By Somar Wijayadasa
I am neither a friend nor foe of President Rajapaksa or General Fonseka, and I have no axe to grind against any of them but what is done to General Fonseka is a travesty of justice.
As I am not privy to Fonseka’s court martial proceedings or judgment, I am unable to comment on its legality. But what hurts me – as an average citizen - is the unjust and odious manner in which the General was arrested, detained, and Court martialed on alleged trumped up charges and now convicted have violated all norms of justice and fair-play.
The first Court Martial was for meddling in politics while in uniform, and the second on charges of corruption in defense deals. The Govt first planned to charge General Fonseka with trying to have a military a coup to take over the government. Then, it was dropped.
The guilty verdicts of Courts Martial were a foregone conclusion but no decent human being ever expected such a vindictive sentence. The first Court Martial stripped the former army commander of his ranks and medals, and his rightly earned pension rights. The second guilty verdict not only puts him in jail but also strips him of his rightly earned Parliamentary seat.
I am not a military lawyer but it surprises me that contrary to military law and practice, these Courts Martial consisted of military officials of lower rank than that of four star General Fonseka; evidence given by politicians who crossed over to the Government for sheer political gain; and the verdict was handed down by lower ranking military officials. All point to a travesty of justice.
The procedural flaws, the conviction and punishments are disgraceful and outrageous only because of the double standards in how the law is applied differently to different persons.
It took three decades and over 70,000 deaths to defeat the Tamil Tigers. President Rajapaksa deserves credit for resolutely providing the political backing and necessary military resources to fight the war. All commanders of all forces and all soldiers deserve credit but it is army commander General Fonseka’s perseverance, his military strategy and his genuine interest that finally ended the war. Hence the General has been described as Sri Lanka's most successful army commander and perhaps the best army commander in the world.
During the last thirty years, there were Presidents, Prime Ministers, and military commanders who half-heartedly fought this dreaded war. In the past, almost all top military brass overtly or covertly dabbled in politics, and they have been rewarded with diplomatic assignments and what not.
It is suspected that most of them, while in military engaged in the purchase of military equipment – the indisputable and thriving business during wars. The ultra luxurious lives they live today speak volumes as to how they may have amassed their ill-gotten wealth. So, they dabbled in dirty politics, and they engaged in all kinds of secret military contracts. Why weren’t they court martialled? Where is justice?
In Sri Lanka, there have been instances in the past when civil courts have overturned decisions of military courts. General Fonseka may go to Court of Appeals but he may not expect any justice from today’s corrupt judicial system in the country.
General Sarath Fonseka will remain in the hearts and minds of every Sri Lankan as the Great Army Commander who defeated terrorism and united Sri Lanka.
(Writer, Mr. Somar Wijayadasa, was a former UNAIDS rep to the United Nations from Sri Lanka)