Fonseka trial adds to the gloom

What is it with Sri Lanka? All I’d like is a country that could be transparent and allow fair trials. However, that all seems a little bit beyond Mahinda Rajapaksa, the country’s president.

What am I talking about this time? Nothing more than the start of the so-called trial of General Sarath Fonseka.

Now Fonseka undoubtedly has some tales to tell.

He was the Chief of Army Defence Staff during the conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, commonly known as the Tamil Tigers, that ended in May 2009. A conflict marred by numerous allegations of human rights abuses – several of which were leveled against Fonseka. These include the allegation, documented by Amnesty, that he had ordered the firing of heavy weaponry into an area packed with displaced civilians

Fonseka fell out massively with Rajapaksa after the conflict and stood against him in the recent presidential elections. He lost the election and then promptly promised to co-operate with a war crimes tribunal – which is where the story gathers pace.

After making such a promise, he was promptly beaten up by security services and arrested. And since then, as The Telegraph reported, more than 20 of his campaign staff have also been arrested, including several former military officers, and computer equipment has been seized by civilian police.

His trial, as The Times reports, takes the form of a court martial and relates to charges that he engaged in politics while servings as a military officer, and that he violated regulations governing arms procurement. The trial has been adjourned now to 6 April as the BBC reports – two days before parliamentary elections – and will be held behind closed doors in front of a three-member panel of two-star generals. The three will then consider seven charges against Fonseka in just two days.

Now, call me naïve, but that doesn’t really sound like the best way to let the passage of justice takes its true course. And of course there’s now little prospect of any of the more enlightening revelations that he could have told ever seeing the light of day.

His arrest was just one of the latest moves to clamp down on political dissent and we were worried back then.

And this week there was even more evidence that the crackdown is still continuing with the leaking of a secret service watch list of media activists – which has an obvious knock-on effect to their work – as we reported yesterday.

Still at least it’s sunny outside the office today.

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