by Apsara Fonseka
Almost two weeks ago, after six whole months of illegal detention and many court cases, my father’s first court martial case convicted him of doing politics while in uniform.
I must say, this did not come as any surprise to us since we knew that the verdict was written by this regime a long time ago. We knew our father would be found guilty until proven innocent, not the other way around. But the fact that we were not even given a chance to argue the case in court was not something we expected. Many probably don’t know that the case was heard and closed without even having our lawyers present – we did not even have a chance to bring forth our evidence.
I heard the Defence Secretary has started to ‘clean up’ the army.
This is the reason he had given for dishonourably discharging my father. His comment made me wonder if it was the panel or his verdict that was handed out in court. His comment sounded as if he knew what the verdict would be at the end. Anyhow, I sincerely hope that he will not stop with the army with this ‘clean up’. I hope the other forces too will see this ‘cleaning’. Especially because if this verdict is true, he surely cannot forget the fact that the President Rajapaksa’s second son and his nephew too did politics while in uniform.
No one can forget the fact that Yoshitha went around with the ‘Blue Brigade’, campaigning for his father. I’m not saying that was wrong, but that was definitely doing politics while in uniform because as far as I know, he still is a navy officer and I don’t see a court martial in the horizon for him. Then again, there were some difference between Yoshitha and my father. Firstly, my father is not a Rajapaksa and secondly, my father retired from his position before he went on into politics. So given these confusing definitions and convictions, I’m guessing that the true meaning of doing politics in uniform lies in who is the final arbiter of the decision.
I’m very interested to see what the Defence Secretary’s thoughts would be on this.
Many, including personnel in the military are disgusted with this conviction. One respectable officer went on to say that it was sickening to hear such verdicts against the General. They seem to think that if this was done to the highest ranking officer in the army, what kind of a guarantee would they have? While some believe no good deed goes unpunished, some others seem to believe the best way to survive or to get promoted inside the military is to certainly do politics ‘while’ in uniform. It seems fair to consider so, because wasn’t that what happened during the presidential election? Didn’t several high-ranking officers come on national television to campaign for the President? Were they not promoted? Were they not given high positions in organisations?
I personally don’t understand why the government wants to accuse others when they themselves wanted to bring my father into politics. I remember in one incident, the President himself asked my father to participate in a political meeting held down South. I also remember my father very clearly saying that he will not get on any stage while he was still serving the forces.
On many other occasions, I know many more government officials came to our home, while my father was still the CDS and asked him if he would like to join the government and do politics. Even government officials working abroad flew in just to do so. However, my father’s answer remained the same. So, why blame my father for coming in to politics when they clearly wanted him to join in the first place? I guess the answer is simple – He didn’t join ‘them’.
My father’s reaction to this verdict was priceless. He showed no worry regarding it. When I asked if he was saddened by the verdict and if he felt as if all his efforts and sacrifices were in vain, he merely smiled and said that these little obstacles would not affect him. He said that although the government had the power to take away his ranks, they will never be able to take away the pride and happiness he felt every time he achieved them. He said that no matter who takes what away, they could never take the memories he built as an army officer and that there will never be any regrets for serving his country.
I personally have no worries about my father losing his ranks. Neither does any member of my family. In fact, I really don’t think any Sri Lankan really cares about this verdict. It was simply another drama created for the whole world to see. My father wrote history and that can never be stolen or erased. He marked his name. He has scars to prove his work. He neither begged nor did favours to get where he did. He believes that actions always speak louder than words and that is what brought him all the respect and honour.
He didn’t run away to another country when things became dangerous or when governments changed. He faced all obstacles that came his way and he held his head up high through it all. So, just because some person gave a verdict to make another person happy and for someone to feel superior and strong, people will always remember. He will always be remembered as the army commander who was able to architect a plan to finish a war. That fact will not change. As the people say, he will always be the General of the public. Nothing or no one can change that fact.
My family and I, with many other Sri Lankans, will always honour and respect my father for all he has done for the country. So, it doesn’t matter. History has already been written and my father’s efforts will always be remembered. There is no power that can take that away.
Many already know the final outcome. The government will try to convict him before the next parliament period if not earlier. They will then sentence him to jail with an extended time period and will make sure he loses his seat in parliament. This is to be expected.
What is not known is how the people will react.
I hope we will always fight for democracy for the sake of our future.
We have nothing left if we have no say, except, to remember Mahatma Gandhi’s words: “You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.”