Lankan prez sacks a dozen army officers

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s president today sacked a dozen senior military officers whom the defence ministry said were a “direct threat to national security” after last week’s presidential elections.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa had accused the defeated opposition of planning to assassinate him after he beat former army general Sarath Fonseka in the bitterly fought January 26 poll. Security forces kept Fonseka under siege while election results were announced on Wednesday, and 15 retired officers working at Fonseka’s offices were later arrested by police. A military source who declined to be named told AFP that 12 top officers were sacked to thwart any attempted coup by Fonseka’s supporters inside the military.

The defence ministry in a statement said an undisclosed number were “sent on compulsory retirement” because they were considered a “direct threat to national security”.

The ministry said the officers had breached military discipline by becoming involved in politics.

Rajapaksa and Fonseka were close allies in the massive offensive that finally crushed the separatist Tamil Tigers in May, but they fell out after the victory and went head-to-head in the presidential elections.

Rajapaksa also carried out a shake-up of the army over the weekend, transferring 40 officers and promoting several considered loyal to his administration.