Euphoria tempered
Posted on May 22nd, 2012

Island EditorialCourtesy The Island

The euphoria generated by Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s release from prison has been somewhat tempered. It was thought initially that the presidential pardon had removed his civic disabilities, but he has admitted his freedom is limited; he cannot exercise his franchise and contest elections, though he can take part in politics. The UNP has called for the restoration of all his civic rights. Many, no doubt, will endorse the UNP’s call, but its admission that Gen. Fonseka’s release is conditional runs counter to the Opposition’s argument that the government pardoned him under international pressure.

If President Mahinda Rajapaksa had buckled under foreign pressure, as claimed, he would have had to go the whole hog and release the former army chief with civic rights intact. Or, is it that the foreign power/s that intervened to secure Gen. Fonseka’s release did not ‘decree’ that his civic rights be restored?

It is a supreme irony that the UNP which once abused a huge parliamentary majority and flew in the face of the judiciary to deprive the world’s first woman Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, of her civic rights on some flimsy grounds has taken up the cudgels for Gen. Fonseka. The SLFP that vehemently condemned the UNP’s dastardly action at that time stands accused of having done something similarƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…”ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…”mutatis mutandis.

Is the UNP genuinely desirous of having Gen. Fonseka’s civic rights restored? It says it is. But, what will happen to it if he regains his right to vote and contest? It will have its vote bank severely eroded because the emergence of the DNA as a strong political entity under Gen. Fonseka’s leadership will eat into its vote bank besides causing splits in the Opposition’s vote at crucial elections. The UNP rebels are undoubtedly well disposed towards Gen. Fonseka and earnestly expect him to act as the de facto Opposition leader, dwarfing their hate figure cum party chief, Ranil Wickremesinghe, but it is doubtful whether the UNP proper feels the same way. Chief Opposition Whip and UNPstalwart John Amaratunge has flayed the Sajith group for rushing to welcome Gen. Fonseka near the Welikada prison on Monday.

Gen. Fonseka has spelt out his priorities in an interview with The Hindu newspaper: “Irrespective of the party politics, and the colour and the party name, first we have to work towards a common opposition to ensure that there is a strong opposition against the government. And then, after that, who will lead it and all that, people will have to decide.” (Emphasis added) Will the UNP want to keep that slot open? The UNP leader, by virtue of being at the helm of the single largest party in the country, has the privilege of leading joint anti-government protests and, therefore, the UNP may not want anyone other than Ranil Wickremesinghe to lead the Opposition which Gen. Fonseka is planning to strengthen. It may be recalled that a similar need for reinvigorating the Opposition to take on the Premadasa government was felt in the early 1990s after the SLFP bigwigs had lost political traction. Chandrika Kumaratunga Bandaranaike moved in to fill the vacuum. But, she had to give up her own party and rejoin the SLFP for that purpose.

The UNP will have to field a candidate at the next presidential election without taking cover behind a common candidate. But, who will have the courage to enter the fray? Ranil got beaten twice and chickened out once. Therefore, he may not want to face the incumbent President again in an electoral contest. Nor will his deputy Sajith want to take that risk at least in the next few years? However, it is rather unlikely that they will opt out of the contest to back an outsider like Gen. Fonseka in race again, even if he regains his right to contest elections.

The immediate challenge before Gen. Fonseka is to dovetail his political plans with those of the UNP without being perceived as an intruder. However, with or without the UNP’s support, he will certainly eclipse the key Opposition figures. This is a worrisome proposition to the UNP leadership.


4 Responses to “Euphoria tempered”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    I said so.

    BEFORE SF can take on the president, he has to TAKE OVER the opposition!

  2. Kit Athul Says:

    SF has a checked past. Will people forget it? Pramadase’s son is far more dangerous than SF, if Pramadase’s son becomes the Leader of the opposition, the next day he will call the NATO to invade Northern Province.

  3. Dham Says:

    I agree Sajit is the better candidate than the traitor. Why should Sajit invite NATO if he is the opposition leader ? Ponseka is already doing it. Now it is the time tha Maharaja use all whithe van technology to properly spy on him an catch him.

    You said so ! yes you said so. But the opposition now has another FOOL to complicate further. There is one more thug cum rapist to inter party fights. Raja will make merry with more money. Country will be more down the drain.

  4. nandimitra Says:

    Depriving Fonseka of the right to contest the election is depriving Sri Lankans of another choice.

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