New Delhi, Feb 11 (Calcutta Tube) Sri Lanka’s former army chief Sarath Fonseka is to face early court martial for treason, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said in remarks published Thursday, while accusing the US and Norway of aiding the defeated presidential candidate during the election.
The accusation triggered quick denials from both countries, which were closely involved in overseeing the peace process in Sri Lanka before the military crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) last year.
Rajapaksa, a brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, told Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper that Fonseka had planned to impose military rule.
Speaking candidly but harshly about Fonseka, Gotabaya rubbished claims that Fonseka played a key role in the victory over the LTTE. ‘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 President Rajapaksa, his former friend, and creating rifts in the army. Fonseka’s supporters have denied the charge.
The younger Rajapaksa, who oversaw the war against the Tigers, said Fonseka would be charged under the Army Act, under which ‘any officer can be charged within six months of leaving the military. There are other things we will do under civil code’.
‘The court martial will begin immediately after the assembling of the summary of evidence. I don’t know how long it will take… 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 accused the Rajapaksa brothers of war crimes in the 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.’
Both the US and Norway denied the accusations.
‘There is no truth to the defence secretary’s claims,’ the US embassy in Colombo said. ‘The US backed no candidate but strongly supported a free, fair, and credible democratic process.’
In Singapore, Norway’s ambassador said in a letter to the daily: ‘The accusations against Norway are not correct. Norway has never and will never interfere with other countries’ elections or in any way try to undermine or oust a democratically elected government and president.’
Rajapaksa also linked Fonseka with the January 2009 murder of Sri Lankan editor Lasantha Wickrematunge.
‘We know there was no other person (involved)… Some of the media people harmed had never criticized any other person except him or people close to him. Nothing happened to those 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.’