Monday, May 10, 2010

"Tissa still not officially pardoned" – Sumanthiran

By Rathindra Kuruwita - J. S. Tissainayagam who was sentenced to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment for ‘inciting communal violence through his writings and receiving money from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)’ was pardoned on May 3, by President Rajapaksa. LAKBIMAnEWS met J. S. Tissainayagam’s lawyer who is also Tamil National Alliance (TNA) National List MP, M. A. Sumanthiran.

Following are some excerpts from the interview:

Minister for External Affairs, G.L. Peiris announced that J. S. Tissainayagam was pardoned on May 3. As his lawyer, what is your opinion about the pardon?

Minister of External Affairs Prof. G. L Peiris announced that J. S. Tissainayagam will be pardoned by the president on May 3, on World Press Freedom Day. I don’t think that the government will go back on its word but so far the pardon has not been granted officially and we have not been consulted yet. So I will not and I cannot comment much on this development until he is officially pardoned.
He is on bail right now and we had to remove the appeal so that he can be pardoned. We will start discussing the terms of this pardon with the Attorney General’s Department in the coming days.

What is the legal point of the pardon? Will the pardon erase the conviction?

Yes it should. We will discuss that when we meet officials from the AG’s department. We have always argued that the allegations were false, and absurd and this case should never have been presented to court.

Talking about the AG’s Department, as a lawyer what do you feel about it being taken under the control of the president?

AG is an independent post which is on par with the Independent Commissions appointed by the 17th amendment. It’s very unhealthy to bring the department under any Ministry let alone the president because of the vital role it has to play. AG’s department should be unbiased as possible.

The gazette extraordinaire No. 1651/20 - Friday, April 30, 2010 -- does not categorize the AGs department under any ministry but if you look at the departments under the president, there is a Department of Legal Affairs. Maybe that is the AGs department but even if it’s not under any ministry, such departments are automatically assigned under the president. So as a lawyer, this is a development that I hate to see.

The conviction of Tissainayagam had a negative impact on journalists in the country, especially Tamil journalists who were critical of the government. Do you think that the pardon will have a positive result?

Hopefully it will. The conviction of Tissainayagam sent chills among journalists who were critical of the government and maybe this will help to relieve the situation. But one should not forget that the conviction of Tissa was not the only thing that is affecting media freedom. The regulations that convicted Tissa still exist. And there are many more official and unofficial restrictions still in place.

© Lakbima News

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