Tamil political prisoner halts 9 day fast unto death

A Tamil political prisoner has agreed to stop his fast unto death protest in a high security Sri Lankan prison following the intervention of a government minister.

Sexagenarian Thevathasan Kanagasabai, spending his 11th year in prison has been refusing any form of liquid or solid food demanding his release on bail to appeal his jail sentences delivered under draconian terror laws.

Cabinet paper

Minister in charge of rehabilitation Mano Ganesan who visited the prison persuaded the prisoner to discontinue the fast on the ninth day.

“This prisoner was not protesting not for himself alone, it was on behalf of Tamil prisoners languishing in jail for 5, 10, 15, 20 years ” Mano Ganesan told journalists outside the Magazine prison.

The minister has pledged to “table a cabinet paper within two weeks” seeking the release of Tamil political prisoners.

In 2017 The ex-Director of the Tamil unit of Sri Lanka’s National Film Corporation was handed over a life term sentence in addition to another 20 years of rigorous imprisonment.

Forced confession as evidence

Arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) on suspicion for a bomb blast at the Colombo Fort railway station in 2008, the only evidence against him was a forcibly obtained confession, says the head of the Justice & Peace Commission.

“The evidence has been taken under torture,” Rev. SVB Mangalarajah told journalists in the northern town of Jaffna.

Unable to afford a qualified lawyer, Thevathasan Kanagasabai has been forced to defend himself on his own while in detention.

“Unfortunately, he could not gather enough evidence and he was given one life imprisonment and a 20 year rigorous imprisonment,” said Rev. Mangalarajah.

False promises

The political prisoner is urging the government to grant bail so that he will get the opportunity to prepare his appeal or to release him on humanitarian grounds.

As PTA is the only legislation in Sri Lanka that allows the court to accept a confession as evidence, the government repealing the draconian law would provide Thevathasan a better chance for freedom, says Rev. Mangalarajah.

“Government has promised several times that they will remove the PTA. But government has not taken any action for the removal of the PTA. If the PTA is removed most of the prisoners have a chance of coming out on bail or being released, because under PTA the evidence taken under torture can be used as evidence against them.”

The Sri Lankan government has been severely criticised for not delivering its commitments on repealing its terror laws.☐