Fonseka loses parliamentary seat
Last Updated: Thursday, October 07, 2010, 18:43
Colombo: Sri Lanka's former army chief Sarath Fonseka's brief stint as an MP has come to a sudden end in the wake of his 30-month imprisonment for corruption in defence deals, amid reports that the President may consider pardoning him if a plea is made personally by him or a family member.

Sri Lankan Parliamentary Secretary General Dhammika Kithulgoda today informed Election Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayaka that the parliamentary seat of 59-year-old Fonseka, who leads the opposition Democratic National Alliance (DNA), has fallen vacant.

Authorities have requested the EC to nominate a person for the seat in Fonseka's place.

Fonseka is serving a 30-month jail term imposed by a court martial after the ruling was approved by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his capacity as the commander in chief of the armed forces of Sri Lanka. He was sent to jail on Thursday last for corruption in defence deals during his tenure as the army chief.

The Sri Lankan Parliamentary system allows the candidate securing the second highest votes to succeed the elected member of the respective constituency in the event of the incumbent's demise or disqualification.

An ordinance in this regard also clearly states that if a member is jailed he loses his seat immediately, sources told.

Fonseka had contested the April 8 general elections from the Colombo district constituency.

The Daily Mirror newspaper, meanwhile, reported that Rajapaksa has said he would only consider a plea to release Fonseka if it is made by the former army chief himself or a member of his family.

The President said there was a laid down procedure for the granting of pardon and that had to be followed, it reported.

Rajapaksa said he would not consider any "politically motivated" plea for Fonseka's release.

Reacting to the move to disqualify Fonseka from his parliamentary seat, DNA General Secretary Vijetha Herath told PTI that the alliance will challenge the decision.

He said the opposition alliance will send a letter to both the Election Commission and the Parliamentary Secretary General as they have no right to disqualify him.

"We will also approach Supreme Court in this regard shortly," he said. On reports that President Rajapaksa might consider a request for pardon by Fonseka or his close relatives, Herath said will not make such a plea.

Meanwhile, Mass Media and Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said that had Fonseka's wife Anoma wanted, she could have taken the appropriate measures for getting him released.

He noted that former President Chandrika Kumaratunga had pleaded on many occasions for the release of her husband Vijaya Kumaratunga when he was taken into custody by the J R Jayawardena regime on charges of being involved with the Naxalites.

The children and the closest relatives could request the President for the release of Fonseka, he was quoted as saying by the Sri Lankan Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC).

"However, they are not doing so but engaging in a political programme. Mr Fonseka has also stated that he does not accept the verdict of the court martial," he said.

The minister pointed out that three of the members of the military tribunal were also part of a court martial appointed by Fonseka during his term as the army commander.

At that time, they functioned as the members of the court martial against major general Parakrama Pannipitiya, he said.

Rambukwella said he wondered how the members of the then military tribunal could turn 'bad members' now.


First Published: Thursday, October 07, 2010, 18:43

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