Perhaps the saddest aspect of the campaign for General Fonseka was the complete absence of principle evinced by the vast majority of thinking persons who ended up supporting him. I was for instance astonished to find quondam intellectuals such as Dr Saravanamuttu and Jehan Perera pontificating in a manner that suggested they thought General Fonseka a potentially productive President. With regard to the former I was particularly disappointed because he had initially expressed some surprise at the idea of such a common candidate, and claimed that it was all Ranil Wickremesinghe’s fault for being so weak.
That was just before Christmas. But in the new year it became apparent that what might be termed the foreign funded wailing establishment had decided to put all its eggs into the Fonseka basket. This was the more bizarre, in that he had clearly shown that he was not going to follow the UNP line on issues on which the resignation letter originally drafted for him had tried to suggest a relatively enlightened approach, which the wailers might have claimed appealed to them. Instead of talking about Human Rights, as he had been told to, he stressed his own grievances, his disappointment that he was not permitted to expand the army inordinately and that the people in the Welfare Centres were being released prematurely, without sufficient security checking.
Some of the urban elite approach arose from what might be termed the lemming effect, their determination to rush headlong to destruction whenever the opportunity arises to turn their backs on the rest of the country. Thus they refused to ensure that Ranil Wickremesinghe compromised in 2004 with President Kumaratunga, when it was clear to everyone else that allowing him full authority was the surest way to ensure infiltration of the whole country by the LTTE. They then went along with his efforts to precipitate an early Presidential election, which enabled the poll to be held at a time when the country still remembered his mistakes and voted for a less indulgent policy towards terrorism.
Their voting for him in 2005 was more understandable than support in 2004, when he would have had to depend on LTTE surrogates for a parliamentary majority. A President after all has tremendous powers, and they would have hoped that he would – with his celebrated Western safety net, which he did not realize had been gnawed away by the Tiger elite abroad – be able to resist the division of the country.
This time round however they were willing, at his behest, to hand over power to someone whom they had excoriated the previous year as a racist and a thug. This may have been unfair on the General, but fairness has never mattered to lemmings, and so it was quite easy for them this time round to enthusiastically try to bestow massive powers on their erstwhile whipping post.
Even more ridiculously, they were quite happy to do this despite the evidence that the General was much more at home with the JVP than the UNP. Though the UNP tried later on to stamp its mark on the campaign, its ownership had been established early on by the JVP, and certainly the intense house to house campaigning that seemed to be making inroads into the President’s popularity was essentially a JVP effort.
One can understand that none of this mattered to the unthinking elite, who thought they had a chance to show their dislike of a government they felt did not give them the prominence they deserved. But it is bizarre that thinking people, the business community that needs stability, civil society that should care about pluralistic principles, should have fallen in with such a dangerous strategy.
Even worse, it looks like they also managed to take with them at least some elements in the international community that would otherwise, even if reluctantly, have accepted that, with terrorism vanquished, they should support the democratically elected government to promote resettlement and reconciliation, pluralism and prosperity. So the willingness to work with government in a positive spirit, which the United Nations has so hearteningly evinced recently, has been put on hold by some donors who still think that aid is a political tool to advance their own interests.
Of course one has to recognize that this is the purpose of all aid, and that one would be naïve to think that any country is altruistic. But generally countries realize that, to achieve their own interests, they have at least to be sensitive to the needs and desires of all those they are dealing with. Unfortunately, guided by their interlocutors in Colombo, those who should be advising their governments about how to promote mutual interests in cooperation have decided instead to engage in confrontation and efforts to undermine democracy.
We cannot forget the conviction that was being circulated in 2007 that regime change was imminent. We had tried to forget it, and for a year and more it seemed that, with new diplomats in Colombo who did not yearn for the Ghosts of Christmas Past, international interventionists had decided not to interfere too outrageously. But, when it comes to international relations, morality is only skin deep, and the last few months saw a resurgence of proconsular activity which was based on what seemed the scent of blood.
There are those who argue that this interference was in fact initiated abroad, and that it was not simply the effect of the chatter in the drawing rooms of Colombo. That is a theory that needs further exploration, especially in the context of the JVP involvement. But we cannot only blame foreigners, we need to consider too the role of our own alienated elite, who feed and are fed on fancies that can so easily translate into weapons of mass destruction.