SLanka prez sacks parliament

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka's president Mahinda Rajapakse on Tuesday sacked the national parliament, clearing the way for a national election two months ahead of schedule, his spokesman said.

Rajapakse, who won re-election in presidential polls last month, signed a decree dissolving the national assembly with effect from midnight Tuesday, spokesman Lucien Rajakarunanayake said.

"It is now up to the elections commissioner to decide on the dates for the parliamentary election," he said.

Official sources said voting is likely to be on April 8 and the new session of the next parliament will be on April 22. A formal announcement is expected from the polls chief after receiving nominations during this month.

The legislature elected in 2004 could have continued until April with elections two months thereafter, but Rajapakse's latest move allows the ruling party to hold a snap election hot on the heels of his stunning success in the January 26 presidential vote.

Hours before parliament was dismissed, the government announced it was launching court martial proceedings against the defeated main opposition presidential candidate and former army chief, Sarath Fonseka.

Fonseka had been discussing plans to contest the parliamentary elections with other opposition leaders when he was dragged away by troops who moved him to an undisclosed detention centre.

The president's Freedom Alliance had a majority in the outgoing assembly, but only thanks to the defections of over two dozen opposition legislators.

Rajapakse, who secured 58 percent of the popular vote at the presidential election, has said he hoped to improve his hold on a new parliament by winning a larger number of seats for his Freedom Alliance.