Death sentence for Sri Lanka’s Rajapaksa loyalist
ECONOMYNEXT – A loyalist of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family and former supervisor MP of the defence ministry, Duminda Silva was condemned to death today for the killing of a fellow party man five year ago.
A trial-at-bar comprising three High Court judges sentenced Silva and four others to death for their role in the October 2011 killing of former SLFP MP Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra and four others during local elections.
The judgement could set a legal record in the country with the chairman of the trial-at-bar Shiran Gunaratne finding Silva and the other accused not guilty and discharging them, while two others deciding that they should hang.
With the 2-1 majority decision, Silva and his four supporters were taken to prison in handcuffs. They said they will appeal, but must remain in prison until the Court of Appeal hears their case.
"It is normal for a trial-at-bar to have different opinions on the punishment, but to have such a divergent view on the basis of the case is quite troubling," a lawyer said.
"This case highlights the need for judicial accountability and the need to audit the quality of work by judges."
However, official sources noted that the split decision of the High Court underscored the challenges the new government will face in prosecuting some high profile cases relating to members of the former regime.
Judicial corruption is a key issue touched upon by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during his visit to Colombo earlier this month.
The judgement in the Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra case could undermine the government’s argument that there was no need to involve foreign judges in any accountability process.
The country’s judicial medical system is also under suspicion following the Thajudeen case where the former Judicial Medical officer is accused of falsifying an autopsy report and then stealing vital evidence.
In the Lasantha Wickrematunga case too, the JMO’s report is now suspected and courts have ordered a fresh autopsy.
In the case of Duminda Silva, who claimed he too had been shot by Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, a neurosurgeon at the Sri Jayawardenepura hospital had certified that Silva had suffered brain damage and was unable to walk.
However, it turned out that either the surgeon’s medical report was false or he had made a miraculous recovery. He walked to the prison bus handcuffed to another convict, but without help from anyone to walk.
The former defence secretary addressed Duminda Silva as "sudu putha" (fair son). During Rajapaksa’s rule, Duminda Silva was a supervisor MP of the defence ministry.
However, he also faced allegations of child sex abuse and dealing in drugs, a charge he denied in several newspaper interviews.
(COLOMBO, Sept 8, 2019)