Sarath Fonseka arrested by Sri Lankan military; to be court-martialed

Wednesday, February 10, 2010, 6:23
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General Sarath Fonseka, 59, former Army chief of Sri Lanka and the main contestant against President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the recent presidential election, has been arrested by the military on charges of fraud connected to his term in the armed services, which ended in November 2009.

Supporters of General Fonseka say he was taken away forcibly by heavily armed troops while he was meeting senior Opposition leaders at the office of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), or the People’s Liberation Front.

According to Lakshman Hulugalle, who is the director-general at the Sri Lanka military’s Media Centre for National Security, since General Fonseka committed all the offences when he was the Commander and the Chief of the Defence Staff, all of those charges will brought before the military court.

It may be noted that both General Fonseka and President Mahinda Rajapaksa were hailed as “war heroes” for having led the total defeat of the separatist Tamil outfit, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), thus ending over 25 years of civil war.

However, the two became enemies with Fonseka contesting against the incumbent President Rajapaksa in the election held on January 26, 2010, in which Rajapaksa won by an 18% margin.

After losing to Rajapaksa, General Fonseka had alleged rigging of votes and also a conspiracy to assassinate him after the votes were counted. The government, on its part, linked Fonseka to a post-election plot to kill Rajapaksa.

Meanwhile, Anoma Fonseka, the wife of General Sarath Fonseka, told a news conference at her residence in Colombo that her husband was “abducted” and was being treated “like an animal.”

Anoma Fonseka also accused President Rajapaksa of taking vengeance against Sarath Fonseka, who had led the army that inflicted a crushing blow to the rebel LTTE.

With tears in her eyes, she told reporters that her husband’s was not an arrest but an “abduction.”

“We always knew,” Anoma Fonseka said, “the government will try to arrest my husband, but we never thought that they will do it in such a disgusting manner.” “Is this the gratitude for a General who ended terrorism in the country,” a sobbing Anoma Fonseka asked.

Amnesty International, the leading human-rights organisation, has condemned the government of Sri Lanka for what it called the post-poll “crackdown on political opposition.”

Amnesty said the arrest of Sarath Fonseka is bound to intensify “post-election repression.”

In a statement, Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s director of the Asia-Pacific region, asked President Rajapaksa to “steer Sri Lanka toward a better human-rights record” after the ruthless vanquishing of the LTTE.

Sam Zarifi alleged that the government of Sri Lanka is showing “less and less tolerance” towards criticism.

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