Champika’s 43 Group Launches Mission to Safeguard Rishad
By a Special Correspondent
Attorney Gunaratne Wanninayake from the National Movement for Legal Reform saffiliated to the 43rd Brigade Campaignhelmed by SJB MP Champika Ranawaka, said presently there would be no recourse to file legal action against any suspect, on charges of sexual abuse of the minor, who was allegedly burnt to death while serving at the residence of SJB MP Rishad Bathiudeen, due to the demise of the victim.
He charged that from details emerging about the incident, it had taken a political twist, and maintained that even the incident being reported in the mainstream Media had a political undertone.
He said so during a Media briefing held recently. He said large crowds had taken to the street to seek justice for the deceased, but added that similar crowds had not taken to the streets to seek justice for a Sinhalese minor who had suffered a similar plight in the recent past.
Wanninayake stated that before her demise, Ishalini had told her doctors that she had self-immolated and as that could be used as evidence there would be no need to probe the case further.
He added that as self-immolation is an act of suicide, there was no need to exhume the body of the victim, and alleged that such measures are being undertaken at the behest of various persons with vested interests.
He explained that due to acute poverty prevalent in the upcountry areas, most parents are left with no alternative, but to send minors to serve as domestic helpers to houses of VIPs in the capital.
Wanninayake remarked that the entire issue is ingrained in the present society and observed the onus was on the Government to resolve it through a broader framework, rather than striving to gain political mileage.
He, however, urged the Government to hound the real perpetrators of the crime, sans giving it political undertones, which could set a bad precedent.
He said the President had pardoned death row inmate Duminda Silva and urged him to grant a similar pardon to former SJB MP Ranjan Ramanayake as well, who had been convicted on a Contempt of Court charge by the Supreme Court.
Wanninayake said if Silva had been pardoned based on political reasons, then Ramanayake, who had not defrauded a cent of public money, should also be accorded a similar privilege.
Speaking on the occasion, Attorney Shiral Lakthilaka said they had already made overtures to the Government towards the release of the actor-turned politician, but to no avail.
He added that as the verdict had been issued against Ramanayake by the Apex Court, the convict has no recourse to file an appeal against his sentence, which he said would need to be looked at seriously, among many legal reforms that they had proposed.
Speaking at the Media briefing, Attorney Lakthilaka said, MP Champika Ranawaka had already submitted a Legal Reforms Bill to Parliament as a Private Member’s Bill, which had been drafted by the Legal Reforms Movement on 17 July. The ball is in the court of the Justice Minister. The Justice Minister could table it in Cabinet and then upon its ratification it could be re-tabled in the House. If it is continued to be overlooked after a lapse of six months it could again be tabled in Parliament as a Private Member’s Bill. There is a strong need for legal reforms in this country. We saw from S.B.Dissanayake through Gnanasara Thera up to Ranjan Ramanayake, when convicting them on Contempt of Court charges, there had been many shortcomings in the legal framework. Hence, one could see there has not been a clear precedent when meting out punishments for Contempt of Court charges. We feel that the punishment meted out to Ramanayake was too severe. Handing down a 4-year jail term to a convict on a Contempt of Court charge is far too harsh. The legal reform mooted by Ranawaka is for such punishment to carrya jail term of six months and a fine of Rs 10,000. We studied reforms that had been introduced in countries like India and England while drafting this legal reform. The punishment that is meted out internationally for a Contempt of Court charge is the aforesaid prison term and the fine. Furthermore, through our reforms, we have accepted the fact that there should be justified grounds for a citizen to criticise the actions of the Judiciary. Also, the Media has the right to criticise the judicial process in a justified manner. Then we are proposing to introduce a Modern Slavery Act shortly to overcome all forms of cruelty minors’ face while serving at VIP households. We will be proposing legal reforms aimed at reforming this society from several angles. A few issues we intend to reform will be overcoming all acts of frauds and corruption, to usher in a new political culture in Parliament, preventing an MP from crossing over, misuse of political party finances at elections, and we urge the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) and the Legal Reforms Commission to join forces with us in this onerous task by the country.
Lakthilaka added, “The law of this country should be applied equally to the politicians, three-wheeler drivers, and to all those travelling on the roads. Otherwise, there could be a dangerous precedent created and it could get out of hand. There should not be any exception based on their status in society. Hence, towards the reforms that are needed for this society, the 43rd Brigade Campaign is doing an excellent job and we will be engaged in its struggle.”