Fonseka's Second Court Martial Postponed Indefinitely

T V Sriram/Colombo
Fonseka's Second Court Martial Postponed Indefinitely
Sri Lanka's former army chief Sarath Fonseka today faced another court martial in connection with alleged contravention of military procurement procedures during his tenure, but its proceedings were put off indefinitely over the composition of its panel.

59-year-old Fonseka is being tried over two sets of charges - engaging in politics while in service and defence procurement irregularities during his tenure - separately.

He appeared before the first court martial yesterday on charges of engaging in politics while in uniform but he disputed the proceedings as "illegal" and refused to reply to the accusations. Its next hearing has been set for April 6.

"The second court martial proceedings today just went on for over 30 minutes and without our intervention it was decided to unanimously adjourn its sitting till a decision on its composition is taken," Fonseka's lawyer, Nuwan Popege, told PTI.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, will decide on the composition of the panel for the second court martial.

"General Fonseka was confident, though there was nothing for him to talk today during the proceedings," Popege said.

He said the proceedings were to focus on allegations of contravention of military procurement procedures by Fonseka.

"Since it was President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who convened the court martial, he will have to decide on whether to continue with the (three-member) panel of the first court martial for the second one as well," Popege said.

He made it clear that neither Fonseka nor his lawyers raised any issue about the composition of the second court martial team during today's proceedings.

"We have also appealed in the civil court against the court martial proceedings and we will try to get the verdict in our favour," he said.

Fonseka's lawyers would meet him tomorrow morning to discuss the future course of action.

In a statement, the army said "the second court martial assembled at Navy Headquarters this morning to hear the charges but later unanimously decided to adjourn its sittings and refer the composition of the tribunal to convening authorities."

The judges decided they could only hear the political interference case under the first court martial, which will resume on April 6.

The second court martial on defence procurement irregularities had been adjourned "until further notice".

"This is for the sake of maintaining high degree of transparency and unprejudiced nature. The sittings were therefore adjourned until further notice," the army said.

Last month, the Colombo Fort Magistrate had issued an arrest warrant for Fonseka's son-in law Dhanuna Tillekaratna over the multi-million dollar Hicorp deal, a defence contract which was awarded when Fonseka was the army chief. Tillekaratne was the President of the US-based Hicorp company.
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