Sri Lanka’s ex-army chief back in court as MP-elect

Chandi Dharmaratne

April 19, 2010 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s former army chief Sarath Fonseka appeared in the dock at a court martial on Monday for the first time since winning a parliamentary seat in elections earlier this month. Fonseka last year led the military to victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels but later fell out with President Mahinda Rajapakse and unsuccessfully tried to unseat him in a presidential election in January.

He faces two sets of charges — corrupt military procurements and engaging in politics while in uniform. The four-star general denies all the allegations and says they are part of a political vendetta.

Monday’s hearing was the first since Fonseka secured a parliamentary seat in the April 8 polls, which were won easily by Rajapakse’s party.

The court martial is being conducted behind closed doors at the tightly-guarded naval headquarters.

“He is at the hearing and the court is in session,” a military official who declined to be named told AFP.

Fonseka’s Democratic National Alliance, which has won five seats out of the 180 declared so far in the 225-member assembly, says the government is trying to prevent him from attending the opening of the new parliament on Thursday.