Sri Lanka's Fonseka vows protests, paper closed

Police sealed the offices of the pro-opposition Lanka newspaper, the day after arresting the editor, Chandana Sirimalwatte, on unspecified charges.

Sri Lanka's Fonseka vows protests, paper closed

Sri Lanka's presidential candidate on Saturday vowed protests against what he said was his stolen victory and accused the government of removing his personal security as part of an "indirect assassination attempt".

General Sarath Fonseka lost Tuesday's presidential election to incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa by more than 1.8 million votes.

Fonseka as the army commander stood victorious with Rajapaksa in May after the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in a 25-year war. But the two have become bitter political enemies since the general entered the presidential race in November.

Polling went peacefully. But on Wednesday army troops surrounded the luxury hotel in the capital Colombo where Fonseka was staying.

The government said it was only interested in army deserters who were with him and it suspected may be planning a coup. He later walked out a free man after vowing to go to court to challenge what he said was a stolen election.

"The (public) has the right to protest and they will do that. Protests are already coming," Fonseka told reporters on Saturday. "I have become a political threat to them as I am the people's president. People elected me and they robbed it from me."

He said his security detail had been reduced to four police officers from 90 soldiers. On Friday, police commandoes raided Fonseka's office and arrested 15 former military officers working for him.

"They are trying an indirect assassination attempt on me, trying to make me vulnerable," he said.

The government has said Fonseka is now an ordinary retired army officer and not entitled to special treatment.

Fonseka says he could be a target of Tamil Tiger remnants.

Paper closed

Also on Saturday, police sealed the offices of the pro-opposition Lanka newspaper, the day after arresting the editor, Chandana Sirimalwatte, on unspecified charges.

"(The Criminal Investigation Division) on a court order sealed the office as part of an ongoing investigation," said police spokesman I.M Karunaratne. He declined to give further details, citing policy.

The paper in its latest edition said Rajapaksa had rigged the poll by threatening the election commissioner and manipulating the number of votes polled. That echoes opposition allegations.

The government has rejected allegations of wrongdoing and Fonseka has yet to file his complaint in court.

The army shuffled a number of senior officers on Saturday, including some seen as loyal to Fonseka.

"There are about 40 transfers that have been done," military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said. He called them a routine rotation of personnel.


Reuters

Last Mod: 31 Ocak 2010, 13:19
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