Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe says there are no political prisoners in Sri Lanka at present. Tamil parties like Tamil National Alliance (TNA) are referring to Tamil prisoners in Sri Lankan prisons and are demanding the release of those Tamil prisoners.
“The last political prisoner was Sarath Fonseka. He has also been released. The TNA is referring to Tamil prisoners who were held in prisons for various reasons. Some of those prisoners have been convicted for various crimes and the others have pending cases. Those who are in our prisons are convicted and accused of grave crimes. Just because they are Tamils we cannot apply a different law for them. For example, if someone is accused of murder, we have to try them in courts and take legal actions accordingly. We cannot release them on political grounds. We apply the same law to everybody regardless of their ethnicity,” he said. He reiterated that the government cannot give exemptions to the Tamil prisoners who have committed grave crimes on political grounds.
When it comes to the issues of the disappeared, Minster Rajapakshe said that they have given their cooperation by giving the families access to the prisons to search if the missing members of their family are in the prison. “We gave access to those who wanted to look in the prisons to see if there family members were held in the prisons. They visited prisons and we gave them access to the requested prisons,” he said. However, he said that right now the government cannot take a political decision on the release of the Tamil prisoners or as to how to address the issue of the alleged disappearances in the Sri Lankan. “We have to take this matter up and discuss it in the next parliament with the new cabinet. For now we will act upon the existing laws in the country,” Minister noted.
By Waruni Karunarathne