COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Wednesday issued a special order to immediately drop all charges levelled against former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka, and restore his rank as a General, his medals and decorations; as well as his pension and civic rights.
Rendering justice to Fonseka, the hero of Eelam War IV, who was victimised by the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime, was one of Sirisena’s pledges in the run up to the January 8 Presidential election.
Fonseka’s Democratic National Alliance (DNA) was a part of Sirisena’s joint opposition National Democratic Front (NDF).
After being hailed as the one of the best military commanders in the world, Fonseka was tried by two Courts Martial and sent to jail for 30 months in one case and three years in another. But he served only two years because of international pressure which reached its high point in 2012 when US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, took up the issue of his release with the visiting Lankan Foreign Minister G L Peiris. But the Mahinda Rajapaksa government would not restore Fonseka’s civic rights, his rank, decorations and pension.
Fonseka had begun as a favourite of the Rajapaksa regime, and had a free hand in conducting the 2006-2009 Eelam War IV. But he fell out with President Rajapaksa and his brother Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa after the war. Suspecting that Fonseka had plans to stage a military coup, President Rajapaksa relieved him of the command of the army and made him Chief of Defence Staff with no power to command.
But, when the Lankan Presidential election came in January 2010, Fonseka resigned and contested the election as a joint opposition candidate. During the campaign, he charged that Gotabaya Rajapaksa had ordered the killing of a group of LTTE leaders who had come to surrender. This “an anti-national” statement caused his electoral defeat.
However, the Rajapaksa brothers pursued Fonseka even after his defeat. Courts Martial were set up to try him for irregularities in procurement; attempting to stage a coup using deserters; and making false and anti-national statements.
But, in the eyes of the world, these were Kangaroo Courts and calls for Fonseka’s release came thick and fast.