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Tsunami chain snatchers sentenced to death

A Sri Lankan High Court sentenced two young men to death for snatching a gold chain from a tsunami victim, reports PK Balachandran.

india Updated: Dec 14, 2006 15:17 IST

A Sri Lankan High Court on Wednesday sentenced two young men to death for snatching a gold chain from a tsunami victim and then, to avoid being caught, pushing her into the swirling waters to certain death.

Galle High Court Judge, Chandrasena Rajapakse, sentenced Mapalagamage Nuwan Kumara and K Ajith Silva to death for snatching a chain from the neck of Deneth Desika Kalyani (35) and then pushing her into the gushing waters of the tsunami as it ravished Sri Lanka's south western coastline on December 26, 2004 Daily Mirror reported on Thursday.

The case against the duo was based on pictures which appeared in the leading Sinhala language daily Lankadeepa a sister publication of Daily Mirror. The pictures had been taken from a video footage of the incident.

Rajapakse said in his 160 page judgement, that the prosecution was able to prove that Desika Kumari was alive when her chain was snatched.

Although in Sri Lanka the tsunami did not trigger the kind of looting witnessed when the storm Katrina struck the United States, the few incidents which occurred in the island had sent shockwaves.

Despite the ruling of the Galle judge, the two young men may not mount the gallows, because in Sri Lanka, the tradition is that the death sentences are routinely commuted to lesser punishments.

However, there is now a renewed debate at the highest levels, on whether the death sentence should be carried out or not, in view of the increase in heinous crimes, like the murder of the fearless judge Sarath Ambepitiya in Colombo in broad daylight, and an Army officer giving information to the LTTE to enable the latter to assassinate Maj Gen Parami Kulatunga and intelligence officer, Col Tuan Muthlalif, both in the higher echelons of the Security Forces.

First Published: Dec 14, 2006 15:17 IST