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Sleepless in Sri Lanka

world Updated: Oct 19, 2010 18:28 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

An sms found its way to me during my recent stay in Kolkata: "it’s good that Ram got some part of the land because Sita now has a travel agency, Laxman might retire after the Australia series, Ravan is a commercial flop and there is peace in Lanka."

In fact, almost everyone I met – I had returned home for the first time since the civil war got over in May, 2009 -- asked me ""what is the situation after the war?" ""are the LTTE actually destroyed?" and ""that general, who won the war, what’s happening to him?"

My sms-sized answers: "yes, there is peace but the issues that triggered the war remain. Yes, the LTTE is militarily defeated though the diaspora remains indignant in defeat. And that general is in jail."

As it turns out "that general" was dispatched to jail within months of guiding the armed forces to a famous, if violent, victory.

Fonseka is now at the country’s largest prison, Welikada, where since the beginning of the month, he is housed with hardcore criminals, sleeps on a mat and solitary pillow, stands in queue with a metal plate for food and stares into the dark in his tiny cell after lights are switched off at around 7 in the evening.

Found guilty of corruption, Fonseka was sentenced to 30 months of rigorous imprisonment by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He is kept in a cell for his security as a few Tamil Tiger cadres are also housed in Welikada. Fonseka has also lost is place in Parliament, pending an appeal in the Supreme Court.

But about three weeks into Fonseka’s jail term, the government is looking for a way out as there is a simmering public opinion against the treatment he is getting. Religious heads like the Bishop of Colombo, Rev. Duleep de Chikara has said Fonseka needs justice and not pardon, referring to Rajapaksa’s statement that he might pardon him if Fonseka or his family made a plea.

Even if the credit for victory is shared between the Rajapaksa brothers, Fonseka’s contribution is difficult to deny. And he had also got more than 4 million votes in the Presidential election in January.