Call for implementing death penalty renewed ahead of Seya murder case judgment


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Member of a special parliamentary committee Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday called for the immediate implementation of the death penalty at least in special cases like the rape and murder of five-year-old Seya Sedewmi.

The Negombo High Court will deliver the verdict on that case on March 15. Seya Sedewmi was abducted, raped and killed during last September.

The committee headed by Higher Education and Highways Minister Lakshman Kirielle has been tasked with recommending ways and means of enhancing safety and security of children.

City Planning and Water Supply Deputy Minister Fernandopulle said India and Pakistan had enforced the death penalty in spite of a moratorium on capital punishment in accordance with an understanding with the international community. India ended its eight-year moratorium on executions when on November 21, 2012, it hanged Ajmal Kasab, convicted for his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people and wounded more than 300 others.

Dr. Fernandopulle said in addition to implementation of death penalty, tangible measures should be taken to tighten laws in respect of rape and child abuse and sexual exploitation.

The contentious issue of implementation of death penalty could be discussed among the civil society as the country celebrated the international women’s day, Dr. Fernandopulle said.

The Gampaha District MP said that legal proceedings in respect of rape cases invariably dragged on for years  though in Seya Sedewmi’s case the judiciary ensured speedy conclusion of the trial. Responding to a query by The Island, Dr. Fernandopulle said that urgent measures were required to prevent rape suspects from obtaining bail through Magistrate Courts within two weeks of being produced in court and remanded.

Dr. Fernandopulle said there was another committee appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena to examine threats faced by women.

The Deputy Minister said that the rape and killing of14-year-old schoolgirl Harishnavee Dayabaran at Ukkulankulam, Vavuniya last month revealed that children weren’t even safe in their own homes. The police arrested a neighbour of the victim who allegedly raped her and killed her before hanging the victim in her own house to make it look like a suicide.

The Deputy Minister said parliament had been told of the EU strong opposition to enforcement of death penalty and also Sri Lanka’s assurance to the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to abolish death penalty.

Dr. Fernandopulle said Sri Lanka should have to be mindful of its international obligations though those who had been found guilty of horrific crimes committed against children needed to be executed. The MP pointed out that many States in the US enforced death penalty regardless of strong opposition by a section of the population.

The Deputy Minister claimed that in spite of specific data pertaining to crimes against children tangible action hadn’t been taken to address the issues. Mrs. Fernandopulle said that many members of parliament strongly felt the need for enforcement of capital punishment at least on specific cases.

President Maithripala Sirisena has declared on more than one occasion his readiness to enforce capital punishment in the wake of Seya Sedewmi’s rape and killing. In response to a query by The Island, President Sirisena said that he would consult members of parliament regarding resumption of death penalty. The President assured that in case the majority agreed he would resume judicial executions.

Mrs. Fernandopulle said that stringent measures were required to protect children and women. The MP hailed a recent ruling given by Negombo High Court Judge Champa Janaki Rajaratne in respect of Hewathanthrige Nuwan Janaka accused of raping a university student. The son of an affluent businessman was given 37 years hard labour for abducting the university undergrad and raping her at a guest house owned by his father.

The High Court Judge also ordered the convict to pay the victim Rs 2.7 million as compensation and fined him Rs 45,000.

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