11 August, 2020

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Out Of Jail, Fonseka Says Government Must Go

By John Chalmers | Reuters –

COLOMBO (Reuters) – He was pardoned by the president and released from jail, but Sri Lankan former army chief Sarath Fonseka had nothing but scorn for the government on his first day of freedom and vowed to fight for its downfall.

The ex-general said it could take 5 to 10 years to change thepolitical culture of the island nation but he was determined to join forces with opposition parties even if the terms of his release prevented him from standing for office.

Fonseka/ File photo

“I might not be able to contest and vote, but still I can do politics,” Fonseka, 61, told Reuters on Tuesday in a telephone interview from his home outside the capital, Colombo.

“I can educate the people, I can talk to people and have meetings,” he said. “And I can do anything else to ensure that this government is thrown away and try to bring another government that will look after the welfare of the people.”

Hailed by many as a hero for helping end Sri Lanka’s 25-year civil war against Tamil Tiger rebels, the four-star general fell out with the government in 2009 before a failed presidential bid againstMahinda Rajapaksa, his one-time friend.

He was arrested two weeks after the election, sentenced to 5-1/2 years in jail for various crimes – among them corruption and engaging in politics while in uniform – and stripped of all his rank and retirement perks.

Fonseka allies said the conditions of his release on Monday, which came after pressure from Western nations, do not allow him to stand in electoral politics.

Analysts believe that external demands were only part of the explanation for his liberation. They see it as a tactical move by Rajapaksa to deflect public attention from economic problems and throw an already divided opposition into further disarray.

“IT’S NOT GOING TO BE EASY”

Fonseka leads the Democratic National Alliance, which has seven seats in a 225-member legislature. Some lawmakers from other opposition parties have said they are ready to back him due to his popularity and outspoken criticism against Rajapaksa.

Fonseka said he had no burning ambition to become president himself, and it did not matter whether he joined the main opposition party or any other as long as all opponents of the government united to convince voters that change must come.

“It is not going to be that easy, and it’s not short and sweet,” he said. “You have to educate the people about what is right, what is wrong, what the country needs and what has happened to them.”

“They must understand human rights violations. They must understand they don’t have justice, they don’t have fair deals, politicians are interfering everywhere … we have to tell the people, and my aim is to change the political culture of this country.”

Fonseka and the president’s brother, Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, led the army to victory in the final stages of Sri Lanka’s war, but they fell out after it ended. The general complained that he had been sidelined by the president, who grew concerned that Fonseka was plotting a coup.

A U.S-backed resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council in March urged Sri Lanka to investigate alleged abuses during the last months of the war.

Rights groups say both Fonseka and the president are implicated in shooting fighters as they sought to surrender.

It is unlikely that the government sees Fonseka as a threat given that he trailed Rajapaksa by 17 points in the 2010 election and the next poll is not due until 2016.

Fonseka was also in poor health during his last days in prison, though he said this was due to being confined in a dusty environment and he was now confident he would recover.

He said he had been a victim of injustice but had lived through 2-1/2 years in jail with “a very firm spirit” and his release was a wrong put right.

“People were saying I would be in jail until I die or for 30 years. Some people said they will hang me,” he said. “But none of those things has happened, and in a way the truth prevails.”

(Editing by Diana Abdallah)

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Latest comments

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    Good start General. You will be a political boost no doubt.

    But please be careful of what you say, do not let yor mouth run away with you as what happened during the Presidential elections of 2005 and do not be misled by others.

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      let him to live in peace without politics until barney raymond funeral directors take care.

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      Hang on!!!! hang on!!!!

      Is he saying the goverment should go.

      Excuse me, did he elect the goverment to say so?

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    Trailing by 17 points after the ballot boxes had been taken to temple trees?
    Wheres Basil?

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    Great best that the General engage in politics without becoming a politician! This way he will have the moral authority to start a campaign to clean up the rotten and corrupt Political Culture cultivated by Rajapakses. We need a 10 point plan for this:
    1. Right to Information Bill
    2. Bill on the Prevention of Incitement to Racial and Religious Hatred
    3. Impeachment of the Chief Justice who like he corrupt husband must go!
    4. Reduction of Rajapakse’s jumbo Cabinet of Goons, Fools, criminals and geriatric Leftists to 15 so that tax payers don’t have to pay for their perks, and only those with expertise and qualifications for a portfolio be appointed. The two foolish liars who are Ministers of Education and Higher Education should be got rid off!
    Please all add onto this list to clean up Lanka’s political culture!

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      Most importantly,Sri Lanka needs a totally independant Election Commission like in India, with same powers. Only this will ensure free and fair elections. But somehow,ALL parties seem reluctant to implement this. If such a commission exists, Fonseka may stand a chance of becoming president, but only if his civic rights are restored.

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      Most important – Scrap the 18th Amendment!

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    Also, impeach and hold Nivard Cabraal at the Central bank ACCOUNTABLE for financial negligence and criminal waste of public funds on the Hambantota Commonwealth Games Bid scam. If Lanka had won this Bid the country would have been bankrupted building a massive games village in Hambantota which has a population of 350,000 people. It would have been a massive expense on a white elephant, much like all the other Hambantota infrastructure. India built a Commonwealth Games village in its Capital Delhi which has a population of 12 million. The Hambantota Commonwealth Games Scam is a clear cut case against the foolish so-called governor of the central bank who likes to paint rosy pictures about the economy in 5 star hotels, while the rupee crashes, the debt increases and a banking sector crisis looms and poor people have to pay for his excesses via the rising cost of living!

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    Be a leader for Sinhala Buddhists to eliminate threats against Buddhism in this Buddhist Country.

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    One military man at temple trees could change the course of Sri Lanka history and become a national hero?

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    The traitor is also a liar. Note his claim that he does not desire the presidency himself. Actions speaker louder than words and he showed his true colors.

    Give the Rajapaksas a chance to mend the nation. They were entitled to three years of celebration after 26 of Tamil Terror, but now is the time for reconstruction and reconciliation. Meddling by India, the UK, the US and the UN just make it more difficult. But they need a farsighted Tamil partner, a visionary like Lakshman Kadirgamr. Hopefully if a charismatic Tamil moderate like that emerges the Tamils wont kill him like they did Kadirgamr. TNA has made some positive moves lately (ie holding the national flag on may Day in Jaffna) so there is reason for guarded optimism for a responsible partner for peace to emerge.

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    Restore all rights to General Fonseka and release all political prisoners -Mangala

    (Lanka-e-News-23.May.2012, 7.30PM) While we acknowledge the release of General Sarath Fonseka from prison as recommended by the Minister of Justice to HE the President and approved accordingly, we do register our strongest protest for restricting his civic rights in engaging in political activities, as he chooses and wish to.

    As we have come to understand, General Fonseka has been released from prison, given a remission on his sentence under Article 34 of the Constitution, which only means he had been allowed from prison, before serving the full sentence and without restoring any of the rights he was denied by the sentences and due to imprisonment. We stress that he was a “political prisoner” and his release should therefore accept him as a politician, free to involve in politics on his own accord.

    We also demand that all other political prisoners including the 234 Tamil youth on hunger strike, who are held in detention and without charges for well over 02 years be released immediately, as the government has so far failed to file any charges against any of them. Filing of charges hereafter would only mean, the government is not prepared to free them and for that purpose, charges that could not be framed for over 02 years are now being framed.

    So is the issue of all the security personnel who were victimised and punished for being in association of General Fonseka. They should also be pardoned and their previous status restored immediately.

    A government that claims, it is respecting human and civil rights and safeguards democracy, should not only be seen to be so to the world, but must also live to be so for the people of this country to engage with their conscience as free and independent people.

  • 0
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    SF must join hands with the opposition alliance and throw the corrupted MR’s government and abolish the Executive Presidency and bring back the parliamentary democracy.

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