It seems that Sri Lanka Police never learns a lesson. Although it has the Dharmachakra (Wheel of the Dharma) in its insignia and has Dhammobhaverakkathidhammachari (One who lives by Dhamma is protected by the Dhamma’; the police does not seem to adhere to Law and in fact takes Law unto its own hands.
In November 2015, we heard of heroic actions of a pregnant Woman Police Constable (WPC) in Kandy who saved the life of a six-year-old child about to be thrown onto an oncoming train by his own mother, disregarding her own safety. Despite there being many instances where the police personnel have helped civilians, actions of a handful of unscrupulous police officials are a discredit to the whole Police force.
According to Dr. George Katsiaficas, Professor of Sociology of Wentworth Institute of Technology, Boston, something is really rotten in the so-called ‘Democratic Socialist’ Republic of Sri Lanka. Since 1971, tens of thousands of people have been tortured, killed or disappeared by State-led terrorism and anti-government militants. When diving deeper into State-led killings and torture, one can understand, Sri Lanka Police is the main arm used by the political establishment to perpetrate these crimes.
The organisers of the party complied and provided them with hot beverages. When the Police had arrived the second time they were told that the party had run out of liquor and a volley of words ensued. The Police arrived again for taking revenge. At the time, the deceased – Sumith Prasanna Jayawardana was having his dinner, it was reported.
According to his wife 29-year-old Munasinghe ArachchigeShashikaNishamani Munasinghe, her husband was thrown from the top floor when both of them pleaded with the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) not to throw him over the building. She further states that she too was subjected to highly abusive language at gunpoint and was pushed away by the Police officers.
Minister of Law and Order Sagala Ratnayake read out a statement in parliament that it is yet to be ascertained whether the youth jumped or pushed by the Police to which statement, the Opposition Leader and JanathaVimukthiPeramuna (JVP) parliamentarian Aura Kumara Dissanayake said Sumith Prasanna would not have imagined himself to be Spiderman when contemplating to jump over from a three-storey building.
However, the most hilarious remark came from Police Media Spokesperson ASP Ruwan Gunasekera when he said that the ‘raid’ by the Police was in response to an ‘unlawful assembly’, making sane citizens think twice before holding birthday parties, wedding receptions, or even an alms giving!
Furthermore, grabbing notebooks of media personnel who went there to report the January 13th magisterial inquiry proceedings by a police officer did nothing but exhibiting the desperate naked attempts of the Police to suppress the truth.
According to the report, the police officers had tied Perera’s hands behind his back, blindfolded him and hung him from a beam, before brutally torturing him for about an hour and a half. During this time, Perera was reportedly interrogated concerning a murder case he stated he knew nothing about.
Perera had suffered from pain and was taken to Yakkala Wickramarachchi Ayurvedic Hospital. The doctor who examined him had referred Perera to Nawaloka Hospital due to his being in a serious medical condition. While in the Nawaloka Hospital, Perera reportedly gave a statement to an officer from the Grandpass Police Station in Colombo, concerning the torture he had been subjected.
According to the information received, Perera’s condition worsened on June 15, 2002, and he was then placed on a life support system, with his family having been informed that he may not survive. It was reportedly feared that the authorities may halt Perera’s use of the life support system, as the running costs were very high.
Few weeks prior to the murder, Perera had been under pressure to withdraw the case against the aforementioned officers in the Negombo High Court, under the Convention Against Torture Act of Sri Lanka, Act No. 22 of 1994. Sources from the victim’s family have stated that a group of police officers recently visited Perera’s home and pressured him to withdraw the case. Acquaintances of Perera have also been confronted by SI Suresh and SI Herath asking them to influence Perera to withdraw the complaint. Furthermore, a provincial council member of Mabole, known by Perera’s family as Niroshan, had also visited the victims home and asked Perera to withdraw his complaint.
The family was suspicious and went to the nearby Magistrate’s Court to call for the exhumation of the body. The court debated the issue for one year before a new magistrate arrived and made an order for exhumation. A second doctor issued a report declaring a lack of evidence of insecticide and ordering parts of the body be sent for toxicological analysis. He deferred his final findings till he discussed them with the doctor who made the first inquiry. The Government Analyst’s Department had reported negatively on the presence of any poisonous element. The doctor, however, after talking to the doctor who had done the first inquiry, had opined that the first report was correct. All three medical reports were sent to the Medical College for expert opinion. A professor of forensic science had given his view that the first doctor should have sent the body parts for toxicological analysis and that there was no evidence of death by taking insecticide. On the available evidence it was not possible to determine whether the death was due to suicide, homicide, or just natural reasons.
This debate on medical reports has gone on for nine years now. It is obvious that this healthy young woman’s death was never suspected to be due to natural reasons. If suicide is excluded, the other possibility is homicide. There are many reasons that have made the family believe that this is a case of homicide. The last thing known about the deceased person’s whereabouts was a telephone call from the local police station by the ASP asking Swarnarehka to come to his office immediately with a divided skirt worn by athletes. She had obeyed the orders and reported accordingly. Within two hours she was dead. Within the next two hours, the postmortem, embalming and everything was done, without any information to, or participation by, the family. The police had not answered the questions of the family about the details of the death and had been very hostile to the family. The family had heard conflicting versions about the death from different officers. The family believes that higher-ranking police officers have made secret inquiries about the death and have hushed up the findings.
This is a case where the only persons who know about the death are the police officers of this particular station. The family believes there were over 40 officers, including women, at the station. Only through rigorous interrogation of the police officers can what really took place be found out. The suicide story, which has been discounted, casts suspicion that there has been police complicity.
It has also been brought to the attention of the HRCSL.
The letter highlights that in many countries, institutional reforms led to a more humane police forces. Accordingly, it can be understood that Sri Lankan police is still underdeveloped, archaic and yet to evolve to modern times. The yahapalana government cannot realize its goals fully and truly without reforming and modernizing the police. In order to implement reforms the police needs the active participation of civil society organizations, other government agencies and the public at large.
The question before us is whether the United National Front for Good Governance (UNFGG) is truly serious about this. Question arises as to whether Minister Sagala Ratnayake is at all serious about policing the Police. We are yet to see any concrete action taken by President Maithripala Sirisena towards that. Only by political will and genuine intervention can we change this culture of violence where the police, set up to in fact safeguard the rights of the people, will be the true guardian of the people
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The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) works towards the radical rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote human rights in Asia. Established in 1984, the Hong Kong based organisation is a Laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, 2014.