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A week of conspiracies and clamp-down

world Updated: Feb 02, 2010 15:26 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
Sri Lanka

If allegations exchanged between the government and the opposition had come true, Colombo would have witnessed two military coups, the assassination of top Presidential candidates and general mayhem since last Tuesday.

Re-elected President Mahinda Rajapaksa alleged that defeated rival, former army chief, Sarath Fonseka, was planning a coup and, sitting inside the air-conditioned comfort of a hotel, had planned to assassinate him. Fonseka returned the complement, alleging that post-election he was to be arrested and killed by the government.

Nothing of that sort happened. There’s not been any violence in Colombo either. After last Wednesday’s five-star drama where grim military personnel in gas masks surrounded Fonseka in a plush hotel while pianos played love songs in the lobby and posh cars rolled in and out of a wedding reception, Colombo quietly returned to normalcy; no more stocking up food and army personnel knocking at your door for ``your own protection.’’

But a clampdown on those perceived to have favoured Fonseka seems to be on. Rajapaksa it seems thinks that Fonseka could still be up to some mischief.

On Monday, he sacked dozen military officers, including three major generals, who apparently were a ``direct threat to national security’’. An undisclosed number were sent on compulsory retirement. ``What we have just witnessed is the biggest single shake up in the army," a top official told AFP, adding that it was coupled with drastic changes in key positions. A few senior government officials have also resigned following tacit official pressure because they were seen as Fonseka supporters.

Rights monitor Amnesty International urged Sri Lanka on Tuesday to end what it described as a post-presidential election “clampdown” on the media, political opponents and human rights activists.

The Fonseka camp on its part has failed to substantiate allegations of electoral fraud. It now seems that the opposition is reluctantly coming around to accepting defeat.

In this scenario, Rajapaksa could do well be seen as magnanimous in victory; it would be good for Sri Lanka and its currently beleaguered institutions like the army and bureaucracy.