11/15/2013

Clemency pending to the PSD officers that tortured the Rookantha Gunatilake family



-Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe

The appeal filed by former officers of the Presidential Security Division (PSD) who were convicted and sentenced for harassing popular singers Rookantha  Gunatilaka and Chandralekha Gunatilaka couple was withdrawn at the Court of Appeal on November 12.  

The appeal was withdrawn even before a date was fixed by the Court of Appeal for hearing the case. Counsel Janaka Amarasinghe appearing for the motion filed by the suspects said to court that all ten suspects have given their consent in writing to withdraw the case. Although the lawyers did not explain the reason for the withdrawal, it is widely believed that they will be pardoned by the President soon. 

They were charged with unlawful assembly, organizing, intimidating and robbing the property worth of Rs. 3.6 million from the house of musician Rookantha Gunatilaka. Ten out of the 11 suspects of the case were sentenced by Panadura High Court on August 01 this year, following a lengthy trial for harassing the family of the musician and damaging their property, breaking into their residence at Mattegoda on January 26, 2000. The former PSD officers were sentenced for four and half years each rigorous imprisonment and they were also ordered to pay a sum of Rs. 200,000 each as compensation to the victims. One suspect was given simple punishment since he was a disabled person. All the convicts were not police officers. The fourth suspect was a laborer that worked for the PSD.  

Of them, three Police Constables and a Reserve Police Constable were retired by the time the judgment was delivered. The other six PCs were serving in various stations and two of them were in the present Presidential Security Division.

Barely two weeks after the judgment, Rookantha  and Chandralekha handed over a letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Temple Trees giving their consent for the release of the PSD personnel and for taking due measures to pardon them. 
With the withdrawal of the appeal, the sentences against the suspects are to be enacted and they have been now sent from the remand custody to the section of the convicted prisoners.
The Panadura Provincial High Court Judge while sentencing the 10 accused said that 'the accused PSD officers while on duty had taken the law into their hands and had committed a grave offence.' She further said that the court could not reject the evidence given by the complainants and the domestic aide who witnessed the horrific event.  

Rookantha and Chandralekha called a news conference and stated that the real persons who were behind the attack on them were “moving freely” whilst those who carried it out were languishing in jail. Rookantha said the command to attack them had come from a “very powerful and influential person at that time” and added that the “subordinates had to follow it.” Although the name of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has not transpired in any way in the court case or in its aftermath, there are no doubts that Rookantha implied the former President who was also the Defense Minister by the time of the attack. Rookantha appeared on the stages of the opposition United National Party (UNP) singing a theme song which became popular. Then pro-Chandrika media laughed at Ranil Wickramasinghe’s out-of-the-rhythm clapping for Rookantha’s song.

Chandrika had close shave hours before the Presidential held on December 21, 1999, losing her right eye in a failed suicide attack on her life by Tamil Tigers. She was re-elected for a second term, receiving 51% of all votes cast.

After the incident the Gunathilaka family left Sri Lanka and lived in US for many years. They arrived in Sri Lanka after Mahinda Rajapaksa became the President of Sri Lanka and expressed their support to the government. 

The culprits of the intimidation case are likely to be pardoned with the consent of the victims. Clemency is a good value but punishment is considered as correcting mechanism in law. There are many a similar offenders that do not have access to seek Presidential pardon even though the victims or their families want them be pardoned on humanitarian grounds. One may say that these offenders were exposed to a shower of mercy simply they were in the President’s security and also a few are still there. 

“If there is something to pardon in everything, there is also something to condemn,” said Friedrich Nietzsche.

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