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Front row seat for Fonseka in Lankan Parliament

world Updated: Apr 22, 2010 16:18 IST

Detained ex-army chief Sarath Fonseka is among those newly-elected opposition MPs who will be allocated front row seats in Sri Lanka's Parliament which meets for its inaugural session on April 22.

59-year-old Fonseka, who is being held at the Naval headquarters here since his arrest on February 8, will be given a front row seat on the Opposition benches when the new MPs assemble in the 225-member Parliament for the first time on Thursday, The Sunday Times reported.

The former top General was elected from Colombo district as a candidate of the Marxist JVP-dominated opposition Democratic National Alliance (DNA), which he also heads.

This will entitle Fonseka -- who is being court-martialled on charges of indulging in politics and illegal defence deals while in uniform -- for a front row seat along with other senior members in the Opposition, the report said.

However, it is not known whether Fonseka will be allowed to attend the opening session of Parliament. His alliance leaders have also expressed doubts over the authorities' intentions in this regard.

Despite DNA securing only five seats in the April 8 Parliamentary polls, a senior leader of the alliance said Fonseka is the most suitable person to be appointed as the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament.

"You are well aware of the state of the opposition for the past 14 years. We believe that new life must be infused into the opposition. The opposition should have a national leadership.

"I think that General Sarath Fonseka possesses plenty of qualifications for the job," Anura Kumara Dissanayake was quoted as saying by Newsfirst.

Another DNA leader Sarath Manamendra sought a secret ballot among the opposition MPs to decide the Opposition Leader's post, it said.

"We request a secret ballot to be held among Parliamentarians in the Opposition. If it is held we are confident of obtaining the post of opposition leader," said Manamendra.

On the issue of secret ballot, Dissanayake said the alliance was ready to break any tradition if it hindered the way forward.

"Generally, the party that represents the highest number of MPs in the Opposition obtains the post of the Opposition Leader. If traditions hinder the journey forward, we don't have an issue in breaking them," Dissanayake said.