Police paying man with heroin

By Basil Fernando

(September 03, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Several events have had a shocking effect on democratically-minded people in Sri Lanka this week. J.S. Tissainayagam, a well-known journalist who was prosecuted by the government under draconian anti-terrorism laws on charges of aiding and abetting terrorism and trying to provoke racial hatred, was sentenced to 20 years rigorous imprisonment. The case of the journalist has drawn international attention and many governments have intervened on his behalf. However, the Sri Lankan government persisted in pursuing the charges, which are described by many sources as unfounded.

In the north, the news that 10,000 IDPs have gone missing during the last three months has also given rise to many fears and queries. The source of information was the government agent of Vavuniya itself. However, the government has not given any credible explanation as to how these 10,000 persons have come to be missing. Unofficially, there has been a statement given to the effect that some IDPs who had gone to hospitals for medical treatment have not returned; while other reports stated that some IDPs may have fled from the camps after paying bribes.

This matter can 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 of IDPs who are missing who would be able to explain what they know about the circumstances under which the IDPs have gone missing. The burden lies with the government to appoint a credible authority, perhaps a group of judicial officers, to investigate into this matter and to 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 come from many of the revelations coming from two inquest inquiries into the cases of two boys who were killed at the Angulana police station. Many persons have given eye-witness evidence about the arrest, detention, assault, and the murder of the two boys by the police. What are even more shocking are some of the details of the administration of the Angulana police station, which have been revealed by way of evidence led in this case. One of the local assistants at the police station said that he is a helper at the police station and that he is paid 50 – 100 rupees daily for his work. When asked if that’s all he gets 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. The use of heroin by the policemen themselves and often misusing the possession of heroin either by way of sales or by implanting them on others to fabricate cases is quite a common practice in many police stations.

At a separate incident in Ambalangoda, people in the town came to protest in the streets against a group of policemen who had assaulted a businessman who was carrying curry leaves (karapincha) branches to his shop. The policeman hailed down 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 Ambalngoda who participated in the protest against the police carried karapincha branches in their hands as a mark of protest. Many of the constables were immediately transferred out of the police station.

All these incidents point to a general state of lawlessness, and to the failure on the part of the government to deal with this situation.
-Sri Lanka Guardian