Minister Sagala Ratnayaka directs Police to prioritize cases on freedom of expression

Minister of Law & Order and Southern Development Hon. Sagala Ratnayaka yesterday assured that the government was committed to taking action on crimes committed against journalists in the past.

Minister Sagala Ratnayaka said he had asked the Police to ‘prioritize cases on freedom of expression’, speaking at the UNESCO Regional Conference in ‘Reinforcing Regional Cooperation to Promote Freedom of Expression and the Rule of Law in Asia through Ending Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ held at the Taj Samudra, Colombo yesterday.

 

“When we started most of these cases we were started below zero, the evidence had been destroyed, many years had lapsed and it was difficult to recreate some of the evidence. Most of the institutions did not hold this data for long and even Police books were missing”, explained Ho. Minister Ratnayaka adding that he commended the police and CID for doing a fantastic job in keeping these cases moving forward.

Commenting on the more prominent cases, the Minister explained the current situations in each:

With the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda: “We are in a debate. The CID says they want to go the whole way but the Attorney General (AG) says that we should go with what we have now, an indictment on a kidnapping charge. The CID feels we might be able to go for a murder charge; there has been precedence abroad where they convicted suspects for murder, despite not finding the body. They have asked for a little more time,” he said.

Speaking on the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunga, he noted, “It’s a complex case. We have come to a stage where we need to identify the users of six telephone numbers. We know the institutions that used these numbers but there are few technicalities within our agencies which we need to sort out,” he said.

The government he said was also looking for ways to bring in new legislation to take cases forward. In the case of the assault on Keith Noyahr, legislation which would allow evidence to be taken via video conferencing has been suggested. The case has been hindered by Noyahr being unwilling to come to the country to submit evidence.

The Minister however stressed that the government was committed to go ahead with all the cases and would ensure that justice was served. 

 


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