By Saman Indrajith
Justice Minister Ali Sabry said, on Thursday, that a massive transformation of the whole justice system was underway with full-time sub-committees on Criminal Law reforms, Civil Law reforms and Commercial Law reforms while working hard whilst another committee of experts was drafting the new Constitution.
The Minister said so at the the Ministerial Consultative Committee on Justice on the transformation of the Criminal Justice System.
The discussion on community-based correction was set in motion following the presentation by Assistant Secretary General of Parliament and former Justice Official Tikiri K. Jayathilake. The Assistant Secretary General addressing the committee said that Criminal Law and the notion of justice were entwined and it was important to extricate an individual into society as a responsible citizen rather than labeling them as criminals.
Assistant Secretary General of Parliament Tikiri K. Jayathilake said the above objective could be achieved by the Consultative Committee via two tiers; one being, the political tier, inclusive of the political leadership that would drive towards the requisite reforms. The second tier included officials and professionals representing various fields who would contribute their expertise towards the creation and development of relevant reforms.
Minister Ali Sabry said that it was the intention of the Ministry to involve everyone who was willing to contribute to the decision-making process for betterment. Furthermore, the Minister pointed out that before COVID-19 and under normal circumstances, there were approximately 30,000 to 33, 000 in prisons, whereas the capacity is only 11,000.
The vast majority were remand prisoners, whilst only an approximate number of 8000 were convicts. Ninety percent or more in remand prison were drug addicts and not drug related criminals, the Minister pointed out.
When called for the 2018-2019 statistics from the Government Analyst’s Department, the Minister explained that only 114 cases were in possession of the pure quantity of drugs. He stated that 99% of those who were arrested, which is approximately 3300 in number, were only in possession of 2-5g of drugs. Weighing on the gravity of the situation, the Minister explained how large-scale drug criminal cases had stagnated as the High Courts have been clogged by minor cases as mentioned.
Minister Sabry said that rehabilitating such individuals through community-based correction was important rather than allowing them to mingle with large scale drug criminals paving way for the conversion of a drug victim into a drug related criminal.
State Minister of Prison Management and Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Lohan Ratwatte said that 250 acres had been given by the UDA and measures had been taken to relocate the prisons from commercial areas such as the Welikada Prison, Women’s Prison, Magazine New Remand Prison to Horana in order to increase the capacity by 10 folds in comparison to the existing 38.5 acres in Welikada.
Expressing his views State Minister Susil Premajayantha said that there was a considerable delay in receiving the Government Analyst’s Report which caused a delay in Court hearings. The Minister of Justice acknowledged the same and stated that respective measures had been taken towards resolving the matter.
MP Weerasumana Weerasinghe said that it was mandatory to include subjects related to Law, Crime and conviction into the school syllabus as children should be educated in that regard from an early age. State Minister of Education Reforms, Promotion of Open Universities and Distance Learning Susil Premajayantha as well as the Minister of Justice stated that the matter would be looked into and measures would be taken to incorporate legal education into the school curriculum.
The MP also requested to consider the need of having a separate mechanism in the execution of Law when it came to children as it affected their future and their development into adulthood.
In response to a concern raised by MP Gevindu Kumaratunga regarding the attempt to conduct Law College examinations in English as a mandatory requirement, the Minister of Justice explained that such decisions were taken by the Council of Legal Education. The Minister affirmed that the new reform had no effect upon Law entrance examination and it would be held as usual in all three languages. Adding to the same, the Minister explained that such measures had been taken to cater to the demands of the field and to improvise on the quality of legal education and practice.
State Minister Lohan Ratwatte, State Minister Susil Premajayantha and MPs such as Weerasumana Weerasinghe, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, Sagara Kariyawasam, Udayana Kirindigoda, Madhura Vithanage, Charles Nirmalanathan and Gevindu Kumaratunga marked their presence at the Ministerial Consultative Committee on Justice chaired by the Minister of Justice Ali Sabry.
Lord Naseby asks why Adele not prosecuted in UK for child recruitment
Lord Naseby President of the UK all party British-Sri Lanka Parliamentary group has questioned the failure on the part of the UK to prosecute senior LTTE leader Adela Balasingham, wife of the outfit’s late theoretician Anton Balasingham. Lord Naseby said that Adele, who had been involved with the LTTE for several decades, was responsible for recruitment and deployment of child soldiers.
The following is the text of the statement issued by Lord Naseby in response to the UK statement at the Human Rights Council by Lord Tariq Ahmad on Feb 25:
“I am astounded how the UK or any other Member of the Core Group can possibly welcome the High Commissioner’s so called ‘detailed and most comprehensive report on Sri Lanka’ when it is riddled with totally unsubstantiated allegations and statements completely ignoring the huge effort to restore infrastructure and rehouse displaced Tamils and Muslims, who lost their homes due to the Tamil Tigers.
“Furthermore, I question how the UK Government knowingly and apparently consciously withheld vital evidence from the despatches of the UK military attaché Col. Gash. Evidence I obtained from a Freedom of Information request, resisted by the Foreign Office at every stage for over 2 years. These dispatches from an experienced and dedicated senior British officer in the field makes it clear that the Sri Lankan armed forces at every level acted and behaved appropriately, trying hard not to harm any Tamil civilians who were held by the Tamil Tigers as hostages in a human shield.
“This conscious decision totally undermines the UK‘s standing as an objective Leader of the Core Group; made even worse by the impunity for not prosecuting the LTTE leader living in the UK, largely responsible for recruiting, training and deploying over 5,000 Child Soldiers – a real War Crime. It is time that the UK Government acknowledges and respects the recommendations of the Paranagama Commission, which involved several international expert advisers, including from the UK – Sir Desmond de Silva QC, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, Rodney Dixon QC and Major General John Holmes. Sri Lanka and the UK should be honouring the recommendations of the Paranagama Commission, which provides real evidence over all the years of the conflict, rather than just focussing on uncorroborated claims during a few months in 2009, only when the war concluded.
“Furthermore, the criticism of the way Covid has been handled with no burials for anyone based entirely on scientific advice at a time when there was no advice from WHO shows no understanding. Following the scientific advice from WHO and Sri Lanka’s scientists, burials are now permitted. The UN ignores the fact that only about 400 people on a population of 22m have sadly died in Sri Lanka, whereas no less than 120,000+ have died in the UK with a population of 66 million. By any yardstick Sri Lanka has been more successful at saving lives than any member of the Core Group.
“It seems to me that the Core Group needs to have more faith in the reconciliation structures already on the ground such as the Office of Missing Persons and the Office of Reparations. If the UN Core Group really wants to help, then why cannot the UK, Canada and Germany release to Sri Lanka the names of all asylum seekers since the war so that they can be checked against the list of Missing Persons and be removed from the master list?
“During the period of the Sirisena/Wickremesinghe government, draft legislation for a Truth & Reconciliation Commission was prepared and the current government should be given the time and space, whilst also handling the pandemic, to introduce its own TRC mechanism. Britain should stand in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka as a unique TRC is developed and is implemented. Reconciliation cannot be externally forced on to the people of Sri Lanka. It must come from within and I would also urge the diaspora communities living in the Core Group countries to also trust, engage with and contribute towards Sri Lanka’s reconciliation processes.
It is for Sri Lanka to decide how much help they seek from outside but for me I doubt the need or the efficacy of the UNHRC being able to help in an enhanced monitoring role as proposed.”
SJB finds fault with recommendations of political victimisation PCoI
By Saman Indrajith
The SJB yesterday found fault with the Presidential Commission of Inquiry that investigated incidents of political victimization for arrogating to itself the powers of the judiciary.
Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s office, Chief Opposition Whip and Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella said: “The Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing the incidents of political victimisation has usurped the powers of courts.
MP Kiriella said that PCoI or any one including the Executive should not encroach on the powers of the judiciary. The MPs had a right to stand against it. “We have a constitutional right to prevent this. As per the provisions of the Article 4 of the Constitution people have given their sovereign powers of exercising judicial power to Parliament. It is by parliament through the courts or any other tribunal accepted by the law the judicial powers are exercised. A presidential commission of inquiry has not been given powers of courts. The PCoI headed by retired Justice Upali Abeyratne arrogated to itself the powers of courts as per the recommendations the commission made in its report,” Kiriella said.
He said that the PCoI had recommended that cases pending before in the Magistrate and High Courts be stopped. “Victims have been turned into complainants and complainants into offenders. The PCoI has made recommendations to acquit those implicated in numerous offences. The commission has recommended that some of those who violated the laws be acquitted and compensated. A PCoI has no such powers. We have expressed our opposition to this. We actually have submitted a petition to the Chief Justice on Tuesday against the PCoI hijacking the powers of the court.”
The MP said that PCoI’s usurping of court powers was a serious matter that should be rectified immediately. “We have utmost faith in the judiciary of this country. Courts have maintained their independence very bravely in the face of many challenges. You may recall that when there was a constitutional coup in 2018 October, the court did not succumb to political pressure
and declared the ouster of our government unconstitutional. If the PCoIs are allowed to usurp the powers of judiciary then the public would lose their faith in courts.”
SJB MPs J.C. Alawathuwala and Harin Fernando also addressed the press.
NMRA approves emergency use of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine here
Laboratory technologists welcome the move
By Rathindra Kuruwita
State Minister of Production, Supply and Regulation of Pharmaceuticals Prof. Channa Jayasumana yesterday announced that the National Medical Regulatory Authority of Sri Lanka had approved the Emergency use of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.
Earlier this month leading British medical publication, The Lancet, stated that the interim results from a phase 3 trial of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine had shown a consistent strong protective effect across all participant age groups.
Lancet said: “The vaccine uses a heterologous recombinant adenovirus approach using adenovirus 26 (Ad26) and adenovirus 5 (Ad5) as vectors for the expression of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike protein. The use of two varying serotypes, which are given 21 days apart, is intended to overcome any pre-existing adenovirus immunity in the population. Among the major COVID vaccines in development to date, only Gam-COVID-Vac uses this approach; others, such as the Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccine, use the same material for both doses. The earlier vaccine for Ebola virus also developed at Gamaleya National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology (Moscow, Russia), was similar, with Ad5 and vesicular stomatitis virus as the carrier viruses, and the general principle of prime boost with two different vectors has been widely used experimentally.”
President of the College of Medical Laboratory Science, Ravi Kumudesh yesterday said that they were happy about the decision as the country needed an mRNA vaccine.
“Sputnik-V is an mRNA vaccine and we have so far ignored mRNA vaccines. Covidshield vaccine is a more traditional vaccine and it will not be effective against coronavirus variants. This is what reports from France and South Africa suggests. That’s why we have insisted on an mRNA vaccine from the start. Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines need to be stored in extremely cold temperatures and thus not feasible here. But Sputnik-V doesn’t have that problem. I am not saying bring Sputnik-V and start injecting people from next week. But our dependence on covidshield is more dangerous.”
Kumudesh said that the SPC had said it was willing to work with Russians to produce Sputnik-V here and that it was a commendable decision. Sri Lanka had the expertise to produce vaccines and that if such an initiative came about it would also be an opportunity to take in talented scientists into the Ministry of Health.
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