Sri Lanka’s former army chief launches attack on president

April 22, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s detained former army chief briefly emerged from custody Thursday to attend the opening of parliament and used the opportunity to launch an attack on President Mahinda Rajapakse. Sarath Fonseka last year led troops to victory over Tamil Tiger rebels after decades of ethnic conflict on the island, but he later fell out with Rajapakse and unsuccessfully tried to unseat him in presidential elections in January.

“What the country needs is democracy, rule of law, personal freedoms and media freedom,” Fonseka said when briefly allowed out of detention to attend the opening of parliament, in which he won a seat at polls two weeks ago.

“I am glad I was able to come here and raise these issues as I am being unjustly held,” he added.

Fonseka’s comments were his first since he was taken into custody on February 8 for an on-going court martial over allegedly engaging in politics while in uniform and involvement in corrupt arms procurement.

The former general, who was to return Thursday to the naval facility where he is being detained, has dismissed all the charges as a politically motivated attempt to silence him.

Rajapakse has been accused by political oppon