Colombo, Feb.8: Sri Lanka’s defeated opposition presidential candidate Gen Sarath Fonseka was tonight arrested by the army and will be court martialled for military offences committed while he was in service, a fortnight after he suffered defeat at the hands of incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa.
59-year-old Fonseka, the former Army Chief credited with the annihilation of the LTTE, was arrested along with his media secretary Senaka de Silva while on work at their office in the capital.
Defence Spokesman Maj. Gen. Prasad Samarasinghe, who assumed charge today, told PTI that Fonseka was taken into custody by the Army and will "face court martial proceedings for military offences committed during his service."
Director General of the Media Centre for National Security Lakshman Hullugala told state television that Fonseka, a retired four-star general who served the Sri Lankan Army for nearly four decades, will be court martialled.
In dramatic turn of events, army men surrounded Fonseka’s office and arrested him and his aide. Another aide of the former Army Chief told PTI that "Fonseka and de Silva were told in clear terms to cooperate with the military police". "I heared one of the officers telling Fonseka that he is being charged for criminal conspiracy," he said.
The moves comes a fortnight after Fonseka suffered defeat at the hands of his former boss and President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the high-stakes presidential elections.
Opposition leaders said the army men "forcibly took away General Fonseka while he was having a discussion with three other senior opposition leaders. Fonseka’s office was cordoned off by heavily armed troops who blocked reporters and photographers from entering the building and taking pictures. The arrest comes in the wake of reports that Fonseka could face a military court on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government and plotting to kill Rajapaksa.
Sunday Times newspaper had yesterday said that the Rajapaksa-led government, which alleged soon after the presidential poll verdict that the former military chief had plotted to kill the President, has consulted its top legal counsel on trying Fonseka in a court martial.
The government has sought legal advice on using a military court to fast-track proceedings against Fonseka who led the army in crushing the LTTE, who showed no signs being defeated militarily just three years ago. Earlier this month, Rajapakse sacked a dozen senior military officers whom the defence ministry said were a "direct threat" to national security.
The arrest also came hours after Fonseka assured the family members of former armymen, who were either sacked or arrested by the government, that he will stand behind them during troubled times.
Fonseka’s wife accuses govt of abducting her husband
Sri Lankan opposition leader Sarath Fonseka’s wife, Anoma, on Tuesday accused the government of abducting her husband and asked for help to trace him.
With tears in her eyes, Anoma Fonseka told reporters from her residence that she did not know where her husband had been taken on Monday night. (Read: Former Sri Lanka Army chief Fonseka arrested)
"He was not involved in politics while he was in the army. He only took to politics only after he retired from the army. In normal circumstances he should have been taken into custody only by senior officer if government had thought it proper to arrest him. Officers who came to take him into custody were junior officers," Anoma said.
"They came to his office last night dragged him by force and abducted him when he was having meeting with political leaders," she narrated.
Anoma said her husband was a civilian and if at all they had to arrest him it should be done by police with a proper warrant.
"Please help me find my husband. I have not heard anything from him. I hope I am able to hear something from him," she said.
Asked whether she would appeal for Fonseka’s release, his wife said they should be reasonable. They did not tell anybody and came without informing, she said.
Fifty nine-year-old Fonseka was arrested on Monday night for allegedly planning a coup against President Mahinda Rajapaksa when he was Army Chief.
Many of the political leaders who were present when Fonseka was arrested charged that he had been taken away forcibly.
Sri Lankan Muslim Congress leader Rauf Hakim told reporters that he was a witness to the whole episode of the arrest of former Army Chief.
"They asked me, Manu Ganeshan and other leaders to leave and asked Fonseka to come with them." Rauf said.
Fonseka asked the officials who came to arrest him where the police was. They said, "Police (military) was down stairs. Please come down."
When Fonseka asked what were the charges they read out a piece of paper and said this was regarding conspiracy.
"We condemn the act unequivocally. It is a vendetta and witch-hunting," Rauf said.
Before Fonseka’s arrest we were discussing about forthcoming parliamentary elections and alleged malpractice in the Presidential elections, he said.