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Civil society demands end to deaths in police custody

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‘Autopsies on Mahara victims revealed ugly truth’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Senior lawyer Senaka Perera yesterday (29) said that the government owed an explanation as regards deaths in police custody.

Perera said that the latest killing in police custody had taken place in the Veyangoda police area in the early hours of Monday (28).

Responding to The Island queries in this regard, Perera, who heads the Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners said that the police couldn’t justify the killing of 37-year-old Nishantha Kumarasiri of Bandagagoda Road, Veyangoda at Halgampitiya, Veyangoda in the early hours of Monday.

Asking how a handcuffed suspect could try to strangle a police driver, Perera said it was a familiar narrative.

The police claimed that they had been left with no alternative but to shoot the suspect, who attacked the police driver.

The police detained Kumarasiri over the gruesome crime of severing the arms and legs of a person who allegedly tipped off the police about his nefarious activities. The limbless father of three children is now recovering in a hospital. After committing the dastardly deed, Kumarasiri and his accomplice had even carried off one of the limbs of the victim. Police spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said that there were three High Court cases pending against Kumarasiri, obviously pointing to the fact that he was no angel.

While not justifying killing of violent criminals in custody here, an independent observer, however said far more unarmed innocent Negroes and other minority group members running to hundreds were gunned down by police forces in the bastion of democracy, the USA each year with impunity as the entire system there was geared to cover up such killings. And only in this year that civil society groups and media there really started agitating against such killings for the world to hear, he said.

Lawyer Perera also questioned the controversial practice of taking suspects out of police stations and other detention facilities in the middle of the night or in early hours to recover weapons stashed away by such desperados conveniently hardly seen  by anyone, but the police accompanying them.

Kumarasiri had been taken to Halgampitiya, Veyangoda around 3.30 am, the civil society activist said, pointing out the previous death in police custody took place in the early hours of Oct 20, this year when the police claimed Madush Lakshitha alias Makandure Madush was killed during a confrontation between law enforcement personnel and the underworld in the Maligawatte police area.

Lawyer Perera said that the Justice Ministry, the Attorney General, the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka as well as Police Headquarters should take tangible measures to prevent deaths in police custody. The Parliament should inquire into deaths in Police custody as well as in Prisons, lawyer Perera said, pointing out the recent revelation that eight suspects previously described as victims of clashes among Mahara prisoners were killed in gunfire.

No less a person than the State Minister in charge of Prisons, Lohan Ratwatte declared in parliament on Dec 3 all 11 Mahara deaths were due to clashes among prisoners. Responding to another query, lawyer Perera said that autopsies of the three remaining victims would be revealed soon.

Lawyer Perera said that his organization recently complained to the Chief Justice, the AG and the BASL regarding the position taken up by the State Counsel at the Wattala Magistrate court where the Mahara case was being heard. The lawyer alleged that attempts were being made to silence them by calling those who represented prisoners NGO operatives.

According to Perera the killing of those in police or Prisons custody and subjecting them to inhuman treatment violated 13 (3) of the Constitution. In spite of their efforts, suspects had been eliminated under controversial circumstances and the killing Makadure Madush and Kumarasiri in October and Dec this year proved those in authority turned a blind eye to what was going on.

The Island sought a clarification from Justice Minister Ali Sabry, PC on deaths in police custody. Minister said that the police didn’t come under his purview though he would take it up with the Attorney General.

The Island also sought the BASL’s opinion on the matter from its President Kalinga Indatissa, PC. However, at the time of going to press, The Island couldn’t obtain the BASL’s response.

Counsel Perera said that extra judicial killings couldn’t be condoned under any circumstances. The police couldn’t decide the fate of suspects/prisoners, he said urging the Parliament to intervene in what he called a matter of utmost importance.

The civil society activist said that if not for their efforts those in authority could have easily cremated the bodies of Mahara prisoners on the basis they tested corona positive. Had that happened autopsies wouldn’t have revealed the ugly truth that all of them died as a result of gunshot injuries.

The Mahara case is scheduled to be taken up at the Wattala Magistrate court today (30).

Lawyer Perera said that the massacre  during the Welikada prison riot in 2014, when even a STF DIG was shot and injured by rioting prisoners, after they armed themselves by breaking into an armoury there, proved how brutal the State crackdown could be. Wrongdoers should be dealt appropriately in terms of the law, lawyer Perera claimed, urging the political leadership to rein in the police.

Asked whether they would complain to the HRCSL, lawyer Perera said that the body had been politicized and weakened to such an extent the public couldn’t depend on it.



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President Ranil Wickremasinghe calls upon chief prelates of Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters

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(pic courtsey Divaina)

President Ranil Wickremasinghe called upon the chief prelates of the Asgiriya and Malwatta chapters on Thursday (02) morning to seek their blessings ahead of the 75th Independence day celebrations.

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US secures deal on bases to complete arc around China

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (R) was in the Philippines to finalise the deal (picture BBC)

BBC reported that the United States has secured access to four additional military bases in the Philippines – a key bit of real estate which would offer a front seat to monitor the Chinese in the South China Sea and around Taiwan.

With this deal, Washington has stitched the gap in the arc of US alliances stretching from South Korea and Japan in the north to Australia in the south.

The missing link had been the Philippines, which borders two of the biggest potential flashpoints, Taiwan and the South China Sea, or the West Philippine Sea as Manila insists on calling it.

The US already had limited access to five sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – the new additions and expanded access, according to a statement from Washington, will “allow more rapid support for humanitarian and climate-related disasters in the Philippines, and respond to other shared challenges”, likely a veiled reference to countering China in the region.

The statement came after Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Manila on Thursday.

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Nuland accuses China of failing to help SL with ‘credible and specific assurances’ acceptable to IMF

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Nuland addressing the media in Colombo (pic by Thushara Atapattu)

US hopes LG polls will be held in March

By Saman Indrajith

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Victoria Nuland, yesterday said China had not provided credible and specific assurances to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Sri Lanka to overcome the current economic crisis.

Addressing the media in Colombo, Nuland said: “What China has offered so far is not enough. We need to see credible and specific assurances that they will meet the IMF standard of debt relief. We, the United States, are prepared to do our part. Our Paris Club partners are prepared to do their part. India has made strong commitments that it will provide the credible assurances the IMF is looking for.”

Nuland said that India and the Paris Club had given strong assurances to the IMF to help Sri Lanka to obtain a $2.9 billion bailout.

“We want to see an IMF program as quickly as possible. That is what Sri Lanka deserves; that is what Sri Lanka needs,” Nuland said.

Nuland said the US would give Sri Lanka an additional USD 30 million to provide 96,000 schoolchildren with food.

She said Sri Lankans had taken to the streets, last year, demanding cleaner, accountable and inclusive governance, with transparency, and the government was expected to hold the elections to enable people to enjoy their democratic rights.

Nuland said that the US was glad to see that consultation between the government and other parties towards reconciliation had commenced. She said that she had met with members of the Tamil political parties, earlier yesterday. “We hope that the dialogue will continue to achieve real results such as return of the lands to their rightful owners.”

Nuland said that the US hoped that local elections would be held in March, the dialogue commenced for reconciliation would continue, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act would be reformed to meet international standards.

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