Tomorrow's election

Sri Lankans vote tomorrow at the sixth presidential election. The voter turn-out is expected to be high in most areas, though in the war-ravaged zone where people's priorities are different apathy seems to have set in. Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake himself told the media last week that he did not think the people in those parts of the country were keen to vote. However, all in all, the polls will be keenly contested.

Tomorrow's election is of unprecedented import. It is not only the first national election after the decimation of the LTTE but also the first electoral exercise in about thirty years, where people in all parts of the country will be able to exercise their franchise freely.

However, this election is not about abuse of power or corruption. Nor is it about questionable arms deals or ingratitude/treachery. It is all about Sri Lanka's democracy, stability and security.

Internationally, the LTTE rump is on the warpath and the western powers that made an abortive attempt to save Prabhakaran and other terrorist leaders last May have stepped up their war crimes witch hunt against Sri Lanka's political and military leaders whom they failed to tame. At home, the brave ground commanders who together with the rank and file fought eyeball to eyeball battles with terrorists in a hostile terrain for two and a half years continuously braving as they did bullets, gas attacks, mines and bombs and painstakingly made victory possible so that others could boast of it, have come under the threat of being victimised.

Opposition presidential candidate and former Army Commander Gen. (retd) Sarath Fonseka has vowed to court-martial those commanders for 'engaging in politics' in the event of his victory tomorrow. Ironically, what those valiant soldiers have been telling the State TV is identical to what Gen. Fonseka himself said in the immediate aftermath of the war. He was showering praise on the government leaders and vice versa! He also took on the Opposition politicians calling them names. He did not spare even Tamil Nadu politicians––quite rightly so; he called them a bunch of jokers. The JVP has admitted that Gen. Fonseka in his capacity as the Chief of Defence Staff had contacts with it and even consulted its leaders via telephone from the US on how to handle the attempt by the Department of Homeland Security to elicit information from him on the Defence Secretary!

Tomorrow's presidential polls will also be either a vote of confidence or a vote of no confidence on those who prosecuted the war, depending on how the majority of people vote. For, the two main political formations are identical to those we witnessed during the war––one that waged war against terrorism and the other that tried to scuttle it. And the outcome of this presidential contest will certainly have an impact on the war crimes witch hunt against Sri Lanka being carried out overseas.

Why do we say that this election is not about corruption, ingratitude etc? The government had no problems with Gen. Fonseka while he was in its good books. Then, he was the best army commander in the world, incapable of corrupt deals. On the other hand, it was President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who disregarded the so-called seniority list in the army, made Gen. Fonseka Army Commander and gave him extensions thereafter. But, today, the same government is painting a black picture of its hero!

Similarly, Gen. Fonseka was singing hosannas for the Rajapaksas ad nauseam until he fell from grace and decided to hang his boots. He kept on telling the State TV, while in uniform, that but for the courageous and outstanding leadership provided by President Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the war could not have been won. If he had had any problems with corruption, nepotism and abuse of power in the government ranks, he should have called it quits much earlier without waiting till November. He could have retired after Prabhakaran was killed and the war brought to an end. Or, he should have included corruption, family bandyism etc as some of the reasons for his decision to quit, in his letter of resignation submitted to the President. Instead, in that letter, he lamented that he as the CDS was without operational command and administrative authority over the tri forces. In other words, he resigned because he felt he was powerless. Any port in a storm, they say; he drifted towards the UNP and the JVP and is now in the presidential fray seeking self-aggrandisement like any other politician.

Yesterday, Fonseka proved that he did not give a tinker's damn about corruption and abuse of power and made a mockery of his campaign theme. He went all the way to Horagolla to secure former President Chandrika Kumaratunga's support! How could any genuine campaigner for good governance have her as an ally? Remember what the Supreme Court said on Oct. 08, 2008 about her, in its judgment on the Waters Edge land deal.

The Supreme Court declared that President Kumaratunga had failed in responsibility and abused her powers in directing the alienation of acquired State land at Battaramulla to Asia Golf Course (Pvt.) Ltd for the construction of a golf course for the elite. She, Ronnie Peiris and six other respondents were ordered to pay the two petitioners Rs. 500,000 each as costs. They were ordered to pay eight intervenient petitioners, the original owners of the land, Rs. 100,000 each as costs. Fonseka could not have been unaware of this stinking land deal and the SC ruling because he has on his side former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, who headed the bench which delivered that landmark judgment. Now he has both former CJ and CBK backing him! How can he expect the discerning people of this country to take his much-hyped campaign against corruption and abuse of power seriously? His problem will be to win in spite of Chandrika!

Finally, we believe that the intelligent people of this country will be able to see through campaign gimmicks, wiles and tricks of politicians of all hues and make a wise decision tomorrow so that the sinister forces hell bent on destroying this country will be kept at bay. This election, we repeat, is about Sri Lanka's democracy, stability and security.

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