exploits only, then they might as well vote for Prabhakaran or his representatives in the TNA. After all he too scored significant military victories before he went down in Nandikadal. But this election is about the value and the meaning of victories to the posterity than the victories per se. There is no heroism in defeating the enemy in war if the heroes betray their ideals and principles on which they aged the war.

 If your intention is to join the enemies after winning the war why go to war at all, in the first place? Fonseka was given extension after extension to finish the war to win the ideals in the national agenda. But after the war he joins the enemies who were either determined to blow him out of the earth or scoffed and ridiculed him. Joining the enemy is a virtual surrender to the agenda of the enemy. So what did Fonseka achieve in the end?

 President Mahinda Rajapakse, on the contrary, is heading for victory not because he was in the Operations Room as Commander-in-Chief, overseeing the day-to-day maneuvers, but because he represents the ideals for which he gave determined and quality leadership. He is seen as the defender and protector of the ideals for which the nation fought. The opposition strategy is to deny this and take what is due to him and hand it over to Fonseka. But the voters are not buying it.

 They know that the political leadership that went all the way with the forces on the ground, air and sea was the determining factor that ended the 33-year-old conflict in Sri Lanka. Better generals than Fonseka (like Kobbekaduwa) could have finished the war, for instance, in the Vaddamarachchi campaign if they had the political backing of President J. R. Jayewardene. The Army had to withdraw into camps because “JRJ” did not have the political will to face India who was putting unbearable pressure to stop the war. Eventually, “JRJ” surrendered.

 First hand account of Lalith Weeratunga, President’s Secretary, proves that Mahinda Rajapakse resisted and thwarted all pressures from the biggest powers on earth “”…” England, France and India. What part did Fonseka play in this overwhelming international front? President Rajapakse was fighting on the global and the national fronts, including Wickremesinghe and Mangala who were going round the globe backing the Tamil Tigers moves to stop the war.

 Besides, the battle on the ground would have come to a grinding halt if the opposition led by the same Wicky-Haki-Mangy-SomaHANSA mob, plotting to defeat the budget in

2007, won the day in Parliament. Who fought those battles and saved Fonseka and the nation?

 In the end, it was the formidable power of the Rajapakses, representing the will of the majority, that wrote history down the ages. It is the same force that will write the latest chapter on January 26.

 By eliminating Tamil Tigers from the political landscape Mahinda Rajapakse created the new dynamic of opening up a democratic space for the minorities to return to the pre-Prabhakaran era where non-violent political bargaining replaces terror tactics. Power has returned to the hands of the people once again. The new battle field will be in the polling booths.

 The alignment of the minorities with the “Sinhala chauvinists” to co-exist in peace will be a revelation to the Westernized intellectuals whose spectacles are fogged with irrelevant and vague theories which have never worked in the past.

 Mahinda Rajapakse will write a new page in the Mahavamsa of the nation on January 26. As the great book says, it will be written for “the serene joy and emotion” of all peace-loving people. The difference between Mahinda Rajapakse and Sarath Fonseka is that Fonseka will be buried in the records of military academies but Mahinda will glow in the pages of history books.

 All said and done, and considering the multitude of obstacles that stood in the way Mahinda Rajapakse, I cannot help but marvel at the miracle of peace that he achieved within three years. If he failed it is he who would have had to pay the price and not Fonseka. When the prevailing wisdom declared that it was an impossible task to see peace in our time President Rajapakse achieved it. Like many others, I never thought I would live to see the dawn of this miracle.

 That is the greatest prize that anyone could have offered to a nation torn by 33-years of a needless war. Fonseka can claim that he won the battles. Mahinda Rajapakse can claim legitimately that he won the war and the peace.

 Wars are comparatively short. Peace is long and takes years to consolidate. Mahinda Rajapakse has taken the first major step towards peace. He must be given that extra space once again to complete the work he began and take all communities with him to an era of peaceful co-existence.

3 Responses to “Rise and fall of Fonseka”

  1. aravinda Says:

    This is the most critical election of Sri Lankan history. In one hand we have Mr.Rajapaksa, who gave us freedom, dignity and a decent future for our children. Mahinda was President for 4 years, out of which three and half was fighting a gruesome war against worlds most deadliest terrorist army. Mahinda was honest and diligent and he knows the heartbeat of the nation. He was first elected to parliment in 1970, and now is one of the most loved men of our history.

    In the other corner of the contest we have Mr.Sarath Fonseka, who was in the army for 40 years, until Mahinda promoted him four years ago,no one had ever heard of him. Thanks to Sri Lankan governments whole hearted effort we saw the end of the war. The credit for finishing the war should go to every citizen, every soldier, all Tamil civilians who escaped from clutches of LTTE and those Asian nations which helped us in this critical hour. But Mr.Fonseka does not see it that way. He says he did it himself. He wants all credit, but when it comes to responsibility, he would have none of it. The “White Flag Affair”, in which he sold his comrades down the river is a good example of what Mr.Fonseka is made of.

    Mahinda has tired his best to be an inclusive Leader. He has always tried to unite the nation. He is proficient in Tamil, Sinhala and English and that alone gives us an insight to the character of the man. In the other hand mr.Fonseka believes that Sri Lanka belongs to Sinhalese only. He will allow Tamils and Muslims to survive at his pleasure. What does not suprise me most is all opportuinstic and selfish politicians have joined Mr.Fonseka. I hope with all my heart, Sri Lankans will vote overwhelmingly for MAHINDA and elect him as President for another 6 years.

  2. Chintha Says:

    Practically, every act that Gen.(retd) Sarath Fonseka has committed since he decided to crossover exposes him as a man without a conscience, integrity, reliability, and credibility. He wants the nation to give him credit for the 40 years of his military career and, at the same time, accept him as a national leader for joining the enemies he fought to destroy.

    Well said.

  3. GamiGreenGlobe Says:

    General Sarath Fonseka got systematically into all these political mess by himself. Credit goes to headless opposition parties in Sri Lanka in particular one represent urban elites and the other one more Marxist who thinks that it represents rural mass. But, average Sri Lankan voters know that the both parties do not represent them. When SF proclaimed that he was the winner of the poll, the whole world saw how deep is his madness to win. When so called the White flags incident erupted, the whole world saw how dangerous of being lost the integrity at a time the country needed the most. SF may be is the most decorated officer when he was serving the Armed Forces, but unlikely lacking the basic of being a team player, of being humble, or even to identify his limitations on his jail term.

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