A very reasonable request | Daily News

A very reasonable request

All Sri Lankans, irrespective of political affiliations, or ethnic differences would be fully behind Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka in his request for the restoration of his lost benefits, including his privileges as a Member of Parliament during the period of his incarceration after falling foul of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa whom he challenged at the Presidential Election. Even those in the North and the East would be of the same sentiment given that Fonseka bagged an extraordinarily high percentage of the Northern vote during his failed Presidential bid, notwithstanding the fact he gave leadership towards the annihilation of the LTTE.

Raising a Matter of Privilege in Parliament on Wednesday, Field Marshal Fonseka asked that all Parliamentary privileges he lost during the time he was in jail be restored to him. He said he was sent to jail by the previous regime after being twice court martialled which resulted in him losing his Parliamentary privileges. He asked that all his lost benefits as a result of losing his Parliament membership following incarceration, including his salary in the intervening period, be restored to him.

The Speaker has already referred the matter to the Parliamentary Ethics and Privileges Committee. No doubt the Parliament body would view the request giving due attention to the circumstances under which the war winning former Army Commander was sentenced to jail. It is clear to all and sundry that this was a case of sheer political vendetta on the part of Mahinda Rajapaksa due to the former daring to contest him at the Presidential Election in 2010. The man who was the toast of the nation only a few months before was dragged like a common criminal and made to face a kangaroo court, read Court Martial (presided by his known enemies in the military whom he had disciplined, as Army Commander in the past) before being thrown behind bars in the most humiliating fashion.

What became of the cases against Fonseka remains a mystery to this day. It is incumbent, therefore, on the authorities to investigate if these cases were trumped up to deliberately target Fonseka for the cardinal sin of standing up to the Rajapaksas (after all we have inquiry commissions for almost everything). The act, no doubt, would have dealt a moral blow to all the men who served under Fonseka and was a poor reward for the sacrifice in bringing the three decades long war to a successful end. What is appalling, however, was the deafening silence maintained at the time by those who are today weeping buckets for the ‘witch-hunts’ launched by the Government against the Ranaviruvo. People like Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera who go to Geneva to prevent war heroes being tried before international tribunals were nowhere to be seen or heard at the time. Was this because he did not mind war heroes being jailed at home and it was the international tribunals that he was objecting to? Equally hypocritical were the conduct of some our Bhikkus who today shout from the rooftops about the ingratitude of the Government towards the war heroes.

Fonseka, prior to being jailed, was also humiliated in numerous other ways. The military officers who were guarding him opposite the hotel where he was billeted on the day of his defeat at the Presidential Election was made to kneel on the driveway of the hotel, at the instance of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa - the highest insult to visit upon men who shed their blood, sweat and tears towards the war victory, only a few months before. One cannot recall Udaya Gammanpila, Wimal Weerawansa or any of the now vociferous Bhikkus, who have turned guardians of the war heroes, making any protest. Is it because their affinity towards the Rajapaksas took precedence over protecting the dignity of the Ranaviruvo?

Parliament should not lose time, even at this late hour, to ensure all privileges and benefits due to Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, which was denied him during his illegal imprisonment, be restored. Steps should also be taken to officially erase the record of Fonseka's absence in Parliament during the time he was held behind bars. After all, former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike had her non-presence in Parliament during the period she lost her of civic right taken off the Parliament records as a means of restorative justice, at a special session of the House. Former Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake, too, had the salary she lost during her impeachment and full pension restored to her. Sarath Fonseka, we feel, is even a much more worthy candidate for being treated similarly for his services to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. He also should be included in the Cabinet of Ministers for the same reason and accorded due recognition and honour, at all times, for the signal role he played in ending the war. One should also not forget that he almost paid with his life in this endeavour. Besides, he was described as the best Army Commander in the World, by the very people responsible for his dire fate, subsequently. 


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