Sept 8 (NIA) – The Colombo High Court on Thursday sentenced a former Sri Lankan parliamentarian Duminda Silva and four others to death for the murder of a rival politician Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra in October 2011.
The high profile Duminda Silva had had close relations with ex president Mahinda Rajapaksa and former Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Silva was also the “Monitoring MP” for the Ministry of Defense.
Delivering the verdict in one of Sri Lanka’s most high profile cases, the Colombo High Court sentenced to death 5 out of the 13 defendants charged over the shooting and killing of four persons including Premachandra in Mulleriyawa on October 8, 2011.
The case was heard before the trial-at-bar comprising High Court Judges Shiran Gunaratne, Pathmini Ranawaka and C.B.S. Moreis. While two of the judges found Silva and four others guilty and sentenced them to death, one judge declared them “not guilty”. The case will now go on appeal to the Supreme Court.
In the shootout between Premachandran’s group and Silva’s group, Silva also sustained injuries and spent a long period receiving treatment at a private hospital in Singapore.
Police had recovered 12 pistols, two revolvers and two T-56 assault rifles at the crime scene.
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. Gotabaya’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was then at the helm as Sri Lankan President.
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.
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.”