Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has approved a 30-month rigorous jail term given to the former Army chief, Sarath Fonseka, by a military court on charges of corruption in defence deals, a move which may cut short his stint in Parliament as an MP.
Mr. Rajapaksa “has approved the recommendation and put a signature on the paper”, said Cabinet spokesman and Mass Media and Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella on Thursday. Mr. Rajapaksa endorsed the sentence on Wednesday after returning from New York, where he attended the U.N. General Assembly session.
On September 17, the second court martial against Mr. Fonseka (59) found him guilty on all four counts in a case related to procurements by the Army in violation of tender procedures and recommended he be jailed for up to three years.
The verdict came a few weeks after Mr. Fonseka was stripped of all his ranks and pension by another Court Martial that convicted him on the charge of dabbling in politics while in uniform. Mr. Fonseka contested the January presidential election as the opposition's consensus candidate.
The recommendations had been sent to the President as it had to be approved by him as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.
To lose seat
With the jail term confirmed, Mr. Fonseka is expected to lose his Parliament seat, which he won in the April general elections.
Reacting to the sentence, Democratic National Alliance general secretary Vijitha Herath said the opposition alliance would organise mass protests all over the country against the decision.
“This is President Mahinda Rajapaksa's political revenge against Sarath Fonseka. We will be going to various districts with a massive petition to be signed by as many people as possible to demand his release,” Mr. Herath told PTI.
“We will go before the Court of Appeal [COA] against this order. We have already gone before the COA regarding the recommendation of the first Court Martial. The hearing has been fixed for October 8. Another application against the recommendation of the second Court Martial will also be submitted,” he said.
Mr. Fonseka, who successfully led the military in the war against the LTTE which ended in May last year, was charged with favouring a company headed by his son-in-law, who is also an accused in a separate case filed in the High Court on the same charges.