Sarath Fonseka, crossing a river I think.
The Mahavamsa (a history of Sri Lanka) is full of conflicts between generals and kings. Usually, the more bloodthirsty and unscrupulous would win. Our current (elected) ruler Mahinda Rajapaksa has had his own general conflicts, namely with one Sarath Fonseka. In the old days Fonseka would have staged a coup, as in literally try to cut of Mahinda’s head, and Mahinda would – if that failed – tie him to four elephants and split his parts asunder. Can’t do that shit anymore. Instead Fonseka ran for office and lost and Mahinda tossed him in jail.
Nowadays there are pressures on leaders to not behave like brutes, and Sri Lankan power, in general, transitions peacefully. At various points the Bandaranaike and Jayawardena families have had near absolute power which was not nearly as absolute as they thought. Premadasa is one counter example that ended with a bomb, but even he served at the mercy of significant democratic pressure. All this is good, and it’s why neither Fonseka nor Mahinda is dead and why the country is not a mess. This is how such conflicts used to go down:
Thereupon the powerful general Kitti had the eyes of this king put out, deposed him and had the government carried on for three years without mishap by Lilavati, the first mahesi of the sovereign Parakkamabahu.
Thereupon King Sahasamalla of the race of Okkaka, a lion in courage, carried on the government for two years. Then having deposed this Monarch, the general Ayasmanta, a man of almost unsurpassable courage, a supporter of his royal family, prudently had the government carried on with wise policy for six months by Kalyanavati, the first mahesi of Kittinissanka…
Thereupon there reigned for one year a royal prince Dhammasoka by name, who on coming to the throne was aged three months. The Mahadipada Anikanga came at the head of a great army from the Cola kingdom, slew the ruler in Pulatthinagara, Prince Dhammasoka, together with the general Ayasmanta and reigned seventeen days. But the general, Vikkantacamunakka, the villain, slew the Monarch Anikanga and had the government carried on for a year by the first consort of King Parakkamahihu, Lilavati by name, who had already reigned before.
Now came King Lokissara by name, who had been wounded in the shoulder by a spear, with a great Damila army from the opposite shore, brought the whole of Lanka under his sway and reigned, dwelling in Pulatthinagara, nine months. Hereupon the general Parakkama, the best among men of decision, endowed with great power and courage, belonging to the family of the Kalanagaras, consecrated the Mahesi Lilavati who came of the dynasty of the Sun and Moon, in the royal dignity, she who afterward shone in royal splendor. When then a space of about seven months had passed for the Mahesi, there landed with a great Pandu army from the Pandu kingdom the glorious Pandu King Parakkama, deposed the Queen and her general Parakkama and after he had cleared Lanka from the briers (of revolt), he ruled the realm in superb Pulatthinagara for three years, without transgressing the political precepts of Manu. (The Sixteen Kings, Culavamsa I think).
Power is not so unstable now, which is a good thing, because such jockeying only really happens in an extractive economy where average people are getting screwed and the strong are fighting over who gets the spoils.
My only wonder is what the play is now. In the Mahavamsa, every general conflict proceeds towards the same inevitable conclusion – either him or me. Get power or die trying. What we have here is a novel situation where the General is out, but stripped of his rank, his Parliament seat, possibly his civil rights and with his only shot being democratic rather than force. Yet an election is four or five years in the future. There have been kings stupid enough to take Generals back into military service, or to let them escape, but I’ve never read a situation where the General was out but so hampered by invisible fetters.
Mahinda has presumably planned this so that Fonseka is locked up while he locked power down and then out before he dies in jail (he’s in poor health, what from losing much of his innards in the war). So now Fonseka is out and criticizing the government, but power has already been consolidated and he looks to be tied up in court cases for the rest of his life. But, as with any reading of the Mahavamsa, you never know. Power is more predictable than before, but it’s still not predictable. So I guess we’ll see.