Pots painting black pictures of kettles
Election campaigns in this country are usually characterised by vitriol, bile, venom and loathing. But, the present presidential hustings, where stakes are extremely high, have opened a new low in electoral politics. One's gorge rises at the unspeakably opprobrious vilification campaigns carried out by the government and the Opposition. Both sides seem to have taken the discerning public for a bunch of suckers who could be swayed by bilious ranting, romantic hooey and sheer humbug.
The government propagandists are firing barrages of allegations, one after the other, at Sarath Fonseka, the most serious being that he abused his position as the army commander to help his son-in-law do business with the army. National Freedom Front leader Wimal Weerawansa has challenged Fonseka for a public debate over the issue and vowed to produce documentary evidence. The Fonseka camp wants the government to take legal action against Fonseka and substantiate the charges, if it could, instead of hurling wild allegations.
The UNF-JVP combine is making all sorts of allegations against President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his family and the government. If we go by the Opposition propaganda, not a single block of land is there that does not belong to the Rajapaksas!
The question is why the government appointed Sarath Fonseka the army commander, bent over backwards to keep him in that post by giving him extensions in service and defending him to the hilt in the face of allegations of abductions, attacks on journalists and media institutions etc. It, on its own admission, granted all his wishes; the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa himself tells us that when Fonseka was offered ten perches of prime land in Colombo as a reward for his services, he did an Oliver Twist by demanding more and more until he got twenty five perches. If Fonseka had been helping his son-in-law put crooked deals through at the expense of the army and the public, the government should have lost no time in bringing the duo to book. Why did it wait until he threw his hat into the political ring to act?
We cannot but agree with the Fonseka camp that if Fonseka has done anything wrong, the government must take him to courts. In the alternative, we suggest, the government should substantiate allegations against him by producing documentary proof, if any, and present a list containing them to the people––duly signed by the President and other government top guns who are berating Fonseka.
Fonseka says he decided to run for the presidency because of, among other things, corruption within the government ranks. If so, why didn't he resign immediately after the war was over without accepting the CDS post under such a 'corrupt' government? He should also have mentioned in his letter of resignation the Rajapaksas’ corruption, abuse of power etc. as some of the reasons for his decision to hang his boots. But the main reason he gave for his resignation was that he had not been given operational command and administrative authority over the three armed forces. In other words, he would not have resigned, if the government had given him the powers he craved, and desisted from slighting him.
The Fonseka camp should practise what it preaches. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you! So, instead of casting aspersions from the political platform, it ought to furnish specific instances of bribery and corruption and prove its allegations against the government. Fonseka et al have access to the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC). They must move it against the Rajapaksas and the government. Or, let a list be prepared of those charges, duly signed by Fonseka and other leaders of the Opposition alliance and be presented to the people.
Making unsubstantiated allegations during elections amounts to an attempt to take the voting public for a ride. For, both the government and the Opposition forget them after the polls. A classic example is how Chandrika Kumaratunga conducted her election campaign in 1994. She promised to rid the country of dooshanaya and beeshanaya (corruption and violence) and got a mandate. She claimed she could subsidise bread and sell it at Rs. 3.50 a loaf with funds to be raised by selling the luxury vehicles that the UNP politicians had used and by eliminating waste, bribery and corruption.
That she reneged on all her promises goes without saying. The Supreme Court judgment on the Waters Edge land deal, which was declared illegal, is a monument to the blatant abuse of power, bribery and corruption and cronyism on her watch.
So much for allegations traded during election.