The Government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa kicked off the new year by taking a major leap in the process to release and pardon death row prisoner and murder convict R Duminda Silva after a heavily politicised Commission appointed to investigate complaints of political victimisation unanimously decided the conviction had been a miscarriage of justice.
The Presidential Commission chaired by former Supreme Court Judge Upali Abeyratne claimed that “powerful evidence” produced before the Commission had led to its unanimous determination that the respondents to the Complaint, MP Ranjan Ramanayake, retired High Court Judge Padmini Ranawaka and former CID Director SSP Shani Abeysekera had fabricated evidence to convict Duminda Silva for murder.
A High Court Trial at Bar found Silva guilty of the murder of SLFP strongman Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra in 2016 and sentenced the former MP to death, a ruling that was upheld by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court in 2018.
Commission Chairman Abeyratne was disgraced for politicising a case as a district judge at the behest of former AG and Chief Justice Sarath N Silva and disciplined for his conduct, although he was never forced into retirement and eventually appointed Supreme Court Justice by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The Commission sat specially to hear the Duminda Silva complaint after it had officially wound up its business on October 31, 2020, using a special reporting extension provided by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to hear the Duminda Silva complaint filed by his father, Vincent De Silva. SSP Abeyratne, MP Ramanayake and former HC Judge Ranawaka were cited as respondents by the convict’s father in his complaint before the Commission.
Commission has unanimously concluded that the three respondents, Ranjan Ramanayake, Shani Abeysekera and Padmini Ranawaka had fabricated evidence to falsely accuse and convict R. Duminda Silva for murder, based on what it called “powerful evidence” provided to the commission.
Based on its report seen by Colombo Telegraph, the Commission has unanimously determined that murder convict Duminda Silva should be acquitted and released from all charges filed against him in the indictment at the Colombo High Court in the case HC 7781/15.
The report says that although Duminda Silva was convicted of murder and sentenced to death after the case HC 7781/15 in High Court, a conviction subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court, the courts did not have the benefit of evidence produced before this commission, thereby undermining the process of justice. “Therefore, this Commission unanimously recommends that the Attorney General of Sri Lanka files an official appeal to the Supreme Court to have the judgment against the 11th respondent in this case, R Duminda Silva subject to judicial review by a wider bench of judges.”
Highly placed sources told Colombo Telegraph that President Rajapaksa has been eager to keep a pre-election promise to Silva’s brother who owns an influential broadcasting network that propelled the Sri Lanka Podujana Party to power. However the President has been wary of severe public criticism since Silva’s conviction was widely popular with most Sri Lankans. Silva’s reputation as a major player in Colombo’s illegal narcotics trade. “The PCoI report will now give President Rajapaksa the cover he needs to release Duminda because it will be based on recommendations by senior judges” said a source close to the Government.
The Commission also recommended the prosecution of all three respondents on charges of fabrication of evidence, abetting the commission of a crime, wrongful confinement of a person by abusing provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and corruption under the Bribery Act.
Based on the excerpts of the report by the Commission, the following were the recommendations against the Respondents:
Prosecute respondents for the following offences:
· Under Penal Code Section 189 (Fabricating evidence) read with 191 (Giving or fabricating false evidence with intent to procure conviction of capital offence) since they have fabricated evidence
· Under Penal Code Section 100 for the offence of abetment of fabrication of evidence
· Under Penal Code Section 335 (Wrongful confinement of a person for whose liberation a writ has been issued) for detaining R Duminda Silva at the CID by abusing the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
· To send all relevant documents and evidence from the Commission to the Attorney General and the Bribery Commission to facilitate prosecution before the appropriate judicial authority.
· To investigate and punish police officers under police disciplinary rules for bringing the police force into disrepute. (By Chinthika De Silva)