Colombo, Economy, Elections, Peace and Conflict, Politics and Governance, Post-War, War Crimes

Between a Horek and a Mule

Over 6 decades of independence and universal adult franchise and SL has reached probably the lowest points of its political life.

Listening, reading and drawing inferences from what’s coming out and not coming out of the 2 main camps in the presidential foray; I cannot help but come to the conclusion that the people of SL has the unenviable choice of electing either the biggest swindler in the country’s history or the most decorated military dunderhead in the country.

So far, the sitting president has made the earth shattering declaration that he will not accept campaign contributions from Prabakaran’s parents and has admitted that he may have made a few errors of judgment in appointing one or two people during his presidency. Was he talking about one or two per day; per week; or per month; I wonder. The main contender, in a moment of extremely poor judgment, blurted that the president’s brother ordered the execution of some LTTE top brass when they were in the process of surrendering to the SL Army. Then, realizing the consequences of his words, the contender tried to back track by saying that he found out through some journalists after the end of the war that an illegal order was given by Defense Secretary to one of the commanding officers but, “….This illegal order was however not carried out at ground level.  I take full responsibility for what happened on the ground.”

What?! Dear General, are you saying that the white flag waving LTTE cadres were not killed or are you saying that the white flag waving LTTE personnel were killed by the Army in the last days of the war? Or, are you saying that if these LTTE personnel were killed, they were killed by the Army and they were not carrying white flags? Also, if I recall correctly Sarath Fonseka in one of the interviews given to the Daily Mirror said that he was in China during this period. In the statement backtracking on his accusations of the Defense Secretary ordering the execution of Pulidevan, Ramesh and Nadeshan, Sarath Fonseka says that he was in touch with the commanders on ground and he was fully aware of what was happening in those fateful hours. Then, how come he only gets to know about the Defense Secretary’s directive to Brig Shevendra Silva through journalists? Looks like Fonseka has learned a thing or two about speaking from both sides of the mouth in the short period as a civilian.

One wonders whether the General has any political advisors or whether he is advising himself.

The chief contender also leveled a bevy of accusations against the incumbent and his family with regard to corruption and hoarding coffers at the expense of the country. This is no small amount – we are talking about the colossal theft of our money. At least if you follow the contender’s accusations, we won’t have to fret too long about political leaders stealing from the country because at this rate there won’t be much left to steal. I sincerely hope that Fonseka will be able to document these allegations and if elected prosecute everyone involved to the full extent of the law. Also, now that the war crimes issue has propped its ugly head again, the President and his brother will have to forego on some of that frequent flyer miles or risk getting free accommodation in The Hague. Or, will there be another retraction?

The government has been quick to jump on Fonseka’s accusations about the murder of LTTE cadres. Various ministers and other apparatchiks have shown different levels of indignation at Fonseka for tarnishing the country’s image and possibly getting into another war crimes imbroglio with the UN. The Media Minister has also declared that the reasons given by Fonseka when he tendered his resignation were not valid. Then why was the resignation accepted by the President? I am sure if Fonseka didn’t become a candidate the reasons would have been quite acceptable. The Media Minister also is on record as saying that one of the reasons for Fonseka’s resignation was the government’s rejection of his request to purchase approximately $200 million in military stocks from China and to increase Army’s numbers to 100,000. Get this – apparently the government rejected Fonseka’s requests because the government’s priority was to resettle the IDP’s as soon as possible. Yeah, right. Resettling the IDP’s became a priority for this regime only after the presidential election was confirmed. Prior to that the Rajapakse regime had two priorities; to end the war and hang on to power. The two priorities go hand in glove because once the war was won, it was most unlikely that the opposition would be able to beat the incumbent in an election if the election was held fairly soon after the victory.

On another front, the GoSL also continues it’s less than elegant tap dance with the international community. When the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Summary or Arbitrary Executions called for an explanation from the government in the aftermath of Fonseka’s comments, a letter written to the UN on behalf of the GOSL (we surmise) by the Secretary of Ministry for Human Rights was held back by the government. Most embarrassing to the GoSL and the author of the letter, the contents of the letter were already in the hands of the local media.  Then the other Professor showing his pique at losing GSP concessions from the EU, threatened to initiate legal actions against the EU. Really smart move to waste millions in legal fees when you know the chances of getting the EU to back track is pretty close to zilch. Thankfully, someone figured that it would not be a very smart move and backed down from the stance. Foreign policy brinkmanship and lack of focus continues to haunt and damage the country’s vital interests.

A government ever prepared to deal with any criticism of the Rajapakse brothers/family has been caught unprepared and off-guard over and over in the field of foreign relations. This lack of preparedness and the inability/unwillingness to grasp the intricacies of international relations displays a callous disregard for what is in the best interest of the country. The price for these follies will be borne by the average Sri Lankan.

Not much in the way of reducing the cost of living, how to tackle the ever increasing debt burden placed on the people or bringing down the price of chicken. Yes, the President is seeking a mandate to carry out his development plan. It’s good to hear that he has a plan and we hope his plan takes into account areas outside the Hambantota district. Let’s hear the details. Let’s hear how the General is going to tackle the rampant corruption and nepotism that has pervaded just about all sectors of the country.

Somehow when Sarath Fonseka talks about eradicating corruption, he sounds more believable than when the President talks about his development plans. With his military background and the lack of political baggage Fonseka probably will have the will to take on the people who have been robbing the country blind. But the big issue is whether he has the smarts to say (or not say) and the sense to do what is needed to win the election. He needs to discard that military boot from his mouth and weigh the consequences of his statements before making another faux pas like the white flag waving LTTE leadership. Fonseka needs to get his arithmetic in order if he is to pull the election off. He seems oblivious to all the advantages of incumbency and the fragmented nature of the opposition that is supporting him. Fonseka’s best argument for a change at the top is the urgent need to end the rampant corruption, nepotism and cronyism that has engulfed the nation since the incumbent came into power. However, Fonseka will have to come out and provide some details of these activities to the electorate. He seems to think that he doesn’t owe the public any details because, after all, the message is coming from Sarath Fonseka. Well, do as I say and believe what I say may work in the controlled atmosphere of the military, but it will not work in a presidential election. And once an election is lost; nobody will care how or who lost the election because the winner will get all the spoils.

Wake up Mr.Fonseka and smell the coffee. You had to work hard to defeat the LTTE, you will have to work even harder to defeat the sitting president on January 26, 2010.

  • Mahinda

    Yes, indeed, SF has to wake up by himself or somebody has to wake him up.

    By looking at the current trend of the campaign , it will be a formidable task to defeat incumbent and I think SF already lost the battle. E-media is trying to draw a different conclusion though, but ground reality is far from it.

    I can agree that known devil is probably better than unknown one. But in this case lesser known devil could be a choice to consider as well. Time to time we had leaders to serve purpose of the time, similarly MR came, with the total credibility he solve the LTTE issue over night, and of course so many factors helped it ,including SF as the commander and any one can argue that without SF, MR would have solved LTTE issue anyway. So total credit goes to MR for sure.

    Now, we all know current political experience will not solve current burning issues and those cannot be solved overnight, requires political will and courage which all are not shown by MR so far during his 40 years of political leadership.

    One doesn’t have to be in the helm to solve all those issues, at least to show the courageousness to work out solution. We know what Premadas did under JR. We know what Gamini, Lalith did under JR. MR was no equivalent to them.

    Could SF be a solution? Not-known, but at least approach will be different. He will not have Basil , Mr. 2-10%, He will not have Sajin, high flyer of Mihin Air, he will not have SB , personal achievement book reader who want to be the President no matter what and self promoted with dirty mouth and strange hand movements, he will not have Dutugamunu Mervin. So there are something to ponder about.
    Will SF be better than MR? Only time will tell ! But by listing to current campaign SF is with too much vengeance against MR clan, which he must stop. He should stick to Buddha principles. “Nahi vererana verani, …” He should talk about the development, eradication of corruption, development of education, solving tamil issues, he should talk about the future, not the past. He should give people some hope. Should not become another regular politician, he should not become another SB or Mevin. We people had enough. We need hope. At least who talk about it. Let’s see if he can do that for next 25 days. Then I will vote, otherwise, known devil is better to me.

  • Lakxa

    “Quote” Mahinda “Quote”
    Your right ,but i Don’t care about Anything , first i want to get rid of this & Company
    then second step

  • Chinthaka

    Most hillarious thing in this is the Commander of SLArmy says he got ground info from journalists and he took them seriously. i.e. He gave orders for the war based on news sent by TV people. ?

    The problem of this Ret. general is he has no common sense at the moment due to hard work of last few years and had no time to recover and get adjested to the civil life. He is total alien to this life. He still cant measure his words. Most of the outcome is counter productive.

    My question is how he will cope with the responsibilities of a President of a country while he is still struggelling to balance his civil life.

  • Garawi

    I totally agree with the following statement you wrote!
    Listening, reading and drawing inferences from what’s coming out and not coming out of the 2 main camps in the presidential foray; I cannot help but come to the conclusion that the people of SL has the unenviable choice of electing either the biggest swindler in the country’s history or the most decorated military dunderhead in the country.

  • Vichara

    Two short comments.
    The statement “The Resettling the IDP’s became a priority for this regime only after the presidential election was confirmed.” is not correct.
    The IDP resettlement commenced in late May 2009 and the confirmation of the Presidential election was confirmed only in November 2009.

    If General Fonseka wins and want to clear the mess , the only way he can do it is by retaining the powers of the Executive President. He should give them up only after clearing the ‘Kunu goda’.


    Politics in SL has always been and continue to be a muddle as the Politicians know that the people do not think of long term issues which are necessary for their (peoples’) welfare and the development of the country and vote for this person or that person or this party or another swallowing the instance promises held out during elections. Untill the people start thinking rightly the muddle will conltinue.

  • Ravi.M

    Shevedra Silva may have hide the fact and SF may have come to know through a third party latter. We want to know whether S/MOD actually issued that instruction

  • Groundtruth

    Good article and well summarised. The opening ‘Horek’ was a bit confusing on reading the headlines but it indeed refers to a ‘corrupt human’ and not an animal when compared to a mule. Or perhaps it is not wrong to allure to a corrupt animal of a human when corruption exceeds all bounds and has spread like a cancer all over. The unaccounted 1.1B $ tsunami aid which has come to light through Transparency International is something really staggering for voters and people affected to think about seriously.

    SF is right in stressing corruption but how to stem it is all together is missing. The devil is in tehy deatiail. For starters will he free and enable the Bribery Commissioner to do his duty from being tied to his chair and office as seems to be the case now. If the BC is really to do his job well he should be made directly respsonsible to Parliament, like the Auditor General, totally free of the political chains and masters who control him as at present.

    As pointed out all round development in the whole country has been the crying need for decades. Both major cataclysms-the JVP insurrection and the LTTE led Tamil rebellion- both have their fundamental causes in lack of development. So several tens of thousands of people perished or were massacred as the ultimate price.. The politicians found it very convenient to point accusing fingers at how democracy was being undermined and shouted for oustide help to vanquish both and they succeeded. Obviously outsiders have no time to look deeper and so rushing military assisatnce is the least they could do to help. They could not be bothered too much into internal affairs that lie at the root of the problem. In short governance from politics to economics.

    No candidate as yet has come up with overall solutions to stem the grinding problems faced by ordinary people despite 60 years of independence. Meanwhile population has nearly trebled. The only Leader who tried to tackle it was the late Premadasa. His motto ‘punchi pawla, honda pawla’ seems to have died since then.

    The talent is all there but which one of the Presidential candidates is capable of harnessing them and the resources in a positive direction? Therein lies the problem and the tragedy.

  • Sunil

    At a time when the main opposition party i.ethe UNP is Bankrupt to the pathetic level of not being able to field a candidate of it’s own for Presidency with its’ impotent leader wearing a multicolured cap like a shool boy from an impoverished suburb in good old Brittain where he probably belongs than Sri Lanka,and the desperate JVp or what’s left of it and other political Monkeys swinging from one side to another with gay abandon,What future does Mother Lanka have .What we are tasting today are the bitter fruits of free education that bandaranaike unleashed on the country simply to win but one election and then be shot dead and many would say a deserving end to his betrayal of his own people.Morality and Human Values in Sri lanka ,Where have they disappered to?Will we ever see them again?It seems it is most unlikely.What a debacle;What a pathetic debacle ? Only Divine intervention can save Sri Lanka..The worst kind are the people of Sri lanka who for some petty personal gain vote for these scum forgetting their duty to their country .The best result would be for the people to threaten to abstain from voting until both candidates make a written declaration to be witnessed by the Sangha nayakes of all the chapters and some other religious dignitaries, to go on the public record as to the assets and liabilities they and members of their immediate and extended families involved owned say seven years ago and what they own now and and the means by which the current assets were acquired and to make a promise to pass a law within 3 months of being elected that every candidate who is in parliament now and others who are aspiring to enter political office be required to make such declarations every year. Ultimately we cant blame the politicians.We are the people who create these pathetic monsters .In an era when leaders came from good schools and decent homes we saw people standing up for principles.Watching the standard of debate that occurs in parliament now and the type of language that is used makes one sick to the point of wanting to throw up.The country must have a third political force built on Human values ,common decency and good manners and adherence to principles and more than anything scrutiny by the press to keep the bastards honest.The war is over there is no further need to muzzle the press under false pretences of national security .A free and independent press would have saved Sri Lanka.Remember Mrs Banda nationalising the press.MR and SF have done their job.Their time is well and truly over.We now need a man or woman of good-will to lead the nation firstly to Morality and inculcation of Human values and then prosperity of the nation based on those values.These may seem like huge day dream in the current mess that we are in but there is no other way for Sri Lanka and Sri lankans to stand up and be counted in the world community as a self respecting nation and peoples.Time is up for a Sri Lankan Ghandi,Obama or Mandela.Any thing less would not suffice. How could we expect our children and grand children to grow up with any sense of dignity and decency watching the current set of politicians.They sem utterly immune to the influence even the crudest form of decency and devoid of anything that could be even vaguely described as good.How could we go on with these scum any more.

  • Yes true politic in srilanka is now getting crude, by both parties.
    I think Srilankan people are now understand the what’s actually happening and will decide the better candidate at the election date.

  • Groundtruth

    For your information, free education was introduced in 1948 itself by the famous C.W.W.Kannangara as “the pearl of great price”. Great words too. Sri Lanka became one of the earliest countries in Asia with a high literacy rate of over 85% I think and this opened up the country to higher learning and development as well. From kindergarten to the university free and we all benefited.

    The problem is not with free education.It is with freewheeling politics where anything goes. To be an MP it is not neecssary to have even a GCE ‘O’ level. Is that OK in the present day world?

    SWRDB introduced the Sinhala Only in 1956. And then Sri Lanka has not been the same.

    Agree with the rest of your contribution.

  • Moderate srilanken view

    yes, very correct, in Pakistan you need to pay for your schooling. Our little country affords to allow its citizen free education, free hospital, free school books and many others free. When compared to the levels of other countries, it shouuld be a wonder.. that sl can afford it from that on to give a free education to its 20 mio volk

  • Moderate srilanken view

    there are guys here, who seem to be knowing nothing about facts but keep sending their views. That can make others misinformed about the realities in our country.

    This I felt after going through what this particular ” Sunil” has drafted here.