Death penalty comes into force
The murder of a High Court judge on Friday has spurred President Chandrika Kumaratunga into re-initiating the death penalty for rape, murder and narcotic dealings with immediate effect.

Calling an emergency meeting last morning with her Public Security, Law and Order Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and high level officials, the President made "several important decisions" with regard to the prevention of organized crime, a statement made by the President's Office said.

The meeting came barely 24 hours after Colombo High Court Judge Sarath Ambepitiya was gunned down at his official residence in Colombo by still unknown assailants. Angered by the murder of Justice Ambepitiya, the Bar Council of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) last morning demanded the re-introduction of capital punishment (death penalty) and called upon the President to restore law and order in the country.

The BASL said they were once again calling upon President Kumaratunga to "immediately arrange to grant adequate protection and security to all judges so that they could continue to discharge their judicial functions without any threat to their lives."

The release from the President's Office further states that, among the other decisions taken yesterday were:

* The Crime Prevention Unit of the Police will be re-organised and strengthened with immediate effect.

* President Kumaratunga has given instructions to relevant authorities to bring in proposed amendments to the criminal law, in addition to adopting regulations, systems and procedures to minimize laws delays, within four weeks. * It was decided to set up a Special Police Unit for the security of judges and the law courts. A security plan was discussed in detail today. It will be effective by Friday, November 26, 2004.

* The Minister for Public Security, Law and Order, his Secretary and the IGP will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of the above.

* The President will discuss with the Chief Justice all these matters and seek his advice with regard to the plan of action that will be adopted by the government.

* A special compensation will be paid to the family of the deceased Judge from the President's Fund.

The release expressed the President's and the Government's "shock and concern" at the assassination of Justice Ambepitiya, whom the President's Office described as a judge of the "highest integrity."

The release referred to Justice Ambepitiya's judgments against several well-known drug merchants, as well as operators of organized crime and the 200-year rigorous imprisonment term to LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

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