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

The opposition needs common sense, not a common candidate

Much has been said, written and speculated about the anticipated presidential candidacy of General Sarath Fonseka.

In my case, something good has come out of this SF for President business.

I found the perfect Christmas gift for the so called opposition leadership (not much of an opposition and definitely not much of a leadership).

I was browsing in this souvenir shop which sold everything from t-shirts to key tags to stuffed toys to whatever and came across this t-shirt with the saying; “Your village called, they are missing the idiot”. Bit sophomoric I realize, but perfect for the remaining few dozen UNPers and Rathu Sahodarayas; don’t you think?

The only problem was that the shop had only a dozen left and the next batch won’t come out till January ’10. Apparently, it’s a popular item.

I do realize that the Opposition is in the doldrums and is looking into a political abyss with no end in sight. I also realize that political wheeling and dealing is part and parcel of a multi-party and multi-ethnic democracy (albeit one on an iron lung). Politics is, after all, the art of the possible. We also realize that the Nayakathuma probably has a better chance of getting elected as the Mayor of Oslo than the President of SL.  Yeah, desperate times call for desperate measures.

However, putting forward General Sarath Fonseka as a Common Opposition Candidate seems hair-brained whichever way you look at it.

I mean even the most imaginative person would realize that the General wouldn’t have peed on the Nayakathuma to save him if he was on fire 6 months ago. The Nayakathuma probably wouldn’t have offered the same courtesy to the General 6 months ago, either.

The political landscape of SL has undergone seismic change in the last few months but those changes don’t necessarily foretell this marriage made in hell.

Its one thing to realize that you have a snow balls chance in hell of winning an election but it’s another to believe that you could hoodwink the electorate into believing that you have the best interest of the country at heart when you try to manipulate the feelings of that electorate to suit your own personal gains.

We all know the country is in a crisis. Law and order has broken down. The Police are killing citizens on camera and there’s hardly a peep from the government or religious leaders. The Civil Service is under siege and so is the Foreign Service. The independence of the judiciary is severely compromised. Leaders of the armed forces have been forced to lick politician’s boots to survive. The Parliament is……..well, you decide whether it is even worth talking about. The country is severely polarized along religious lines

It does not matter whether this candidacy actually happens or whether the General becomes the next President of SL because the whole scenario is a Machiavellian nightmare.

Sarath Fonseka has spent most of his adult life in the Army. Army, as we know is a highly regimented and hierarchical organization where you are expected to give and expect the lower ranks to carry out orders without question. It’s not a place where issues are debated, discussed and consensus sought. General Fonseka is a creature shaped by the military culture. In short, it’s not a great training ground for a career as a politician in a democracy. You thrust a person such as General Fonseka to the political arena; he is going to be like a fish out of water. He has already shown that he is not willing to take orders from the Commander of Chief by throwing in the towel when he felt he was slighted by the President.

How will he act if elected President when MP’s start doing their best Sergei Bubka imitation? Call in the infantry? Jail them? Shoot them?

I sincerely hope that the opposition leadership will realize the foolhardiness of this path before irrereparable damage is done to their already feeble reputations.

The smart and prudent path would be to use the next presidential election as a springboard for the post-Mahinda Rajapakse era. The opposition should use this period to formulate viable policies and plans to arrest the malaise of Sri Lankan civil society. They should use it to come up with a viable economic policy; a sensible foreign policy; a meaningful energy policy with emphasis on alternative sources of energy; a plan to guarantee the independence of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies; a plan to guarantee the independence of the 4th estate; a plan to improve infrastructure; and need to address the need to diversify the economic base of the country. Once a comprehensive plan encompassing all these sectors is formulated, it could be brought before the citizenry.

That would be a good start.