Army Chief has a point | Page 2 | Daily News

Army Chief has a point

Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senananayake, it is reported, had advised his officers not to take to politics, after retirement. Addressing troops, at the Kilinochchi Military Headquarters, on Thursday, Lt. Gen Senanayake had said that bearing in mind the war, and, ‘incidents’, they should not get involved in politics, under any circumstances, after retirement. The Army Chief, of course, may have justifiable grounds for this important advice proffered to his officers and men.

To begin with, unlike in its ceremonial days, the Army, today, had acquired a huge reputation, and, its men are lionized, and, revered for their role in defeating an enemy, which was described as the most ruthless terrorist outfit in the world, and, decidedly unbeatable. Ditto for the men of the other two arms of the security forces! On the other hand, politics has today become a dirty word to the majority of the populace, and, politicians, of all varieties, held in utmost contempt. By throwing in their lot with politicians, the members of the armed forces can only erode their reputation, and, standing, among the public, to put it mildly, which may have been the thought process governing the thinking, of the Army Commander.

Of course, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka has already taken the plunge. But this could well be under exceptional circumstances, in the wake of the hostility, and, maltreatment he was subjected to, by the Rajapaksas, soon after the war victory, under his leadership, and, his plunge into politics may have been as a result of the urge to strike back.

On the whole, though, most would agree with the Army Commander's thinking against retired officers entering politics of the type that is practiced today. It is difficult to picture a former decorated military officer sitting in parliament in the company of types that are commonly been accused of corruption, or, to be identified with a breed who have been described as bootleggers, murderers, chain snatchers, cattle thieves et al., or, a bunch of uneducated louts, a good majority of whom had failed their GCE O/L exams.

Of course, there were military officers aplenty, who took to politics, after retirement. The names of Sir Richard Udugama, Major Montague Jayawickrema, Captain C.P.J. Seneviratne, and, last, but not least, Sir John Kotelawala, come to mind. However there was a difference. Politics, during that era was not the cesspit that it is today, and, sullied by sleaze. Parliament was adorned by intellectuals, philanthropists, landed proprietors, retired civil servants and men with titles. If ever the term gentlemanly politics came to be applied, it was, without doubt, in that bygone era. Hence, retired members of the armed forces stepping into politics would not have been an issue at the time.

However, given the huge transformation that has taken place, both, in the political, and, social landscape, values and attitudes, too, have undergone a sea change. Things that were once considered commonplace are viewed with a different perspective, in the present day.

A retired member of the security forces entering politics today will not only lose for him the respect of the vast majority of the general public, but also aspersions cast on the army as a whole. Politics, which was once a honourable calling that had at its core, service to the public, had become so repugnant to the vast majority, that, professionals, intellectual, or, individuals with social standing, have shunned it like the plague. Why then should retired military officers, who fought for the country, decorated for valour, and, have their honour to protect, sully their selves, and, the military they served, by throwing in their lot with a set of morons, reviled by the public?

The government, for its part, too should not encourage retired military personnel, or, ex-police officers, to join politics. Today, most political parties nominate former military officers, as candidates, at elections, as a vote catching device. But, more often than not, these candidates fail to get elected. The case of Sarath Fonseka is a good example. Before him, Brigadier Sarath Munasinghe, who was once military spokesman, failed to get elected, at the 2001 general election. Such reversals, while not doing the individual any good, is also bound to reflect negatively on the army.

Not just direct politics, the practice of making political appointments from among retired military personnel, too, should be limited, or, stopped altogether.

The practice today is to post former military officers, as Ambassadors, or, envoys abroad. This could be viewed as reward for having supported a particular political party, or, worse, committed unlawful acts, at the behest of political leaders. Under CBK, a retired police chief was made chairman of a state bank. Worse, under Rajapaksa, a retired Chief Justice was made a presidential advisor, while, another was sent as Ambassador to the Court of St.James. This, while smacking of impropriety, is, also unfair on the tax payer, who is being called upon to foot the bill of these ‘pensioners’, even after retirement. 


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As quoted in the report appointment of some personal with some ill comments about their behaviour say lot about our politician inner thoughts is it wise citizens need to ask


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