Disciplining the unruly the Fonseka way | Daily News

Disciplining the unruly the Fonseka way

Cabinet caused a stir this week with the President allegedly suggesting that Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka take on a bigger role in coordinating situations in times of emergency. The specifics of this new role however, have created much confusion as various parties have interpreted this to mean different things.

Cabinet Co-spokesperson, Minister Rajitha Senaratne at the weekly Cabinet briefing on Wednesday said this would be similar to the role of an ‘overall commander’ of the tri-forces or that of an ‘Army Commander’. Since then however, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka speaking to BBC Sandeshaya has denied such a claim and said he was not asked to take on any role to head the security forces or asked to be an Army Commander. Field Marshal Fonseka explained that he was simply asked to head a centre which would coordinate with all government agencies including the security forces, to help deal with normalizing essential services during times of emergency.

“I will not have anything to do with Defence. That is the responsibility of the President,” he said and added,

“What the President proposed was that I should head a new organization to counter attempts made by certain groups to destabilize the country’s progress and administration. This will support the existing institutions.”

The Daily News in the meantime, also spoke to members of the other main political parties to find out what they thought of such a proposal:

(Chairman of the JHU, Deputy Minister Karunaratne Paranawithana said the JHU had not taken a stance on the proposal as yet while TNA Leader and Leader of the Opposition, R. Sampanthan was not available for comment).

General Secretary of the UPFA-Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic resources, Mahinda Amaraweera

That was just a proposal. And that too, he was simply asked to help make a team to come up with a plan over what the government should do when there are strikes and such where key institutions are affected. No position was offered to him. It was not a Cabinet decision. For example, when we had the CPC strike, people were affected badly. Thus, he was asked to help the government deal with such a situation to restore essential services in the country.

He was not offered a role to head the tri-forces and not given any post to stop strikes. As a minister, he currently does not have much work, so this will be an ideal task for him and he will be reporting to Cabinet all plans and decisions. Also this is only to deal with essential services such as water supply, CEB, CPC, etc.

We currently have no system to decide on what to do in situations of emergencies and that is what Sarath Fonseka was asked to help with.

We are not trying to intimidate anyone. This matter will be clarified soon. There was no Cabinet paper or decision submitted or discussed.

Navin Dissanayake-UNP MP and Minister of Plantation industries

The President told him to take on a position but it was not as the Army Commander; that was not envisaged. It was a position where he can coordinate security situations and give updates to the Prime Minister and President on intelligence and also have better public relations campaigns with trade unions, etc.

It is a good proposal by the President and we know that he (Sarath Fonseka) is very capable of delivering results. It will enhance the current administrative structures of the government. There seems to be a lack of coordination and leadership among these institutions, especially when it comes to trade union action with political objectives that seek to break the machinery of the government. In a normal situation, where there is decency and decorum in the country, people don’t try to break or undermine a government just for a political purpose; that is why we have elections. Here we see a clear political objective to disrupt civilian life of the people. For example, having strikes every day and disrupting community life and traffic. This will look at the overall good of the people. Even for emergencies such as Meethotamulla and natural disasters, it is good to have one central point and focus in leadership.

There is no question of militarization here. we object to that and no one wants a militarized state. We have freed the democratic space, the President and Prime Minister are not interested in that. The President is the Defence Minister, and he is not afraid of anyone. I would look at it more like a National Security Minister role, which is good overall.

Vijitha Herath -JVP MP

(The JVP supported the candidacy of Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka for President during the 2010 Presidential Election)

The problem is not with the individual, the principle of it is wrong. By appointing him as the overall Commander of the tri-forces and to give him power to control them; they are trying to control people’s protests and agitations. This is the failure of the government as they cannot solve the issues of the people. The garbage issue was not solved, so they go dump garbage everywhere and when people protest against that, they are attacked and tear gassed.

Now they are trying to sell our national assets such as the oil tanks, Hambantota port, etc. When people protest against those and get onto the streets, they want to establish a separate military unit to control that and appoint a military head to run it.

If discipline is the problem, the government should first discipline itself; when ministers themselves are not disciplined, how can they expect the people to do any better?

This is simply a step towards militarization of the country and a military government. If the government simply addressed the issues of the people, people will not protest.

Convener of Trade union Alliance of the CPC-Janaka Rajakaruna

Why do we strike? Why do we protest under the harsh sun? It is not because we like to suffer such inconveniences. Instead of looking to answer the questions behind our strikes, they are trying to bring in the Field Marshall to solve the problems. It is the duty of the government to discuss problems but they are now trying to bulldoze the issues. This shows that the government has truly fallen and as a last resort is taking to violence to sort things out.

We are actually happy that Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka has been put in charge. He is known as a national hero and patriot and we too are trying to fight to save our national resources. I am sure he will find more things in common with us.

Also if the government thinks they can run essential services during a strike by using the army, they should also know that such measures cannot last long. We, as a trade union are ready to face any future scenario.

Lanka Viduli Sevaka Sangamaya, General Secretary-Ranjan Jayalal

This is clearly a measure to suppress and intimidate the workers' movement. We will fight it every step of the way. It is also disappointing that such measures are announced when we are about to celebrate May Day.

The government should be ashamed of this move. If the government is looking for discipline, they should know that there will be discipline when the workers are given their rights. When there are no rights, problems will automatically crop up and we will have no discipline. Our union has always fought for and won the rights of the workers within the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB). At present we are fighting to rectify the salary anomalies. We are a strong union. This role for Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka has only been discussed but despite that, the unions are getting together to discuss this latest development. We will form coalitions without any conditions to fight this. 


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This country has been a playground mostly for the politicians and their supporters, who have constantly violated the mandate given by the voters and have bankrupted the country and amassed wealth in unprecedented proportions. Every aspect of the economy has been tainted with corruption and manipulation for their own benefit and the members of their family. Most laws and practices have seen the creeping in of hidden flaws, the interpretations only known to some. The daily dosage of protests interrupting valuable productive time, are in a good number of cases been unjustified ,and some blown out of proportion for cheap political gain. This is mostly due to the PM utterances having no impact on the administrators , public and more so on the corrupt and insincere politicians. Some problems with the police are mostly due to the constant mobilization of them to tackle, physically, this ever recurring and irritating disturbances, and very soon, may see them standing down against orders. Today, with the evidence of huge corrupt practices by a clutch of politicians and administrators been clearly in view, we are seen the cheap play of delaying justice and the struggle to achieve it. The whole stage is that corrupt and the putrefaction is pervading the atmosphere polluting and congesting the lungs. The stinking rich have got richer and the poor have remained so.

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