Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has alleged that the defeated common opposition presidential candidate and retired Army Chief, Sarath Fonseka, is guilty of charges of treason, military coup and of being involved in the disappearance of a few journalists.
Meanwhile, the commander-turned-politician through his wife appealed to all sections to maintain calm after clashes were reported from parts of the island In an interview to the Singapore-based Straits Times, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, has insisted that the government has enough evidence on the charges against General Fonseka. He said they were so serious that he could be sentenced to five years in jail.
Wife of the retired General, Anoma Fonseka who met him at the house where he is being held by the military police, told a news conference, “He wanted me to convey to the people and especially the troops to remain calm and not to be provoked by his illegal arrest. They are trying to break his spirit, but they won’t succeed.” She said the meeting took place in the presence of armed guards.
The retired General has challenged his arrest, made three days ago, in the Supreme Court and the case is to be taken up on Friday. Opposition parties which backed General Fonseka have demanded his immediate release and said they feared for his safety in military custody. Several other countries and human rights organisations have urged the government to follow due course of law and not to let the atmosphere to be vitiated ahead of the April 8 parliamentary elections.
Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa has linked General Fonseka to the brutal murder of Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickremtunga. The Editor was killed by unidentified gun men in January last year and till date the authorities have not able to track them down. “Yes, of course. We know there was no other person. You have to see the circumstances.
Some of the media people harmed had never criticised any other person except him, or people close to him. Nothing happened to those who had been criticising me or the President. “We have a clue whom he has used. We are very convinced. In fact, I know for sure. He was definitely responsible for 5 or 6 cases [of disappearances] where media people were involved,” he told the paper.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern to the Sri Lankan President about recent developments. The missions of the U.S. and Norway here have strongly refuted the charges made by the Defence Secretary that they were involved in funding the election campaign of the former Army Chief. “We would like to point out that the accusations made against Norway in the interview 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. The Norwegian Ambassador has brought this issue up today with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” said the Norwegian Embassy here in a statement.
In another statement, European Union Spokesperson of the High Representative/Vice- President Catherine Ashton said, “We are closely following the situation in Sri Lanka after the arrest of the opposition candidate in the recent presidential elections, General Sarath Fonseka. “We call on the Sri Lankan authorities to ensure that the rule of law and the safety and security of candidates and campaign workers are ensured. We urge the Government and all communities in Sri Lanka to make concrete efforts to overcome the divisions of the past and to move on to genuine reconciliation, without which there can be no return to long-term security or prosperity.”