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Gen. Fonseka showed he has no intention of being made a puppet

BY Prof.Rajiva Wijesinha

Questions were raised as to the letter of resignation sent by Gen Sarath Fonseka at a press conference on November 13th. Anticipating such questions, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe had obtained a copy of the letter.

We had had several instances of subtly changed documents being circulated, obviously for political purposes. The two different versions of the Internal Self Governing Authority (ISGA) with the LTTE were foremost in my mind, given the explanation by a Sunday newspaper then of the fact that the wrong version had been sent to President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

It was suggested - and by a paper commonly associated with the Opposition - that the mistake was deliberate, and designed to precipitate the then President into an aggressive reaction that could be shown up as absurd.

The consensus at the press conference was that the circulated letter was the true one, and a cursory glance at the first page of the copy with Minister Samarasinghe suggested that this was the case. However, two days later, a Sunday newspaper produced the correct version, and also highlighted the differences between this and the copy circulated by email.

The thrust of the article was that what had happened suggested that Gen Fonseka was an unreliable ally, and pains were taken to suggest that he would not be in favour of media freedom. Indeed the article seemed to suggest that many of the criticisms made earlier of the government with regard to this issue arose from Gen Fonseka’s approach.

It also highlighted some of the reasons the General had given as to his concern for the IDPs, namely that the Government was resettling quickly because it did not want to incur expenditure on them.

While arguing that demining and the provision of infrastructure were inadequate at present, he stressed that he wanted more troops to ensure security, and that there had been insufficient checking thus far to confirm the identity of possible infiltrated terrorists amongst the displaced. The impression the article created was that Gen Fonseka wanted the IDPs kept on in the camps, with enhanced security measures.

All this is characteristic of the General as he presented himself to the public in the past, and suggests that he at least is an honest man. It is also not surprising that some of his ideas are at variance with those of his possible allies, and the arguments that will have to be used to overcome gross inconsistencies will surely prove most entertaining in the weeks ahead, if the proposed alliances go through.

What is surprising however is the emphasis on the discrepancies in a paper that seemed triumphant the previous week in asserting that the alliance had been sealed. The impression this article creates is that there are some doubts in the UNP, and in particular its leadership, about the alliance.

By changing the letter so dramatically, the General showed that he had no intention of becoming a puppet, and that he still wanted to ensure the primacy of his own approach to politics. This is entirely understandable, and that is why I was surprised at the claim in the article that the initially leaked document had been agreed upon.

I cannot for a moment conceive of the General freely agreeing to some elements in the original document, and I can also see why he needed to stress other elements if he is to put himself forward as a serious Presidential candidate running on his security credentials.

That is why the media finds the passive voice so useful. It would be interesting however to find out who had agreed upon the first document. The suggestion later that the text had been prepared in consultation with the Opposition parties also seems misleading, in that the text seems rather prepared by those Opposition parties to satisfy their own requirement of common ground.

Thus they gave their sop to Cerberus by concentrating initially on the General’s personal grievances, but planned to end with a flourish by emphasizing areas on which they could agree, and which they assumed would be electorally popular.

Obviously the UNP and the JVP could find common ground now. But since victory also needed the total support of the minorities, the plight of the IDPs had to be highlighted.

Since, contrary to earlier critiques, resettlement was proceeding apace, the joint Opposition draft stressed the need for freedom of movement for those still within the Centres. Sadly for them General Fonseka turned that on its head, ignoring that point and instead raising objections to swift resettlement, and in particular security concerns.

If the newspaper article was in any sense accurate, it would seem that those negotiating on his behalf agreed on a text that was inspired by what might be termed joint opposition concerns. He then refused to be party to subterfuges that made a nonsense of concerns he had raised previously. But I suspect there will be many more intriguing letters and dissonant declarations before this confusing game draws to a conclusion.


It is good that General SF asserts his independence and individuality. That is what is required in a Democracy to be open and do things in a transparent manner. The UNF and JVP have the option of accepting or dissenting with his views. As with all matters, there is some give and take and some compromise. No doubt the correct decisons will be taken for the good of the nation. These people are not idiots and fools as portrayed by Govt media.

Posted by: SriLankan | November 26, 2009 09:02 AM

Basically a draft is subject to changes. What opposition gave to SF was a draft and eventually he changed it to his style. Common people do not see anything wrong in it.

Posted by: Common People | November 26, 2009 10:09 AM

dear professor- is there any "international conspiracies" in this connection? nihalg

Posted by: nihal gunatilake | November 26, 2009 02:27 PM

He is a puppet and Ranil will take him for breakfast.It will be the cost of trying to get powerat any cost by SF.How can he share the same stage with people who ridiculed him to the bone? People wear clothes for a reason.Did general ever think of that?.Even though he commanded the army the war was won by having a correct political leadership and team work also.He would have been counting his pension money if Gota did not press Mahinda to not let SF retire and calling him back.It reminds me of Guththila and Musila. Poor puppet who will try to take the powers in case if he wins and Ranil tries tocommand him or asking him to abolish presidency.

Posted by: ashok | November 26, 2009 05:05 PM

The only puppet in this article is Rajeeva Wijesinghe the one time liberal champion who has mortgaged his soul to serve the monarchy. What he can learn from General Sarath Fonseka is not only how he is not a puppet to his political masters but also how he never discussed politics while he was wearing his uniform. Yet here we have the Secretary of the Ministry of Dissaster Managemnt and Human Rights, a public official governed by the Establishment Code by the last check, writing on a political matter on behalf of his political masters. This is a fine example of the rot that has set in the Public Service under this current administration.

Posted by: Priyanka Rodrigo | November 26, 2009 09:59 PM

Dear Professor.. Go somewhere else to bootlick.. you are doing enough damage by antagonising friendly nations and the UN and you have contributed immensely to make our country a pariah state by “trying” to defend a bunch of morons who run Sri Lanka. At least for the sake of your distinguished father don’t drag your hypocritical nose into arenas where you have no role.

Posted by: Himali | November 27, 2009 12:56 AM

Rajiva Wijesinghe- Please clarify whether you are writing this in your capacity as Secretary of the Ministry of Human Rights, former politician or just bum sucker who was asked to write something by the President.. or maybe you took the initiative on your own.. who knows might become a Minister after the next election at this rate!!!

Posted by: Sumanasiri Perera | November 27, 2009 02:00 AM

Spot on Priyanka, the only puppet here is Rajiva. Why should this man be talking of Sarath Fonseka and whose puppet he is.. this guy has been doing nothing but kade going. He must be worried that he will have no job if SF comes to power…He can always get a job at the UN after all the letters he wrote to them.. ha ha

Posted by: Kamani T | November 27, 2009 02:21 AM

It is the so called Public Servants that have caused the
ruination of Sri Lanka - specially when they are blessed
by their Masters to become month-pieces. Dr. Dayan learned his lesson is quick-time. Gota does not
consider himself a Public Servant - but another Army man
who wish to carry the slogan "Can Do" !! They both
proved what can be done Militarily.

Posted by: ardneham | November 27, 2009 04:46 AM

Rajiva .. oh please.. One time liberal thinker now full time boot licker. Chanaka must be throwing up in his grave.

Posted by: Nimal Fernando | November 27, 2009 02:36 PM

GLP and the Writer are two of whom we can be proud of. Highly educated in the finest educational institutions in the world, they can hold their own among the most sublime in the intellectual galaxy. That includes Dayan J as well. All three excellent teachers, too.

But the virus of power and political ambition has infected the trio. Sadly, the compulsions of conformity on their part to their employer – the Govt of the day - takes precedence over what is right, moral and ethical. In this game there is no such thing as asserting what you consider right and just in politically sensitive issues. Professori sang the praises of General F then and defended him stoutly – here, there and everywhere.

What now, good Sir? And how will you justify the sudden attack of justice and wisdom that has overtaken the thinking faculties of the Big Chief who now feels roads should not be closed – inconveniencing the public when those VVIPs and their near-dear ones are in perpetual motion. Phew! 2,000 armed ones for MR; 600 each for SF and the Navy man with virtually low-flying aircraft-like and several hundreds for the other multiple dozens.

Even that Man of All Seasons (for MR & Bros - that is) vermin and his family. No wonder I was made to sweat and swear in my car for 25 minutes with visitors from Germany at the Bamba junction when these heavenly beings decided to go from there to that heavenly abode – Temple Trees. My German friends seeing the WW2 type of secutity wondered if the Fuehrer might even be alive here - in a country where life hereafter is believed - as a matter of course.


Posted by: Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan | November 27, 2009 07:40 PM

It is clearly evident that there are no coherent policies or agenda between the collection of opposition forces and the candidate "common" only to them (and not the masses).

Country wouldn't benefit from such a rag tag collection of forces.

On the other hand the incumbent presents the only stable option. It is the stability that is required to consolidate the defeat of divisive forces to lay a solid foundation for the future. SF though may be a man of integrity as an individual doesn't possess an organisation to implement anything.

Masses are intelligent and they will correctly judge this.

Posted by: hela | November 27, 2009 08:13 PM

Rajeeva Wijesinha's Magnum Opus was "Women and Marriage in the Early Victorian Novel" - his PhD thesis at Oxford.He is 'Professor of Languages' though he knows only english.He is fulltime 'bootlicker cum whitewasher' of the corrupt dictatorial regime and thus earns his money.He is also 'Vice President' of the Liberal International!!!
Priyanka Rodrigo says it all.

Posted by: Thamilan | November 28, 2009 03:47 PM

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