Wednesday, 8 January 2014 00:00
Says there is no democracy, slams party politics
“As per the Constitution, I have not lost my civic rights,” says Sarath Fonseka, Leader of the Democratic Party and former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka.“But I don’t have to ask for pardon because according to the Constitution, I have not lost my civic rights. According to the Constitution, if somebody goes to jail, that person will only lose his civic rights if he completes the sentence. I did not complete the sentence. So let me be clear, as far as my civic rights are concerned, I am like any other citizen,” explains Fonseka.He further says that nothing in the country is moving in the right direction. “We can only see the ruler of the country taking the law into his hands. He thinks the country is his and his family’s private property. He is ignoring law and order, good conduct and everything else.”Following are excerpts from the interview:Q: What do you think about the present situation in the country?A: The situation is very sad. Nothing is moving in the right direction. We can only see the ruler of the country taking the law into his hands. He thinks the country is his and his family’s private property. He is ignoring law and order, good conduct and everything else. He talks about fake development and continues to cheat people. He is borrowing large amounts of money and plays out two-thirds of it. Day after day life is becoming difficult for people in this country except for a few who are the stooges of the ruler. These stooges live the life the way they want. Backdoor activities are taking place; unruly things are happening. There is nothing we can be happy about regarding this country.
They talk about two-thirds majority in Parliament; but have managed to cheat just little over four million people to remain in power. Ten million people have rejected this ruler and the Government. There is no professional approach, any workable solutions or practical solutions for the problems of the country. We can see the ruler is ruining the country and other people such as drug smugglers have taken over business and things are moving in their direction. They are trying to put people against each other. They are trying to divide the Cabinet. They are trying to create communal clashes and religious clashes. But despite all that, the ruler is surviving mainly due to the corrupt political atmosphere which prevails in the country.
"The first thing that needs to be done is to change the political culture in this country. We have to educate the people and get them to understand that what this country needs is sincere politicians who are not corrupt. Otherwise, as long as the present corrupt political culture remains in this country, corrupt politicians will come into powerThe battle of the ruling party and the main political party in the Opposition was to at least to safeguard the votes they had. They were uncertain whether they would be able to protect what they had. But our responsibility was to create a new voter base altogether. This was just four months after our party was registered. In the Central Province and North Western Province, we secured over 90,000 votes. This was a true victory for us and to achieve that we had to work really hardWe have decided to compete alone. We don’t go for coalitions. We are rejecting the present political culture. Other parties are surviving and accepting the present political culture. When we talk about the need of a new political culture, how can we go for a coalition with such parties? We don’t want to ally with corrupt politicians who have benefited from the present corrupt political cultureI may not have a long political career. I feel that makes me a better politician. If was involved in corrupt politics for the last 20 to 30 years, that would have been my biggest disadvantage. When I was the Army Commander I saw all the irregular, wrong and dirty things our politicians were doing. Therefore I am happy that I don’t have a long political career"Q: What needs to be done to correct this situation?A: As I have been saying, the first thing that needs to be done is to change the political culture in this country. We have to educate the people and get them to understand that what this country needs is sincere politicians who are not corrupt. Otherwise, as long as the present corrupt political culture remains in this country, corrupt politicians will come into power. These politicians are self-oriented and work only for their welfare. People need to understand this situation. After independence 65 years have gone and people have been played out by these politicians. They give false promises, they mislead the people altogether to remain in power. As a result the country is suffering. We have to change this political culture. It is people who have to do this. We can only tell them and educate them; but they are the ones who need to act. At least for the sake of the future generation, the adults will have to understand this situation and act accordingly. If correct people come into power and rule the country, everything will fall in line.
Q: This has been the main accusation of the Opposition for the past several years but during every election it proves that people still have faith in the Government. Do you agree? A: Party politics have been in practice for the last so many years in this country. There are two main fractions; the green and the blue. Those who call themselves blue have been voting for blue, regardless of whether Rajapaksa or the number one rogue in the world leads that party. They have become a little more popular than the green. It is a competition between these two parties. Whoever wins the competition will remain in power. People had no choice; they had to either vote for blue or green. I don’t see a difference in both the parties. When green was in power, there was no difference. The country was not developed. Unfortunately people don’t realise these things. Things are not happening the same way as in developed countries.
Q: What actions have you taken to take the country out of this situation? A:Only those who are in power can take action. Therefore to take action we have to come into power. But we have started educating people. We have had a large amount of meetings all over the country. We had over 100 meetings in the Central Province and North Western Province during the period prior to the provincial council elections. I was told that they had over 200 pocket meetings in these areas. We have already had 60 meetings in Uva, South and West on stage. We see the people are reciprocating. People now believe in us. We cannot expect things to happen overnight. It will take a while. My party was registered just nine months ago. But we clearly see that little by little people are starting to believe in us. We are the only way out.
We are trying to make a change in this country. For that we are ready to make any sacrifice. We are doing all these under immense threat and intimidation in an environment where there is no law and order. There is no democracy in this country. That is why we can’t even get a place to hold a meeting. They don’t give us permission to use loudspeakers.
We clearly spell out our policies and objectives; when we are on stage, we tell the people how the economy should be, how education should be and how the health sector should be. We don’t hesitate to criticise the wrong things the Government is doing. A drug container comes to the country carrying 260 kilos of drugs. Then the number two in the country send a letter to the Customs and says to release the container. Do you need any more evidence for the drug menace in this country? Number one in the country, when he met some powerful ministers and Parliamentarians at a party at the Speaker’s House, tells those people that if it was him, he would not have sent a letter but would have given verbal instructions instead. These are the type of rulers we talk about. This is the number one in the country; maybe they are all drug dealers. That is why we never see a drug dealer going to jail. A person who sells two grams of drugs will go to jail but never have we heard of a massive drug dealer imprisoned. Even when someone gets caught, there are so many people to protect them – politicians, clergy, Police officers, there are so many who come to their rescue.
Q: Are you accusing the President of safeguarding drug dealers? A: Yes. The ruler of this country is protecting these people. Those who are ruling this country are protecting the corrupt people. Corruption has become the order of the day. When the number one in the country is corrupt, what more can you expect? These are people who never had any money, who never had any property. Now they are the owners of thousands and thousands of acres of estates in the country. They own 100 to 200 perches of land in the most respected places in Colombo and the biggest houses in Colombo. They have the biggest bank accounts in this country. The number one is supposed to be the world’s ninth richest man. These are people who never had money.
It is high time people stand against these things. At least the media should highlight these things. Unfortunately the media today says nothing about the wrongdoings of the ruler or his Government. They rob, they rape, take commissions, engage in child abuse; they can do anything. The media never writes anything against them. But when an ordinary man does something unacceptable, the media goes to town with it.
Q: Your party performed extremely well during the last provincial council elections. What was the strategy behind this success? A: The battle of the ruling party and the main political party in the Opposition was to at least to safeguard the votes they had. They were uncertain whether they would be able to protect what they had. But our responsibility was to create a new voter base altogether. This was just four months after our party was registered. In the Central Province and North Western Province, we secured over 90,000 votes. This was a true victory for us and to achieve that we had to work really hard.
Most of the people even up to now do not know the name of my party; they do not know the symbol of my party. It is not an easy task to take the party name around, take the party symbol around. All our candidates were brand new; 90% of my candidates had not been in politics at all. Considering all this, we are very happy of what we have achieved. More than the number of Parliamentarians selected, we are happy about the votes we got. We know at least 90,000 people of those provinces had the courage to stand against this system. We are happy that these people were wise enough to understand that the existing political culture has to be changed. We are certain that things will be much improved when we come to the Western Province and Southern Province.
Q: Are you certain that people approve of your policies and principles? Don’t you feel people flock around you mainly due to the lack of an alternative? A: Obviously, if there was a better option, people will definitely go to him. If they are rejecting the Government and the political parties in the Government, if they are rejecting the powerful political parties in the Opposition, it means they prefer to come to me rather than remaining with them. But obviously if there is someone emerging who is better than me, people will go to him. I will also join that person. If there is someone who can do better than me, I don’t mind even joining them.
Q: Will you be competing alone at the forthcoming election or will you be contesting as a coalition? A: We have decided to compete alone. We don’t go for coalitions. We are rejecting the present political culture. Other parties are surviving and accepting the present political culture. When we talk about the need of a new political culture, how can we go for a coalition with such parties? We don’t want to ally with corrupt politicians who have benefited from the present corrupt political culture.
Q: Have you been already approached by other political parties to compete as a coalition? A: Some individuals of various parties have come to us and asked for the ticket to contest. We have already refused those requests. We know why they come to us; because they think they can survive here. These people are realising that there is a new voter base here. They are trying to benefit out of that. They don’t believe in a new political culture like us, they are only trying to survive using our symbol and party name. Therefore, we cannot accommodate such people.
Q: But when you compete alone, you will only be collecting the votes of the United National Party and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna. Such a situation will further weaken and divide the Opposition and strengthen the present Government. Do you agree? A:Let me explain what happened in Wayamba; it was the Government that lost three seats in Wayamba. The UNP did not lose any seats. If the JVP and the UNP is worried of another party getting popular in the Opposition, that is a different question. If those parties are worried, they must try to do better than us. But the JVP and UNP cannot say that it is their votes that we are getting. Obviously if we are gaining something, every other political party will lose something. At the same time there are 50% of votes which are not going to the Government or the UNP. At the general election the Government had 4.3 million votes and UNP has 2.3 million, that altogether is less than seven million. There are 14.4 million voters. So there are votes which are not going to the Government or the UNP. We cannot be building a new party and also at the same time think of the interests of other parties.
Q: What are your views about the present developments in the UNP?A: On principle I do not comment about the internal matters of political parties, especially in the Opposition. I don’t advocate criticising political parties in the Opposition. But we have realised that none of these parties have been able to take the country on the right path. The country has been moving backward compared to the rest of the countries in the world. These parties have to take the responsibility for that.
Q: Aren’t you troubled by the fact that you still do not have civic rights?A: I have civic rights as per the Constitution. If you read the Constitution properly, you can clearly see that I have not lost my civic rights. The Government may try to interpret it in a different way, but as per the Constitution if somebody goes to the jail, he will only lose his civic rights if he complete the sentence. I did not complete the sentence. So let me be clear, as far as my civic rights are concerned, I am like any other citizen.
They may say various things. They even say I have to ask pardon. I will never ask pardon from the present ruler. I am 100% sure he rigged the presidential election. He changed the results. He won the election with the help of some people, by intimidating some people. We will never go to him and ask for a pardon. It is a disgrace to go to a man like him. But I don’t have to ask for pardon because as per the Constitution, I have not lost my civic rights.
Of course they will try to get it misinterpreted as usual. Through the Attorney General’s Department they will even go to courts and get things misinterpreted. They said the military court martial was an acceptable court. But it is an administration body, which is there to correct discipline of a particular department. Two judgments were given before; with a nine judge bench saying a court martial is not a court. In India they have said it is not a court.
Q: Do you think you are politically mature enough to challenge the President? A: I challenged him successfully last time. In this country a politician is similar to a crook. To be a good politician, you have to say one thing and do something else. If you are honourable, you are not a mature politician. If you do what you say, you are not a mature politician. But in other countries, generals have contested and they have won. A scientist contested in India and he won. They were not mature politicians. When Mrs. Bandaranaike first contested, she was not involved in politics. She won and people still believe she was a great leader.
I may not have a long political career. I feel that makes me a better politician. If was involved in corrupt politics for the last 20 to 30 years, that would have been my biggest disadvantage. When I was the Army Commander I saw all the irregular, wrong and dirty things our politicians were doing. Therefore I am happy that I don’t have a long political career.
Q: Do you feel your life is still under threat?A: Yes, my life is definitely under threat. Those who threatened me are still in power. People who threatened to put me in jail, who said they will hang me, are still ruling this country. They do not provide me proper security. They are not allowing me to select the people of my choice for my security. When I wanted the military, they gave me security from the Police. Especially the numbers are not sufficient. They don’t even provide me enough fuel. They have given 17 people and only one vehicle. How can 17 people go in one vehicle? That is the way they do things in this country. They are unable to provide security for one person, but claim they have won the war.