Time was when the UPFA leaders used to praise former Army Chief Gen. Sarath Fonseka to high heavens. He was even called the best army commander in the world and they pandered to all his whims and fancies! During the war and in its immediate aftermath, Gen. Fonseka also showered accolades on President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabhaya. The general said the war would not have been won but for the Rajapaksa duo. But, it took only a few months for them to contradict themselves and hurl abuse at one another. No sooner had Gen. Fonseka made known his political ambitions than the Rajapaksa brothers trained their guns on him and vice versa. They washed a great deal of dirty linen in public. The rest is history.
The UNP and its allies which publicly claimed that any idiot could make war and Gen. Fonseka was not fit to lead even the Salvation Army finally threw in their lot with him and made him out to be a political messiah of sorts. They wanted him elected President. Only Gen. Fonseka, we were told, could liberate us from the clutches of the `corrupt Rajapaksa` regime and `save` democracy. The UNP endorsed Gen. Fonseka`s candidature at a convention.
Thus, the UNP`s official position was that Gen. Fonseka was fit to lead the country, the implication being that it considered him a better leader than Ranil Wickremesinghe, who lacked the courage to take on President Rajapaksa in the presidential race. After the January polls, the UNP publicly supported Gen. Fonseka`s claim that he had won but President Rajapaksa had secured a second term by fraudulent means. What a hullabaloo the UNP-led Opposition made! It staged street protests and held a public rally in Colombo against the presidential polls results.
But, today, the UNP tells us that Gen. Fonseka is not fit to be the Leader of the Opposition! UNP Spokesman Gayantha Karunathilake has, as we reported yesterday, dismissed as a joke the JVP`s claim that Gen. Fonseka deserves the post of Opposition Leader. Karunathilake and others of his ilk may argue that Fonseka, who has entered Parliament by polling 98,456 preferential votes at the recently concluded parliamentary election from a party (DNA) that obtained only a handful of seats, is not qualified to rival Wickremesinghe, who received 230,957 preferential votes in the Colombo District and whose party has obtained about ten times the number of DNA`s seats.
As for the Opposition Leader`s post, the JVP is entitled to its opinion and the UNP to its. Expedience made them strange bedfellows a few moons ago and together they made a cat`s paw of Gen. Fonseka to oust President Rajapaksa but their campaign came a cropper. Today, they have fallen out and are fighting among themselves. That is the way with all political marriages of convenience. They do not last long. What befell the UPFA-JVP alliance cobbled together in 2004 is also a case in point.
But, it is intriguing that the UNP which claims Gen. Fonseka won the presidential election says in the same breath he is not qualified to be the Opposition Leader. How could the UNP reconcile these two contradictory claims? If Gen. Fonseka is the hero the UNP made him out to be before and after the Presidential Election, it cannot justify its refusal to let him take over as the Opposition Leader.
President Rajapaksa is said to have had sleepless nights before the Presidential Election because of Gen. Fonseka, who was trying to take his job, and today UNP leader Wickremesinghe, who derived a lot of perverse pleasure at that time finds himself in the same predicament. He is hoist with his own petard. This time around, it is his job that is at stake because of the ambitious general! The shoe is manifestly on the other foot!