Police terror

Published : Sep 11, 2009 00:00 IST

THE Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is gone, at least militarily, and the people of the island nation should, logically, be breathing free. But that is not the case. Sections of the police seem to be working hard to capture the space vacated by the Tigers.

Consider the following incidents:

On August 6, a 22-year-old Information Technology Institute student, Nipuna Ramanayake, was abducted and assaulted by the son of a senior police officer in broad daylight. A police squad, in which the son of the police officer was present, picked him up over a dispute and took him to the house of the officer and beat him up badly in front of the officers wife. Ramanayake survived only because his friends on the campus alerted his family, who, in turn, knocked on the doors of some influential people.

Initially, the police claimed that Ramanayake had friends with underworld connections. After the decimation of the Tigers, the police are engaged in an island-wide swoop to bust the underworld and the mafia. The police officer whose son took the law into his own hands was transferred to the headquarters, and on August 17 a magistrate remanded 11 police personnel to custody in connection with the case.

The island was jolted in July by the arrest and police assault of a 14-year-old schoolboy. According to a petition presented to the Supreme Court, Jeewantha Ranasinghe, a Grade 9 student of the Subharatha Maha Vidyalaya of Meegoda, was arrested by officers of the Nawagamuwa police station on June 22, 2009. Two or three days later, he was produced before the Magistrate and bailed out arrested (again) on July 7 and bailed out on July 9. The Kaduwela Police had not given a reason for his arrest. .While in police custody, Jeewantha had been assaulted (The Island, August 12).

This minor was arrested on the basis of a complaint made by a relative of a Pradeshya Sabha member named Suresh Priyadarshana of Kaduwela.

The reference was to a quarrel between the victim and another pupil of the same school.

In another instance, Minister of Human Rights Mahinda Samarasinghe discovered to his shock that one his own coordinating secretaries had been abducted. It took him several hours and innumerable telephone calls to discover that the victim had not been abducted by criminals but had been arrested by the police.

The police cannot simply barge into peoples houses without appropriate documents and take people away, he told a local newspaper on August 5. The police responded by saying they could the deed was done by a special squad that had wide powers to arrest anybody in any part of the country.

In the third week of August, two university students were arrested while writing anti-government slogans on the parapet wall of a school. One of the slogans was addressed to Your Majesty and was on the mess-up in the examinations. They were later released on bail. The reference was, of course, to the President, who has been given the maharajano tag after defeating the LTTE.

On August 14, seven policemen, including the officer in charge of the Angulana police post, were arrested by a special police team from the Mount Lavinia police division in connection with the killing of two youth. Following the killings, a crowd of more than 1,000 angry residents staged a protest in the area and subsequently surrounded the Angulana police post and attacked it with stones.

The victims, Dinesh Tharanga Fernando, 26, a fisherman, and Dhanushka Udaya Aponsu, 21, a gym instructor, had been allegedly taken into custody by the Angulana police on August 12 evening on the premises of the Podujaya School in Angulana.

Their parents said, the police had told them that the two youth would be released the next morning. However, when they enquired early next morning, they were told that the suspects had been handed over to the Mount Lavinia police.

The body of Dinesh was found lying near the Ratmalana cooperative stall and that of Dhanushka Udaya was found near the Lunawa bridge.

The Singapore-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said in a recent statement:

It is now a norm in Sri Lanka for arrested suspects to be killed while they are trying to escape or retrieving a hidden weapon. Since most of the victims, hitherto, have been known criminals, this practice has been tolerated by the media as well as the public. Such reactions are understandable in a society plagued increasingly by violent crimes.

Unfortunately, this modus operandi not only amounts to using criminal methods to control criminality; it also gives the rulers a carte blanche to violate the basic rights of any citizen, deemed or depicted as a criminal. This is a path which leads not to the restoration of law and order but to the replacement of one sort of criminality for another.

B. Muralidhar Reddy
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