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We must put a Stop to Torture

Following is a translation of a statement made by Eran Wicremaratne MP in Parliament on December 3, 2013.

( December 10, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Today, I am going to take the opportunity of the short time accorded to me, to speak on the protection of the lives of those, who are being arrested by the Police. We all know of the incidednt in Kamburupitiya of the murder of a police officer and his wife. Three suspects, were arrested in connection with this crime. Today, all three alledged suspects are dead. All three have died before any due process found them guilty of any offence. I must state , that it is the duty and responsibilty of the Governmnet to protect the lives of alledged suspects untill they are proven guilty by a Court.

In the same light, we are also aware that torture and inhuman treatment at the hands of the police is something, that generaly takes place in our country.

This has been the case not only in Sri Lanka, but it has happened througout history. When Kautilya wrote the Arthasastra in 350 B.C. the work also referred to forms of Torture. Our Hindu devotees are aware of this fact - it is also recorded in the ancient "vedas" of the various types of torture. Similarly, in history torture was abolished from the ancient laws, when king Ashoka embraced Bhuddhism . Torture was also widely prevalent in Europe. However, around 150 – 200 years ago, torture was abolished through legal means.

Today, the status in Europe is such that if even one man is found to have been tortured, it could well lead to the overturning of a Government. Why?; Because people in those countries, have learned to despise torture at the hands of police. However, in Asian countries, including in Sri Lanka, we hear stories of some form of torture, from a one police station or another, on a daily basis. If you browse the world wide web today, you would come across many a torture victims, speaking out about their ordeals at the hands of their torturers. Not only on the web, but you would find so many publications on such ordeals of torture . There was a recent publication where 400 victims speak out, of their stories of Torture at the hands of the police in Sri Lanka.

(The Hon. Alhaj A.H.M. Azwer)

What do you say about Guantanamo detention camp? Have you seen it in the website?

(The Hon. Eran Wickramaratne)

Honourable Member of Parliament , please sit down. This, is not an issue concerning party politics. Please do not disturb , the discussions of this important issue.

We must completely be rid of torture. If there are in fact reported incidents of torture in Europe they are not inflicted on citizens of those countries, they are not inflicted on citizens of the United States, but they are only inlficted on foreign citizens – they would torture, only those from abroad. We must all vehemently condem such acts. However, I am ashamed that we, torture our own citizens in our own country. This is not a responsibility that we should place sollely on the police force, all of us, should bear the responsibility. We are all very well aware that Sri Lanka is a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture .

Likewise, we have implemented in full, the Convention Against Torture Act of 1994. We enacted the Act and what did we do next? We establised a apecial unit within the Criminal Investigations Department, to look into the issues of torture , to give recourse to a judicial process, to reduce the acts of torture, and to abolish torture. I must mention that these things were done, during the time of President, Chandrika Kumaranatunga. There was a considerable reduction of instances of torture at the time. However, what happened then ? That special unit was abolished on the pretext of the ongoing war. Now, it is coming close to 5 years since the war ended . I request the Minister of Defence, to honestly look into this matter, and to re-establish the anti-torture special unit. We, as a society must, put an end - a full stop, to Torture.

We must put a full stop to Torture in this country, where we respect and and practice all of the great religions in the world and their teachings. Torture , stands in contravention and against all our beleifs and our very culture. Most times, this is thought to be impossible to achieve because of the lack of political will. What happens is that when such important matters are being taken up in this assembly, all it generally results in, is that it is disturbed with meaningless remarks of past incidents, and in the end important matters such as these – for which we can stand unites, are not able to be discussed nor brought forward at all. Lets work together towards the total elimination of torture in Sri Lanka. If we can unite, we can oblitarete torture form our country for good. To do that, we need a political will, a strong, conscientious and avcollective political will . If we see a woman , being inhumanely torture at a police station, that incident bears no colour, nor party. It only requires humanity and that is why I speak about it now. Today the criminal investigations mechanism has become weak. If we are to abolish all forms of torture, those institutions need to be provided with more resources. I am not finding fault with the police force . We must strenghen the police . We must acknowledge and accept that some change has taken place in the recent past. That is, the fact that following the last Budget speech, Sri Lanka Police was taken away from under the purview of the Ministy of Defence,. But that alone is not enough, that alone would not suffice. We need to look beyond to the future.

Some of our Members of Parliament spoke of the salaries of police forces personell.

We have in this assembly with us officers from the Sri Lanka Police, those who provide us with security. Superintendents of Police, who have more than 24 years of service. Their basic slary is around Rs. 18,000 to 19,000, their allowances amount to around Rs. 6,000 - 7,000. Their total salary is Rs. 26,000. With this year's Budget they have been given an increase of Rs. 1,200 which is around a 4- 5 percent increase in their salary. However, we all know of the prices of goods. To say this in all honesty , the prices of goods have escalated at a much higher percentage that the salaries. So, we need to provide these officers with training and technology.The police service is a profession. However, to make that service an honourable service, both our parties have to work together in order to make that a reality.

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