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Sri Lankan Police raid Fonseka's office

The post-election drama continued in Colombo on Friday as personnel from the special task force and criminal investigation department armed with powers under Emergency regulations carried out raids at retired army chief Sarath Fonseka’s office.

world Updated: Jan 29, 2010 20:52 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The post-election drama continued in Colombo on Friday as personnel from the special task force (STF) and criminal investigation department (CID) armed with powers under Emergency regulations carried out raids at retired army chief Sarath Fonseka’s office.

Government sources did not reveal the reasons behind the raids. But indications were that the STF personnel were looking for evidence -- like weapons -- that Fonseka had planned a coup against President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Rajapaksa defeated Fonseka on Tuesday’s Presidential election. The election campaign and its aftermath have been bitter. Fonseka has threatened to slap a case in the Supreme Court to annul the result.

The Friday raids began in the afternoon and continued till late evening. Hundreds of STF personnel combed every inch of Fonseka’s office, also his home in the run-up to the election. Fonseka moved out of the house on Tuesday night fearing for his life, and after a day of drama at a five-star hotel, moved to a confidant’s house.

``They are presently searching the office. They did not have a search warrant and the CID director told us that the search was being conducted under Emergency regulations. We have been told that they do not have orders to take anyone in custody,’’ opposition leader and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress chief Rauff Hakeem, told HT.

Meanwhile, Karin Wenger, the New Delhi-based correspondent of Swiss Public Radio, has been ordered to leave Sri Lanka by February 1.

Wenger was here to cover the election. While the deportation letter from the Immigration department said her media accreditation application had been cancelled, Wenger told HT that her journalist accreditation was valid till February 17.

The Sri Lankan foreign ministry had recommended her name for journalist accreditation after she got a journalist visa from the Lankan high commission in New Delhi.

``All my papers were in order. Maybe, I have been asked to leave because of the questions I asked at a government press conference. No reason was given (for the deportation) in the letter,’’ she said.

When asked for a response, the Swiss Embassy told AFP: ``like any other country, Sri Lanka is solely responsible for its decisions and procedures in visa matters. Switzerland is aware of the difficulties faced by local and foreign journalists in their work in Sri Lanka. The difficulties with freedom of the press is one of the problems that Switzerland has raised bilaterally in and in human rights council in Geneva.’’

The CID also detained on Friday the editor of the ‘Lanka’ newspaper, Chandana Sirimalwatte, for questioning. He was to be questioned on a news article which made some accusations against a senior government official.