Colombo, Politics and Governance, Post-War

Reloading General Sarath Fonseka for a post-paid Sinhala package


The V-Day celebrations were on, as this piece was written. A military victory being commemorated at the Galle face esplanade, celebrated as the 3rd anniversary of defeating the LTTE “terrorism”. President Rajapaksa bragged about what positives the military victory brought to this country. No more barricades on the Galle Road, he says. Fishermen can now go out fishing, civil administration has been established in all parts of the country and the LLRC was appointed to help achieve reconciliation, said the President. “Already”, he says, “recommendations that could be accepted (by whom ?) are being implemented, not because others want us to do so”. The government has a commitment for reconciliation, he stresses.

Then he says, the LLRC can not be allowed to be used to create racial tensions again. For he believes, there is now good and cordial relations growing between North and South, he says. People find new relations across North – South, while marriages are being made most preciously between the Sinhala and the Tamil, said the President, looking beyond the invited audience. “May the Triple Gem bless you all.” he concluded, for the military command to take the podium and announce high presidential honours to all soldiers who died, nay sacrificed their young lives for the nation, during the last days of the war, fighting to free the “motherland” from LTTE “terrorists”.

All that and the president’s address to the unified nation, was preceded by a narrator’s prologue highlighting all the Sinhala kings of yore like Dutu Gemunu, who fought the Cholas (and the Pandiyans) in uniting the “Sinhala” country from South Indian invaders. So the question posed by this narrator; “if President Rajapaksa was not there like those ancient Kings, ridding the LTTE separatist terrorists, what of Lanka today ?”

Yes ! What of Lanka today ? Where is civil administration, where is law and order, peace and “reconciliation” the President sounded out loud ? Where are all those civilian people who died in their thousands during the war, when the government commemorates its 3rd anniversary ? Why had some Tamil people in the Vanni, left to huddle themselves into a dim and untidy hall in Vavuniya yesterday (18 May), to remember their sons, their husbands, their brothers and sisters who had gone missing, who lost their lives, during the war ? Why had a similar remembrance held inside the Jaffna university, also yesterday ? Why had the security forces kept watch over them and their organisers, making them look like anti government protesters ?

Most importantly, why was this V-Day anniversary turned into a “Sinhala” military parade and event, instead of a people’s participatory event with all those Tamil and perhaps Muslim people, also as part of national commemoration(s), building confidence and trust for sincere and actual social reconciliation ?

The Rajapaksa regime can not afford to loosen the grip it has on society through military presence and the hyped Sinhala war psyche for such reconciliation. The economy is also collapsing on the Sinhala South. The plight of the crippling economy leaves nothing for the people. It becomes quite evident when US Republican Congressman Ed Royce raised the issue of money laundering in post war Sri Lanka as a serious issue, with the visiting minister of External Affairs, Prof Pieris just yesterday (May 18).

The Rajapaksas are clearly on a duplicity trip, trying to buy time from all quarters. While the MEA Prof G.L. Pieris presents in the US, what the US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland  called “a very serious and comprehensive approach” in implementing the LLRC Recommendations as called for by the UNHRC Resolution adopted in Geneva and what Clinton now wants made public, the President on anniversary day tells Sri Lankans with the diplomatic corp kept seated and listening, he would only implement what is good for him and his regime. There would be no reducing of security presence in the North – East either, as long as there is a “threat to the nation”, says he. While celebrating the 3rd year war victory, President thus accepts the military has not eliminated the “LTTE threat” as the nation and the whole world was told, with “kiribath and fire crackers”. With such political bewilderment, the Rajapaksas need a way out of the political imbroglio they are hemmed in, on a recklessly plundered economy and with no post war benefits for even the ordinary Sinhala people.

Difficulties of the Rajapaksa regime has given an opportunity to Wickramasinghe who wasn’t sure which way he should go with a rebellious Sinhala group demanding the right to decide party politics. He has now got his act together with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), leaving his Sinhala rebels aside. With a successful May Day rally in Jaffna and an apparent understanding in working together with the TNA, Wickramasinghe seems to be gaining ground in a socio economic chaos, the Rajapaksas are unable to manage decently and efficiently.

In the South, the trade unions are also rallying wage earners who were backing the Sinhala regime and Rajapaksa, to challenge and oppose the same Rajapaksa regime on economic issues. There is apparently a protest vote building up on issues, the war victory has no relevance to. The only possible way out as President Rajapaksa understands is, to push the whole country into an election mood for some months. That would diffuse trade union mobilising on wage issues and help the regime to galvanise the South against Wickramasinghe’s UNP, now working with the TNA. Well, at least that seems the option, he is working on, for he has no other political platform he could climb on.

Yet the Constitution would not allow a presidential election till end 2015 as the swearing in for the second presidential term was in 2011 November. Rajapaksa any way would not put himself as a guinea pig, testing the popularity of his regime. He would rather go for a calculated general elections, probably sometime in 2013 and six months from now. In fact he seems bent on trying out the voter mood at PC level right now, but that secured in his favour, he would have to try it out at national level. That needs a buffer he could use to stop the flow of protest votes from going UNP in the Sinhala South.

On a very conservative calculation, while there is serious discontent brewing in society on numerous issues from cost of living to breakdown of law and order, his UPFA could still retain at least 52 to 55 per cent from the 60.3 percent polled in April, 2010. The UNP, with the TNA now in total control of  Northern Tamil vote, has 29.3 plus 2.9 percent to start with. The TNA with its 2.9 percent secured 14 seats while the UNP got 60 seats. What if UNP goes up to 35 percent and the TNA to 3.5 percent ? That would leave the UPFA with around 120 seats, loosing almost 24 from its present 144 seats. A UPFA government all right, but yes, a much weakened government too. The Rajapaksas can not afford to live with a weak government in parliament, when most SLFP leaders already live as “angry souls” in a hijacked government, they bring votes for. Rajapaksa had in fact accepted in private, his immediate need in bringing the 18th Amendment after the 2010 April general elections was because he does not trust most SLFP “grumblers”.

This is where Fonseka comes in politically handy again, on political conditions defined by Rajapaksa. He would not be the war hero he was made into by the JVP during the 2010 elections, saluting in full military regalia, on most city walls. He would not be leaving the prison as a hero of the anti Rajapaksas, with his usually catchy media quips. He would instead leave the private hospital on a presidential pardon, when released on a family appeal supposedly made by one of the daughters, written the way the President wants. In any form, its a presidential pardon in totality that Tiran Alles had been negotiating for, with Anoma Fonseka in the know.

Its such a Fonseka who would be coming out, thanks to President Rajapaksa. Thereafter with all the UNP dissidents brought around Fonseka, for a ride on a Sinhala campaign, Rajapaksa will be trying out a new DNA led by Fonseka, Sajith Premadasa and Karu Jayasuriya to deprive Wickramasinghe from gaining the disgruntled and disgusted Southern votes going away from him.

Fonseka-Sajith-Karu led DNA painted a new bloc, would be projected as a legitimate leadership that has a right to oppose the UNP and call for a dissenting vote against the UNP in the South. Though with the absence of the JVP, it would still be expected to at least poll 3.5 percent of its 5.4 percent polled in 2010 and top it with the dissatisfied Sinhala vote to poll about 06 to 07 percent with a UNP lineage in its leadership. IF that works the way Rajapaksas plan, reloading Fonseka for this post-paid Sinhala package, is worth his gamble. The DNA could then play buffer in parliament too, with about 06 to 08 MPs and may be a ministerial portfolio or two given in charity for those who helped this new “reload” for the future.

Yet the unpredictable factor is, the “time factor”. How soon will it be, or how long will it take the tide to start swelling into a Tsunami against the Rajapaksa regime ? Will it then leave the equation the same ?  In short, will it then accept this Fonseka factor as worthy of a vote in late 2013 ? Will reloading Fonseka save the Rajapaksas then ? Worth a wait to see, is it ?