How do you reassure supporters of your beaten electoral opponent, especially if many of them hail from a minority that you have vowed to help reintegrate into society, that their voice will get a sympathetic hearing? Presumably not by having the army drag him out of a meeting with supporters just two weeks after you vanquished him.
Yet this is, according to reports, what recently re-elected Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa has just done to General Sarath Fonseka:
‘The general is believed to have been arrested in relation to an alleged coup plot against Presidential Mahinda Rajapaksa, but a military statement issued last night said he had been taken into “military custody” in connection with “certain fraudulent acts and other military offences committed by him.”
‘A military spokesman said “military investigations” were continuing and that a detailed statement will be issued later. He is expected to face a court martial trial.
‘Opposition leaders have denounced General Fonseka’s arrest as a “brutal, armed kidnapping” in which he and other opposition leaders were physically assaulted by an army major-general.
‘”There was no decorum. To call it an arrest gives dignity and legality to what was a brutal abduction. He was beaten, dragged along the floor and bundled into a van,” said his presidential campaign spokesman, Mangala Samaraweera.’
Now it’s possible that Fonseka does have a case to answer. But the manner of his arrest, and coming just ahead of parliamentary elections, does not inspire confidence that Rajapaksa is interested is looking to reconcile differences. And the fact that he has just dissolved parliament early for said elections suggests his main motivation is pressing his political advantage.
And the president does, sadly, have form in lack of good grace after victory. After defeating the Tamil Tigers, some had hoped–and many urged–Rajapaksa reach out to the Tamil minority after years of bloody civil war. Yet instead he engaged in unpleasant grandstanding, failing to seize the initiative and leaving tens of thousands of refugees in camps.