Last week the rumour mills went into over-drive with speculation that the Chief of Defense Staff, General Sarath Fonseka, would be throwing his hat into his ring at the presidential election. People were analyzing the speech he made at a Buddhist temple in the USA and snippets of the speech were being emailed around. The Leader of the Opposition went on TV saying that the government was running scared of Sarath Fonseka and Sarath N.Silva.
Ranil Wickremesinghe was thereby accepting publicly the fact that while the government was scared of two men who had never been in politics in their lives, the government was not in the least scared of Wickremesinghe who had done nothing but politics all his life, and was leading the main opposition party. It is rarely that a politician passes such a telling indictment upon himself
Wickremesinghe is obviously waiting for a third contender who will be able to split the vote of the Rajapaksa camp thus giving him a chance at the polls. But who will be the third candidate? If he comes forward, Sarath N.Silva will be only an ‘also ran’ and will not be able to make any impact on the electorate which is why the entire focus was on a war hero But then the war hero everybody is talking about is still a serving officer in the armed forces.
If he is to contest an election, he will have to resign from the armed forces first. The provisions of the Chief of Defence Staff Act No: 35 of 2009 became fully operational by the Gazette notification 1609/21 issued by the president on July 10, 2009. According to article 3(3) of the Chief of Defence Staff Act, the CDS may at any time resign from his position by letter addressed to the president.
However, according to article 3(4) the resignation of the CDS will not take effect until the president accepts the resignation in writing. The question is, what if the president does not accept the resignation, or sends the letter accepting the resignation only after nomination day? The rule that binds all armed forces personnel is that you can join voluntarily, but cannot leave as and when you want. According to the CDS Act, the president has the discretion to accept the resignation of the CDS or not.
Past experience has shown that when it comes to power play, the Rajapaksa regime has a tendency to quote the law. When Janaka Perera contested the North Central Provincial Council election, the powers that be, became suddenly very bureaucratic and quoting the election laws, tried to give Perera only the security that every other PC candidate was entitled to and nothing else! Perera had to go to court to obtain extra security.
In this case, too when the law clearly states that the CDS cannot resign unless that resignation is accepted by the president, it is extremely unlikely that the powers that be will not use the law to pre-empt a challenge. Serving military officers cannot contest elections. Hence all this speculation is uncalled for. We have to wait for Nov. 15 until the announcement of an election is made at the SLFP convention. Then we have to wait and see who will be legally in a position to hand in nominations before the end of the deadline. edited story of island.lk