Horses for courses | Daily News

Horses for courses

Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne has said that the Law and Order portfolio, assumed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, at Sunday's Cabinet reshuffle, was only a stop gap measure, and, that, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka will be taking over the subject in two weeks time. Fonseka, who was overseas during the UNP segment of the reshuffle, was spoken of as the likely successor to Sagala Ratnayaka from the time it was known that a Cabinet reshuffle was in the offing. It is not clear if Dr. Senaratne's statement is official. But he certainly has set the cat among the pigeons.

Even before this announcement was made hardliner cleric the Ven. Bengamuwe Nalaka had threatened to take to the streets, with 1,000 monks, if Sarath Fonseka was made Law and Order Minister. There had been other, more muted, expressions of opposition from Bikkhus in the Rajapaksa camp. Why this objection to a war hero receiving his just rewards by the very people who are castigating the government for engaging in a witch-hunt against the country's war heroes? Is the role played by Sarath Fonseka, who commanded the army to victory, any less than that of Commodore D. P. K. Dassanayake, over whom today the pro-Rajapaksa Buddhist monks, like the Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananada Thera, are weeping buckets, as being one of the victims subjected to a witch-hunt by the government, for arraigning him for his alleged role in the abduction of Tamil youth, for ransom.

In contrast, what was the reaction of these patriots when Sarath Fonseka was dragged away, thrown behind bars and left to languish suffering privations for two years in prison, in connection with yet unproved allegations? As Dr. Senaratne said; “Sarath Fonseka is a war hero. Those who make a big hue and cry about war heroes should realize that. Those personnel who robbed and killed, had also been venerated as war heroes. Besides, the government also ought to take a fair and just decision. What the country needs today were efficient people who could take split decisions”.

The minister has put things in a nutshell. His views, in this regard, will be endorsed by many who feel that the government needs to put its foot down on sabotage and disruptive activities that has been the norm in recent times.

No doubt, the spate of protests, strikes, and, other forms of disruption in the day-to-day life also contributed to the adverse results for the government at the local government elections. The people felt that the government had lost control and things were allowed to drift, with no firm hand to combat these activities which brought hardship on the public. The petroleum crisis, CEB strikes, the doctors’ all too frequent work stoppages, and, the anti-SAITM streets protests, not only portrayed a general breakdown of the system but also had its impact in other forms, such the dent these made on investor confidence.

Felix Dias Bandaranaike, it was, who once said that a little bit of totalitarianism would not be out of place in democratic Sri Lanka, and, went about doing just that. Such a stratagem will be needed in the present day too, if things tend to get out of hand. Sarath Fonseka has already made it known publicly that he would control all unruly campaigns and activities, not to mention, going after the big time rogues of the former regime, if he is given the job of Law and Order minister for six months. Given his record on the battlefield, and the fact that he led his troops to victory, is testimony that he means what he says. He also famously said that he would not leave the war to be finished by his successor, and lived up to his word.

With the pohottuwa victory at the LG elections, there had be reports of attacks on rival supporters, especially in the provinces, with the police slow to act to apprehend the culprits, betraying a loss of control by the authorities, in the immediate aftermath of the polls, of the law enforcement machinery. There have also been heightened incidents of crime in recent times, in the south, and the free availability of firearms used by gangs in tit for tat killings. The drug menace too is taking on serious proportions, with almost daily detections being made, indicating the big time operatives are still at large. Underworld crime in the urban areas too have spiraled, in recent times, despite the best efforts of the IGP and his men.

Gen. Fonseka, who was known for his no nonsense attitude, during his military career, will certainly have a lot on his plate, if, and, when he is appointed Law and Order Minister. But, as minister Dr. Senaratne hinted, there is no doubt that he will live up to his reputation, and, turn things around in his own inimitable style. His possible advent, no doubt, would have already ruffled many feathers in the Joint Opposition camp. But, it is incumbent that the government uses his skills to the optimum level to bring about a semblance of order into things.


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