COLOMBO: In a politically sensational case, Duminda Silva, a former member of the Sri Lankan parliament and Monitoring MP for the Ministry of Defense in the Mahinda Rajapaksa government was sentenced to death by the Colombo High Court on Thursday, for the killing of factional rival nd veteran leftist leader Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra in a shootout on October 8, 2011.
Four of Silva’s accomplices were also awarded the death sentence.
However, one out of the three judges gave a dissenting judgment, pronouncing all the five “not guilty” thus ensuring that the case gets a fresh hearing in the Supreme Court.
The case was dormant for four years for political reasons, despite a consistent and emotional campaign by Hirunika Premachandra, the daughter of the slain leader. But it perked up after Rajapaksa was replaced by Maithripala Sirisena in the January 8, 2015 Presidential election.
The closeness of Duminda Silva to the then powerful Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa (Silva was the Monitoring MP for the Defense Ministry) is believed to have prevented the case from proceeding along the right lines when Gotabaya’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was at the helm.
Hirunika Premachandra first tried to curry favor with President Rajapaksa expecting him to pursue the case to the logical conclusion as her father was also a party man, a former MP and a colleague of Rajapaksa’s. But when Rajapaksa did precious little, Hirunika joined the opposition United National Party (UNP) to fight for justice politically. She was elected MP from Colombo District in the July 2015 elections as a UNP candidate.
The Colombo High Court began trial on September 12, 2015 on a day-to-day basis and concluded both prosecution and defense hearings by July. The special Trial-at-Bar comprised three High Court Judges, Shiran Gunaratne, Pathmini N. Ranawaka and C. B. S. Moreis.
Addressing the media after the verdict, Hirunika said that justice has been rendered because the supremacy of law is now protected under the new President, Maithripala Sirisena.
“If the Government had not changed, maybe the verdict would have been different,” the weeping UNP MP said.
On the death sentence awarded to Duminda Silva and four others, she said: “I cannot be happy that they were sentenced to death. I am not that inhuman. But injustice was served to us. We still suffer it at home. I still hear my father’s voice when I go home."