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Sri Lanka’s top general leaves political future hanging

[Reuters, Monday, 16 November 2009 10:23 No Comment]

Sri Lanka’s top general bid farewell to his uniform on Monday and said he will announce a decision on entering politics within two to three days, amid speculation he may seek the presidency.

General Sarath Fonseka, widely credited for the army’s dominant role in winning a 25-year war with the Tamil Tiger rebels, had announced last week his resignation as Chief of Defense Staff, accusing president Mahinda Rajapaksa of unjustly sidelining him over unfounded coup fears.

"Today I’m bidding farewell to the uniform," Fonseka said on Monday after signing an official document quitting as Sri Lanka’s top military officer.

Asked about a possible move into politics, he said: "I expect to announce my future steps in two or three days. I will be serving the country in the future."

The main opposition United National Party and the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) have united in fanning speculation they will back Fonseka as a common candidate and antidote to Rajapaksa’s dominating post-war popularity.

Rajapaksa on Friday asked Fonseka to vacate his office with immediate effect, although the general had requested December 1 as the release date.

On Sunday, the president postponed an expected announcement of the schedules for early presidential and parliamentary elections due by April without giving a reason.

Political analysts say Fonseka, who has spent 39 years in the army, could split Rajapaksa’s voter base by attracting those happy with the victory in the war.

That could be unwelcome news for would-be investors as some

opposition parties like the JVP are considered less pro-business than Rajapaksa’s coalition.

Fonseka was granted a near free rein with nearly unbridled power as he prosecuted the war in tandem with his former comrade-in-arms, Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the president’s brother.

[Full Coverage]

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