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AFP: Luxury jail treatment for ex Sri Lanka army chief: president

[AFP, Sunday, 21 February 2010 09:48 No Comment]

Sri Lanka’s president says arrested ex-army chief and defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka is getting "five-star" treatment in custody, it was reported Saturday.

Fonseka, whose detention came two weeks after being beaten in presidential elections in late January by President Mahinda Rajapakse, is being held by the military pending court-martial proceedings on unspecified charges.

Rajapakse reiterated allegations in an interview with India’s The Hindu newspaper that Fonseka had been working to divide the army and "engaging himself in activities prosecutable under military law."

The country’s defence secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, who is the president’s younger brother, has said Fonseka was plotting a coup — a charge rejected by the ex-army chief.

Fonseka, whose arrest sparked outrage at home and abroad, is getting "five-star treatment…. in a luxury flat," said Rajapakse.

Fonseka won over 40 percent of the popular vote compared to almost 60 percent for Rajapakse in the election that many had expected to be a close fight.

Fonseka was the battlefield architect of the government’s victory over Tamil Tiger rebels last May, which ended their 37-year old fight for an independent Tamil homeland that cost an estimated 80,000-100,000 lives.

However, Fonseka fell out with Rajapakse and quit in November and ran against the president in January’s elections.

The president has denied any link between the arrest and the presidential polls.

Rajapakse added in the interview that the Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority has "no option" but to deal with him in forging a new future for the troubled country.

He claimed that before the Sri Lankan army crushed the Tamil Tiger separatist rebels, Tamil political leaders "were not interested" in seeking to bring about lasting peace.

The ball game had changed now, he said.

"Now they must understand there is no option for them but to talk. I’m the president of the country… they must negotiate with me," he said.

[Full Coverage]

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