Sarath Fonseka and his 3 Cs:
Confusion, Contradiction and Capitulation?

When a country elects a new president or reelects the incumbent, it has to think seriously how the policies that are offered by different candidates would affect the future of the country and its people. Of course, every candidate would be careful to make her/his election manifesto attractive to the people of all walks of life so that some of the promises and policies may lose their practicality. People also know from their own experience that politicians when in power will not fulfil all the promises they had made prior to the election. Nonetheless, looking at the past track record of the politicians and their party affiliations, people can see, to a significant extent, the direction in which those in power would lead the country. For example, it was not difficult to foresee that Ranasinghe Premadasa would adopt capitalist economic policies but with pro-poor bias. On the other hand, Ranil Wickremesinghe is known for extreme neo-liberal economic and social restructuring of the country. Mahinda Rajapaksa’s opposition to federalism and his orientation towards more interventionist state were well known even before he presented his Mahinda Chintanaya. However, when the candidate’s past track record is not known and her/his party affiliations are weak or non-existent, making decision would become an extremely difficult. This was what happened when people seeking for a change voted for Chandrika Bandaranaike in 1994. The Opposition and democratic social movements and the JVP badly needed a change. Almost all the significant and well-known political leaders, like Vijaya Kumaratunga, Lalith Athulathmudali, Ranasinghe Premadasa and Gamini Dissanayake were assassinated. While JVP was responsible for killing Vijaya Kumaratunga, others were killed by the LTTE. So there was a big vacuum. Chandrika Bandaranaike was elected. But she finally ended up being the worst Sri Lankan executive president.

I wrote this preface for two reasons. First, one of the candidates of the forthcoming presidential election is new to politics and he has no party affiliations. Secondly, Sri Lanka people after the conclusion of war seem to be eager to have a complete break from the past. The difference between today and 1994 is that at least one or two candidates and their policies are known to people. They have been in politics for a long time. Mahinda Rajapaksa began his political career in 1970 and Dr Vickramabahu Karunaratne has been active in politics for the last 45 years. Whether we agree with them or not, people in this country know what they stand for. However, like in 1994, the Opposition parties that include the United National Front and the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna and some people who are critical of the present government on the issues of democracy and human rights have decided to support a candidate who is totally new to political terrain and has no party affiliations. The statements made by General (Rtd) Sarath Fonseka after announcing his candidature show that he has so far failed to come up with either a well-thought out policy package or a clear vision about the challenges faced by the country. This is quite understandable owing to the fact that as he mentioned in his talk to the press while announcing his candidature, he is new to the business of politics. When a person decides to seek a public post, s/he should develop of course with the help of others at least an outline of a policy package. However, Sarath Fonseka was thrown out hurriedly to this terrain unknown to him by people and parties that are not new to the politics. Ironically, the policies of these parties on almost all issues not only differ but oftentimes contradict with each other. This has made the position of General (Rtd) Fonseka more and more confused when it comes to his future vision and perspective. So during the last few weeks, he came up with statements that are not only inconsistent but also contradictory. In this article, my objective is to list some of his views on various issues.

1. Executive Presidential System

Executive President is one of the key pillars of the Second Republican Constitution. Among the parties supporting General (Rtd) Fonseka, only Janata Vimukthi Peramuna has been consistent over the issue of the abolition of executive presidential system. The United National Party under the leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe opposed vehemently the draft constitution bill of 2000 that included inter alia the abolition of the executive presidential system. However let us assume that all the parties supporting Fonseka stand honestly for the abolition of the executive presidential system. Here two questions arise. First, how are they going to abolish it? In 1994, Manifesto of the Peoples’ Alliance proposed that the parliament would meet as a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution and the PA would propose reintroduction of the cabinet system of government headed by a prime minister. Of course, that promise was totally forgotten by the PA. Under present constitution, constitution amendment/ change procedure is very rigid and it has been made almost impossible under the given electoral system. At least 150 members of the Parliament should vote for a constitutional amendment. And in the present conjuncture, there is no assurance that the UPFA would vote for such a change. However, some argue that after the presidential election, IF Sarath Fonseka wins, many members of the UPFA would cross over. The present crossovers are manipulated by the presidential system because presidential system offers some assurance over their political future for the members who change parties to support the president. No presidency, crossover may be minimal. Secondly, in addressing the JVP conference, Sarath Fonseka has stated clearly that he will not propose to go back to the cabinet system and formal executive presidential system. He has stressed that he needs power. This raises speculation that he would even try to introduce another hybrid system that may be more injurious to country than the system that at least we are familiar with. What are the elements of this system? Executive president and executive prime minister? If it is the case, how would powers be divided between two executives? I like hybridity, but not in constitution-making. I like laws that are as exact as possible!!!!

2. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution

Sometime ago, Dr Dayan Jayatilaka, Douglas Devananda, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan and myself were the only people in this country who supported the 13th Amendment to the constitution. It is a good sign now all but the JVP, NFP and Hela Urumaya talk about the 13th Amendment. Sarath Fonseka has indicated that he would be ready to go beyond the 13th Amendment. I am not sure if Sarath Fonseka knows about the 13th Amendment and its provisions. Sometime back Sarath Fonseka almost reiterating what Hela Urumaya and Jathika Chintanaya pundits say stated that Sri Lanka was a Sinhala Buddhist country and the minorities should accept their position without demanding what they were not entitled to. Even if we assume that Sarath Fonseka has now changed his position, two issues may be raised. First, if he is going abolish the executive presidential system, how and in what capacity does he propose to implement the 13th Amendment fully? Secondly, in the past, the JVP vehemently opposed any kind of power-sharing arrangement. In that case, how would the JVP support Sarath Fonseka if this is included in his election manifesto as he cannot have one for the JVP and one for Mano Ganeshan?

3. Neo-Liberal Economic Policies

The conclusion of armed conflict in May 2009 has created an enabling space for Sri Lanka to move forward to overcome economic underdevelopment. Although world economy is now going through a recession, the growth forecast of the economies in the region are not that bleak. The epicenter of the world economy is now gradually moving towards the countries of the Indian Ocean. The satisfactory growth performance of India and China even in the period of world recession shows in what direction Sri Lanka should turn to develop its economy. In that sense, I think the foreign policy orientation of the present government is essentially correct. However, economic growth and development do not solely depend on world situation; it needs correct economic policies that give priority to growth-augmented economic activities. When Fonseka was asked about his economic programme, his reply was that he was not ready to answer that question and he would seek assistance from the UNP on that issue. The economic policies of the UNP under Ranil Wickremesinghe are disastrous and oriented towards the whims and fancies of merchant capital. His ‘Regaining Sri Lanka’ programme was based on extreme version of neo-liberal economics and no country in the world was able to achieve economic development by following economic prescriptions of neo-liberal economics. This once again raises a second question. Can this economic programme be a common programme of a common candidate? Will JVP stand for infamous ‘Regaining Sri Lanka’?

I wish to make final remark. Fonseka is confused on almost all the issues for which country needs immediate and clear answers. His statements are fundamentally contradictory. What would be the outcome? He would finally capitulate to the UNP and its Western masters.

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