Sri Lanka's former Army Chief and defeated common opposition candidate in the recent presidential election, General Sarath Fonseka, has been directed to appear before a re-constituted court martial on Tuesday that would try him on charges of alleged involvement in irregularities in defence purchases.
General Fonseka is a Democratic National Alliance (DNA) candidate in Thursday's general elections from the Colombo district. He was taken into military custody on February 8 on charges of attempting to destabilising the government.
In February, on the basis of evidence gathered from several quarters the Army had announced that the General would be tried in two courts martial. A tribunal consisting of three Major Generals was constituted to enquire into two separate set of charges. The first pertained to his alleged political activities while still in uniform and the second on the military purchases supposedly in contravention of the procedures.
In the first one, General Fonseka faces three charges and in the second two. When the first GCM met on March 15, his counsel raised objections on the composition of the court and argued his arrest was illegal.
The second court martial, which will try him on charges of irregularities in military procurement procedures, commenced its proceedings on March 17 but had to be adjourned after his lawyers challenged it on the ground it had the same members as the first.
Maintaining there was nothing legally wrong, the Army said for the sake of maintaining high degree of transparency and unprejudiced nature it preferred the second court martial to be re-constituted and the 17th hearing was adjourned.
On Saturday, President and Commander-in-Chief Mahinda Rajapaksa nominated a different panel.
The court martial proceedings are the first ever military trial against an officer of the highest rank in the history of the Army. The proceedings will be “in camera”.