February 10, 2010 / 6:05 PM / 9 years ago

Ban raises Fonseka arrest with Sri Lanka president

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon raised the arrest of a defeated Sri Lankan opposition candidate with its president and expressed concern about events in the Asian nation, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

Sri Lanka's losing presidential candidate, former Army chief General Sarath Fonseka, shows a burned ballot paper during a protest rally against the government, in Colombo, February 3, 2010. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon raised Fonseka's arrest with its president, the United Nations said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte/Files

In a telephone call on Tuesday night, Ban also agreed with President Mahinda Rajapaksa that Lynn Pascoe, head of the U.N. political department, would visit the island soon after the presidential inauguration this month, a U.N. statement said.

Tensions have risen in Sri Lanka since former army commander Sarath Fonseka was arrested on Monday by military police on charges of engaging in politics against his president while still in uniform.

Fonseka and Rajapaksa worked together to end a 25-year war against Tamil Tiger separatists last year but soon fell out. Fonseka lost to Rajapaksa in a January presidential poll and then accused his former commander-in-chief of rigging the vote.

The U.N. statement said Ban “expressed his concern (to Rajapaksa) about recent developments in Sri Lanka,” brought up Fonseka’s arrest and “urged the government to respect the due process of law and guarantee (Fonseka’s) personal safety.”

Ban also pressed Rajapaksa to keep a previous commitment to make proposals for a political solution of issues with the Tamil community in the north and ensure full accountability for any human rights violations.

More needed to be done to return people displaced by the fighting with the separatists to their places of origin, the U.N. chief said.

Human rights groups have accused Colombo of disregarding human life as the war ended, saying the Sri Lankan Army fired heavy artillery at a tiny strip of land where the Tigers had retreated along with hundreds of thousands of civilians.

The Sri Lankan government has rejected the charges.

Ban visited Sri Lanka shortly after the end of the conflict last May, but some human rights advocates charged that the visit appeared to be endorsing the government’s victory.

Reporting by Patrick Worsnip; editing by Paul Simao

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