So now that it is more or less confirmed that the General will be running in the presidential election to be held next year, we responsible voters (yes, ha ha) should ask ourselves the question; What will Sarath Do? if he gets into power.
My sentiments on Sarath so far are largely expressed in Indi’s post here. The more I read about him i too find him less and less attractive as a potential president. He comes across as a whiner for privileges and a man even more ideologically removed than the current establishment. DBS Jeyaraj has an (almost too) lengthy analysis of the general here, it may come across as somewhat biased but it is not hard to form a general impression of the general (congrats if you noticed a pun) by reading one of his personal interviews.
His assertions and pledges to bring back media freedom, ensure decent human rights and secure a future for the IDPs strike a hollow note to say the least; largely due to his words and deeds while the war was in full swing. Also, minorities will be hard pressed to hope for a ‘better future’ with the General after his careless remarks to the Canadian press which will no doubt be bandied about by the media quite openly in the campaign to come.
In the world of business, for a new entrant to be able to successfully dislodge entrenched competition, it should be able offer product benefits that are better than what its competition offers or offer benefits that are unique. In both cases the product must cater to unfulfilled needs of the market.
Sarath Fonseka’s track records on the issues of freedoms, human rights and the ethnic rifts have already been discussed. His economic and diplomatic experience is almost nil and he has so far avoided talking on the subjects openly. His brand promise largely relies on a perceived capability of being able to ‘remove’ corruption and nepotism from the political system of Sri Lanka. The popular perception is that only with the abolishment of the Executive Presidency will we truly progress down the path to a corruption free government. Victor Ivan talks about these phenomena as something that was ingrained into the very structure of our governance framework starting from J R Jayawardene’s constitutional amendment.
Abolishing the Executive Presidency is something the General, given his personality, is hardly likely to do. At least not within the timeframes of the conditions imposed (apparently a 180 days after coming into power). All previous promises by earlier contestants to change the constitution have always proven empty. There is no evidence that Sarath Fonseka will be any less power-hungry or any more altruistic than Chandrika or Mahinda. Indeed, all evidence of his Napoleonic ego points to an even more dictatorial bent.
Mahinda, so far has proven himself adept at making quick decisions and sticking to them. But economically, he is yet to prove his mettle. He had savvy advisors during the war but questions are being asked if those same advisors are appropriate for a post war Sri Lanka. The main points of contention any successful challenger to the incumbent can have therefore concern corruption and better economic management. The vast majority do not really care about devolution and other issues more popular among the intelligentsia. Sarath Fonseka however, does not possess the credibility to be able to attack Mahinda on any of those lines detailed above.
Opposite of a Champion
The opposition alliance is fielding Sarath Fonseka simply because he is the strongest candidate available at the moment. But the President appears far stronger in the same areas that the General is strong in and has other strengths to boot, which the General does not appear capable of matching.
What they need to look at is bringing in a candidate capable of offering potential benefits to voters that the president has not shown capable of offering; things like equality, a genuine end to nepotism and corruption by serious structural reforms and most importantly strong and robust economic solutions.
But the opposition may not, as a matter of fact, have a better candidate. In which case the people will simply vote for Mahinda in the face of a lack of better choice, i don’t feel he is a particularly bad choice given our options anyway.
Rifts are emerging already in the fragile alliance with the JVP putting in and pulling out their two cents every now and then as they see fit, based on whatever inverted logic they work their policies on and, in latest news, Sarath Fonseka himself has expressed dissatisfaction on the agreement. Talk is also rife that the whole thing was a smokescreen cast by the UNP and that Ranil will run again as usual. Perhaps for one last time.