Fonseka rejects clemency plea

Sri Lanka‘s jailed ex-military chief Sarath Fonseka, who fell out with the president after the army’s crushing defeat of Tamil rebels, has rejected a government offer to consider clemency, his wife said Friday.

Anoma Fonseka said she met her husband at Colombo‘s Welikada prison where the former four-star general began his 30-month sentence Thursday night after President Mahinda Rajapakse confirmed Fonseka’s court martial conviction.

The former top military commander was held in virtual solitary confinement and had to sleep on the floor in a mosquito-infested cell, but he was not prepared to go on bended knees to the government, she told reporters.

“He told me he has not committed any crime to appeal to the president for clemency,” Anoma Fonseka said after a brief meeting with her husband inside the maximum security prison. “He has no intention of making a plea.”

She said he was responding to a newspaper report which quoted top defence official Gotabhaya Rajapakse, who is also the president’s younger brother, as saying Fonseka should directly make a plea to the president, his former commander-in-chief.

“The president was ready for a re-evaluation of the recommendation of the court martial on the basis of a plea by Fonseka,” the Island newspaper said.

However, Fonseka’s Democratic National Alliance told reporters Thursday that they will appeal to a civilian court against the court martial which found him guilty on September 17 of violating procurement procedures when he was the army chief.

Fonseka’s conviction came after he was stripped of his rank and pension following another court martial that found him guilty in August of dabbling in politics while in uniform.

The ex-army chief has said the government is seeking revenge for his decision to stand against the president and wants to keep him from speaking in parliament, which is controlled by Rajapakse loyalists.

Meanwhile, sources in the Welikada Prison said that Fonseka had been assigned the cell in which the late Vijaya Kumaratunga had been imprisoned during the J. R. Jayewardene era.

A high ranking Prison official said there wasn’t any visible change in the behaviour of Gen. Fonseka. He had eaten rice and pol sambol for his breakfast yesterday and told prison officials that he had enjoyed the meal.

Fonseka in a friendly chat with curious prison officials, who gathered yesterday morning to catch a glimpse of him, said that he would not seek pardon from anybody. from lbo & Island

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