A court martial is part of the legal system, and a conviction by it will attract disqualification like any other court, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday, upholding the disqualification from parliament of the former Army commander, Sarath Fonseka.
The former commander, dressed in his now-familiar white kurta, sat through the ruling, as he lost his appeal to retain his parliamentary seat. The court martial had, last September, held him guilty of irregularities in arms procurement and this led to his losing his seat in parliament.
The Supreme Court's ruling pertained to the question whether the court martial would come under the term ‘any court' mentioned in the country's Constitution for the purposes of disqualifying someone on the basis of a conviction.
Mr. Fonseka commanded the Army when Sri Lanka defeated the LTTE in May 2009, ending nearly three decades of civil war. He later contested unsuccessfully against Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January 2010 presidential election.
Earlier in the day, he was present in the High Court where Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa deposed in the ‘white flag' case. In his deposition, the Defence Secretary said any person who commanded the Army would have achieved a similar outcome (winning the war against the LTTE). The Navy and Air Force chiefs contributed in equal measure, he said, according to Court officials. The proceedings of the High Court were in Sinhala.
The case relates to Mr. Fonseka's comments on the alleged killing of LTTE cadre who had held up a white flag and had come forward to surrender in the final stages of the war in May 2009. Mr. Fonseka had, in an interview to a Sri Lankan newspaper, the Sunday Leader, claimed that the Defence Secretary had ordered the shooting of the white flag-bearing LTTE men, a charge that was denied by Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa. A case was filed subsequently against Mr. Fonseka.