Lahiru’s fate to be decided soon | Sunday Observer

Lahiru’s fate to be decided soon

Lahiru Madushanka
Lahiru Madushanka

A young man who has never touched an automatic weapon, even a toy pistol for that matter be called a sniper trying to assassinate the President of a foreign country may have been his lopsided fate but if the case is not pursued vigorously and without delay, things might turn too ugly and tragic for Lahiru, his parents, as well as his little son and the wife, all of whom have gone through hell for the past three years.

It is actually in the hands of the state officials now whether Lahiru Madushanka’s story might end in complete bliss or utter sadness. The Maldivian Presidential election has ushered new hopes for the Sri Lankan man unfairly put behind bars without a proper trial.

“But there’s a long way to go,” Lahiru’s lawyer in Male, Fareesha Abdulla messaged to the Sunday Observer, when we asked if it will be much easier now to battle it out in court to release Lahiru with the change of government.

“I’m trying and hoping that the court case will be expedited,” she added. The transition of power from Abdulla Yameen to President-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is due to take place on November 17.

The Election Commission declared opposition candidate Solih the winner of the poll soon after the results were released. However, it will take seven days to formally register the result, according to reports. Maldives has a history of troubled transition of power between leaders and the media speculated Yameen was preparing to annul the election. However, the security forces chiefs and the police chief have assured that they will guarantee that the people’s will at the election is upheld.

Lahiru’s father has written to the Human Rights Commission of Maldives and the Foreign Ministry that Lahiru has never undergone weapons training, and that the claims against him were simply outrageous. The father’s claim has been confirmed by the Defence officials in Sri Lanka.

Lahiru’s episode nearly convinces us that he has been framed by those either wanting to hang on to power or those who desperately want to climb up there. He could well be a victim of a setup, as claimed by Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times two years ago. What requires now is a speedy and an independent judicial process to establish it.

On October 23, 2015, the Lankan was arrested under the charges that he had funded groups creating unrest in Maldives, later he was accused of ‘knowingly conspiring in a plot to kill President Yameen.’ He was allegedly accused of being a hired sniper working for the former Vice President of Maldives, Ahmed Adheeb. This is despite the fact that his stay in Maldives had been only for a brief 24 hours.

His arrest was officially confirmed by the law enforcement authorities after a fortnight when he was produced before acriminal court to extend his detention.

Lahiru’s mother Shanthi said he was arrested at Male airport when he was waiting for the flight to get back home. “He was disappointed that no one showed up to receive him, a friend who promised him employment as a driver had sent him to Maldives. My son wanted to earn a living for his family,” she said. Lahiru arrived in Male on October 22, 2015. When he failed to meet the person whom he was supposed to meet on arrival, he booked into a room and the next day decided to take a flight to Colombo. \He was arrested at that time.

Nothing incriminating was found in his possession or in his room other than some clothes and sweets. The weapons - several hand guns, a T56 assault rifle and a MP5 sub-machine gun - shown by the police linking him with the assassination plot was found at a different hotel.

Confidential intelligence was cited as further evidence for his arrest and detention. The lawyer had not been privy to these confidential documents produced against her client. The meetings between the lawyer Fareesha and Lahiru were restricted after September 2016. The officials said the meetings were not necessary since a hearing date was not fixed. He was officially charged on August 8, 2016 and the case was last heard on September 22, 2016. “Since then the law enforcing authorities have been giving flimsy excuses to get it postponed,” the lawyer lamented adding that he was hardly allowed out of the cell where he is confined next to mentally unsound prisoners.

She said none of the four witnesses produced before Maldivian Criminal Court in connection with the case mentioned Lahiru’s name linking him with the charges.

His mother, Shanthi said, an official from the Sri Lankan High Commission in Maldives rang her about ten weeks ago and promised to help. “She told me not to lose faith.” An official from the Foreign Ministry has also got in touch with her about two months ago to inform that they were pursuing the case. That is the the last official communications she had.

Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam when queried by the Sunday Observer said that a fresh bid to secure Lahiru’s release through legal channels will be made by the government once the new President assumes office in November.