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Sri Lankans shocked by police atrocities – upiasia.com

[MISC, Friday, 4 September 2009 15:19 No Comment]

Several events have had a shocking effect on democratically minded people in Sri Lanka this week. J.S. Tissainayagam, a well-known journalist, was sentenced to 20 years’ rigorous imprisonment on charges of aiding and abetting terrorism and provoking racial hatred.

Tissainayagam’s case drew international attention and many governments intervened on his behalf. However, the Sri Lankan government persisted in pursuing the charges, under draconian anti-terrorism laws, which many sources describe as unfounded.

In the north, the news that 10,000 internally displaced persons have gone missing during the last three months has also given rise to many fears and queries. The source of this information was the government agent of Vavuniya district. However, the government has given no credible explanation as to how these 10,000 persons came to be missing.

Unofficially, there has been a statement to the effect that some people who had gone to hospitals for medical treatment had not returned; other reports stated that some people may have fled from the camps after paying bribes.

This matter could easily be clarified by the government since it maintains registers in the camps as well as in the hospitals. When people are taken to hospitals, there would be records of them leaving and there would also be records at the hospital of patients who have been admitted and have left.

If people have fled after giving bribes, even this would not be a difficult matter to clarify. There would be family members, relatives or friends who would be able to explain what they know about the circumstances under which such people have gone missing.

The burden lies with the government to appoint a credible authority, perhaps a group of judicial officers, to investigate this matter and submit a report on the missing persons.

In a country where large-scale disappearances have happened over and over again in recent decades, it is quite natural to suspect that at least some of the missing persons may have been extrajudicially executed. Therefore, conducting a credible inquiry into this allegation is an obligation of the government.

A further shocking experience has been the revelations coming from inquests into the cases of two boys who were killed at the Angulana police station in mid-August. Many persons have given eyewitness evidence about the arrest, detention, assault and murder of the two boys by the police.

Even more shocking are details of the administration of the Angulana police station that have been revealed by way of evidence in this case. A local assistant at the police station said he was paid 50 to 100 rupees daily for his work. When asked if that was all he was paid, he replied, “I also receive one or two heroin packets daily from the police.”

Though shocking, this is not something exceptional happening only in this police station. Heroin is used by policemen themselves; it is also sold or planted on others to fabricate cases against them. These are quite common practices in many police stations.

In a separate incident in the town of Ambalangoda, protests broke out in the streets against a group of policemen who had assaulted a businessman carrying karapincha, or curry leaf, branches to his shop. One policeman stopped his vehicle and claimed that the businessman was in fact carrying cannabis. Then about six policemen severely assaulted the businessman, who was later taken to the hospital.

The residents of Ambalangoda who participated in the protest against the police carried karapincha branches as a mark of protest. Many of the constables were immediately transferred out of the police station.

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