By Saman Indrajith
Gen. Sarath Fonseka describes himself as a key man of a new alliance of political forces – for which the name has not yet been decided yet —to be launched on Oct. 18. He makes no bones about the fact that the avowed goal of this alliance being forged is to overthrow the government.
In an interview with The Island in his office at Etul Kotte, Gen. Fonseka challenged President Mahinda Rajapaksa to restore his civic rights fully.
“If he (the President) thinks he has won by a million votes and can face me, I challenge him to give back my freedom,what has been taken away from me by using various unacceptable measures and face me again.”
Q:What is your assessment of the current political situation?
A: The government has deprived people of all their dues. Instead of justice and democracy, they have been left with lawlessness, corruption and thuggery. The government talks of a fake development.
We actually have not seen any development in the country for the past six years. Earlier they used to say development was not possible due to war. But according to my knowledge, they did not spend money on war because everything for the war had been acquired on credit.
As we have now started paying the loans back for what we got as arms and ammunitions since 2012,the war expenditure will continue to be the same. Although the war is over, the overdue payments for the purchases we did during the war will continue and if someone said that war was blocking the development it would continue to be so until 2020.
On the other hand, there is so much corruption and the government does not have a development plan. It is only duping the people by showing them harbours, airports, cricket stadiums and carpeting the roads. Funds are spent on these things without channelling them to improve Industries, agriculture or increasing the foreign reserves. There are no plans. The country is in a mess.
In addition, with 18th Amendment to the Constitution, so much power is concentrated in one man. The judiciary is already complaining that it is being interfered with. The President is preparing himself to stay in power. The Attorney General’s department is no longer independent.
There is lawlessness; there is no justice. All in all, the country is in a mess. So, we have to throw this government out.
Of course, this government got 4.5 million votes at the last election. So there were another 9.5 million votes which were not there for the government including those who voted against it. They have to get together to overthrow the government.
Q: In that context what kind of change or impact you are expecting with the so-called alliance to be launched on Oct. 18? What is the name of this alliance or party?
A: We have not formed a political alliance. It is a coming together of all political parties or ekamuthuwa and politicians in the Opposition for a common purpose—to overthrow the government. At the moment it does not have a name.
Q: What is the organisational structure of the collective being forged?
A: We have not gone into organisational structure because we did not want to disturb the existing structures of many other political parties in the Opposition. Here, the politicians and voters, various parties in the Opposition are coming on a common platform to work together for a common purpose.
But, we have not decided whether we will form an alliance or we contest under a particular symbol. These decisions have not been taken. We have only decided to get together and work against the government.
Q: Who is the leader?
A: There is no particular leader.
Q: Who is making the decisions, if there is no particular leader? Is there a board of leaders?
A: There is no political leader. But, there are leaders for example there is the UNP as well as its leader. On Oct. 18, we will go on stage without UNP leader and the UNP . But, there are UNP MPs who have agreed on the need for unity and they will be there. They are not representing the UNP. But they are coming there in agreement with the purpose. We have not selected a leader as such. \
Selecting a leader is not the need of the hour. But, of course, we also have agreed to some extent there are accepted leaders. Due place would be given to them. Leaders like Karu Jayasuriya will play a key role in the group. I have been accepted as a key man, a leader and will hold some responsibilities.
Then, of course, we have another lot of leaders like Dayasiri Jayasekera, Range Bandara, Arjuna Ranatunga and so on. We are not interested in selecting one particular leader.
Q: Apart from the UNP what are the other parties who would join?
A: As I told you earlier, parties have not joined the group as parties. It is the people from various parties who have joined forces.
Q: Is the JVP joining this alliance?
A: No, JVP has not agreed. It has its own agenda and is not going to work according to others’ at the moment. But we have invited persons like Ven. Dambara Amila thera to speak on certain issues.
Q: Anyone else from other parties?
A: We are expecting Mano Ganeshan.
Q: Frontline Socialist Party?
A: We have tried to talk to them to see whether, if they do not come on Oct. 18, they would like to join later.
Q: Hemakumara Nanayakkara?
A: We have spoken to him, but he has not confirmed yet. Then, the UNPers are there; my people are there. We are trying to see whether Siritunga Jayasuriya is willing to come.
A: We have not made any contact with him so far. We do not know what will happen in future.
On September 30 during an Ashirwada Pooja held at Sarananda Pirivena at Anuradhapura, one of the key leaders of this new alliance, Ven. Giramabe Thera reportedly said that Sajith Premadasa was playing only a double game. Is Sajith coming on Oct. 18?
Sajith has not agreed to come on Oct. 18. But, still there are lots of people who are trying to convince Sajith and bring him along. So we are hopeful he will come and join us. It is good if he joins us.
Both Ulapane Sumangala and Maduluwawe Sobhitha Theras were present at the nascent of stages of this group. Now Sobhitha Thera has apparently decided to stay out of this. Where is he now?
Actually, Ven. Sobhitha thera from the beginning was not trying to form a political movement. He was there to get the intellectuals of the country to educate other people on the need to work not against the government but against injustice. There were ten points on which he had agreed such as injustice, problems in the education sector, lawlessness and corruption. He is working with the intellectuals to educate the masses.
Q: What are the areas where you are organising?
A: Basically, in every district!
Q: But, Kurunegala is considered your stronghold. You have been welcomed in several districts after your release. But you have still not visited districts like Hambantota, Badulla, Moneragala, Polonnaruwa, Vavuniya, Jaffna, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Amapara. Why?
A: Hambantota we have not visited yet. Of course, Dilip Wedarachchi (UNP MP) has told us that he is going to organise some meetings there in the future. We will be visiting Ampara and Lahugala on Oct. 06. Badulla, Moneragala and Wellawaya we have visited and it was very successful. Sabaragamuwa we are yet to go. We could not go because the elections were there. So, we will organise some meetings in those areas in the future.
What is the role of Bhikkhus in this group? Apart from Dambara Amila, all others are known as UNP sympathetic monks.
No, no we have Ven. Girambe Ananda Anunayake Thera, who is the chief incumbent of Sarananda Pirivena in Anuradhapura. He has been there in the Eksath Bhikkhu Peramuna. And then there is Ven. Ulapane Sumangala Thera, who is still in the Eksath Bhikku Peramuna. All of them are working with us.
Q: What about Malawatte Mahanayake Thera?
A: Mahanayake Theras normally don’t get involved directly. But we meet them to receive their blessings from time to time. They keep telling us they invoke blessings on us to save the country from the corrupt administration. There is lot of corruption and injustice. If you look around, there are murders, other crimes such as rape in the country.
Q: Who are the political advisors or decision making body for this group?
A: Upto now we have been making decisions. Mr Karu Jayasuriya and I are having discussions with the rest of the parliamentarians and also the provincial council members. Besides, we are meeting intellectuals, professionals and leaders of the business community. We get ideas from everybody and finally make decisions.
Q: Where are the funds coming from?
A: From local donors! basically, We do not receive funds from foreign sources. Like other parties and other campaigns, it is based on the funds from local donors.
Q: How would you comment on Tiran Alles and Arjuna Ranatunga’s roles in this group? They are not to be seen in the scene.
A: It is something like this. When I am there, my party is there, they have to be there. They are the MPs of that party. But, if you compare the way they do politics, it is different to the way some other people do politics.
Tiran Alles anyway is not doing politics with the people. He is from the National List. So he is in the party, the working committee and he is the secretary of the party, but he does not go among the people. Even Arjuna’s way of doing politics is different.
Q: Was there a kind of agreement with the President with regard to your release? Who are the parties to this agreement? Is it between MP Tiran Alles and the President or were you there? Do you abide by these agreements?
A: There was no agreement. No conditions at all. The President was under pressure from the international community and from the religious leaders and everybody more than anything else the sentiments of the people. So at the same time, Tiran Alles started talking to him. One day the President visited him at the MP’s house.
The same man who put Tiran Alles in the remand sometime ago when he came to visit his father who had fallen sick. That is the way he behaves. So, Tiran Alles spoke to him with my permission. Most Probably Mr Rajapaksa also would have been waiting for someone to appeal to him to release me. He was under so much pressure that he was looking for an opportunity to release me.
So,’s he has put me out of the prison. But he still has the unacceptable psychology of not being willing to confront me politically. He is scared of facing me politically and he is trying to keep me away from politics.
If he thinks he has won by 1.8 million votes and if he thinks he can face me, we challenge him and say Okay give me my freedom and what they have taken away from me by using various unacceptable measures and face me again if they are capable politicians.
Q: Has ever President invited you to a meeting? Will you go if you are invited?
A: I do not think he will invite me. I do not think he can face me. He does not dare see me or would not even come to a place where I am.
Q: Aren’t you averse to confrontational politics?
A: There is a saying that there are no permanent enemies or permanent friends in politics. When my family is attacked continuously it seems there is something personal against me. We see how politicians and their family members behave. They have assaulted an army officer recently. They live by the rules of Cobra and Mongoose battles.
All in all, I do not like politics of making everybody happy with false promises. We must change that culture. Opponents should not have underhand dealings if they are people of principle. Otherwise, they develop an understanding that could make an entire opposition silent. This could be seen in today’s politics.
Q: Are you referring to Ranil?
A: No, no I made a general statement about some politicians in the Opposition.
Q: Do you have any intention of claiming pension?
A: Now I have made up my mind and see it as a donation to the person who deprived me of it. I have donated my pension to the person who moved courts against me with false cases.
Q: Do you see any difference between Sri Lanka’s international relations during the war years and now?
A: The rest of the world has a lot of confidence on us. The Human rights violations, the whole lot of complaints against the country. At the United Nations now they have put our country into a disgraceful category. Everybody is going against us.
We were very careful to fight the war according to the international laws and conventions. When the international community wanted to find out what had happened on the battle field, the government and the head of the state did not respond professionally or sincerely. They have been given various false promises like 13 Plus and now they cannot deliver what they promised. Now we are facing the music.
The Head of State has not handled the situation properly and now we are in a mess. He must take responsibility for that—not anybody else.
It is being speculated that either your or Anoma Fonseka might contest the Western Provincial Council polls as chief ministerial candidate. Any comments?
Me? I will not contest provincial council elections. My politics is at a different level. Wherever we go people request Anoma to come forward and contest PC polls. When we went to Wayamba people requested her to contest. When we went to Kandy people were asking her to come and contest for the Central Provincial Council. In Western Province likewise people are asking her to contest. But we have not taken any decision.
Q: How is your health condition? Are you still under medication?
A: I am okay. Physically, I’m in better shape than I was in the army. Earlier I took lot of physical training when I was in the prison. I had enough of time. So, health-wise I am okay. Only thing is that I developed that irritation I used to have at Welikada due to dust and others. So, I am still taking some medication for that. That is not a major problem. My lungs are okay. So I suppose I will survive till I finish my job.
Q: Anything else you want to say?
A: The inaugural rally would be held at Hyde Park on October 18 at 3.00 pm. This is a national event in the national interest. We invite all patriotic people to come. We know that the government would attempt false propaganda and character assassination. We request general public not to be misled by this false propaganda. courtesy: The Island