Home News Sri Lanka Former Sri Lankan Army Chief Fonseka Given Another Jail Term

Former Sri Lankan Army Chief Fonseka Given Another Jail Term

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Download A court in Sri Lanka has sentenced former army commander Sarath Fonseka to three years in jail after he accused the government of committing war crimes.

The retired army chief led the government forces to victory against the Tamil Tigers in 2009.

But he fell out with the powerful President Mahinda Rajapakse who he ran against in elections last year. He was defeated in the polls and later arrested on charges of harbouring army deserters and treason.

Ponniah Manikavasagam has the details from Colombo.


It is judgment day. Security is tight.  Guards, armed to the teeth are everywhere.

Hundreds of people are waiting for the arrival of former army commander Sarath Fonseka. 

They are shouting ‘release Fonseka’.

Peiris Sumanalatha is amongst the crowd.

“He served the nation. That’s why we request him to be released.”

Most Sri Lankans regard him as a war hero. Because he led the military to end a thirty year long bloody civil war. 

But inside the High Court judges decided differently.

He was jailed for three years on charges of "spreading disaffection" after he accused the government of committing war crimes.

Fonseka rejected the judgement telling the court; it is to keep him out of politics.

His wife, Anoma Fonseka says they will appeal the decision.

“We don’t want to accept it. Because I know my husband, what he has done to the country and he is a straight forward person. So he did not do anything wrong.”

The case is about an interview given by Fonseka to a weekly local newspaper.

The interview implicated Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse for ordering his troops to shoot as the Tamil Tigers fighters tried to surrender with white flags.

Sarath Fonseka said he was quoted out of context by the newspaper.

The decision to jail him was not unanimous.

One of the three judges decided differently, explains Dr. Jehan Perera, the head of the National Peace Council.

“Court verdict itself is a divided one with one of the judges saying that he cleared general Fonseka of all charges. So therefore this verdict is one which I believe most people are not happy with. And they would be hoping that different type of justice will prevail for general Fonseka.”

One of the judges has reportedly received death threats following the verdict.

When the announcement was made the crowd outside reacted angrily.

They shout ‘This is an unusual verdict’.

Ranjith Piyadasa is one of the protestors.

“If our President is a real leader of the people, he should release Sarath Fonseka immediately. The reporter is a liar and told lies. The reporter should be jailed.”

Nearby Peiris Sumanalatha says it’s a bad sign for the country’s judicial independence.

“There is no democracy or good governance in this country. The judiciary has lost its freedom. We have seen this on many occasions under this regime. I don’t think the judiciary can regain its freedom.”

Veteran peace activist Jehan Perera is worried about the future of Sri Lanka.

“This is not a healthy thing because in any society we need to have separation of powers. We need to have checks and balances. We need to have public faith that the institutions have integrity and anything that undermines that faith of the people is detrimental to the cause of good governance and order in a society.”

Last Updated ( Monday, 28 November 2011 10:00 )  

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