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Fonseka skips court martial proceedings for Parliament session

Sri Lanka's detained ex-army chief and opposition MP Sarath Fonseka today skipped proceedings of a court martial trying him on charges of indulging in illegal defence deals as he chose to attend the Parliament session, prompting the military court to seek an explanation from him.

world Updated: May 04, 2010 20:19 IST

Sri Lanka's detained ex-army chief and opposition MP Sarath Fonseka on Tuesday skipped proceedings of a court martial trying him on charges of indulging in illegal defence deals as he chose to attend the Parliament session, prompting the military court to seek an explanation from him.

Fonseka, 59, did not appear before the court martial panel as he was in Parliament which was debating the emergency regulations.

The military court asked Fonseka to explain his absence and why he did not seek its permission for attending the ongoing session of Parliament. The hearing was subsequently postponed for Wednesday.

According to the counsel for Fonseka, the permission was being sought for the purpose through a letter to Army Chief Jagath Jayasuriya, who said this matter should be referred to the court martial.

Since the court martial does not have a registered office or any facility for the same and is present only on the day of the hearing, it was told by Fonseka's counsel that it was not possible for the former army commander to seek approval directly, sources said.

"Fonseka could have met them (the court martial team) only on the day of the hearing and that way he could not have attended today's Parliament proceedings," the sources said.

Military spokesman Prasad Samarasinghe separately said the court martial will now meet on Wednesday.

Fonseka, who heads the seven-member opposition Democratic National Alliance (DNA), was elected from the Colombo district in the April 8 Parliamentary elections.

Prior to Tuesday's Parliament session, the party leaders discussed the issue of Fonseka's presence in the House and referred the matter to Speaker.

Fonseka's counsel has maintained that the retired General would not be able to attend the court martial proceedings tomorrow as well due to the Parliamentary debate.

"Parliamentary proceedings take precedence over the court martial hearing," sources said.

They said an oral permission was sought for Fonseka's absence from the court martial proceedings on Wednesday but his lawyers, who were told that a formal letter was required.

Fonseka was arrested by the military police on February 8, 2010 and is being detained at the Naval headquarters in Colombo.

Sri Lanka's court of appeal on Monday suspended another court martial trying Fonseka for allegedly indulging in politics while in uniform until May 21 so that a decision could be made on the validity of the legal proceedings against the detained former army chief.