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Saturday, 3 December 2011

White flag saga

The verdict on white flag story has been given and I suppose that it is not subjudice any more. Many people, especially of the middle class who generally vote UNP, would say that they respect the verdict given by the courts but would fight to see that Sarath Fonseka is allowed to go home. They would most probably not request a Presidential Pardon as they believe that the President should have intervened at the very beginning and taken steps to prevent the arrest of Sarath Fonseka. However, there was a group of people among this middle class who thought that niceties of the Roman Dutch legal system were not for them. Most probably for the first time in the history of the western type courts in Sri Lanka, after the verdict was given by the high court judges, some lawyers have taken upon themselves the task of protesting against the judgment in an unruly manner to say the least, reminding us throwing of stones at the houses of Judges during the J. R. Jayawardhene regime. It is reported that the President of the three member panel of judges had expressed her concern over such behaviour, and pointed out that if the said lawyers did not agree with the judgment they could have appealed against it. We have to condemn the action of these lawyers unreservedly as if the lawyers behave like the lawmakers the courts would not be able to interpret the law independent of non legal influences.

In any event the story is spread that the former General was arrested since the at least one of the Rajapakses did not like him contesting the Presidential Elections. There are many a middle class people who would buy that story and talk big of democratic values being eroded under the Rajapakses. Unfortunately what these champions of democracy do not consider is the gravity of the statement made by Sarath Fonseka, and that democracy in any form does not guarantee the freedom of wild donkeys (val buru nidahasa). Perhaps Sarath Fonseka was new to the game of politics and did not know where to draw the line. At the Presidential Election campaign he came out with verbal diarrhea to such an extent people were more interested in identifying the zoo of animals, such as hothambuva the former general referred to. Of course he came out with the white flag story at Ratnapura, Ambalngoda, in the process of his election campaign, and the electronic media gave wide publicity to Fonseka’s rhetoric including the infamous story referred to above..

When I first heard the white flag saga from some of the news media I thought that the former General should have been taken into custody. In fact at a meeting held in Kurunegala during the Presidential Elections, I referred to the white flag story by the former General and suggested that he should be taken into custody as early as possible. However, the former general was in the middle of a Presidential election campaign and probably the government thought that it was not the ideal time to bring him before a court of law. Perhaps the government wanted the verdict of the people before any action was taken, and if the voters had sympathized with the former General he could have been elected the President. However, it was not to be the case, and we did not have to turn to be animals of a zoo.

The UNP and the JVP did not have anybody in their ranks capable of contesting Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse, and had to form a makeshift alliance and nominate Sarath Fonseka as their Presidential candidate. We now know that the JVP had not been unanimous in their choice and a section, now generally called the dissidents, had opposed it. It is clear that the choice of Sarath Fonseka has accelerated the splitting of the JVP and the former General who was a high ranking officer in the armed forces during the JVP terrorism in the late eighties could be happy at least on the score of his contribution to the split. I am sure that the JVP has mixed feelings on the outcome of the trial but most probably the dissidents would not comment claiming that they are not interested in the verdicts of bourgeois courts of law.

The UNP on the other hand is determined to see that the former General is given a pardon but it is Sarath Fonseka who would have to pardon the UNP for his imprisonment. Had the UNP decided to field Ranil Wickremasinghe as their Presidential candidate he could have easily lost another election after making sweet statements such as “pas dun rata” and demonstrating to the electorate how far he is from the history and culture of the country. Nevertheless I enjoy his utterances in the English Parliamentary tradition and it may be that displaying posters during the budget speech is his “radical” way of expressing protest. The government MPs should have left him and his boys alone as these protests are not going to make any impact on the people. The protests only give self satisfaction to the UNP that is not capable of organizing any movement against the government. If the government MPs had taken no notice of the posters the matter would have ended up that evening without initiating a discussion on bogus democracy.

The UNP and the JVP had to turn to Sarath Fonseka as nationalism has grown to such an extent only Sarath Fonseka who had been the commander of the army when the LTTE was defeated militarily (politically under the leadership of the President) could even think of giving a fight to Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse. However, unfortunately Sarath Fonseka had begun to think that it was he who was responsible for the defeat of the LTTE forgetting that even Nandimitras, Velusumans and Sapumal Kuamrayas are not ranked with the respective kings who gave the political leadership in the respective wars. I know that it could be said that those days the kings not only gave political leadership but were actually involved in the war in the battle field. However, what is forgotten is that these days even the army commanders are not supposed to move into the battle field as the subordinate officers now lead the rank and file physically in the battle.

In any event it is clear that Sarath Fonseka made the infamous statement on White Flags perhaps due to egoistic feelings. Even if somebody had actually instructed Major General Shavendra de Silva to shoot those who came with White Flags, it is a crime for Sarath Fonseka to publicly come out with the story as whether he knew it or not, or whether he was bypassed or not thus hurting his ego, he as the commander of the army was ultimately responsible for any action of his army. If no instructions had been given to the Major General, then it is a worst crime to cook up a story to discredit the army which he commanded quoting an unnamed journalist. Either way Sarath Fonseka had become a tool in the hands of the western forces who are hell bent on discrediting the President, the Secretary of Defense in particular and the armed forces in general. I was intrigued by the fact that so much depended on the evidence of Ms. Frederica Janz when everybody who watched news broadcasts during that period heard and saw Sarath Fonseka making those statements on white flags without any inhibition. I who does not read Sunday Leader had come to the conclusion that Sarath Fonseka should be arrested after watching the news broadcasts, and during the trial I wondered what happened to all the footages that showed Sarath Fonseka at his worst during the election campaign. However, I cannot comment further as I am not an expert in the intricacies of law.

Copyright Prof. Nalin De Silva