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Lanka determined to Court Martial Fonseka,Lanka determined to Court Martial Fonseka

[Express Buzz, Friday, 19 February 2010 08:34 No Comment]

Despite protests from the national opposition parties and the international community, the Sri Lankan government appears to be determined to Court Martial former Army Commander and defeated Presidential candidate Gen.Sarath Fonseka, reliable sources say.

It is unofficially learnt that the Court Martial would be headed by the senior most officer in the tri-services, Air Chief Marshal Roshan Goonetileke.

The choice of ACM Goonetileke is expected to meet the criticism from Fonseka’s lawyers that he cannot be tried by officers who are junior to him in service. Since Fonseka was Chief of Defence Staff ,with jurisdiction over the three services, and the charges against him relate to his tenure as CDS also, a non army officer could also be on the panel of judges.

That the government is keen on going through the process which it had begun, has been evident from some events and actions.

Firstly, Fonseka was arrested under the Army Act using the Military Police, and then he was lodged in a house once used by the present navy chief, Adm. Tissara Samarasinghe.

MAHANAYAKES MANAGED

Secondly, the government was not alarmed by the letter which the top leaders of the Buddhist clergy, called the Mahanayakes, had written to President Rajapaksa, on the Fonseka affair. The letter had asserted the Mahanayakes’ “traditional right” to intervene in matters of State, and on that basis, demanded the release of Fonseka.

The government did not openly challenge the Mahanayakes, but it is learnt that it put it to them firmly that it was doing the right thing.

It said that it had clinching evidence against Fonseka.The war hero had been plotting against the government, gathering his own clique within the army, using deserters ,encouraging desertion, and joining hands with subversive political forces outside even while in service.

The Mahanayakes, who were to meet on February 18, to discuss the response to their letter and chalk out the next course of action, indefinitely postponed the meeting.

INTERNATIONAL PROTESTS DISREGARDED

While the Indian government expressed the hope that Sri Lanka would go through “due process” in the Fonseka case, the opposition BJP sought New Delhi’s intervention to stop the persecution of the Lankan war hero.

The US too pleaded for due process, subtly indicating that it did not approve a Court Martial. British opposition MP and foreign affairs specialist Dr.Liam Fox was more direct. He told President Rajapaksa here on Wednesday, that Fonseka should be tried by a civil court to ensure transparancy and safeguard Sri Lanka’s reputation abroad.   

But the Sri Lankan government appears to have disregarded these pleas. Liam Fox was told that the Court Martial would be carried out under what is basically and originally, British law.

IMPORTANCE OF GOTABAYA

It is said that Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa is particularly keen that Fonseka’s should be tried by Court Martial, partly because Fonseka had publicly tried to implicate him in “war crimes”.

Even as Fonseka’s lawyers argued in the Supreme Court that Fonseka could not be tried by Court Martial, Gotabaya told Straits Times that he would be tried by Court Martial. In the Rajapaksa regime, Gotabaya is the final word in military matters.

GOTABAYA BRIEFS INDIAN OFFICIALS IN DELHI   

Significantly, Gotabaya is currently in New Delhi, briefing Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and the National Security Advisor Shivahankar Menon on the evidence gathered against Fonseka and what the Rajapaksa government plans to do in the case.

Ostensibly, the Lankan Defense Secretary is in New Delhi to see the DEFEXPO INDIA 2010, an event for which he had been invited by the exhibition authorities.But really, Gotabaya has other more important business to attend to.

[Full Coverage]

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