Sri Lanka’s war winning army chief says ready to take presidency


Sri Lanka’s war winning army chief, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka said if the majority in the parliament accepts, he is ready to take up presidency and he wants a change in the current political system.

Fonseka, who oversaw the island nation militarily defeating Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), made a foiled attempt in 2010 for the presidency against his commander-in-chief and then president Mahinda Rajapaksa, the elder brother of resigned leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa, fled the country early this week.

Sri Lanka is in a political turmoil after tens of thousands of youth-led protesters forced the Rajapaksa dynasty out of power citing their wrong policy decisions that dragged the country into an unprecedented political crisis.

Fonseka has already seconded the presidential nomination of Sajith Premadasa, the leader of opposition and Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB). But the 71-year old five-star ranked celebrated military leader said he is ready to accept the most powerful position in the country.

“By that, I do not mean that I will change parties to get the position. Majority of the parliament means acceptance from the government party and the opposition,” Fonseka told reporters at a media briefing held on July 14.

Sri Lanka is going through its worst economic and political crisis in history. The protesters, frustrated by the inaction by the government. had pushed the country into instability.

Protesters after a 92-day protest on Saturday (09) stormed into the President’s official residence. Rajapaksa by then had fled the house. Later they occupied the presidential secretariat, prime minister’s official residence and office. The protests, analysts say, have started to give a wrong message to the public, threatening the parliament’s democracy and people’s freedom of expression.

Fonseka is one of the two legislators who was not attacked by the protesters when they visited the protest site.

Fonseka said, if the responsibility of the President is given to him, he is confident of handling the current crisis situation, which he believes “is not an impossible” issue to overcome.

“I will definitely listen to the general public if I get the presidential post,” Fonseka said.

“When I became the army commander, the government did not like it as well as some generals. but I did not think about it. I knew if I did it right then I would last otherwise I would have to go home.”

“I am confident. I don’t see the current issue as a big impossible difficult issue. I am sure I can win this

Fonseka, populour for his aggressive straight forward comments even about his own party leader, is a populour leader among Majority Sinhala Buddhists. He won the 2010 parliamentary polls while he was jailed for politicking in uniform.

He criticized his own party leaders like Ranil Wickremesinghe, the current acting president, as well Premadasa.

He said he already gets invitations from the government party Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) to nominate him for the Prime Minister post.

“However I have not accepted them,” Fonseka said.

When asked about why the proposal to nominate SJB leader Premadasa was seconded by him, Fonseka said, it was done because it was the choice of the party to nominate the party’s leader to the position.

“It was not because it is Sajith Premadsa that I seconded the proposal, but it was proposed that the party leader should be nominated and everyone was asked to confirm it and it was done as a tradition.”

“There were opinions about whether we can win or not,” Fonseka said.

“Many politicians call me these days from other parties. Even from SLPP as well. All of them say the same thing and that is capable people should come forward. And that is the opinion from some politicians on both sides.”

Political analysts say public acceptance for another military leader as the president of Sri Lanka after Rajapaksa’s failure would not be there as much as in the past.

Fonseka said his party leader Premadasa should see the reality.

“If Sajith wants to continue then he should understand this reality as well. If that happens, he will have a future.”

“We all have a personality and an image we build for ourselves. I and Sajith have a different one and so on. Everyone thinks they are capable. We have an issue like that as well.”