Sri Lanka’s war general enters coalition ahead of probe

ECONOMYNEXT – Former army chief Sarath Fonseka joined the ruling coalition Wednesday clearing the way for him to secure a key position in the government ahead of special courts to investigate alleged war crimes.

Fonseka signed an agreement with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at Temple Trees to support the United National Front for Good Governance, but there was no immediate word on what portfolio would be offered to him.

The decorated soldier told reporters that he supported any investigation into allegations that at least 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed by government forces in the final stages of the war that ended in May 2009.

"I have always said that I am ready to face any investigation," Fonseka said. "We have nothing to hide. I feel that the allegations must be investigated. I have always maintained that."

Fosenka’s entry into the government also coincides with the visit to the island by UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

 Fonseka maintains that no atrocities were committed under his command, but in the final days of the war he was away in China and the then defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had been giving direct orders to field commanders.

He fell out with the then president Mahinda Rajapakse over sharing credit for the spectacular military success in crushing Tamil Tiger rebels by May 2009 and ending a 37-year-old  separatist war.

Soon after defeating the Tiger rebels who were known for their trade-mark suicide bombings, Fonseka mounted a challenge at Rajapakse are-election bid in January 2010.

 Fonseka was arrested two weeks after losing the election and was jailed for two and a half years following a controversial court martial and a criminal prosecution in civilian courts.

After getting out of jail, he supported Maithripala Sirisena toppled Rajapakse at his third attempt at the presidency in January 2015 and has since been made Sri Lanka’s first Field Marshall by the new government.

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Fonseka’s fledgling Democratic Party failed to secure any seats at the August parliamentary elections, but officials said he was likely to be nominated to a vacancy in the legislature in exchange for his support to the ruling party.

The new administration has agreed to set up special courts. (COLOMBO, Feb 3, 2016)

 

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