The Sunday Leader

Recalling Police Brutality As They Celebrate 150th Anniversary

by Wimalanath Weerarathne

As the President, I like to offer my tribute to the lowest rank of the Police, who serve on the road without water or protection.” President Maithripala Sirisena said at the 150th Police Anniversary Celebrations held on September 3.

The police service had commenced in 1866 during the British rule. Their duty is to protect the public and enhance peace. They also have to protect administration when riots and protests of the public take place. But during the past years, they have been protecting the government and the politicians. As President said, this attitude cannot be changed but it can be controlled. Undue political influence will not meet this end.

Presidential ideas in this regard are hundred per cent correct. The police even today protect the government and politicians more than they do protect the public. However we have to accept as well that the police work on the road without water. They work so hard receiving only minor facilities. Rain soaks them and the Sun burns them. Some say they even do not receive enough rain coats, torches and pair of shoes. May be they have more problem than the ones they openly speak about.

I think that the police uniform must be changed. In developed countries, the Police personnel wear colourful uniforms but not rough khaki suits. But in here, police personnel still wear that khaki suit. If they wear another uniform, people will look at them differently. Honestly, the Sri Lankans never trust the police. They say not to trust even you father if he is a policeman. But we know of a lot of police officers who risk their lives to protect the public. A few months ago, a pregnant police constable rescued a mother and daughter who tried to commit suicide by jumping in front of a running train. She committed to her duty without even thinking about her unborn baby. But in spire all these commitments, after 150 years of its commencement, still the police has a bad image.


Lottery winner

Thirty-two years old Sunil Hemachandra lived in Horana. His job was cutting latex. In 2003, he won 30 lakh via a lottery. He bought a van from that money, helped his relatives and started living a comfortable life. But everything for him changed on June 23, 2003 when some police officers visited his home. “Did Sunil spent all the money he won?’’ They asked Sunil’s aunt. Before they left the house, they told the aunt to ask Sunil to report to the Moragahagena police station.

Sunil went back to the police station no sooner than he came home. ‘Can you sponsor the police for this matter?’ They asked Sunil. He promised to give 25,000 rupees. But they somehow felt that he would not give what he promised. That day at night, five police officers came to the Sunil’s home. Sunil was sleeping. They woke him up and pushed him into a jeep. They hit him all along the way to the police station. At mid night, he became very ill, but they did not take notice of him at all. “He suffered from epilepsy”. They told the relatives. Finally, he was admitted to the hospital on July 24. His head was badly injured. Doctors did a brain surgery. But Sunil died two days after on July 26. On April 29, 2004, the Attorney General gave his final report on the death. It says there is no evidence of assault and that an investigation into the death was unnecessary. After this verdict was given, the relatives went to the Human Rights Commission. After seven years from the incident, this petition was taken into account in Justice Sarath N. Silva’s term but they did not receive justice to their loved one’s death. Thereafter, they complained to the Geneva Human Right Commission about this incident.


Ambilipitya Sumith

The police killed Sumith in January. This killing also should have gone to Geneva. There were a few eyewitnesses to Sumith’s murder. But the police officer responsible for his death is on duty now. The complainants did not receive justice through the court verdict. The Independent Police Commission has to follow court decisions. However, it is certain that Sumith did not commit suicide by jumping from the building where the party was held.


Story of the justice

In November 2015, lawyer Basil Fernando wrote a book titled yukthiye kathawa (Story of the Justice). This book reveals true stories of tortured victims. “As we build a modern Sri Lanka, outdated system of criminal investigation and punishment are the biggest obstacle”. Mr. Fernando mentions in his book. Scientific researches are carried out based on the facts that we can prove. Other type of evidence is not valid in Sri Lanka. Let’s take an example from the book.

On September 14, the Police took Sadun to a small building in front of the police station. It has a few beds and a bathroom. ‘Remove your clothes’ they ordered. After he removed his clothes, the police officials applied chili powder on his penis. Sadun pleaded not to do that. But they took off his t-shirt and wrapped it around his head and face. Then they poured water on him.

They did it four times. Then, they released his hands and ordered him to stand facing the wall. Then they hit his back and legs with poles. Then he was handcuffed and locked up.

They took him to a cemetery in the evening in front of the Bussa Navy Camp and ordered him to dig a grave. Then they dipped him in the water. His brothers Bandula Silva and Sarath Silva were there at that time.

At about 1.30 of the evening, they took him to the police station again.

At about 4 pm, they tortured him again. On September 15, they dragged him along the rough floor as he was bleeding. Then Sergeant Silva and another took him to the beach.

They ordered him to run very fast along the beach. The torturing continued until September 16. On September 17, the victim’s mother visited him. This is the first time that his mother had got police permission to visit Sadun after the arrest.  His mother felt that her son in a fatal conditions.

She pleaded for treatment for her son. Instead, in the evening too they hit him all over with their shoes.


Critical conditions

The book reveals402 such stories. If the police can make this society free from torture, we will not hear about rapes, murders and other numerous crimes. As we read this book, we realise that the police act very badly and illegally. They hit suspects and even kill them. They celebrate their 150th anniversary against this background.

Changing the uniform of the police is external. First they must change their attitudes and the way they act. Police must stop inflicting torture on suspects. The President, the subject Minister, and the IGP must think seriously of how they can reform the Police.


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