Ex-army chief Sarath Fonseka joins Sri Lanka government

Sarath Fonseka (left) and Ranil Wickremesinghe (right) shake hands during an agreement signing ceremony in Colombo on Feb 3, 2016.
Sarath Fonseka (left) and Ranil Wickremesinghe (right) shake hands during an agreement signing ceremony in Colombo on Feb 3, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka's former army chief Sarath Fonseka on Wednesday (Feb 3) joined the coalition government which has vowed to probe allegations of atrocities committed during the bloody finale of the island's separatist war.

General Fonseka declared he had "nothing to hide" after signing an agreement with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to become part of the government which has promised justice for tens of thousands of war victims.

"I have always said that I am ready to face any investigation," General Fonseka told reporters in Colombo. "We have nothing to hide. I feel that the allegations must be investigated."

General Fonseka led troops to victory over Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, ending the 37-year war, but he fell out with then president Mahinda Rajapakse over who deserved the credit.

The decorated general was then publicly humiliated, stripped of his rank, pension and medals collected in a 40-year career. He spent two years in jail and lost the right to contest elections for seven years.

After winning presidential polls a year ago, Mr Maithripala Sirisena used his executive powers to clear General Fonseka of treason and other charges lodged against him after he mounted a failed bid to unseat Mr Rajapakse at his January 2010 re-election.

Mr Sirisena's government has agreed to set up special courts to investigate allegations that troops killed at least 40,000 Tamil civilians in the final months of the war.

General Fonseka has always backed Mr Rajapakse's repeated claim that not a single civilian was killed during the conflict.

General Fonseka, whose fledgling party failed to win any seats at parliamentary elections in August, was not given any immediate role in the government on Wednesday.

But sources said he was likely to be nominated to a vacant seat in the legislature in exchange for supporting the ruling party.

Diplomatic sources said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein is expected in Sri Lanka in coming days to follow up on a September resolution calling for accountability for war-time rights abuses.