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‘Wele Suda’, ‘Podi Lassi’ seek court protection following deaths of fellow criminals in police custody



Justice Minister endorses BASL’s concerns over ‘extra-judicial killings’


by Shamindra Ferdinando


The Court of Appeal will take up the high profile case of convicted prisoner Gampola Vicarage Samantha Kumara alias Wele Suda’s legal bid to prevent him being handed over to the police on Monday (24). ‘Wele Suda’ recently moved the court, successfully, through his mother, Rajagalgoda Gamage Malani, in the wake of two killings in police custody.

Referring to the killing of Dineth Melon Mabula alias ‘Uru Juwa’ and Dharmakeerthi Tharaka Perera Wijesekera alias Kosgoda Tharaka, on May 11 and 13, respectively, Saliya Pieris, recently elected President of the Bar Association (BASL) said: “These deaths have all the hallmarks of extra-judicial killings and we call upon the State to ensure the safety and security of persons in their custody.”

The BASL issued a comprehensive statement in this regard.

The Court of Appeal directive, in respect of a writ petition filed on behalf of the convicted person (Wele Suda) was issued on May 17.

‘Wele Suda’ is held at the maximum security Boossa prison, one-time detention facility used to detain those apprehended in connection with the second JVP-led insurrection. The Court of Appeal issued an interim directive to prevent the police from taking custody of ‘Wele Suda’ effective till May 24. The bench consisted of Justice Arjuna Obeysekara and Justice Priyantha Fernando.

Romesh de Silva, PC, who appeared for Wele Suda’s mother told court that his client feared for the life of her son that he, too, would be killed the way several others were dealt with. The top lawyer sought an interim order as his client was deeply concerned over the imminent handing over of her son to the police.

The head of a 9-member committee tasked with formulating a new draft Constitution, de Silva explained how the continuing deaths of persons handed over to the police troubled his client who believed her convicted son sentenced to death couldn’t be handed over to the police.

The petitioner has named Inspector General of Police, Commissioner General of Prisons, Superintendent Boossa Prison and the Attorney General as respondents.

In response to The Island query Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC, said that he endorsed the views expressed by the President of the BASL. The Minister said; “No one should take the law into their own hands and everyone should be answerable.”

The late Kosgoda Tharaka’s alleged links transpired in investigations into the recovery of the largest weapons cache ever from the underworld in late June 2020. Police commandos recovered 11 T-56 assault rifles and one T-81 hidden in a building at Pitipana, Homagama. The police subsequently recovered some more weapons and ammunition though the inquiry remains stalled.

Attorney-at-law and civil society activist Senaka Perera told The Island that Kosgoda Tharaka had been the second prominent suspect killed after being handed over to some other police unit by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Lawyer Perera said that Samarasinghe Arachchige Madush Lakshman aka Makandure Madush, who had been in the custody of the CID since early May 2019, was killed soon after he was handed over to the Colombo Crime Division (CCD). Kosgoda Tharaka, too, had been held by the CID and was recently handed over to the Peliyagoda Special Crimes too died in custody. The latter was also involved in killing of a policeman during a botched jewellery shop robbery at Matara.

Perera charged that the National Police Commission (NPC) chaired by retired IGP Chandra Fernando seemed to be in deep slumber. He said that in his capacity as the President, Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners, he took up the issue at hand with the NPC.

Lawyer Perera said that Police headquarters owed an explanation on how suspects died after being transferred from the custody of one police unit to another. Responding to another query, Perera underscored the danger in exposing a convicted person to a life threatening environment. He cited the writ application filed in respect of ‘Wele Suda’ as a bid to prevent another death in custody.

The Court of Appeal on April 05, 2019 rejected an appeal filed by ‘Wele Suda’ over the death sentence imposed on him by the Colombo High Court in 2015 for the possession of heroin.

In the backdrop of effort to prevent the police taking the custody of ‘Wele Suda,’, President’s Counsel Saliya Pieris appeared in the Court of Appeal on Thursday (20) on behalf of Janith Madushankar alias Podi Lassi. Pieris brought to the notice of justices, Sobitha Rajakaruna and Dhammika Ranepola the most recent killings in police custody of ‘Uru Juwa’ and ‘Kosgoda Tharaka’.

Pieris sought judicial intervention to ensure safety and security of his client against the backdrop of high profile killing in police custody. The lawyer requested that the court directed the IGP to transfer his client from the Custody of the CID to another unit.

Deputy Solicitor General Dileepa Peiris who appeared on behalf of the outgoing Attorney General Dappula de Livera, PC, assured the court the matter would be taken up with the IGP. The case will be taken up on June 16.

The Island sought the opinion of Nalin Ladduwahetty, PC, regarding the death in police/judicial custody and legal representations for underworld figures and those involved in narcotics –related offenses. Condemning deaths in custody, PC Ladduwahetty emphasized that every suspect or accused in a case had a right for legal representation. The presumption of innocence operated at all times until a competent court found one guilty.

Chrishmal Warnasuriya explained that no one should die in police custody or otherwise except by the due process followed in terms of the law- a sentence issued by a court of law. Warnasuriya also underscored the responsibility on the part of the lawyers to appear before those who sought their advice. Dismissing what he called the widespread assertion the lawyers were supposed to lie for their clients, Warnasuriya said their responsibility was to present their clients version of events before a court of law. “The decisions are taken by court,” the lawyer who appears for W.U.C. Premasiri, Sub Inspector of Police held by the CID in connection with the controversial Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) dealing in heroin case said. The SI has been held in terms of Detention Orders issued in terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Warnasuriya emphasized that a lawyer as an officer of court couldn’t turn away cases and refusal only subjected to some professional limitations, which do not apply in the present instance. The basic principle is that all should be afforded legal representation regardless of the offense and circumstances, Warnasuriya said.

Meanwhile, during parliamentary proceedings on Thursday (20), Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka faulted Public Security Minister Rear Admiral Sarath Fonseka for deaths in police custody. The former Army Commander said that those who had been arrested by the police during the yahapalana administration were killed under controversial circumstances.

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Haiti police riot after crime gangs kill 14 officers




Protesters attempted to break into the Haitian prime minister's residence (picture BBC)

BBC reported that Rebel police officers rioted in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince on Thursday following the killing of more than a dozen colleagues by criminal gangs.

The rioting officers blame the government for not taking action.

More than 100 demonstrators blocked streets, burned tyres, broke security cameras and damaged vehicles.

Local media said several officers broke through the gates of the prime minister’s residence and attempted to enter Haiti’s international airport.

Fourteen officers are thought to have died since the start of the year in various gang attacks on police stations.

Seven officers were killed in shootout on Wednesday alone, according to Haiti’s National Police.

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Gold-covered mummy among latest discoveries in Egyptian tomb




One of four newly discovered tombs at the Saqqara archaeological site south of Cairo (picture BBC)

BBC reported that archaeologists say they have found a gold leaf-covered mummy sealed inside a sarcophagus that had not been opened for 4,300 years.

The mummy, the remains of a man named Hekashepes, is thought to be one of the oldest and most complete non-royal corpses ever found in Egypt.

It was discovered down a 15m (50ft) shaft at a burial site south of Cairo, Saqqara, where three other tombs were found.

One tomb belonged to a “secret keeper”.

The largest of the mummies that were unearthed at the ancient necropolis is said to belong to a man called Khnumdjedef – a priest, inspector and supervisor of nobles.

Another belonged to a man called Meri, who was a senior palace official given the title of “secret keeper”, which allowed him to perform special religious rituals.

A judge and writer named Fetek is thought to have been laid to rest in the other tomb, where a collection of what are thought to be the largest statues ever found in the area had been discovered.

Several other items, including pottery, have also been found among the tombs.

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Health crisis: GMOA calls for WHO intervention



Alleging the government has failed to address the developing crisis caused by grave shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) has called for WHO’s intervention.In a letter dated January 26, 2023, addressed to WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, GMOA Secretary Dr. Haritha Aluthge has raised concerns about shortage of pharmaceutical drugs, escalating prices of medicines and allegations of malpractices and corruption in procurement procedures.

The GMOA has released its letter to the media along with what it called a 10 fold plan formulated by an expert committee set up by the GMOA.

The following are the GMOA’s proposals:

1. To appoint a high-level coordinating committee within the Ministry of Health to ensure effective communications and coordination between following institutions, identified as responsible for the whole exercise. (a) Ministry of Health focal points (b) Medical Supplies Division (MSD) (c) State Pharmaceuticals Corporation (SPC) d. State Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Corporation (SPMC) e. National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) Monthly progress review meetings of aforementioned committees are to be ensured, with Chairmanship of Secretary, Ministry of Health or his representative. Quarterly review with Minister of Health to facilitate arriving at essential policy decisions.

2. To ensure Transparent Procurement Procedures, where every interested citizen should be entitled to know the true facts.

3. To upgrade the available computer software programme to match the current needs and to ensure more efficiency in procurement procedures.

4. To appoint a technical committee to study Auditor General Reports with regard to procurement Procedures of last 5 years and actions to be declared with specific time frame to implement recommendations of the Auditor General.

5. Review the recent Presidential Investigation Commission reports and initiate urgent actions to file legal action against the respondents. Remove all those officials who are accused through these reports of malpractices, from their current posts, until the verdicts are delivered.

6. To minimise emergency purchases of Medicinal drugs and ensure the transparency of that process through progress reports on emergency purchases, which is to be published on a monthly basis.

7. To identify alternative modes for distribution of pharmaceutical drugs to peripheral stations (e.g.: Public Transport services with identified modifications)

8. To open an “Information Desk” at the Ministry of Health to effectively communicate with and guide the donors of pharmaceutical items.

9. To fill the existing vacancies at National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA), following stipulated acceptable pathways and activating all the sub committees within NMRA.

10. To declare a relief package to reduce the prices of essential medicinal drugs, through the upcoming interim budget.

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