Fonseka: A loose cannon launching non-existing carrot-rockets?
Ranil Wickreme- singhe, speaking to the Commonwealth Press Union on
February 25, 2003 at the Trans Asia Hotel, Colombo, chose to quote Lee
Kuan Yew to describe the Sri Lankan political reality: ‘Sri Lankan
democracy is a periodic auctioning of non-existent resources’.
At the time, Wickremesinghe was Prime Minister, he went on to talk
about the kind of future he wanted to create.
In future, we would like to see much more honesty from our
politicians when they are putting together their election manifestos. We
would like political parties to think more carefully about what they can
and cannot reasonably do.
That is why we are considering introducing an Election Manifesto Law.
This will require each political party to cost out their pledges to the
people and to publish their costs. Then, the people will be able to make
better and more informed decisions about whom they should vote for, and
who has the best program for them.
He was Prime Minister for almost 12 months after that but we didn’t
hear any talk of an Election Manifesto Law. It is not easy to get such
things off the ground of course, but Wickremesinghe and the UNP could
have taken a step in the right direction in 2004 (General Election) and
2005 (Presidential Election) when it came to writing manifestos. We
didn’t see him or his party ‘thinking clearly about what can and cannot
be done’. We had more of the same, the ‘same’ being what Lee Kuan Yew
described: ‘auctioning of non-existent resources’.
Times have changed, but the issue has remained. We don’t see Ranil
Wickremesinghe promising chewing gum, bracelets and what-not, but then
again he has got so weak politically that he can’t even contest and
neither can his party come up with a credible candidate to challenge the
incumbent. Still, Wickremesinghe is backing a candidate and as such is
honour bound to comment on the degree to which he is engaging in this
I think the thrust of entire Fonseka campaign was captured in graphic
terms in the cartoon appearing in a daily. It showed Fonseka in his
uniform feeding ammunition into a multi-barrel rocket launcher. The
catch: no rockets, just carrots. And the caption: ‘Multi Carrot Rocket
I don’t know about multi-barrel rocket launchers, but I know what
There are loose cannons in every party. Mervin Silva for example. But
then again he’s not a presidential candidate. Ravi Karunanayake is
another and would be the UNP equivalent of Mervin. But Fonseka is not
Ravi. He could show some presidential quality in his language, tone and
promise. Some ‘discipline’. But no, he can’t help appearing like a
common thug, it seems. He’s spent a couple of months doing little more
than spitting and biting. That’s ‘change’ we can do without. Loose
cannons aside, what’s more revealing is the ammunition, the
carrot-bullets he’s firing at random.
What are these carrots anyway? Well, he promised he would abolish the
Come manifesto writing time and this abolishing-gel that had allowed
Fonseka to be like the koholla baba that the UNP and JVP latched on to
had been shoved into a footnote and moreover the modalities of
‘abolition’ have been framed in the vaguest language which again is
underlined by unconstitutionality.
That shows a marked disrespect for due process and an abysmal
understanding of the Constitution. It is followed by a howler.
Fonseka says he will abolish the Executive Presidency and then
continue to function as president with the support of Parliament.
A couple of weeks ago he promised each State sector employee a Rs.
10,000 salary increase. I am surprised he didn’t say ‘Rs. 50,000’ or
‘Rs. 100,000’! He might as well promise heaven on earth.
How is he going to find the money? He doesn’t have a clue about
running the economy.
He could have asked someone. Harsha De Silva for example might have
told him not to be silly. Ranil himself might have thrown the Lee Kuan
Yew quote at him.
There are more carrots. A plot of land was promised to everyone. How
big a plot of land? An acre? Two? And where? In Cinnamon Gardens? Kayts?
Will he promise a cow to each household next?
Don’t get me wrong, I can understand a certain degree of ‘carroting’
from politicians but Fonseka’s is a veritable carrot-cake that you just
can’t have and eat. He has no plans. Give any 15-year-old a word limit
and ask him/her to write a wish list for the country and he/she would
come up with something just as good or better. This is the stuff one
expects from a candidate for a pradeshiya sabha, certainly not from a
Fonseka can be forgiven, but surely someone like Ranil could have
told him ‘this is high quality b.s.!’ Is it that Ranil has forgotten
what Lee Kuan Yew said? Perhaps he thinks the Singaporean leader was
wrong after all and that all these things and much else besides are
Or, is it that he sees Fonseka blindly walking the plank and is
chuckling to himself? May be that’s it. I can’t think why else someone
like Ranil Wickremesinghe did not infuse some sanity into the Fonseka
campaign. Unless of course Ranil himself has gone nuts.