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Fonseka’s first day in custody

world Updated: Feb 09, 2010 23:51 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
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Some fresh clothes, an inhaler and a lawyer. That’s all Anoma Fonseka could take when she went to meet her husband,

Lankan president dissolves Parliament

Riding high on the victory in the just-concluded Presidential polls, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Tuesday dissolved the country’s parliament, paving the way for conduct of general elections two months ahead of schedule.

Rajapaksa signed a decree dissolving the Parliament with effect from midnight on Tuesday.

The move thus paves the way for conduct of general elections two months ahead of the schedule. The tenure of the dissolved Parliament ends in April.

former army chief Sarath Fonseka, in custody on Tuesday evening, nearly a day after he was unceremoniously dragged away to an undisclosed location by military police.

“His nephew was asked to stand outside as she and the lawyer met him,’’ a family member told HT. “We had desperately faxed appeals for help to the United Nations, UNHCR and the International Committee for the Red Cross all through the day,’’ the family member said.

The beleaguered general could also do with some explanation. Fonseka, who lost to incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa in last month’s Presidential poll, was meeting opposition allies in his office on Monday night when military police personnel barged in and whisked him away for committing “military offences.’’

On Tuesday, it was explained to the media that Fonseka was arrested under the Military Act 57 (1) where even a retired military officer could be taken into custody if he had divulged military secrets or acted against the government while in service, defence spokesperson, minister Keheliya Rambukwella said.

He said Fonseka was arrested on Monday as investigation into his conduct was launched only after he retired from military service in November.

Rambukwella said Fonseka was meeting politicians while in service and divulged information on issues discussed at the security council — Lanka’s top security-related body — to them. “He was meeting people working against the government. We are now collecting evidence people are giving us.’’

“The next step is the ‘summary of evidence’. Following which the evidence will be referred to the Attorney General’s (AG) office. The AG’s office will take the decision whether the general could face court-martial or not,’’ military spokesperson, Major General Prasad Samarasinghe said. Certain offences in the Military Act carry the death sentence, he said, adding that if convicted, Fonseka could appeal to a civil court against the decision.

But did Fonseka plan to assassinate President Mahinda Rajapaksa and stage a military coup as earlier alleged by the government?

There were no clear answers. “How can we say? We are still collecting evidence. What we can clearly say is that there is enough evidence (that he was involved in anti-national activities),’’ Rambukwella said.

The opposition, meanwhile, is gearing up to launch a country-wide campaign on Wednesday to protest Fonseka’s arrest. Opposition leader, Ranil Wickeremesinghe, said the arrest was illegal and against democracy, the nation’s constitution and the rule of law.