Fonseka arrest deepens crisis of Sri Lankan ruling class

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Tamils marching in London against the Sri Lankan Army atrocities in the Vanni region
Tamils marching in London against the Sri Lankan Army atrocities in the Vanni region

THE split in the Sri Lankan ruling class has deepened with the arrest of General Fonseka who led the military campaign which killed tens of thousands of Tamils and ended with the execution of the Tamil Tiger leadership who were surrendering under a white flag.

Supporters of the seized Sri Lankan opposition leader Sarath Fonseka have vowed to take to the streets of Colombo to protest against his arrest and detention at an undisclosed location.

General Fonseka’s wife, Anoma, broke down in tears as she revealed how the authorities had still not informed her where her husband was being held, after military police bundled him away on Monday evening. She said she feared for his safety and called on the international community to work to free him.

Speaking from Colombo, she said: ‘They have not told me where he is. I have tried to find out but could not. There are a lot of rumours: some say he is being held at the naval headquarters, some say he is at the army headquarters. Some say he is at an army camp. I cannot find out; nobody can go there.’

Last night – just 24 hours after the general was arrested while meeting political allies at his offices – came the announcement that President Mahinda Rajapakse had dissolved parliament and called elections for April 8.

General Fonseka’s supporters believe the decision to arrest him was a purely political move, designed to get him out of the way ahead of the parliamentary elections in which he has vowed to participate.

The government says now that General Fonseka, who failed to beat Mr Rajapakse in the presidential election last month, is being investigated for participating in political activity while he was in uniform – an alleged breach of the military code. It added he was ‘hell-bent’ on betraying his comrades, by allegedly agreeing to testify in a war crimes inquiry.

Government minister Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters General Fonseka would be tried in a military court on charges of conspiring against the President.

‘When he was the army commander and chief of defence staff and member of the security council, he had direct contact with opposition political parties, which under the military law can amount to conspiracy.’

He said: ‘He’s been plotting against the President while in the military . . . with the idea of overthrowing the government.’

Mano Ganesan, a member of the coalition that supported General Fonseka in the presidential contest, said it was anticipated that more political leaders would be arrested.

Bourgeois opposition parties and their supporters were planning to gather outside the country’s Supreme Court this morning for a non-violent demonstration against General Fonseka’s arrest. ‘We are prepared to face this with determination,’ Mr Ganesan said.

Following his election victory, the President spoke of the need for reconciliation and urged the country to pull together.

Following the election a number of news websites that had been critical of the government were shut down for what the authorities claimed were ‘defamatory remarks’.

The government has also overseen a major purging of the senior ranks of the army, with a number of senior officers who may have been close to General Fonseka being transferred or else forced to resign.

Suren Surendiran, a senior member of the British Tamils Forum, said: ‘The Rajapakse regime has time and again proved to the international community that it doesn’t believe in freedom of speech.

‘If a war-winning Sinhala general gets this treatment by the regime, what chances have the Tamils got in that oppressive state?’

General Fonseka’s wife Anoma Fonseka has appealed to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to supply the necessary medicines needed for her husband.

Fonseka said at a press briefing Tuesday, that she tried to contact government authorities to know the whereabouts of General Fonseka after his arrest but she had failed in her attempt.

Meanwhile, Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella said that the main charge against Sarath Fonseka is that he had links with certain political parties while he was attending the National Security Council meetings, comprising national security.

• Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers arrested, on Tuesday morning, supporters of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

The Tamil bourgeois party were distributing handbills thanking the people of Jaffna peninsula for casting their votes in large numbers to Sarath Fonseka in the recent presidential election, rejecting President Mahinda Rajapakse, on the TNA’s request, but embracing the Sinhala nationalist general.

This arrest is seen as a continuation of the attacks on completely unprincipled and opportunist TNA supporters who openly campaigned for Sarath Fonseka.

TNA parliamentarian Suresh Premachandra’s attempt to have the arrested TNA supporters released did not succeed though he took up the matter with Sri Lankan army high officials.

The persons were arrested while distributing the handbills in front of Surest Premachandran’s office in Kaangkeasanthu’rai road in Jaffna town.

The soldiers had confiscated thousands of the handbills from the arrestees.

• United National Party (UNP), Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP-M-wing), Democratic Peoples Front (DPF) and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) staged protests in key towns in the country on Wednesday against the arrest of General Sarath Fonseka.

The main protest is to be held near Hultsdorf, UNP deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya told a media briefing.

He told media persons that the opposition will also brief the international community regarding the arrest.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse has dissolved Parliament and the gazette notification to this effect has been sent to the government printer, according to initial reports from presidential secretariat sources.

The Commissioner of Elections will fix the date of nomination and the polling date. According to presidential secretariat sources that the nominations would close between February 16 and 26 and a poll will be held probably on April 8.

Mahinda Rajapakse arrived in Colombo on Tuesday morning after the three day official visit from Russia.

Sri Lankan workers hope that both wings of the bourgeoisie tear themselves to pieces, thus weakening Sri Lankan capitalism and clearing the way for a socialist revolution.

Only such a revolution can win the rights of the working class and the right of the Tamil people to self determination.