It is with shock and dismay that we note a minister s wife serving a prison term for double murder and two foreigners jailed for heroin smuggling have walked to freedom on the International Women s Day (March 08) thanks to a presidential pardon. Ironically, Mary Juliet Monica Fernando, (wife of Public Estate Management and Development Minister Milroy Fernando), was sentenced to death in 2005 for abducting and murdering two women and her death penalty was later commuted to life imprisonment! That was how Sri Lanka celebrated a day sacred to the womenfolk!
The Head of State may be constitutionally empowered to pardon prisoners but using those unshackled powers to throw prison gates open so that murderers, rapists and drug smugglers could walk out is a great disservice to a country. President Mahinda Rajapaksa can never justify his action, which is atrocious, reprehensible and deplorable, to say the least.
This brings us to the question of monstrous powers concentrated in a single institution blessed with legal immunity. The late President J. R. Jayewardene created a dangerous precedent by releasing a convicted rapist and underworld figure Gonawala Sunil. The late President Ranasinghe Premadasa pardoned Manohari Daniels jailed for killing dozens of civilians by exploding a car bomb in Maradana in 1987. Now, President Rajapaksa, who opposed the Jayewardene and Premadasa regimes tooth and nail, has sullied his presidential hands with a pardon for a murderess and drug smugglers.
This country has earned notoriety the world over for its woefully low conviction rate which stands at a meagre four per cent. Atop that we have presidents releasing convicts serving sentences for grievous crimes! Lawmakers are collaborating with lawbreakers! Do we need any other enemies?
The President has made a mockery of his ambitious yet noble Mathata Thitha programme aimed at creating a sober Sri Lanka. The country has come to such a sorry pass that even schoolchildren are taking to narcotics freely available as drug barons cannot be dealt with because of their political links.
The peace loving people of this country are, no doubt, grateful to President Rajapaksa for his valiant effort to eliminate the scourge of terrorism. But, terrorism is not the only enemy capable of destroying this country. Narcotics and crimes are equally destructive and must be battled with might and main.
Prison is the place for the heartless perpetrators of premeditated savage crimes against innocent men, women and children. Pardoning them amounts to condoning their dastardly offences.