Who’s Sri Lanka’s man of the year?
The ineffectual protester Wimal Weerawansa, the tree-loving lateral thinker Mervyn Silva, the determined Ranil Wickremesinghe who’s not willing to give up, jailed former war hero Sarath Fonseka or his permanently on the run son-in-law, Danuna Tilekeratne?
Does journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda who disappeared without a trace in January deserve a mention?
(And, I’m depending on the state media to honour the Rajapaksa family.)
For the perception of being the country’s most famous political prisoner, even if not its prisoner of conscience, I’m partial to Fonseka.
Close competition, Tamil journalist JS Tissainayagam, was let out earlier this year, not only from jail but also country.
Fonseka’s incarceration was 2010’s classic political story. He was partly charged with something unheard-of here, a crime without precedence -- corruption fuelled by nepotism.
Though I miserably failed to spot any familiar irony, in Fonseka’s case it was apparently his blind love for son-in-law Danuna that spelt doom.
Anyway, a military court wasn’t too happy with Fonseka’s loving side and recommended a 30-month solitary detention therapy to help him snap out of it. Close friend turned sulking foe, President Mahinda Rajapaksa quickly endorsed. And, Fonseka, who was in military custody since February was marched off to jail from an apartment in Navy headquarters in October.
Till the jail term begun, MP Fonseka spoke to whoever cared to listen in Parliament about his political plight and punishment. The interaction has stopped; he only steps out to fight ongoing civil cases. Wife Anoma meets him once a month.
Till last heard, Fonseka had survived a leaking roof, mosquitoes, a life without a treadmill and a brief hospitalisation in November.
Tamils overwhelmingly voted for him in the Presidential election though many in the community believe that, as army chief, he was also to blame for alleged atrocities against civilians. Many in Colombo believe that he was responsible for attacks on critics and journalists. In spite of these perceptions, he was assumed to be better than his competition by the same people.
Danuna is a close third in the list for hoodwinking the police for a year. But Eknaligoda is way ahead of both for showing us how justice could be hoodwinked for a lifetime.