The arrest of retired General Sarath Fonseka any time now became imminent yesterday as a team of Criminal Investigations Department (CID) detectives probed an alleged attempt to overthrow the Government and assassinate President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The Department of Immigration and Emigration has been instructed not to allow Gen. Fonseka, his son-in-law Danuna Tillekeratne and a few others including retired Army officers to leave Sri Lanka. Instructions have gone out to officials at the Bandaranaike International Airport where security has been beefed up with more Air Force personnel.
The ongoing investigations, directly under Police Chief Mahinda Balasuriya, centre on reported activity at Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel (former Trans Asia) last Tuesday night, when counting of votes began. Senior DIG Keerthi Gajanayake, State Intelligence Service (SIS) Director, who has been placed in charge of the CID, is assisting him. He had served in the CID earlier for over two decades. Days ahead of the poll, DIG (CID) Nandana Munasinghe was posted to Mannar where the DIG was reportedly ill. He is to continue there.
The Government has accused Gen. Fonseka, retired military officers who backed him and some opposition leaders of conspiring to overthrow the Government. It claims that plans were afoot to surround “Temple Trees,” and assassinate President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
On Tuesday night, state television network Rupavahini repeatedly broadcast a report that a conspiracy to overthrow the Government was being hatched at a meeting chaired by Gen. Fonseka at Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel.
Opposition parties claim that their representatives together with Gen. Fonseka checked into Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel as a precautionary measure.
They say the main purpose was to pool all their security contingents together and ensure their protection in view of what they claimed were “serious security threats.” They deny they were engaged in any illegal operations.
On Thursday, CID detectives questioned the Manager of Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel. The Sunday Times learnt he has admitted to several procedural errors in allowing Gen. Fonseka’s group to check in. Seventy rooms had been allocated to them after S.H.A. Silva, a former Army officer and now Campaign Manager for Gen. Fonseka had paid one million rupees in advance. However, no one had been registered before the rooms were rented to them in accordance with regulations. The Manager has said that hotel security staff were not allowed to enter the rooms. Detectives claim that weapons were stored in some rooms.
A retired Major in the Army responsible for security at the hotel has told CID detectives that Gen. Fonseka’s bodyguards had switched off the surveillance cameras. Thus, their movements were not recorded on video. Detectives are also interrogating retired Army personnel who were then at the hotel.
These developments came as Government made top level changes in the higher rungs of the Army. Several senior officers who appeared on national television networks and print media during the election campaign to back President Mahinda Rajapaksa have been given important positions.