A Sri Lankan court on Monday remanded till August 31 11 police officers and personnel in a case involving alleged abduction and torture of an Information Technology student at gunpoint on August 4 over a dispute with the son of a senior police officer.
A spate of such cases involving a section of the police in the last few weeks has triggered uproar and sparked the debate among the civil society on the “prevailing culture of impunity”. Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake told Parliament on Tuesday, when the issue was raised by some members, that the good work done by the police
during the campaign to crush terrorism had been tarnished as a result of the IT student incident and the Angulana shooting.
Mr. Wickremanayake also assured Parliament the government had no intention whatsoever of protecting those responsible for these crimes.
On August 14, residents of a Colombo suburb stormed a police station and blocked trains to protest the killing of two young men. Local media reported the young men had “teased” the girlfriend of the police officer in charge of the station.
The bodies of the two victims were found the next day after police arrested them.
After the military defeat of the LTTE, the government declared war on the underworld. According to police a number of underworld operators have been killed in recent days.
The Singapore-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in a recent statement said, “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, were known criminals, this practice has been tolerated by the media and the public. Such reaction is 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.”
When the IT student case came up for hearing on Monday, the Kaduwela Magistrate asked the DIG of the Crimes and Organised Crimes Unit why Senior Superintendent of Police Vaas Gunawardena, whose son is at the centre of controversy, was not arrested despite his involvement being revealed on the alleged abduction and assault of the IT student.
The court was told that as per investigations conducted so far there were constant disagreements between the victim Nipuna and Ravindu, son of the SSP. On the day of the incident around 12.15 PM, the victim after sitting for an examination paper at the Institute had gone for lunch to a hotel with a friend.
At the hotel he had met Ravindu and both of them got into an argument.
According to the victim’s friend when they approached the main road, Nipuna had been abducted and pushed into a jeep by police personnel carrying pistols.
It was also submitted that on the way Ravindu had given a call to an unidentified person and told “Mother keep the door open, I am bringing you a gift.” A few hours later the victim was dropped off in the city.
At that time the victim claimed to have seen the SSP seated in the front seat of the jeep. The SSP told the victim that the incident was due to a mistake on their part. Thereafter the victim was asked to sign the statement which purportedly said he had links with the underworld.
The magistrate ordered the police to identify the woman to whom Ravindu referred to as ‘mother’ and to report to court on the said issue. The police were also ordered to inform Court whether the police would name Vaas Gunawardena as a suspect in the case or not.