Pararajasingham says prisons toll death knell for Tamils
[TamilNet, Sunday, 08 April 2001, 12:25 GMT]
"The prison is said to be a high security, safe place for prisoners. But judging from various attacks on Tamil prisoners detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations during the past eight years, prison has become a death knell for Tamil prisoners", said Mr. Joseph Pararajasingham, TULF MP for Batticaloa in a letter faxed to the Sri Lankan President about the brutal attack Saturday on Tamil prisoners held in the Negombo prison under the Immigrants and Emigrants (Amendment) Act No.42 of 1998. Fifteen Tamil prisoners who were on protest fast demanding that they be released on bail were injured when they were brutally attacked by prison guards Saturday. The condition of seven is serious.
The MP charged in his letter that the draconian law has not been revised despite appeals because it primarily affects the Tamils and not the Sinhalese. The Immigrants and Emigrants Act was introduced primarily to curb the influx of Tamil labour from South India. An amendment to the Act in 1993 stipulated a fine of five thousand rupees or prison term for two to six months.
The MP said in his letter:
"As a result of the brutal attack 15 Tamil Prisoners are reported to have been wanted and out of them, seven were seriously injured. There was no provocation for this attack except the Tamil Prisoners attempted to start a hunger strike demanding that they be released on bail. This was only a democratic and peaceful act on which the prisoners wanted to demonstrate.
Prison is said to be the high security safe place for the Prisoners. But judging from various attacks on Tamil Prisoners who were detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the Emergency Regulations (ER) during the past eight years, Prison has become a death knell for the Tamil Prisoners.
The IMMIGRANTS & EMIGRANTS (AMENDMENT) ACT NO: 42 of 1998 more or less presently worded is more savage towards the Tamil people who are between the devil and the deep see. Under this law more than 250 Tamils are detained without bail and about 100 are convicted serving both imprisonment of one year and a fine of rupees fifty thousand.
The punishments are mandatorily prescribed. Section 2(1) of the Act states (a person) "shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment of either description for a term of not less than one year and not more than five years and to a fine of not less than fifty thousand rupees and not more than two hundred thousand rupees".
It is made a non-bilabial offence. Therefore the right of the citizen to prepare any process of appeal or re - canvassing of the decision taken is practically prohibited owing to the refusal of bail. It goes against the very grain of fair trial because it becomes restrictive on the discretion of the Magistrate.
I am informed that even the Magistrates have written to the Hon Attorney General for the reconsideration and the revision of this obnoxious law.
I have raised this matter in Parliament and called upon the government for the reconsideration and revision of this law which is aimed at adding misery and more suffering to the Tamil people who are already suppressed under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations. After raising this in Parliament on 11.02.1999, I wrote to the Attorney General and the present Hon. Chief Justice on 12.2.1999 for the reconsideration and revision of this obnoxious law. But toddle it is not received because it only affects the Tamil community and not the majority community".