May 18, Colombo: Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena says he is strongly committed to change the social conditions that lead to the increase in crimes.
The President made this comment at the national ceremony held at the Welikada Prison Grounds this morning (18) to grant a presidential pardon to 762 inmates including 26 female prisoners serving time for minor offences on the occasion of Vesak Poya Day.
Pardoning the highest number of prison inmates in the prison history by the head of the state at a national ceremony was a special feature of the event.
The President also visited the prison grounds and addressed the released inmates while attentively listening to them.
Speaking to the inmates who received discharge certificates from him, the President asked about their information and requested them to use the freedom they were granted today to make their lives meaningful.
Appealing to the inmates to refrain from committing the offences which landed them in jails again. The President emphasized that he bears the responsibility for their release, and he will be held responsible if they become criminals again after stepping back into the society.
Making clear that they were granted freedom not to see them in the prison again, The President said that he was ready to provide everyone released today with the necessary support to build their future.
Accordingly, the President instructed the Commissioner of Prisons to seek those who among the released inmates today wish to engage in self-employment and inquire into the facilities they need and promptly submit a report to him.
The President said he always focuses on the reintegration of prison inmates as good citizens and recalled that he took measures to pardon the person who was convicted of attempting to assassinate him on January 8, 2016.
Further speaking, the President said his intention was not to fill the country's prisons, but to reintegrate all citizens into the society as good citizens, as well as to change every social background that increases crime in the country.
Expressing his views on the program implemented by the government to provide vocational training to the inmates and to direct their knowledge and skills for productive use, the President recalled his past experience as a detainee, and urged all inmates to use their time of incarceration to work diligently to build their lives and to develop their knowledge and skills.
The President at the occasion handed over self-employment gear to five inmates.
Meanwhile, the head of state took measures to fulfill a request made by a released inmate, Lakmina Indika Bamunusinghe, who has finished a post graduate degree on sociology while in the prison and currently studying for his doctorate at the University of Kelaniya. The inmate was a champion in boxing in 2005 and hopes to participate in the National Boxing championships this year.
The released inmate requested the President to provide necessary funds to finish his thesis for the doctoral degree and provide the opportunity for him to again participate in the national boxing competitions.
The President said he will see to the request and instructed the Minister of Justice and prison Reforms Thalatha Atukorala to provide necessary financial support to the inmate promptly to finish his studies.
The President also declared open Vesak Dansala organized by the Buddhist Association of the Department of Prison for the detainees and participants and joined in handing over the food to the released inmates.
A large number of Ministers and Parliamentarians including Minister Thalatha Athukorala, Secretary to the President Udaya R. Seneviratne, Acting Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Prison Reforms Piyumanthi Peiris, Commissioner General of Prisons TMJW Tennakoon, and other prison officials also participated in the event.