Foreign Ministry awaits report on jailed Lankans

Relatives say Govt. doing very little

By Nalaka Nonis.
The Foreign Ministry is awaiting a report from the Sri Lankan High Commission in the Maldives, with regard to the detention of over 40 Sri Lankans in a Maldivian camp, a Foreign Ministry spokesman told The Sunday Times.

The spokesman said the ministry will act on the matter once the report on the actual status of the jailed Sri Lankans is received at the end of this week

However, the association of parents and guardians of Sri Lankan prisoners in the Maldives said the plight of more than 40 Sri Lankans jailed on various false charges has fallen on the deaf ears of the Sri Lankan Government.

Secretary of the association P. Mudalige, told The Sunday Times that they have written to the Government on numerous occasions asking it to intervene on behalf of those jailed in the Maldives but the Government has shown little interest.

Mr. Mudalige said the Sri Lankan embassy in the Maldives is doing little to see whether the detainees held in the "Maa Fushi" torture camp could be released.

He complained that the Maldives Government had jailed the Sri Lankans on false charges of drug smuggling, murder and rape and that more than 30 of over 40 detainees have been sentenced to rigorous life imprisonment.

"Foreigners working in the Maldives, specially Sri Lankans, are arrested by police on false charges and are forced to sign a charge sheet for a crime they have never committed. If anybody refuses to sign the charge sheet he is beaten until he signs it," a prisoner released from the torture house is reported to have said.

He said Maldivian judgments on offences are unfair because the case is handled completely by the police. The duty of the magistrate is merely to place his signature to the charge sheet, as he does not hold a trial.

"Drug smuggling in the Maldives is considered a serious crime and if a policeman is able to arrest an offender he gets a promotion. In addition, the Maldivian Government receives nine dollars daily from the United Nations for maintenance of a prisoner and this has led to more arrests on various charges" he said.

According to him, detainees in the torture house are subject to inhuman torture throughout the day. At the slightest mistake of a detainee, he is brutally flogged by the security officers, he said.

"The permission of security officers is required to use the toilet, and any detainee who wants to use it in the night must somersault and do various other exercises, for at least for an hour. Further once in a few days some selected detainees are taken to the sea by the police and held under water every 15 minutes on 4 or 5 days", Mr. Mudalige said.

Recently eight Sri Lankan detainees were released from the "Ma Fushi" torture house but only three were able to return to Sri Lanka as the others had been detained again.
Meanwhile a Foreign Employment Bureau official told the The Sunday Times that a special officer has been sent to the Maldives to explore the possibilities of getting the Sri Lankan detainees released.

Debate on PM's Oslo meeting report

By Chandani Kirinde
Parliament is scheduled to debate this week the Prime Minister's statement on the Oslo aid conference made to the legislature in early December.

Opposition political parties had been seeking a debate on the ongoing peace process for several months. Two days-January 30 and 31- have been allocated for the debate.
The Prime Minister's statement to the House in early December covered the progress of the peace process since the UNF took power in December 2001 and the challenges that lay ahead if the process was to reach a successful conclusion.

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka (Amendment) Bill and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill are also to be taken up for debate on two of the four sitting days of the legislature this week.

The Citizenship Act is being amended to rectify the anomaly in the existing law relating to gender discrimination and to afford female parentage the benefit which now accrues only to the male parentage.

The amendments will give the benefit of acquiring the status of a citizen of Sri Lanka by decent to persons whose mother is also at the time of his birth a citizen of Sri Lanka.

The Amendments to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka Bill will among others extend the protection granted to investors in respect of the failure by licensed dealers or brokers to meet their contractual obligations and also enhance the powers and enlarge the scope of the duties of the Commission.

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