|Sarath Fonseka’s Second War|
Given this setting, can the UNP and JVP which have diametrically opposite economic agendas come together to form a coalition under the leadership of Sarath Fonseka? Even if this happens, Fonseka with limited political credentials and no economic agenda of his own is unlikely to inspire public confidence.
Being an army man Fonseka must be in a defiant mood after his release. He must be raring to get back into the political act to vindicate himself and rally the opposition against Rajapaksa. But as man with sufficient military campaign experience, he will also know his options to successfully do so are very limited.
So it is safe to presume that his immediate efforts will be to get the existing case against him dropped; and that will cooperation from the government. Any rapprochement with Rajapaksa looks out of question. If at all it comes, it would be at Rajapaksa’s terms resulting in a big loss of face for the General; and politically, it would be suicidal for the General. He might be hoping to bring some international (meaning the U.S. and the EU) pressure. But can he count on this?
Now that he is out of the prison, what could inspire the U.S. and the EU to take up the rehabilitation of the General? If former U.S. ambassador to Colombo Patricia Butenis cable (courtesy Wikileaks) of January 2010 is any indication, the U.S. did not set great store on Fonseka to effectively take on President Rajapaksa even in the last parliamentary poll. As the political compulsion of elections is not there, the U.S. and its allies are likely to focus on issues much bigger than Fonseka’s immediate woes in their dialogues with Sri Lanka.
So we can expect a decent pause before Fonseka makes any major move. And even that would come after he gets the political pulse of his supporters, and opposition parties. As the General’s friend Tiran Alles said in an interview, "the government and the president knew that Fonseka would not keep quiet once he was out. But one day or another it had to happen. Now we will wait and see how things shape out. In politics it is difficult to predict the future, but in the light of all that has happened, it is tough to see Fonseka and Rajapakse call a truce. So we will rule that out." That almost sums up the present situation.
But it is equally difficult to predict when and how Fonseka will fire the first political salvo of his second war. If at all it comes through his second war is going to be tougher than the one he fought against the LTTE.
By Col R Hariharan
(Col. R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, served as the head of intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka 1987-90.He is associated with the South Asia Analysis Group and the Chennai Centre for China Studies. E- mail:firstname.lastname@example.org)