The suit vs The sarong
One cannot demand recognition or reward. Though initially it might
have been earned, demanding it brings you disrespect.
It sounds petulant to the public hearing Sarath Fonseka’s reasons for
defecting. Not increasing the numbers of the Army (often a mistake when
moving towards peace), not being made a Field Marshall - and then adding
to it all by saying he only got what other commanders have received,
sounds like he’s asking for not just extra helpings, but also the cherry
on top of the cake. Just because you did achieve something doesn’t mean
everything and anything is for your taking. The support and admiration
and yes, even sympathy that was with the General is receding fast. Is
this ‘just desserts’?
Incidentally, let us correct Candidate Fonseka’s statement in a
recent Sunday paper of what he called the success of Iraq and Afghan
wars. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not over. Bush didn’t win any
wars. He didn’t even finish his ‘War on Terror’. It is in fact a
disastrous and questionable mess, now left to be faced by the next
President, Barack Obama (you may remember him as the recent recipient of
the Nobel Prize for Peace) and he just recently sent some more American
troops to the Afghan war. Perhaps being of a military mentality still
and having declared war on President Rajapaksa, our dear General may be
a little confused with his facts. But I digress. Let us return to Sri
Lanka where the Fonseka camp is forging ahead with an assurance of
victory. The Rajapaksa team is gearing up, albeit gradually, as one
confident of a repeat win. The arguments that I’ve heard are as follows:
Rajapaksa team: The villagers, outstation people and grassroot groups
are with us. They are the lump votes. Not forgetting the diehard SLFPers
in the outskirts and within the city.
Fonseka camp: The Army and company and the long-standing UNPers are
with us. And of course the varying forces of the JVP.
Now, there is one important and undisputable factor. Mahinda
Rajapaksa has always come across as a ‘man-of-the-people.’ He has been
on the side of the underdog, in ’71, ’77, ’89 and so on. Then of course
he became something of a champion of the labour community as the Labour
Minister in the 90s. So we see, we know, Mahinda Rajapaksa has a solid
history of standing with the people.
Against this we have the city-born, city-dwellers. The Townies, as I
would like to call them, who often think they are the top portion of the
pyramid commanding the economics and the Government. What about these
These are the people who cannot bear the thought of someone like
Mahinda Rajapaksa being the President of Sri Lanka.
There are two categories of Townies in this particular setting. Those
who cannot tolerate the thought of ‘one of theirs’ (i.e. with acceptable
bona fides of birth, associations etc. required for a particular class)
becoming the President.
Of course these are the same people who would be instantly,
automatically servile to the likes of J.R. Jayawardene. Then there are
those who can’t stand the idea of a ‘country-man,’ a street-fighter,
becoming ‘The President.’ And I’m reminded of a story I’d heard.
In the 50’s, a Colombo 7 woman had gone to the Lionel Wendt to find
out what was being shown. She was told it was Dr. Sarathchandra’s
Manamey that was played at the time, to which she replied “And what is
that? A Sinhala play? In that case I’ll go home. Maybe I’ll send my
servant to see it.” It must be the descendents of people like this who
are drumming up the present ruckus. They are using that great tool of
rumour and new-age technologies of emails and PR (even going to the
lengths of sudden display of piety) to wage this next war.
I have the distinction or misfortune of being part-Townie myself. And
I’ll be honest, in 2005 I too had my doubts. Could this Mahinda
Rajapaska lead Sri Lanka forward, join the global community, and develop
the nation into becoming a force to be contended with? And then Mahinda
Rajapaksa did the unthinkable.
The one thing I had ceased to hope, the one thing that other leaders
have fuelled into creation, and failed to resolve. Defying invisible
forces, defying the visible, like those that the General has joined arms
with now, Mahinda Rajapaksa ended the war. He brought the unforeseeable
future for the people of this country.
And the Colombo crowd is obstructing this path of hope and
prosperity. They are breaking the peace and causing public disturbance.
Usually such people are charged and arrested, for this is worse than
those extremists who stir the public into mobs turning brother against
brother. This small crowd doesn’t seem to remember that today they can
have Christmas parties and walk freely on the streets because of the
leadership of Mahinda Rajapaksa. And the greater tragedy is that they
have found someone from the Rajapaksa team itself to attack him.
If Sarath Fonseka had intended to inflict maximum damage on President
Rajapaksa, it seems to have backfired. The UNP and the JVP are seeing
dissension in their ranks, with those who by silence withdraw support,
like Sajith Premadasa, and more volubly like Johnston Fernando and of
course the likes of S.B. Dissanayake joining hands with the President
and effectively disarming the Fonseka camp.
If Fonseka had hoped to disperse President Rajapaksa’s team and have
the UNP and JVP close ranks- the outcome is ironic, though not a
complete surprise. After all, Fonseka, the catalyst in this, was one who
was once given a free hand to do his duty serving the Army. He broke
bread with his leader seated at his table day in day out. If he thanked
this benefactor and patron of his by defecting to sign up with his
one-time enemies, what could you expect him to do to his country?