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Fonseka becomes Sri Lanka's first field marshal

Former Sri Lankan army chief Sarath Fonseka being conferred the country's highest military rank of field marshal by President Maithripala Sirisena. A Sri Lanka Army photo

COLOMBO (PTI): Former Sri Lankan army chief Sarath Fonseka has been conferred the country's highest military rank of field marshal for "achieving victory over terrorism" by the new government, five years after he was jailed on alleged treason charges by the previous regime.

President Maithripala Sirisena awarded the honorary title to retired Gen Fonseka at an official ceremony in the capital on Sunday.

Sirisena said ensuring justice for the 64-year-old former army chief was a "responsibility undertaken by the government in our quest for justice for the whole of the army."

Fonseka, who became the first Sri Lankan to receive the title, was jailed after he unsuccessfully tried to challenge former president Mahinda Rajapksa's re-election bid in 2010.

But the new government of Sirisena used its executive powers to drop all the charges, including dabbling in politics while in uniform, against Fonseka.

He was bestowed the title for "achieving the victory over terrorism". Fonseka had been charged with treason by the Rajapaksa regime.

Soon after his 2010 poll defeat, Fonseka was detained on a corruption charge relating to military procurements and then given a 30-month jail sentence. He spent two years in jail.

He was stripped of his rank, pension and medal he received during his 40-year career and also denied the right to contest polls for seven years.

Fonseka led Sri Lankan troops to victory over the LTTE Tamil Tigers in 2009. But he and Rajapaksa fell out over who deserved the credit for guiding the country to the victory. He was eventually released by Rajapaksa's government under international pressure in May, 2012.

Fonseka had said he would testify before international tribunals probing the possible war crimes charges during Sri Lanka's nearly three-decade conflict with the LTTE, angering the Rajapaksa government.


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