Hang the noose or hang the man?
By Chris Kamalendran

No noose
Presidential spokesman Harim Pieris told The Sunday Times that President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga had always opposed the death penalty as she felt life imprisonment was an adequate deterrent. He said although the pros and cons of the re-implementation of the death penalty was being debated in Parliament the President's stand would not change.

It was nearly four years ago that former Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), T. Manoharan's daughter-in-law, Rita John was murdered off Crow Island in Colombo.
Mr. Manoharan's son, Sudanthiran had married Rita in India few weeks earlier and they were making their first trip to Colombo as a couple.

The Manoharan family had been seeking justice and eventually the suspects involved in the case were arrested and charged for rape and murder of Rita. They were found guilty by a trial at bar and all four suspects involved in the case were sentenced to death.

The convicts have appealed to the Supreme Court. Mr. Manoharan during his 36 years’ service in the Police Department was also involved in dealing with the subject of crime and is one of those who strongly believes that the death penalty should be re-implemented to reduce the country's increasing crime rate.

'The government should at least think of re-implementing the death penalty for at least two years to bring down the crime rate," he says. He says that in some of the cases the culprits are not prosecuted resulting in the crime rate increasing further.

Mr. Manhoran is one of many who believes that political leaders should agree on the implementation of the death penalty to curb crime. But another group strongly believes that the death penalty should not be re-imposed.

This is the dilemma politicians and authorities have been facing regarding the death penalty amidst the increasing crime rate in the country. The government is prepared to go for a referendum to obtain public opinion on whether it should push for the re-implementation of the death penalty which was halted 27 years ago after the notorious criminal 'Maru Sira' was sentenced to death at Bogambara prisons in Kandy.

More than 500 people are currently in death row, but most of their sentences have been converted into a life sentence by the President or after appeals to the Supreme Court.

At the already overcrowded prisons those sentenced to death are held in a special section with families being given permission to visit them with meals. This is in contrast to other prisoners where visits are restricted.

The government itself is divided over the issue of re-implementing the death penalty, but some opposition members favour the idea as they believe it would help bring down the increasing crime rate.

Interior Minister John Amaratunga who is among those pushing for the imposition of the death penalty believes it would help to keep the crime rate low while other measures to curb crime continues.

"We have had consultations with the Prime Minister and the party and decided that we should have an open debate on the issue allowing members to express their opinion in Parliament. We are prepared to go for a referendum," Mr. Amaratunga said.

An adjournment debate to seek opinions of the MPs this week ended inconclusively with the debate spilling over to another date. Government members were permitted to speak according to their conscience and accordingly some of them supported the idea, while others opposed it.

One of the issues raised by those pushing for the death penalty has been that some of those sentenced to death have had their sentences turned to life imprisonment which is of a maximum of 20 years, and it does not have an impact on those who continue to commit crimes.

Professor Tenysson Perera, a Sociologist told The Sunday Times, there was an urgent need to enforce the death penalty as civil society has been made vulnerable due to the failure of law enforcement authorities and the judicial system.

"At least the government should try this out for a short period and more importantly politicians should be an example to society. What is happening today is that most of the crime is committed by politicians and the culprits get away easily," he said.

UNP’s inquiry against councillors yet to begin
By Nalaka Nonis
Nearly two months after 12 UNP provincial councillors from the Southern Province defied a directive from the Prime Minister and took wings to India and Thailand on a study tour, the much-talked-about disciplinary probe is yet to begin.

UNP General Secretary Senarath Kapukotuwa told The Sunday Times that the formal inquiry would begin after the party's disciplinary committee received the letters of explanations sought from all 12 councillors. He said that all but two had sent in their letters of explanation.

The tour, which was described as a study tour, was originally proposed by the UNP, but Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe shot down the proposal, suggesting that the money allocated from the decentralized fund for the visit should be used for development purposes.

The council's UNP opposition leader, P.M.B Cyril, said that immediate action would be taken against those who violated the Prime Minister's directive.

The first wreath of wrath
When a group of PA MPs brought a floral wreath into the Chambers of the House on Tuesday, they weren't the first to have done so. In November 1976, veteran leftist politician Vasudeva Nanayakkara enacted a similar drama in the old Parliament at Galle Face. The incident took place soon after the killing of a student leader of the Peradeniya University Weerasuriya that had given rise to much unrest in the country.

It was also the last days of the United Front coalition led by Sirimavo Bandaranaike and the LSSP that had been part of the government had left and joined the opposition ranks.

Mr.Nanayakkara who represented the Kiriella electorate for the LSSP brought the wreath and placed it in front of the Prime Minister as a mark of protest against the killing of the student. The debate on the second reading of the budget had been under way with the then Finance Minister Felix Dias Bandaranaike on his feet.

In the commotion that followed the wreath incident, former President J.R.Jayewardene who was then the leader of the opposition had attempted to make a statement and could not do so due to interruptions from the government side. Soon after, the opposition had walked out in protest.

However, the next day Mr. Jayewardene defended the action saying that Mr. Nanayakkara had only brought in flowers. Speaker Stanley Tillekerate who was presiding at that time had said he must put on record that the conduct of the MP was not in keeping with the decorum of the House.

Speaker orders inquiry into wreath mystery
Speaker Joseph Michael Perera has ordered an inquiry to ascertain how a wreath was smuggled into Parliament chambers by a group of PA MPs, official sources said.

Preliminary investigations have revealed that parts of the wooden stand for the wreath had been concealed in the attire of some PA MPs who had entered the chambers that day. The flowers had purportedly been brought into Parliament by PA MPs for presentation to the newly-appointed Secretary General of Parliament, Ms. Priyanee Wijesekera, the sources added.

Two policemen who had been on duty in Parliament has been transferred as they had failed in their duty to search all Members of Parliament properly before they enter the chambers, the sources said.

The Speaker described the security lapse as very serious and ordered the viewing of the closed circuit TV footage of parliament chambers to ascertain how the security lapse had occurred, the sources said.

‘Kuch, kuch’ in a big soup
By Nilika Kasturisinghe
'Kuch, kuch hota hai' in Hindi means 'something is happening', and something wrong is clearly happening, when scantily clad young school girls dance to the music of a Hindi song at the opening ceremony of an international sports event in Colombo.

Protests have broken out in many quarters following the live telecast of last Sunday's opening ceremony of the Asian Grand Prix which included a dance item of the popular Hindi hit by two leading schools in Colombo with young girls being paraded in short skirts and blouses.

Sports Minister Johnston Fernando and Education and Cultural Affairs Minister Karunasena Kodituwakku are now reportedly facing a different kind of music, with questions being asked whether Sri Lanka is culturally bankrupt that it has to choose a Hindi song item for an international sports event that was being hosted by Sri Lanka. Questions about inappropriate clothing for school children have also come up with educational authorities being asked to come up with new guidelines to prevent it.

But nobody seems to be taking responsibility for the cultural fiasco. The two schools involved in the item are pleading innocent saying they were only carrying out ministerial orders and had nothing to do with the creation of the controversial dance sequence.

A spokesperson for Visakha Vidyalaya, said they had nothing to do with the designing of the clothes or the creation of the dance while a spokesperson for Sirimavo Bandaranaike Balika Vidyalaya said all they did was to release the students.

"It was an order from the Education Ministry and we are bound to obey orders," she said. Meanwhile Education Ministry additional secretary, Mrs. I. Kariyawasam said, "The Ministry of Youth Affairs and the Sports Secretary wrote to our Ministry Secretary asking for school children for the display, and I gave the relevant authorisation." Sports Minister Johnston Fernando however, defended the action saying if Hindi films could be shown freely in Sri Lanka without any protests, what was wrong in depicting a sequence of a Hindi film.

He said since many Asian countries were taking part in the event the organisers had to cater to all participants. “Besides we also had events that reflected our culture,” he said.

He said the dance item comprised students from a private gymnastic school and students from the two schools who were invited to participate Meanwhile Minister Kodituwakku said he has asked the Additional Secretary of Education, Ms. Kariyawasam that in the future when authorization is given for such an event special attention be paid to the clothing and nature of the dance performed by school children.

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