VIDEO: President has right to release SF at any time, says Ranil

VIDEO: President has right to release SF at any time, says Ranil

October 6, 2010   03:31 pm

Government Ministers had said that there is a set procedure to appeal for former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka’s release. However, he liked to remind them that there are ‘no specific procedures’ in this country, said United National Party and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Addressing a media briefing at UNP headquarters Sirikotha this morning (Oct. 06), Mr. Wickremesinghe explained in detail how the President, using the powers vested on him could release Democratic National Alliance (DNA) leader Sarath Fonseka.

There is no specific procedure set out in this country regarding the release or pardon of a prisoner. If a person is sentenced by a court, he or she could appeal to the President for a reduction of sentence or a pardon. However that procedure is not limited to the person who has been convicted by court. Any person - the spouse, relatives, people from the area or the public could make such an appeal from the President, said Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The Opposition Leader also reminded that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had said the if Sarath Fonseka wanted a pardon, he should follow a certain procedure.

“I acted on those words. As the Opposition Leader, I have the right to speak for the rights and privileges of Members of Parliament, irrespective of which party they belong to.

“The Opposition Leader and the Chairman advise the Speaker on matters affecting the MPs. So I acted according to these Parliamentary practices on behalf of Sarath Fonseka too,” said Mr. Wickremesinghe.

Former General Sarath Fonseka was sentenced by a Court Martial (CM) under the Army Act. However there are differences of opinion between the President and himself (Mr. Wickremesinghe) on the matter, said Mr. Wickremesinghe. “I have always insisted, even in Parliament, that the verdict goes against an MP’s Parliamentary privileges,” he added.

The President had stated in Polonnaruwa that he had appointed a Court Martial and that he could not go against it, or in his own words ‘I cannot let them down’, added Ranil Wickremesinghe. “However I am not going to argue on that point,” reiterated Mr. Wickremesinghe.

If the president says that he had ratified the CM verdict, the Opposition would like to tell President Mahinda Rajapaksa that under Clause 65 of the Army Act, he (the President) had the authority to “remit the whole or part of the punishment”. He can do this even without others urging him to do so, said the Opposition Leaders.

“He (the President) can get up early morning, and while brushing his teeth, if he feels like it, he can order the release of Fonseka,” said Ranil Wickremesinghe in lighter vein.

The best example was the act by former American President Gerald Ford, said Mr. Wickremesinghe. “On September 18, 1974, Gerald Ford as US President issued a pardon for Richard M. Nixon over the Watergate affair even before a court could convict him. He also prevented Mr. Nixon from being sentenced by a court,” said Ranil Wickremesinghe while adding that he too was urging President Mahinda Rajapaksa to follow the example.
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