Tamil political detainees in Kandy Bogambara remand prison who joined the hunger strike launched by the prisoners at the Welikada prison on the 13th October ended their fast on Saturday the 17th October 2015, respecting the promise made by the President Maithripala Sirisena who had directed the Justice Minister to formulate a mechanism to look into their issues and finish the process between October 31 and November 07.
The 13 political prisoners, demanded their immediate release as they have being in remand for the last 08 years. Fr. Nandana Manatunga, the director of the Human Rights Office Kandy along with his staff and Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando, Fr. Ananda Fernando and the members of the Alliance for Justice visited the prisoners, explained the promise made by the president and requested the prisoners to end their fast. Addressing the Media Fr. Nandana & Fr. Reid said that the prisoners demand either general amnesty or rehabilitation if required for a short period.
The HRO has assisted the political prisoners since 2008 and managed to release 12 remand prisoners held under the PTA challenging the so called “confessions” for which the suspects were forced to sign after severe Torture.
Human Rights Office Kandy worked in collaboration with the Prison Welfare Union at the Bogambara - Dumbara prison and the open prison at Pallekelle in organizing various activities for the prisoners during the week held from the 07th-14th September 2015.
The focus was on building “Hope during challenging times”, the organizers called this special to support and raise awareness of the needs of prisoners, their families, victims of crime, prison staff and volunteers and those working for the welfare of the prisoners.
“Justice would not be served until those who were unaffected are as outraged as those who are”- Benjamin Franklin. According to Francois-Marie Arouet, it is better to risk saving a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.
“In Sri Lanka there are people languishing in jail for years without being able to furnish heavy cash bail ordered by the High Court. In 2012 there were 486 remand prisoners who had been in remand custody for more than 03 years with 136 of them having languished for more than five years in remand custody” Fr. Nandana remarked at the opening of the prison week and further said, there are also others in remand prison because they are poor and powerless and have no sureties acceptable to Court.
On the first day of the prison week, the 07th September 2015, a value education programme was organized by the Human Rights Office for the prisoners in Open Prison - Pallakelle and around 500 prisoners took part in event. A vibrant, timely input was given by Prof. Attanayake M. Herath with the invitation of the HRO.
Religious Observances of all the major religions were held on the second day at the Bogambara - Dumbara Prison on the 08th September 2015.
On the third day of the prison week, a medical clinic was organized by the Human Rights Office for the Prisoners at the Bogambara - Dumbara Prison on the 09th September 2015. The group of medical experts consisted of 03 dentists, with the dental mobile unit of Peradeniya dental faculty, 02 doctors from the orthopedic unit of Peradeniya teaching hospital, 02 general physicians and 02 nurses from the Lakeside hospital. The staff of the HRO and few members from the HRO support group facilitated the medical camp. All most all the sentenced prisoners amounting to 236 were seeing by the physicians, including those sentenced to death.
On the 04th day of the Prison week, a Legal Clinic was organized by the Human Rights Office for the prisoners in Bogambara – Dumbara Prison on the 11th September 2015 with 09 Practicing lawyers, 08 law students, HRO staff and few members of the HRO support group.82 prisoners who needed legal advice and assistance, consulted the lawyers and the documentation was done by the law students to follow up the and assist the prisoners.
On the final day of the Prison week, 14th September 2015, a Family Day was organized and family members of 236 Prisoners in Bogambara – Dumbara Prison visited the prison and it was a very emotional reunion. The family members amounting to more than 800 family members brought, food and other items to their loved ones detained in prison. At the opening of the family day the prisoners bowed down with respect before their parent as a gesture of requesting pardon and reconciliation.
An awareness programme was launched by the HRO with the flags day organized by the prison welfare unit. The flags were distributed in schools both in Kandy and in Colombo, parishes and temples in Kandy.
The attempt of the HRO of the “inside-outside” approach making outsiders aware of the insiders-prisons and prisoners being brought to the awareness of the outside world was successful. Further HRO discovered several innocent persons, serving death sentence and life imprisonment due to the defects of the justice system. Hence the execution of the capital punishment would risk of executing innocent persons.