New evidence implicates ASP in Sri Lanka killing

ECONOMYNEXT – New evidence emerged today of the direct involvement of a police Assistant Superintendent (ASP) in the killing of a party goer at Embilipitiya in the worst case of police brutality under the new government.

CCTV footage from a nearby building identified several witnesses who have now ben questioned by police and their testimony has helped investigators draw a much clearer picture of what happened on January 4.

One witness told investigators this week how almost the entire police strength of the Embilipitiya police gathered outside what is known as the Mendis Building and were seen assaulting unarmed people with sticks.

Witnesses recounted how two men were mercilessly being beaten on the main road by police who eventually bundled them into a jeep while ASP Dharmaratne and HQI Dias remained inside the building.

"One of the policemen came running down the staircase to where I was standing with about eight or 10 constables," the witness told a fresh police investigation this week. "He shouted saying ASP pushed one man down. He was smashed. He may have died."

This testimony has been corroborated with other accounts of the incident while investigators have also found that police who initially went to break up the party had lied about what sparked the clashes and the subsequent events.

Witnesses have said about 100 to 150 people had gathered and watched the police action that led to the death of 29-year-old Sumith Prasanna Jayawardena.

Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne told reporters on Thursday that the victim had been assaulted by the police because it appeared he had tried to resist the illegal police intrusion into a private party.

The minister said it appeared that the clash was a result of police demanding alcohol from the hosts of the party who could not provide the liquor that had been demanded of them.

The minister expressed the hope that the police commission would take appropriate action to restore people’s confidence in independent institutions.

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Meanwhile, local journalists have organised a demonstration at Embilipitiya on Saturday to protest the police action of grabbing note books of reporters covering the inquest.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera had arranged a "witness" to clear the involvement of his colleague Dharmaratne who is accused of pushing Jayawardena to his death, but the latest evidence has torpedoed his plan.

A police headquarters source said with IGP Illangakoon being summoned to the Police Commission yesterday, the top officer has decided to change course and allow an independent investigation in the face of mounting opposition to his actions.

Illangakoon is accused by lawyers of trying to whitewash the Embilipitiya police, including ASP Dharmaratne who had been one of his own bodyguards when he served at the STF.

However, polic spokesman Gunasekera in a statement denied the allegations against Illangakoon. Gunasekera said the IGP had asked the Police Commission to cause an investigation into allegations against him. (COLOMBO, Jan 22, 2016)

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