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Fonseka’s trial soon, can be jailed for five years: Gotabaya Rajapaksa

New Delhi, Feb 11 (IANS) Sri Lanka’s former army chief Sarath Fonseka will face immediate court martial for treason and he can be jailed for up to five years, the country’s Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said in an interview published Thursday.

Rajapaksa, a brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, also told Singapore’s Straits Times that Fonseka had planned to impose military rule and his candidature in the presidential election that he lost was backed by the US and Norway.

Speaking candidly but harshly about Fonseka, Gotabaya rubbished claims that Fonseka played a key role in the military victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in May last year. ‘What he achieved we could have done with any other commander. There were better officers.’

Fonseka was arrested Monday after being charged with conspiring against the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa, his former friend, and creating rifts in the army. Fonseka’s supporters have denied the charge.

The younger Rajapaksa, who as defence secretary oversaw the war against the Tigers, said Fonseka would be charged under the Army Act. ‘Under the Army Act, any officer can be charged under military act within six months of leaving the military. There are other things we will do under civil code.’

He went on: ‘The court martial will begin immediately after the assembling of the summary of evidence is done. I don’t know how long it will take because that depends on lawyers. But we want to finish it soon. In less than six months maybe. The severity of the charges is very high. He can be put in jail for as long as five years.’

Rajapaksa said Fonseka worked with politicians and tried to win them over while holding the Chief of Defence Staff assignment. ‘This was completely wrong because he was sitting in Security Council meetings. It amounts to treason.’

‘He was planning military rule… He was completely trying to isolate the politics and take the country on a different path… In his very last stages as army commander he began bringing his people into Colombo and his regiment, positioning his senior regiment people all over… All these things were looking like a military coup,’ said Rajapaksa.

The president’s brother accused a section of the West of conspiring with Fonseka, who has accused the Rajapaksa brothers of war crimes in the military campaign against the LTTE.

‘We are 100 percent convinced that Western countries with vested interests were backing him. Even the US, and countries like Norway, spent lots of money on his campaign.

‘I have proof of the Norwegian government paying journalists to write against the government,’ he said. ‘They have vested interests and used to support the Tamil Tigers in various ways. They also supported Fonseka to try oust the government.’

Rajapaksa also linked Fonseka with the chilling January 2009 murder of Sri Lankan editor Lasantha Wickrematunge.

‘We know there was no other person (involved). You have to see the circumstances. Some of the media people harmed had never criticized any other person except him or people close to him. Nothing happened to those who had been criticizing me or the president.

‘We have a clue whom he has used (in the killing). We are very convinced. In fact, I know for sure. He was definitely responsible for five or six cases (of disappearances) where media people were involved. Now I am going after the people who did the executions. The truth will come out very soon.’

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