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8,000 prisoners to get early release as a solution to prison congestion

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By Saman Indrajith

Prison Management and Prisoners Rehabilitation State Minister Lohan Ratwatte says the government is planning to release about 8,000 prisoners as a solution to the problem of congestion in the prisons.

Ratwatte made the announcement at the inaugural meeting of the Justice Ministry Consultative Committee in the parliamentary complex on Saturday.

Minister Ratwatte said that there were 28,951 inmates in 28 prisons across the country. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had issued a directive to release inmates eligible for a pardon, given the COVID situation. A Cabinet paper had been submitted by the Justice Ministry to re-introduce a four-year pardon scheme which had not been in practice for nearly 20 years. The paper also proposed that all death row prisoners who had served more than 20 years be released, Minister Ratwatte said, adding that the Ministry intended to pay the minor fines on behalf of prisoners who were in prison due to their inability to pay them.

Commissioner General of Prisons Thushara Upuldeniya said that there were around 10,500 inmates related to drug related offences. Of them, 8,500 were in the prisons for heroin-related offences.

Justice Minister Ali Sabry said those convicted of drug offences should be rehabilitated instead of being incarcerated. In most cases, it was not the drug dealer who was convicted, but those who had fallen prey to them.

As regards laws delays, Minister emphasised that Sri Lanka ranked in the 165th position out of the 189 countries of the world. Adding to it the Minister said it had come to his attention that more than 5,000 civil cases were pending in the Sri Lankan District Courts which had not been resolved for over 25 years.

Minister Sabry said that the number of the Supreme Court judges had been increased from 11 to 17 and the number of Court of Appeal judges from 12 to 20 and such action had not been taken for 42 years.

The Minister said that the Cabinet approval had been granted to shift the Ministry located in Hulftsdorp from its present location make more space available to the judiciary.

State Minister Ratwatte and 14 MPs including Weerasumana Weerasinghe, Charles Nirmalanathan, Diana Gamage, M. S. Thowfeek, Udayana Kirindigoda, Madhura Vithanage, S. Kajendran, Sudath Manjula, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, Sagara Kariyawasam were present at the Ministerial Consultative Committee on Justice chaired by Minister Sabry.



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Cardinal: Was there any link between passage of 20A and Easter Sunday probe outcome?

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… stands by his claim of foreign involvement

By Norman Palihawadana

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith yesterday said that there could be a connection between the outcome of the probe into the Easter Sunday attacks and the enlisting of Muslim MPs’ support for the passage of the 20th Amendment.

The Cardinal said: “The leader of a Muslim political party voted against the 2Oth Amendment. But his MPs voted for it. The brother of Rishad Bathiudeen too was released around the same time. These are questionable developments. These events could be part of a deal.”

The Cardinal reiterated that international forces were behind the Easter Sunday attacks and that he did not believe that there had been any local political group directly involved in the Easter attacks.

Addressing the media yesterday, the Cardinal said that the remarks he made on Sunday had been misunderstood. He stood by his claim that international forces had been behind the attacks, he said.

“However, some people claim that I said a local political group was behind the attack. I have always maintained that there are international forces that use religious and ethnic extremists such as Wahabists to create conflicts. I was referring to such groups.”

The Cardinal added that only a small group of Muslims was involved in extremism.

The Archbishop also said that former President Maithripala Sirisena believed that taking action against extremists like NTJ leader Zahran Hashim would create unnecessary issues.

“Something along these lines is also in the PCoI on Easter Sunday attacks. The report also implies that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was lenient in dealing with growing extremism in Sri Lanka.”

The Cardinal urged the government to protect the country and ensure that there would be no repeats of incidents like the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Archbishop of Colombo requested all religious leaders to work on rebuilding trust among all communities.

 

 

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AG appeals to Supreme Court against granting of bail to Ravi, others

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The Attorney General yesterday appealed to the Supreme Court against bail for former Minister Ravi Karunanayake and seven others indicted in the bond case by the Colombo Special High Court Trial-at-Bar.

The eight accused were arrested and remanded over the bond scams. Later, they were released on bail.

The court warned that if the accused attempted to exert influence on the witnesses, by any means, bail would be revoked and they would be placed on remand until the end of the trial.

 

 

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26 more coronavirus cases detected in Jaffna Tirunelveli market area

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Another 26 COVID-19 cases had been detected on Sunday, from the Tirunelveli Market in Jaffna, which was the epicentre of the recent outbreak in the town, Dr. A. Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday.

The market and its surroundings had been reopened on April 11 following a 19-day lockdown. However, 378 PCR tests were conducted after the Sinhala and Tamil New Year and 26 of them proved positive.

Dr. Kethiswaran warned last week that there might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna after the New Year celebrations.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported in Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be lockdown, he warned.

“It’s too early to say whether we have to close the area down. We are monitoring the situation,” DR. Kethiswaran said.

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