UNP rebels support Tiran Alles’ `Free Fonseka’ bid


By Shamindra Ferdinando

UNP Reformists on Friday (Dec 30) distanced themselves further from UNP and Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, as they threw their weight behind DNA parliamentarian Tiran Alles engaged in negotiations with President Mahinda Rajapaksa to secure the release imprisoned defeated presidential candidate, General Sarath Fonseka.

Addressing the media outside Welikada Prison after meeting Gen. Fonseka, former Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya expressed confidence in the ongoing talks spearheaded by Alles on behalf of Gen. Fonseka. Jayasuriya was flanked by UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa and Kurunegala District MP Dayasiri Jayasekera.

Strongly condemning the government for throwing a war hero behind bars on bogus charges, the Reformists declared their support for Alles’ effort despite Wickremesinghe clashing with the DNA MP over the latter’s role in this matter.

Political sources said that the Reformists’ move would infuriate Wickremesinghe, who in the immediate aftermath of the attack on UNP headquarters, ‘Sirikotha’, alleged that parliamentarian Alles had tried to take control of the UNP by securing the post of the General Secretary of the party.

Responding to a query by The Sunday Island, sources pointed out that Wickremesinghe, too, had joined a separate initiative spearheaded by the popular Podi Hamuduruwo of the Gangaramaya to secure Gen.  Fonseka’s release.

Wickremesinghe, in the run-up to recent elections for the post of Leader, Deputy Leader and National Organizer, wrote to the chief incumbent of the Gangaramaye temple pledging his support along with that of his parliamentary group and the Opposition to the release Fonseka campaign.      

The Fonseka issue could widen the split and in fact give an opportunity to Wickremesinghe to initiate disciplinary action against the Reformists, sources said. Wickremesinghe wouldn’t tolerate those undermining his authority, they added.

Authoritative government sources emphasized that there wouldn’t be any change in President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s position that General Fonseka’s family must appeal directly to him seeking a presidential pardon if the matter is to be considered. Alles too had been appraised of the government’s position.

The president recently told editors of national newspapers that Alles had met him to explore the possibility of having General Fonseka released.

Sources said that Wickremesinghe launched his own initiative with a mega protest in Colombo several weeks ago demanding the unconditional release of the former army commander. Wickremesinghe subsequently visited General Fonseka in the company of MPs Ravi Karunanayake and Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena.

Sources said that the Fonseka issue highlighted the plight of the Opposition. In the run-up to Jan. 2009 presidential elections, the Fonseka factor brought the UNP, JVP and the even the TNA together but today it was nothing but another contentious issue, sources said.

The TNA had refrained from commenting on the imprisonment of the former army Chief, while the JVP insists that one-time Opposition candidate should be released unconditionally. The JVP is of the opinion that General Fonseka hadn’t done anything wrong to apologize to President Rajapaksa.

Government sources said that it was unfortunate that those demanding unconditional pardon have conveniently forgotten how a statement attributed to Fonseka in the run up to the last presidential poll had paved the way for a section of the international community to push for an international war crimes tribunal.

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