Sri Lankan war-hero spending nights on cement floor in jail

Sri Lanka`s war-hero Sarath Fonseka, who once commanded his troops against the LTTE, has been lodged in a solitary cell where he sleeps on a mat on the cement floor, attired in ill-fitting prison clothes.

Last Updated: Oct 03, 2010, 17:12 PM IST

Colombo: Sri Lanka`s war-hero Sarath
Fonseka, who once commanded his troops against the LTTE, has
been lodged in a solitary cell where he sleeps on a mat on the
cement floor, attired in ill-fitting prison clothes.

Jailed on corruption charges, Fonseka, who was
transferred from his detention centre on Thursday after
President Mahinda Rajapaksa put his seal on his sentence, has
been taken in as a regular prisoner.

"Fonseka, now Prisoner No: 0/22032, changed from a
national dress into an ill-fitting jumper, the regular attire
for convicts and slept the night on a mat on the cement floor.
He had only one pillow," the Sunday Times newspaper said.

The 59-year-old former war hero whose sentence
recommended by a court martial was confirmed by President
Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Commander in Chief of the Sri Lankan
armed forces was moved from detention at the Naval
Headquarters to Welikada prison here.

On September 17, the second court martial against
Fonseka, the leader of the opposition Democratic National
Alliance (DNA), found him guilty of all four counts in a case
related to the procurement of weapons by the army in violation
of the tender procedures and recommended that he be jailed for
up to three years.

According to a report though the Court Martial
sentenced Fonseka to a rigorous jail term upto three years,
the Sri Lankan President commuted it to 30-months.

Fonseka, who successfully led the Sri Lankan military
in the war against the LTTE which ended in May last year, was
charged with favouring a company headed by his son-in-law, who
is also an accused in a separate case filed in the high court
on the same charges.

"It was close upon midnight Thursday when former
Army Commander Sarath Fonseka was escorted into an isolated
cell in Ward "S" at the high security Welikada Prison," says
the Sunday Times.

It says he was woken up at 5 am on Friday, like all
other inmates in the block and though his cell had a toilet he
complained the flush was not working.

"He had to walk to a water tank outside the ward.
There, he had to use a bucket to draw water to wash or bathe.

Later, with a metal jug on one hand and a metal plate
on the other, he stood in the queue with other convicts to be
served breakfast. "It was rice and Pol Sambol. As a prelude to Prison
officials assigning him his daily chores, a doctor examined
him. Tailors at the prison also took his correct measurements
to provide him more jumpers to suit his size," says the
newspaper.

"For lunch on Friday, he joined the queue again with
the metal cup and plate.

"Lunch was rice, a watery cucumber curry, dhal, a
vegetable Mellun (dry curry or condiment made of minced leaves
or fruit and scraped coconut) with a small piece of fish and
gravy. Immediately thereafter, he was back in his cell until
2 pm.

"After a short break outside with more chores, he
returned to the cell at 7 pm. The lights go out at that time
and he would have to sleep in the darkness until dawn next
morning.

"That will now be the daily routine for Fonseka, the
former Commander of the Army, who led troops for the military
defeat of Tiger guerrillas in May last year," it said.

The verdict came a few weeks after Fonseka was
stripped of all his ranks and pension by the first court
martial that convicted him of the charge of dabbling in
politics while in uniform.

PTI