Pardoning convicts President engaging in cronyism – CPRP

By Ruwan Laknath Jayakody

The Committee to Protect Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) claimed that President Maithripala Sirisena was engaging in a form of cronyism and nepotism, in the granting of presidential pardons to convicts.

On 10 June, President Maithripala Sirisena had, as per the powers vested in him under Article 34(1) of the Constitution, granted a pardon to former Chairman of the Warakapola Pradeshiya Sabha, M.L. Pathiraja Samarasinghe, who was previously interdicted by the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption on the charge of soliciting a bribe of Rs 25,000 to award a tender for the renovation of roads, and was subsequently convicted by the Colombo High Court on the said charge, and imposed a sentence of 18 years of rigorous imprisonment to be served in six years and a fine of Rs 40,000, a verdict which was later upheld by the Court of Appeal when Samarasinghe appealed the High Court ruling.

Speaking to Ceylon Today, General Secretary of the Committee, Sudesh Nandimal Silva pointed out that while they were not opposed to the release of any prisoner, there are however other prisoners much deserving, eligible, and more suited to receive a presidential pardon, including elderly prisoners between the ages of 70 and 80 years who are not even allowed to die in freedom, and female prisoners in a helpless state. He also claimed that the behaviour/conduct review conducted once every four years in the case of convicted prisoners, was not being conducted.

“The fault lies with Sirisena. It is only as per his needs and requirements or those of the members of the elite class that prisoners who are convicted and punished for their offences, who happen to be their cronies, are pardoned. Not just Sirisena, but previous Presidents such as Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa did the same,” he added.

Deputy President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, President’s Counsel M.U.M. Ali Sabry and its Secretary, Kaushalya Nawaratne were not available for comment.

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