Monday, May 8, 2017

Committee for the Protection of Prisoners urged

Committee for the Protection of Prisoners urgedwelikada 1welikada 1Committee for the Protection of Prisoners urged
May 07, 2017
The prison officials had objected to the entry of TID and STF personnel armed with firearms without prior permission being sought and obtained. Petitioner learnt that the TID and STF officials insisted that this was an order issued by Secretary of Defence and therefore such protocols were not necessary. 
The Petitioner states that the prison was in the control of the Army until 10.00 am on 10th November 2012. The petitioner had seen an officer in yellow T-Shirt whom he later got to know as Rangajeewa former Narcotics Division of the Police with pistol in hand had asked for one Thushara alias Kalu Thushara. There were several prison officers including Commissioner General of Prisons P.W.Kodippili inside the prison at that time together with the said police Narcotics Unit officer Rangajeewa. The petitioner saw Thushara being dragged to the floor and being shot near the gate. The petitioner had personally seen the body of Thushara next morning and the body had gunshot injuries in the neck. At about 6.00 am the petitioner and other prisoners saw Amila Malik Perera alias Konda Amila being taken in hand cuff and subsequently the petitioner got to know that Amila too had been killed.
By that time 27 of the prison inmates had been killed by STF/Army/TID/Prison Intelligence. The Petition has made a complaint to the Criminal Investigation Department on 02.02.2015 regarding the said incident. However, requests to hold a proper investigation into the incident and punish those responsible have so far been ignored. Hence the petitioner has sought court assistance through a writ petition to hold investigations. 
The committee report of the appointed investigation team by the good governance regime headed by retired judge Nimal Nambuwasam was handed over to the Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksha in June 2015 in the presence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, but so far it has not been published. Expressing his views on the matter, Justice Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksha said since there was nothing significant that could have been taken from the report submitted by the committee appointed by the previous regime, he had appointed a committee headed by a Supreme Court judge. According to that report, the IGP had been informed to conduct further investigations regarding the incident, adding that he had also sent a reminder to the IGP in this regard.
The government is in the process of finalising compensation payments for those who were killed or injured during the operation conducted by the government security forces at the Welikada Prison five years ago, said Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs, D.M. Swaminathan. Arrangements have been made to grant Rs. 2 million for the 16 who died in the incident, while the injured including the prison guards will be paid Rs. 500,000 each as compensation. However, the family members of the victims told us that to them punishing those responsible for this murderous act should be punished and paying of compensation will not suffice. Therefore they had filed a writ petition in the Appeals Court last month seeking a proper investigation into the incident. 
The Committee for Protecting the Rights of Prisoners says all prisoners who died during the incident should be compensated fairly and impartially. The President of the Committee Senaka Perera had also submitted a report regarding the incident to the Human Rights Council. The previous government too appointed a committee to investigate the incident that took place at Welikada. However, they have merely tried to justify the actions taken and the reasons for the incident. Even an eyewitness, Nandimal Silva stated that although statements were obtained from them, many of the details given by the eyewitnesses were not included in the report. He had even received death threats for having given evidence.
Attorney-at-law Senaka Perera said while his organisation is seeking justice for the victims, this whole incident has been turned into a political deal, a political tool. “Now some say the war heroes who saved the country from terrorism cannot be punished. However, there are those who issued the orders to the security forces to carry out this massacre. Even if compensation is paid, can you put a figure to the value of human life? Moreover, although laws are in place to protect witnesses who testify, there is no proper mechanism to protect these prisoners. Their lives are eternally in danger,” he said. However, no one is a born criminal, there are always reasons and circumstances that lead people to take the wrong path. During this incident hardened drug lords as well an innocent people lost their lives. 
AshWaru Colombo