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The United National Party has questioned the President over the decision to release former Member of Parliament, Duminda Silva, who was convicted for murder and sentenced to death in 2016.

The party's Central Media Unit in a statement said that the President must explain his decision to include the former Parliamentarian in his list of Presidential pardons issued today (24).

"What was the criteria used in determining those who were eligible for the Presidential pardon? This particular case was of great public interest and as such the President must explain to the citizens of the country why he chose to issue this particular pardon," it said.

The UNP further urged the President not to overrule the judiciary through the unbridled use of the Presidential pardon.

"There is a specific procedure that must be followed in the issuing of such pardons, was this procedure followed in this situation?," the statement said, adding that the UNP reiterated its commitment to the continued independence of the judiciary in the country."

'Pattern of rewarding murderers'

Former Justice Minister and SJB MP Thalatha Atukorale said that the presidential pardon granted to convicted murderer Duminda Silva may have shocked those who trusted this government, but it comes as no surprise to those of us who knew their attitude towards protecting murderers and punishing those who investigated them.

 

"Duminda Silva’s death sentence was unanimously upheld by a bench of five Supreme Court Justices. Beginning with the pardon of child killer Sunil Ratnayake, this regime has demonstrated a pattern of rewarding murderers while punishing police officers who have the courage to investigate murders committed by powerful or politically connected people," Atukorale said.

 

She observed that the Court of Appeal in granting bail to former CID Director SSP Shani Abeysekara found that the government fabricated false evidence and false statements and used draconian laws without a shred of evidence to punish independent professional police officers who refuse to bow to them.

"That judgment gave people reason to hope that there are still independent, law abiding civil servants and members of the judiciary with a backbone who will not bow down to the executive or bend the criminal justice system and other state machinery to their whim and fancy," she said.

However, she pointed out that those found guilty of the most serious crimes in our law enjoy presidential protection while the judges and police officers who brought them to justice have targets on their backs.

Warning that the government would be held entirely responsible if any harm were to befall them, she said that it is up to those remaining professional police officers and civil servants to remember that Sri Lanka is not a monarchy, to ignore coercion by the executive and to place the lives of these upstanding judges and police officers before whatever threats or inducements may be offered to them for looking the other way.

Duminda's release undermines the rule of law

The U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina B. Teplitz today said that the pardon of Duminda Silva, whose conviction the Supreme Court upheld in 2018, undermines rule of law.

While welcoming the early release of prisoners held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), she said that "accountability and equal access to justice are fundamental to the UN SDGs to which the GoSL has committed."

 

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