Lankan prez vows to follow due process in Fonseka probe

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s president promised to follow due process in the sedition investigation of the defeated presidential candidate and ex-army chief

whose arrest has pushed the island nation into political turmoil.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa assured a key opposition leader in a meeting yesterday that the “rule of law must prevail” and the arrested general will be freed if the allegations against him are not proven, according to a statement on the president’s Web site.

Military police arrested General Sarath Fonseka on Monday on sedition charges. The government initially said Fonseka was “plotting against the president while in the military ... with the idea of

overthrowing the


Later, the government added more accusations, saying Fonseka’s reported call for the prosecution of anyone who committed war crimes during the country’s civil war showed he was “hell-bent on betraying the gallant armed forces of Sri Lanka.”

Rajapaksa and Fonseka were close allies in the government’s victory last year against Tamil Tiger rebels, who fought 25 long years for independence. But after a fallout, Fonseka resigned and contested

a bitter presidential

election last month, losing to Rajapaksa by 17 percentage points.

The Supreme Court yesterday decided to allow Fonseka to appeal his detention on February 23. Ranil Wickremesinghe, an opposition leader, said the president Rajapaksa told him in their meeting yesterday that future steps in the case will follow the court’s decision. Wickremesinghe said in a statement said he asked Rajapaksa to immediately release Fonseka.