The former Sri Lankan commander formally announced his political ambitions in his news conference.
The commander turned politician, retired General Sarath Fonseka at his debut news conference here on Sunday said that he took a plunge into politics as Sri Lanka needs a `leader to re-establish democracy to end the family rule of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’ and he along with the parties that have come out in his support would endeavour towards a society where every one would be treated equally.
At the 90 minute interactive session in response to a question on 13th Constitutional Amendment, which came after the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord, pertaining to devolution of powers to provinces the retired General was of the view that since it was the by-product of `certain circumstances, the Amendment and issues related to it needed a re a re-look in the present context.
Gen. (retd) Fonseka appears to have deliberately kept his answer vague on the contentious subject as the two main opposition parties propping him up have diametrically opposite views on the subject.
The United National Party (UNP) led by former Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe wants what is known as 13th Amendment plus, meaningful full implementation of the provisions of the Amendment with further improvement in the powers to the provinces. However, the Janatha Vimukthi Perumana (JVP) is totally opposed to the Amendment and wants it be scrapped on the ground that it has been imposed by India.
Barring the LTTE most of the Tamil parties have been campaigning for full and faithful implementation of the 13th Amendment. Their grouse with successive Governments in Colombo is that twenty years after it has become part of the Constitution, the Amendment is a dead letter in spirit.
President Rajapaksa is committed to implementation of the 13th Amendment and during his first term appointed a multi-ethnic experts committee along with constitution of an All Parties Representative Committee (APRC) to give him recommendations to enable him forge consensus among all parties for resolution of the ethnic conflict.
The experts committee gave two separate reports to Mr. Rajapaksa. Majority of the members were in favour of faithful implementation of the 13th Amendment. However, it was not acceptable to the JVP which was than a constituent of the ruling combine and the party walked out of the APRC in protest against the majority multi-ethnic experts committee.
Under the Indo-Sri Lankan Accord of July 1987 — and the resulting 13th amendment to the constitution — the Government of Sri Lanka agreed to devolve some authority to the provinces. Provincial councils are directly elected for five5-year terms. The leader of the council majority serves as the province's Chief Minister with a board of ministers; a provincial governor is appointed by the president.
The Provincial Councils have full statute making power with respect to the Provincial Council List, and shared statute making power respect to the Concurrent List. While all matters set out in the Reserved List are under the central government.
Besides the 13th Amendment Gen. (retd) fielded a number of questions on a range of subjects from his differences with President Rajapaksa, his US Green Card status, corruption charges against his family members to the demands from sections within and outside the island nation for a commission to probe into the alleged human rights violations during the 32 month Eelam War IV.
Donned in Sri Lankan national dress, a smiling Mr. Fonseka entered into packed press conference hall and greeted the media personnel with folded hands and headed straight to the podium. None of the prominent leaders of the parties that have extended their support to his Presidential aspirations were present on the occasion.
After a lengthy introductory note, first in Sinhala and then in English, on the reasons that have propelled him into the centre stage of national politics the retired General said he was available for questions for the next 45 minutes. And questions flew from all directions.
Sarath Fonseka however still has to decide the name of the party under which he will file his Presidential nomination. In response to a question he did say that the likely symbol would be ‘swan’.
In his remarks Gen. (retd) Fonseka said that prevalent executive Presidency is the root of all problems faced by the island nation and said he and those who were behind him were committed to its abolition within six months of his coming to power. However, when questioned how he would exactly go about the job the former Army Chief was vague and said that the details were still being finalised.
He said that he had no personal agenda but he ‘cannot keep quiet and witness the negative and destructive things happening in the political arena of the country’. To preserve and consolidate the democracy, he wanted to contribute his part. Asked as to why the voters should believe him and not President Rajapaksa, the former militarily merely said, “Let them listen to him as well as me and decide”.
On his controversial remarks to a section of the media in 2008 that Sri Lanka belonged to Sinhalese the former Army Chief said that he was misquoted and maintained any solution to the ethnic conflict should be acceptable to all stake holders. In response to a question on his criticism of Ranil Wickremesinghe for the 2002 Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) and remarks made by former Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, who is now one of his ardent supporters, dubbing Gen. Fonseka as a `racist’, the former Army Chief said, “I would not like to into past. We have to look at the future”.
He also at pains to emphasise that it was the soldiers who are real war heroes and said that that the victorious war that he waged in the last three years was not against any community but against terrorists. People, he said were the victims of the war and now it is duty of every one to protect them.
On 13th Amendment, which came after the 1987 Indo-Lanka Accord, Sarath Fonseka was of the view that it was introduced under different circumstances and needs to be amended in the present context and maintained any solution to the ethnic conflict should be acceptable to all stake holders.
The man who shed his uniform over two weeks ago hit out at President Rajapaksa on the ground that he has turned the Presidency into his personnel fiefdom involving his family and was running the country like a dictator.