Detained Sri Lankan ex-general starts hunger strike

Colombo, March 7 (DPA) Sarath Fonseka, the former Sri Lankan army commander and presidential candidate now being detained in a navy facility, has begun a hunger strike to protest his lack of access to a telephone, his wife announced Sunday.

Anoma Fonseka said her husband was prepared to fast to death.

Sarath Fonseka was taken into custody in February after his failed attempt to challenge incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa for the presidency in January. He has been accused of trying to topple the government.

The general’s decision to launch a hunger strike came after mobile phone service he had used to communicate with his family was discontinued, his wife said.

Chief Military spokesman Major General Prasad Samarasinghe said that the use of the phone had been a courtesy extended to Fonseka and was not a requirement.

“We can withdraw the facility (phone) at any time. There is no requirement that he should be given a phone,” Samarasinghe said.

Fonseka receives food deliveries from his wife on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, evidence against Fonseka has been collected as part of the military court proceedings against him and is due to be handed over to current army commander Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya next week, Samarasinghe said.

Fonseka was arrested after he fell out with Rajapaksa and contested the Jan 26 presidential election. Fonseka received only 40 percent of the vote, versus Rajapaksa’s 58 percent, clearing the way for the incumbent to start a second term.

Fonseka, who spearheaded the military campaign to defeat the Tamil rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to end a 26-year-old war in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka in May last year, was called a hero by the government when the war ended.

Fonseka is contesting the April 8 parliamentary election as a member of the opposition Democratic National Alliance, which is being backed by a Marxists party. His wife is campaigning on his behalf.



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