Sri Lanka police fire tear gas on opposition in bid to quell protests

Pro-government activists throw stones at Fonseka demonstrators outside court

Supporters of the detained Sri Lankan opposition leader Sarath Fonseka were pelted with stones and fired on with tear gas yesterday after they clashed with government activists at the country's Supreme Court.

Thousands of opposition supporters angered by the arrest of their leader gathered outside the court in Colombo, where they burned life-size posters of President Mahinda Rajapaksa – the man who defeated the former general in last month's presidential election. They also smashed coconuts, following a local tradition that this would inspire divine intervention. But instead their actions were met by supporters of the government, who threw stones and chased them away. When the opposition activists fought back, said witnesses, the police intervened with tear gas. At least eight people were hurt, reported officials at local hospitals.

"We were walking peacefully when we were attacked by government goons," Marina Abdeen, an opposition supporter, told the Associated Press.

The opposition activists held the rally after General Fonseka, the 59-year-old former army chief, was detained by military police, who arrived en masse at his offices on Monday evening. The government has said he is being investigated for actions he took while still in uniform that could amount to conspiracy against the government.

It is likely the man whose public profile soared after he oversaw the defeat of Tamil separatist rebels last year will face a court martial. The members of the opposition coalition said that yesterday's demonstration would be the first of a series across the country that would rally people against both the general's arrest and what many believe is an increasingly authoritarian stance being adopted by the government.

Yet the authorities have yet to produce any evidence against General Fonseka and various officials have made differing, sometimes contradictory allegations about his alleged crime. Some have suggested the former general was planning a military coup, while others have suggested his offence was to make contact with political parties while still a serving officer, something allegedly contrary to military rules.

The former four-star general had also indicated that he was willing to participate in a war crimes investigation into the final days of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, when the UN estimates that up to 10,000 Tamil civilians were killed. That undertaking, claimed the government, was proof that Mr Fonseka "was hell-bent on betraying the gallant armed forces of Sri Lanka who saved the nation from the most ruthless terrorist group in the world".

In the aftermath of the former general's arrest and detention at the naval headquarters, the coalition of political allies that backed him as their presidential candidate have been rushing to regroup ahead of another, imminent political showdown.

On Tuesday, Mr Rajapaksa dissolved parliament and called an election for 8 April, an event in which Mr Fonseka had vowed to participate, either as a candidate for one of the established parties or one he intended to form. It seems all but impossible that he could now take part, except as a symbolic rallying point for those opposed to the government.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman, Peter Capaldi and Nick Frost star in the Doctor Who Christmas Special, Last Christmas
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran