Fonseka Found Guilty
By Easwaran Rutnam
Former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka was on Friday found guilty of making a false statement to The Sunday Leader newspaper alleging that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had ordered the killing of several senior LTTE cadres when they attempted to surrender to the military carrying pieces of white cloth in their hands during the final stages of the war.
In December 2009 Common opposition candidate Sarath Fonseka was quoted in The Sunday Leader of December 13, 2009 saying that Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa instructed a key ground commander in the north that all LTTE leaders must be killed and not allowed to surrender.
In an explosive interview with The Sunday Leader Fonseka said he had no information communicated to him, as army chief in the final days of the war that three key LTTE leaders had opted to surrender to Sri Lanka’s armed forces as the battle drew to a bloody finish.
Fonseka told The Sunday Leader that the Defence Secretary had given orders to Shavendra Silva, at that time Commander of the Army’s 58th Division, to kill unarmed LTTE surrendees.
Rajapaksa vehemently denied the veracity of Fonseka’s statement for which the ex army chief was indicted and convicted in a Trial-At-Bar. Commonly referred to as the “white flag case”. The trial lasted almost a year and the verdict was delivered on Friday by the Colombo High Court.
The judgment was however divided with Justices Deepali Wijesundera and A. Z. Razeen finding Fonseka guilty on the first charge while Justice W. M. T. B. Warawewa dissented.
The charges filed against Fonseka were:
1. On 2009 December 8 or a date nearest to that within the jurisdiction of this court at a location in Colombo, Fonseka had in an interview to The Sunday Leader Editor Frederica Jansz made a comment which could arouse communal feelings directly or indirectly. In the comment Fonseka had claimed that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had ordered Brigadier Shavendra Silva, who led the 58th army brigade, not to leave room for any LTTE leader to surrender and to instead kill all of them. The statement violated the emergency regulations gazetted by the President on August 13, 2005.
2. The statement made to The Sunday Leader Editor Frederica Jansz could incite communal hatred.
3. An attempt was made to arouse anti-government feelings among the public and create mixed feelings among the public and or communities.
Fonseka was sentenced to three years imprisonment and was also fined Rs. 5000 and if he fails to pay the fine then he will have to serve an additional 6 months in jail. A tense situation arose outside the Colombo High Court premises after the verdict was announced. Prison guards had to virtually drag Fonseka into the prison van as he tried to address his supporters who were protesting outside the Court house. The protestors later pulled down posters of the President erected on lamp posts and shouted anti-government slogans. Meanwhile Fonseka’s lawyers have said that they will appeal against the verdict this week.