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General Fonseka’s arrest politically motivated

Opposition presidential candidate and former Sri Lankan Army Commander, General Sarath Fonseka, was arrested on Monday (08/02/10) after hundreds of military men who broke into his office in Colombo. According to eyewitnesses, he was carried into a military vehicle parked outside his office and then beaten up.

General Fonseka, who was the main contender to President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the January 26th presidential elections, was subjected to what appears to have been abduction not arrest. Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka believes that the detention of the senior army general by the current regime was clearly politically motivated, rather than dictated by the law of the land. Our conclusion is supported by several important pieces of evidence:
 


1. War Crimes: General Fonseka told a news conference hours before his abduction that he was willing to testify in an international war crimes court regarding the last phase of Sri Lanka’s war. In this connection, the government later announced on state television, that General Foneska had been arrested in connection with divulging military secrets and accused him of being ‘hell-bent on betraying the gallant armed forces of Sri Lanka.' Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka believes the detention of General Fonseka is a move intended to conceal crimes committed by the state against Tamils in the North of Sri Lanka

2. Legal Challenge to Election Results: The abduction followed General Fonseka’s announcement that he plans to mount a legal challenge to the outcome of the recent presidential election and that he also plans to stand in upcoming parliamentary elections. We note that during the presidential election the government conducted vicious attacks on its political opponents and any dissenting media that backed General Fonseka. A political columnist, Prageeth Ekneligoda, who supported General Fonseka, dissapeared on the eve of the election and an editor, who published a journal campaigning for the former military chief, Chandana Sirimalwatte, was detained using anti-terrorist laws.

3. Use of Military to Arrest a Civilian: The deployment of military personnel to seize General Fonseka by force raises serious questions. The retired General is currently a civilian and a politician and as such any arrest should be conducted by the Sri Lankan police force. General Fonseka’s civilian status has been repeatedly invoked by the government in defence of its decision to remove his personal security guard.

JDS Demands:

While condemning the manner of General Fonseka’s arrest, we call upon the Sri Lankan government to conduct any inquiries into his alleged actions:

- in a transparent manner and in an open court,
- ensuring the accused’s fundamental right to defend himself
- safeguarding the public's right to know the truth.

Crackdown:

Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka believes the detention of General Sarath Fonseka is part of a wider crackdown against political opponents and dissenting voices currently underway in Sri Lanka. It is, in our view, an indication of how this government plans to deal with its opponents and critics, regardless of their status.

Executive Committee
Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

09.02.2010

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Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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