Both the Northern Provincial Council and Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran today called on the President to grant an amnesty to Tamil political prisoners who are languishing in prisons all over the country, even after the war coming to end 5 years ago.
Chief Minister Wigneswaran in a letter addressed to the President said that authorities should file indictments without delay if there are any credible charges against those detained or should take immediate steps to release them.
A media statement signed by the NPC Chairman C.V.K. Sivagnam said that many hundreds of Tamils arrested on suspicion during the war were still detained in prisons without any court action.
“Therefore this council requests the President, Minister of Justice and Attorney General to grant amnesty at least on humanitarian grounds and release all political prisoners who are detained in prisons”.
Tamil political prisoners detained at the Magazine Prison in Colombo today launched a hunger strike urging the authorities to release them. The detainees were refusing to take their food and were staying in their cells, according to a prison officer.
Simultaneously Tamil political prisoners detained in all other prisons across the country too launched a hunger strike today.
Meanwhile Chief Minister Wigneswaran in his letter addressed to the President said that Tamil Prisoners were staging a fast today to register their protest at their prolonged imprisonment.
“There is concem that the fast may be violently dealt with by prison officers, as has happened in the past. The problem is a human issue that should be dealt with passion and empathy, given the number of years that these unfortunate human beings have been kept incarcerated without trial” he added.
Wigneswaran went on to say “if steps could be taken to give those unfortunate persons the assurance that measures will be taken in respect of their cases within a specified period of time they would be satisfied”.
Wigneswaran in his letter to the President suggested several measures to address the issue.
These included the preperation of a list of the prisoners, categorizing them according to the offences in respect which they have been taken into custody. Secondly grant an amnesty or at least release on bail those who are suspected of committing minor offences.
Next the chief minister suggested that all detainees suspected to come under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, but against whom no cases have so far been filed, could be released on adequate bail.
He also called on the President to give urgent directions to the Attomey General’s Department and the Police to file indictments within a specified period of time.
Also Wigneswaran suggested to release on bail, the detainees charged under the PTA, but whose cases have not been taken up for trial or are pending, where the only evidence against them is a so called confession.
The Chief Minister proposed legal aid for those against whom cases have been filed and other evidence are available and finish cases on a priority basis.
Meanwhile the Commissioner General of Prisons Rohana Pushpakumara, had met the fasting prisoners at Colombo Magazine prison today and had requested them to give in writing, their grievances while promising to hand over the document to the President.
The government is yet to reveal the exact number of Tamil political prisoners but according to prison sources the number exceeds 300.