“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” – Confucius
There was so much of hope, at least amongst the ordinary folks, that Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka would be appointed Minister of Law and Order.The logic behind such hope is quite legitimate and sound. Sarath Fonseka, when he was the Commander of Sri Lanka Army, delivered the goods.
Fighting against one of the most dreaded terrorist armies in the world-the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE)-and its charismatic leader Prabhakaran, Sarath Fonseka not only exhibited raw gallantry and bravery, he displayed his acute knowledge about modern-day terrorist warfare and strategic battling on the field.
He never sent his men and women where he couldn’t go himself, a characteristic of a charismatic leader. He may be detested by the Tamil Diaspora. He is certainly feared by our politicians, amongst whom are the Rajapaksas, who were quite comfortable to give orders from their air-conditioned rooms in Colombo.
Battlefield experience is a rare quality. Those who gather such experience, especially as battlefield commanders, are even rarer.
That is why all over the world, those who excel as winning commanders end up capturing most lucrative civilian jobs in any administration. Whether it’s in the democratic West or any other administration in the ‘Socialist’ world, Russia or China, such men and women end up occupying very commanding positions in the civilian management of governing affairs. As far as Sarath Fonseka is concerned, he seems to be in a unique position in that, he was dreaded by the Rajapaksas.
The current leaders of the Government, whose original election pledge on election platforms was to expose the Rajapaksas and bring about law and order to a society so corrupt and placid, seem to be fearful of Fonseka’s ability to just that- elimination of corruption and bringing a sense of sensibility and order.
The recent ethnic violence and racial mayhem in the Kandy district cannot be disregarded as a minor clash between two clans. Minimizing a looming danger is a trait of a coward. For he or she thinks that such treatment would place him or her in a comfort zone within which they feel quite secure and safe. Such men and women do not dare. They don’t venture outside the proverbial ‘box’, the comfort zone.
The Government seems to be glued to that comfort zone. Sri Lanka’s post-Independence history has known only a very few leaders who dared to venture outside the box/comfort zone.
Such men changed the course of the nation’s journey. Whether that change, of course, was for the good or bad is a different argument altogether.
Future historians will pass judgment on them. Yet, such change of course, if initiated in a timely manner, by credible leaders whose daring and idealism was more precious to them than political expediency, could shape and define the character of a nation which would embrace such a character as an alternate personality.
However, if this alternate personality of a nation is to be sustained for a calculable time of its journey, a great process of education and information, independent of political ideology, needs to take place. That process will not happen overnight nor would it occur as a matter of course. It needs to be deliberately engineered and monitored from a centre.
That is precisely where a fully focused mind like that of Sarath Fonseka comes to play. Great devotion to the task at hand and unimpeachable commitment to the end-goal is a prerequisite for any candidate to be responsible for handling the Ministry of Law and Order.
That dedication and commitment are not forthcoming from any personality in Parliament today except Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka. Any person in my personal opinion, who could offer some competition in the sphere of commitment to a task and being focused, is Navin Dissanayake, the Minister of Plantation Industries and elder son of the late Gamini Dissanayake.
Such men with a sense of urgency and undeterred sense of results-orientation are few and far between. It is even more so in post-Independent Sri Lanka.
That is another tragic feature of our storied nation’s history. Reverting to the current context, the recent turmoil in the Kandy district and its assumption of racial tones coupled with the prelates of Maha Sangha being silent on the initial involvement of the likes of Galagodaaththe Gnanasara and other thugs in saffron robes, have aroused the appetite of tour global partners to warn their citizens to be more discerning when travelling to Sri Lanka.
This consistent process of intended or unintended intervention into our internal affairs under the facade of human rights will continue.
The dishonourable genocide committed in 1983 is still fresh in the human rights-activists world over.
A totally different mindset is necessary in the present set of circumstances. A mind that is bold, a mind that is not scared and a one that is fundamentally results-oriented and unrelenting is the need of the hour.
If Sarath Fonseka is that mind, why is everyone scared of him? A soldier who nearly sacrificed his life during the war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a Presidential Candidate, who dared challenge the Rajapaksas in the 2009 Presidential Election, almost single-handedly with lukewarm assistance from the United National Party (UNP), cannot be discarded as an unwelcome guest?
The problem lies there; the issue with Fonseka is that no one in the other political parties could come anywhere near his achievements.
A singular sense of envy and fear has overwhelmed our Sinhalese politicians.
One can understand the fear and dread that stems from the Rajapaksas for Sarath Fonseka, but the fear and jealousy others seem to have is unpardonable.
Fonseka’s capabilities are beyond question. As at now, he is rotting away in a Ministry that has no portfolios. It is a travesty of national proportions.
The writer does not to intend to belittle Ranjith Madduma Bandara, who has just been sworn in as Minister of Law and Order. But to compare the two, Fonseka and Madduma Bandara is not fair, by both of them.
The Government has failed miserably on the very platform that they were elected to office on.
The unmitigated condition of bringing justice to those who played out the coffers of the Treasury and conducted crude and inhuman acts of violence and viciousness towards those who protested against their regime is still not fulfilled.
It is that condition the majority of the country wanted satisfied. The majority of the people in the country know that Sarath Fonseka, more than anyone else in the current administration, is the person who is qualified to undertake that brutally honest task. Then why not ask him to do that?
If the Rajapaksas come out clean after swift and justly concluded inquiries, then that is also alright. But dragging these inquiries without any end on the horizon only strengthens the Rajapaksas and weakens the Government’s hand.
On the other hand, a weakened hand at the beginning of the inquiries has further eroded the confidence of those who are eagerly looking forward to a rapid finish to the nagging questions that surround the last regime.
Obviously, the untoward laziness, which was displayed by the Government-led inquiring officers and those who matter in the Department of Attorney General during the last two-and-half-years definitely was factored in by a sizeable majority of the voters in the Local Government elections and the results confirmed that.
The context is very clear. It is as crisp and unambiguous as crystal. Within that vast yet well-defined context, rejection of Sarath Fonseka’s name for the Ministry of Law and Order is unfathomable.
Our politicians have not learnt to sacrifice their personal agendas for the good of the country. Nor have they learnt the fine art of negotiation- a craft that is essentially having a bind and abiding attachment to detach oneself from the immediate advance or retreat.
Such nuanced politicking has lost its way. One can understand if those who reject Sarath Fonseka are uneducated nincompoops. But when such opposition stems from the educated quarters, it is quite evident that something more than a calculated gamble is at stake.
Once again, it may be redundant to emphasize the significance of seeing the finality of the inquiries against the Rajapaksas and their cohorts.
It may also be redundant to say that no one other than Sarath Fonseka in the current Government has the curriculum vitae to take over such a job and produce results.
The erosion of Sinhalese Buddhist votes from the UNP is evident. Election after election has shown that an overdependence on the Tamils and Muslims might backfire to such an extent, the net UNP votes might reduce to an abysmal few.
The increasing numbers of independent voters who are not attached to any political party yet matter most, when elections are held, would undoubtedly go away to the UNP and seek refuge elsewhere.
The writer is not of the opinion that Prime Minister would like to share the inglorious distinction with President, of presiding over the disintegration of his party during his leadership.