Fearless Fonny in fresh fight for people’s freedom

Wednesday, 3 April 2013 01:33 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  •  Calls on military to stop protecting corrupt regime
  • Former Army Chief hails party registration as a defining moment in democracy
  • Pledges new political culture of true public service via Democratic Party
  •  Calls for communal harmony, says Govt. fostering hate groups
  •  Says devolution must be acceptable to all people of the country

By Dharisha Bastians

More than three years after he made a bid for the presidency and 10 months after his release from prison, former Army Chief Sarath Fonseka yesterday inaugurated his political party under the symbol of the flaming torch, pledging to change Sri Lanka’s political culture and restore much-needed democracy.

The Elections Commission formally registered the former General’s Democratic Party on Monday after a long-drawn registration battle.Fonseka hailed the birth of the Democratic Party as a defining moment in Sri Lanka’s democracy.

“This has been a difficult journey. We have endured a presidential election, parliamentary elections, a prison term, suppression and setbacks. We never gave up,” the former Army Chief told journalists and party supporters at the Solis Hotel in Kotte last afternoon.

Fonseka contested the 2010 presidential election as the common opposition presidential candidate and allied with the JVP-led Democratic National Alliance to contest parliamentary elections held the same year. The then unregistered Democratic Party fielded two candidates at the General Election – MPs Arjuna Ranatunga and Tiran Alles – both of whom have since left Fonseka’s fold.

The former Army Commander credited with having defeated the LTTE hailed the contribution of Elections Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya for registering his party.

“It is one small step the Commissioner has taken for democracy. We hope he will have to the strength to face political challenges in the future and ensure free and fair elections,” he said.

Fonseka said the Democratic Party would contest all future elections as per the aspirations of the people, including the forthcoming provincial council polls. Fonseka himself cannot contest at polls having lost his civic rights by serving a jail term.

He said the doors of his party would be open to any politicians or parties that would work towards the political principles of the Democratic Party but declined to elaborate on whether his party would ally with other political parties at future elections.

According to the former General, any power sharing arrangement for the north and east must meet the aspirations of all people of the country.

“Devolution on paper will not resolve our problems. Any long-term solution must give all people in this country the sense that they have equal rights and protection. It is not merely the people of the north and east who must approve a power sharing deal but people of all parts of the island, who also need to feel secure. Insecurity in this regard could breed discord between ethnic groups and pave the way for a resurgence of conflict,” Fonseka explained.

Fonseka said that four years after the conclusion of the war, Sri Lankans were still waiting for the peace dividend that has not yet been delivered by the rulers.

“The situation in the country today is bleak. Democracy has been buried. The independence of the Judiciary has been destroyed. The rights of the people have been robbed. The lack of visionary leaders who concern themselves with the welfare of the public instead of amassing personal wealth is the cause of this dire situation,” he said.

Fonseka said the difference his party sought to make was the creation of a culture in which politicians served the people.

“Governments can come and go. If we don’t change the system, it is a repetition of the status quo. The system must be changed, so that whichever Government is in power, public-oriented policy stays the same.”

Fonseka called upon the military to refrain from protecting an unscrupulous Government. He said the military existed to safeguard the country’s Constitution and democracy. “Do not take arms against civilians and protesting groups to protect a corrupt regime,” he said.

The former Commander called for peace between communities and accused the Government of strengthening groups that were breeding discord between religious and ethnic groups. “The people of all races have a right to live in this country. There has to be religious freedom in this country,” he said.

The statement came despite a slight disturbance caused prior to the press conference when at least one Buddhist monk refused to be seated with other religious leaders. He was eventually offered a seat in the front row, separate from the other group.

Fonseka, who contested the 2010 presidential election, was incarcerated for over two years after being tried and found guilty in two separate cases. Fonseka was released from Welikada Prison on 21 May 2012, after President Mahinda Rajapaksa commuted his sentence.