COLOMBO: Democratic Party leader and sacked Sri Lankan Army Commander Sarath Fonseka has vowed to take his disenfranchisement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, saying that he has no faith in the Lankan judicial system.
The Election Commission had suddenly removed Fonseka’s name from the voters’ list on the grounds that, as per the constitution, he stands disqualified from being an elector. Section 89 (d) of the Lankan constitution says that if a person was sentenced to imprisonment for three years and had served a prison term of more than six months, he cannot vote. These conditions are fulfilled in Fonseka’s case. But the removal came as a surprise to Fonseka because he was allowed to vote in the last Western Provincial elections. In his view, all disqualifications were annulled when he was given a “Presidential pardon” and released prematurely in May 2012 .
Lawyers sympathetic to the former General, such as M A Sumanthiran, argue that he cannot be disenfranchised because he was given a “free pardon” and cite Sec 89 (d) in support.
But others like Nihal Sri Ameresekere point out that what President Mahinda Rajapaksa had given was only a “remission” of the remainder of the sentence and not a “pardon”.
This is clear in the letter written by Justice Ministry Secretary, Kamalini de Silva, to the Commissioner General of Prisons on May 21, 2012.
The legal arguments for and against apart, what is important in Fonseka’s disenfranchisement is the political importance it has in the context of the snap Presidential poll expected in January 2015. Rajapaksa, who has already kicked off his campaign, is garnering support and neutralising opposition heavy weights. He has obtained the support of the Ceylon Workers’ Congress and the National Freedom Front.