The presidential pardon granted to murder convict Duminda Silva would be “unreasonable and arbitrary” unless six conditions were fulfilled in deciding on his release, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka said in a statement that was issued soon after the controversial decision by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was announced.
Silva became the second murderer on death row President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has pardoned. The Ex-MP and Gotabaya loyalist was released on Poson full moon poya day. Death row prisoners at the Mahara and Welikada prisons have launched a hunger strike over the President’s decision to pardon the VIP prisoner.
The BASL said it had written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa requesting him to clarify the basis on which Silva had been selected for the purpose of granting a pardon. In a letter to President Rajapaksa, the BASL asked the head of state to reveal the circumstances taking into consideration in granting the pardon, whether a report was called for by the President from trial judges as required by the constitution, and the contents of that report, whether the advice of the Attorney General was sought before the pardon was granted and whether the recommendation of the minister of justice was obtained before the decision was made to released Silva.
“It is the right of the public to know whether the said pardon has been granted in accordance with the report of the trial judges, the opinion of the attorney general, and the recommendation of the minister of justice,” the BASL said in its statement after Silva’s controversial release.
Duminda Silva’s pardon would result in “erosion to the rule of law and result in a loss of public confidence in respect of the administration of justice” unless all of the conditions stipulated in its letter had been satisfied, the BASL said.
BASL noted that while Article 34 (1) of the constitution gives the President power and discretion to pardon convicts, that power must not be exercised arbitrary and selectively.
Silva was convicted for the 2011 murder of Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and four others by a High Court Trial at Bar in 2016. In 2018, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court heard Silva’s appeal and ratified the Trial-At-Bar determination that Silva was guilty of murder and upheld the death sentence.
Duminda Silva served as the monitoring MP for the Ministry of Defence when President Mahinda Rajapaksa was in office. Current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa was Secretary to the Ministry at the time, and Silva’s close associate.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said the pardon granted to Duminda Silva weakens the rule of law and undermines accountability.
🇱🇰 #SriLanka: Presidential pardon of Duminda Silva, a former MP convicted of the murder of a fellow politician, is another example of selective, arbitrary granting of pardons that weakens rule of law and undermines accountability.
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) June 24, 2021
Justifying his uncle’s decision to pardon a murderer on death row, Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa said that a “great injustice” was done to Duminda Silva during the previous Government. He said that was evident by the leaked recordings of former SJB MP Ranjan Ramanayake, who is serving his own prison sentence for contempt of court. Namal Rajapaksa claimed that there was a lot of “criticism” in the country regarding the judgment given to Duminda Silva. His release was a “positive development,” the nephew Rajapaksa asserted. he Minster said.
We publish below the full statement of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka: