By Shamindra Ferdinando
Twenty two persons arrested in connection with recent ethnic clash in the Gintota area have been charged under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Act No 56 of 2007.
Law enforcement sources told The Island that the Act had never been used before.
Law and Order and Southern Development Ministry had authorised the use of ICCPR Act, sources said, adding that the move was expected to act as a deterrent.
Police spokesman and attorney-at-law SP Ruwan Gunasekera yesterday told The Island that of those 22 persons remanded till Dec 14 after being produced in Galle Magistrate court three had been arrested on Nov 16 and the rest on the following day.
SP Gunasekera said that among the suspects was a former UNP member of a local government authority.
Asked whether those charged under ICCPR could seek bail from the Magistrate court, the SP said the High Court had to be moved to obtain bail. The police spokesman underscored the fact that bail could be secured only under special circumstances and anyone found guilty could face upto ten years RI.
Gunasekera said 18 shops, 85 houses and property and 16 vehicles had been damaged, some of them badly, during Gintota disturbances. The official said there had been eight robberies during the period and the police were in the process of inquiring into them.
Having visited the affected communities, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Law and Order and Southern Development Minister Sagala Ratnayake vowed tough action against those who had been responsible and assured victims compensation.
Home Affairs Ministry spokesperson Sajeewa Wijeweera told The Island that the government was still in the process of ascertaining losses caused to public property.