End of Bogambara prison Reviving debate about Capital punishment

17 April 2014 05:23 am - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The overwhelming endorsement to re-activate capital punishment by a large majority of visitors to the Bogambara prison after its shift to Pallekele has given food for thought to the Cabinet and President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The Bogambara Prison (BPK), one of the oldest prisons in the country located in Kandy has been shifted to a more spacious new location at Pallekele in Kandy at a cost of Rs. 4 billion. Nearly 140 years old prison was opened for public view for three weeks starting from March 15.

BPK Superintendent Tissa Jayasinghe said nearly 1.1 million people visited the BPK during the 18 day period of free public viewing including ministers and top public and corporate sector officials and 99% of the visitors had recorded their approval to re-introduce death penalty in the visitors’ book.

What is surprising is that even  Maru Sira’s wife Ranmenika had noted down in the visitors’ book that it was necessary to re-introduce the capital punishment as the crime of serious nature had increased dramatically since late, after visiting the gallows on which her late husband was hung for his crimes.

Another visitor was S. M. Ranjith, son of the convict of the Mangala-Eliya murder - Andareyas Appuhami, that made head lines in the press in the 60s. He was hanged in early 70s after a lengthy trial in the Kandy High Court.  

A ‘Davasa’ Sinhala daily report compiled by Jackson Senaratne and Hemachandra Gunatilaka on June 11, 1963 had pictures which vividly unfolds how the tragedy took place.  

Father of Ranjith, Appuhami was a teacher and his young wife Wimalawathie coming from a poor family was an extremely attractive lass who had won several beauty queen competitions in Puttalam before marriage. After an affair for a few weeks, Wimalawathie had eloped with teacher Appuhami and got married later.
However, during the trial it was revealed that her character was not so humble and fit for an innocent young girl from rural upbringing. She has had several extramarital love affairs and the last one before her murder was with the husband of her sister Somawathie.

Somawathie had intimated the illegal sexual exploits of the two to Appuhami while Wimalawathie was living in her sisters’ abode. Hearing this, Appuhami has taken his wife back and a few days later the body of Wimalawathie had found in St. John pond at Mangala-Eliya with several stab wounds on her body.
The famous and efficient police officer, in the 60s Inspector Rahula Silva was able to arrest absconding Appuhami and the murder trial in Kandy High Court was continued for about five years and Appuhami was convicted and condemned to death.  

Surprisingly, this is exactly most of those who approved the death penalty have said as well. Their plea is that the death penalty must be carried out on those who commit crimes in extremely cruel and inhuman nature with conspiracy. Convicts, condemned to death for having killed a person on instant rage should be given a life imprisonment.




Those who get convicted for pre-empt murder, rape  must not be given life sentences but be hanged, G.W.Piyadasa of Baddegama had said.   
“One who kills another human being brutally in a calculated plot,  abdicates his right to live in a civilized society and the society has an unchallenged right to eliminate him from the society. Do not forget that the prison is also a part of the society,” Wilfred Gunawardana, a public servant from Haputale had written.
Due to the large crowd, the prison authorities had to extend the visiting period twice, he added.

In addition to those criminals, leftist leaders like Phillip Gunawardana, N. M. Perera, Colvin R De Silva and Edumund Smarakkody who campaigned against the British rule prior to gaining independence, have been incarcerated in the BPK. This may have motivated Water Supply and Drainage Minister and leader of the MEP Dinesh Gunawardana to visit BPK during the period of public view.

Constructing the BPK in front of the Sacred Dalada Maligawa occupying four acres of prime land in the middle of the city may have been done deliberately by the British colonialists to humiliate Sinhalese sentiments and degrade the Buddhist faith, Mr. Jayasinghe said.  

By the time of relocating the BPK to the new Dumbara Prison at Pallekele, there were 1,450 inmates in the highly congested prison including 120 death row prisoners. The BPK had been constructed with facilities to accommodate only 432 inmates.

The 138 years old BPK, the biggest prison in Sri Lanka had been built to accommodate 408 prisoners in 1876 and the plan of the prison had been drawn by T. R. Vine of the Public Works Department. The total land area where BPK is located covers 5.0596 hectares. It has been constructed by filling a part of the Bogambara tank, Mr. Jayasinghe said.





Before the construction of the BPK in 1876, the convicts condemned to death have been hanged on the top of the ‘Hangman’s Hill’ in front of the small elevation where the Central Market is located right now.

“One of the main reasons for the relocation of the BPK constructed in 1876 by British rulers to the Dumbara Prison is the huge congestion and its location. It was situated in the middle of the Sacred City of Kandy occupying more than three acres of highly valuable prime land. Secondly, the BPK is only the other prison except the Welikada Prison that was equipped with the gallows. We think it is not proper to hang a convict at a location with close proximity to the ‘Dalada Maligawa’ where the Sacred Tooth Relic is worshipped by thousands of devotees every day,” Mr. Jayasinghe said.

He said shifting of the BPK was a part of the government’s plan to relocate prisons at spacious and less congested premises from highly congested cities. The government has already taken steps to relocate prisons situated in cities like Welikada, Matara, Hambantota, Jaffna and Galle, he added.

There were five categories of prisoners incarcerated at the BPK. They were: death row prisoners, prisoners serving life sentence, normal prisoners, civil prisoners and normal suspects.


Nearly 1.1 million people visited the BPK during the 18 day period of free public viewing including ministers and top public and corporate sector officials and 99% of the visitors had recorded their approval to re-introduce death penalty in the visitors’ book  - BPK Superintendent Tissa Jayasinghe



Mr. Jayasinghe said the government has decided to conserve the old BPK as a historical place. It remained under the Prisons Department and was handed over officially to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on  March  18, 2014 to renovate and maintain as a cultural and heritage site.
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  Comments - 2

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  • GORDON BURBY Saturday, 07 February 2015 07:46 AM

    DEAR SIR/MADAM, IS ANYBODY ABLE TO LOOK IN YOUR ARCHIVES ON MY ANCESTER DAVID BURBY WHO WAS MURDERED BY PRISON INMATES IN A CANDY JAIL IN 1879.HIS SON DANIEL GEORGE BURBY WAS A PRISON WARDEN AROUND 1920. THANK YOU

    GORDON BURBY Saturday, 31 January 2015 10:22 AM

    DEAR SIR/MADAM, IS ANYBODY ABLE TO LOOK IN YOUR ARCHIVES ON MY ANCESTOR DAVID BURBY WHO WAS MURDERED BY PRISON INMATES IN A CANDY JAIL IN 1879.HIS SON DANIEL GEORGE BURBY WAS A PRISON WARDEN AROUND 1920.


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