Sri Lanka police brutality emerge on Sirisena anniversary
ECONOMYNEXT – Barely a month after Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Commission censured the police for brutally assaulting university students, investigators have found another horrific excess that killed one man and wounded many, including children and pregnant women.
As President Maithripala Sirisena marked his first year in office on Saturday, senior investigators found that the Embilipitiya police led by an Assistant Superintendent (ASP) had gone on the rampage seriously undermining his good governance credentials.
A senior investigator said they discovered that the ASP and his men not only carried out the illegal action, but also tampered with evidence and altered official records to mislead senior officials and the judiciary.
Criminal investigators had two versions, one from the police – 21 of whom have been transferred out of the Embilipitiya police pending investigations into the January 4 incident, and the other from the victims.
Police initially maintained that they were responding to a 119 emergency call complaining of loud speakers being used at a party and causing disturbance to neighbours. Four police on mobile patrol had given conflicting statements to investigators on how they were beaten by party goers.
The police had also fired an automatic rifle, a fact that had been suppressed from the highest level in the police department, an investigator who asked not to be named said.
Police had said they summoned reinforcements and in the ensuing clash a man fell to his death from the third floor.
"We have found that policemen did not face any danger at any stage of the incident, but the only explanation is that an officer used excessive force to attack unarmed people as collective punishment," he said.
Party goers say that four policemen on mobile patrol had demanded alcohol and when it was refused there had been fisticuffs resulting in the subsequent carnage.
Investigations showed that the 119 call was not about the level of sound, but it had been made when more than a dozen police in civilian clothes armed with sticks and poles barged into the party and went on the rampage smashing everything within reach.
Witnesses told investigators that even an ASP had been carrying a stick and was seen beating women and children.
There was blood splattered on the walls of the banquet hall. It is at this stage a man is either pushed or falls from the third floor while trying to escape the marauding police.
Security has been stepped up in Embilipitiya Sunday ahead of the funeral of the Sumith Jayawardana, 29 who was a father of one. His pregnant wife was among those assaulted by police. The inquest into the death is due to take place on Monday.
The Human Rights Commission which last month ruled that police had violated not only local laws but also the UN Human Rights Charter (This ruling was given after police Senior Superintendent Ajith Rohana erroneously attempted to take cover of the UN charter to justify attacking students).
The police has reportedly appealed the HRC decision which awarded damages to the victims and ordered the IGP to take disciplinary action against the police culprits.
The commission has now uncovered shocking details of other police brutality in Embilipitiya in recent times while investigating the latest case of abuse.
“The Embilipitiya incident is a good example of how the mind-set of the police is yet to change although a new administration that promised good governance is in power,” a human rights official said. (COLOMBO, January 10, 2016)