Gen Fonseka released to be prisoner in the open

By Nalaka Rupasinghe

An obviously relieved Gen Sarath Fonseka, the former Sri Lankan army commander, celebrates his release from prison last month after being 'pardoned' by President Rajapaksa.

Former Sri Lankan army commander Gen Sarath Fonseka, who was last month released from prison after being pardoned by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, seems to have received a partial pardon that forbids him from participating in the 2016 country’s presidential and general elections.

Gen Fonseka who was widely credited with the 2009 military victory of the Tamil Tigers rebels, was jailed for corruption two years ago. In 2009, he had been made Chief of the Defence Staff after overseeing the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE). But he made a mistake when he tried to build on his military victory by resigning the army and contesting the country’s presidency, a decision that put him in direct conflict with the more politically savvy Mahinda Rajapaksa.

A fortnight after losing the election to Rajapaksa, Gen Fonseka was arrested on February 8, 2010 by military police and subjected to a court martial for ‘military offences’. The first court martial, which began in March 2010, ordered that he be discharged dishonourably in May 2010. The second court martial on the Hi-Corp deal resulted in a three-year sentence in September 2010. Though he won a parliamentary seat in the Colombo District in the April 2010 general elections, he was unseated from Parliament in October the same year. In all, he has served more than two years in prison and has also been convicted for another three years last November regarding the ‘White Flag case.’

The former Army Commander was accused on three counts including inciting violence. In an interview given to the Sunday Leader, he alleged that Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, a brother of President Rajapaksa, had ordered to shoot LTTE cadres surrendering with white flags during the final stages of the war. He appealed against convictions in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. But after he was pardoned the case was withdrawn.

In the release order of the prisoner Sarath Chandralal Fonseka, the secretary of the ministry of justice stated as follows:

‘His Excellency the President in the excise of the inherent powers vested in him under the Article 34 of the constitution has granted the remission of the balance sentence to be served by the above prisoner’.

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