On November 22, a suspect in the killing of a police constable and his wife was himself killed after arrest. The suspect was a 30-year-old former instructor of the Commando Battalion of the army. It is alleged that he was taken to identify some weapons and when he attempted to attack the police with one of the weapons he was shot dead. Two more persons related to the inquiry into the same murders were also killed after arrest. It is alleged that these two suspects were also taken for the identification of weapons and that during the search they both jumped into the nearby lake at Denagumuwa and drowned. It is also reported that the police are still looking for the main suspect of the murders. It would not come as any surprise if, when this person e main suspect is arrested, there would be a similar report of his being taken to search for weapons and that he too was killed as he tried to attack the police.
The inquiry into the deaths of the policeman and his wife is being conducted under the supervision of the Senior DIG for the Southern Province, Chandara Wickremaratna, and the DIG, McCarthy Perera.
The killing of the policeman and his wife is without doubt a horrible crime. The fact that they were killed, allegedly due to the inquiries that the policeman was involved in further add to the gravity of the crime. Besides, the killing of the family of a policeman in retaliation to lawful inquiries that he has been carrying out and that the crimes have been done in front of the victim's children all adds to the horrendous nature of the crime.
The fact that the first person to be arrested and later to be killed was a former instructor of the Commando Battalion of the army is also quite significant. In many of the crimes reported in recent times the fact that the alleged suspects have been former members of the Sri Lankan armed forces should be a matter of concern to the military, the government and the society at large. That persons who were members of the armed forces had taken so easily to crime around the country reflects on the kind of discipline within the armed forces. Despite of the repetition of such crimes over the last few years no serious inquiry has been undertaken, either by the armed forces or the government on this issue.
Instead of making inquiries into such serious matters the method that has been adopted is to extrajudicially execute the alleged criminals. This means that the senior officers in charge of inquiries into these crimes approves of such executions which is an indication of a grave breakdown of the morale within the police service. Killings and counter-killings have thus become the manner in which criminals and the police appear to engage with each other.
The fact that former members of the armed forces are taking to crime, the crimes themselves becoming increasingly more brutal and the method of dealing with these crimes being extrajudicial executions are frightening indications of the breakdown of the society as a whole. That such a breakdown exists is not a new revelation and this matter has been commented on for many years now by numerous bodies. What is shocking is the complete absence of any response by the government to this state of affairs.
That such extrajudicial killings take place in inquiries directly supervised by two Deputy Inspector Generals of Police is an indication that, as a matter of policy the government approves of such killings. If it was otherwise these killings would have led to inquiries into all the officers involved, including the two Deputy Inspector Generals.
The Asian Human Rights Commission once again draws the attention of the government as well as society as a whole to the rapid collapse of the law and societal morale indicated by the crimes as well as the manner in which the crimes are dealt with.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.