Leader of the Opposition and Leader Tamil National Alliance, R. Sampanthan has today urged the President to release Tamil Prisoners in Custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Law without any further delay.
Sending a letter to the President he said: “Quite apart from the pernicious nature of the Prevention of Terrorism Law, persons in similar situations such as persons taken into custody during the insurrections of the J.V.P have been granted an Amnesty and released. It is not understood why the same principle cannot be applied in regard to these prisoners.”
We publish below the letter in full:
12th October 2017
His Excellency President Maithripala Sirisena
President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Tamil Prisoners in Custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Law
I write to you on behalf of the above category of prisoners who have been agitating for their release for a long period of time.
I wish to state the following: –
(I) These persons are held in custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Law irrespective of whether they have been convicted, have been charged, or have not yet been charged. They have been arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Law and all action taken against them has been in terms of that Law.
(ii) It has been accepted by the Sri Lankan State both domestically and internationally that, the said Prevention of Terrorism Law is draconian, obnoxious, and should therefore be regarded as obsolete. The Sri Lankan State has made several commitments both domestically and internationally that the said Law will be repealed, and that a new Law will be enacted in keeping with acceptable domestic and international norms.
(iii) The Sri Lankan State is yet to fulfill this commitment, but that does not derogate from the Sri Lanka State’s commitment that the said Law should not remain on the Statute Book.
(iv) The only evidence available against most of these persons are confessions extracted from them against their will under the Prevention of Terrorism Law which would be inadmissible against them in normal Court of Law. Many of the cases have been postponed because the Prosecution is not ready to proceed with the Cases.
(v) Almost all of them have been in custody for very long periods of time, for as long as, they would have been sentenced, if sentence was passed on them shortly after being taken into custody.
(vi) The families of these persons in custody have suffered for very long periods of time, without the support of their bread winners. This vitally important factor has not been given due consideration.
(vii) Quite apart from the pernicious nature of the Prevention of Terrorism Law, persons in similar situations such as persons taken into custody during the insurrections of the J.V.P have been granted an Amnesty and released. It is not understood why the same principle cannot be applied in regard to these prisoners.
(viii) These cases cannot be considered as coming purely under the purview of the Attorney General’s Department. With due respect to the Hon. Attorney General as the Chief Legal Adviser of the state, these cases have a certain political dimension and cannot be addressed as a purely legal issue. It can be justifiably stated that if the Sri Lanka’s national question had been reasonably addressed in time, many of the persons in custody, would not have been in their present position and would have been useful citizens. This circumstance makes it obligatory that you address this issue politically too. The issue not being addressed politically is a strong impediment to reconciliation and the restoration of goodwill and harmony.
(ix) An unnecessary complication has been created by the transfer of some cases from Vavuniya to Anuradhapura. If witnesses needed .protection ,such protection could have been provided without the cases being transferred.
I have to very strongly urge that these Prisoners be released without any further delay.
Member of Parliament-Trincomalee
Leader of the Opposition
Leader Tamil National Alliance.
Copies to: –
- Hon. Ranil Wickramsinghe,Prime Minister, Temple Trees,Colombo-03.
- Hon.Thalatha Athukorale, Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, Colombo.
- Hon.Attorney General, Attorney General Department, Hultsdorp, Colombo-12