Is brutality of Sri Lanka police on the rise under the new government?
Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe
Sri Lanka police are too often alleged of police brutality after the government under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa came into power and former military general Kamal Gunarathna was appointed as Secretary of the Defense Ministry, under whom the police operate.
On July 17, a group of people from Vavuniya blocked the main road in front of the Echchankulam Pillaiyar Temple and staged a sit-in protest demanding justice for the police brutality against two youths. People accused that the Officer-in-Charge of Vavuniya Echchankulam police station attacked the youths. Traffic on the main road between Thandikulam and Paalampiddy was blocked for two hours due to the protest.
There are allegations that the journalists who were covering the incident were also assaulted by the police officers.
A week ago, on July 11, officers of Angulana police station which has a bad history about police brutality killed a 39 years old fisherman who was on his way in two three-wheelers with a group to a canal to catch fish.
The killing of the father of four children angered his neighbours in Angulana and compelled them to protest. A few days later, police abducted two witnesses of the murder and the women who were on their verge of patience gathered before the police station and pelted stones damaging public property.
In June, a 24-year-old unarmed young man was shot dead by police in Muhamalai in the Northern Province in relation to an incident of illegal sand mining. However, people accuse police of connivance with illegal sand miners.
Early in June, Sri Lanka police launched a brutal attack against the activists of Frontline Socialist Party that gathered before the US Embassy in Colombo for a peaceful protest in support of #BlackLivesMatter campaign.
The entire country was shocked to see the brutal nature the protest was suppressed covering to a court order reportedly obtained under the quarantine regulations.
Some of the police officers who came to the attack were wearing personal protective kits but the protesters were hauled and thrown like bags of flesh into packed mini trucks. They were driven to Colombo Harbour police station in the back of mini trucks without the least concern regarding quarantine regulations.
Fifty-three protestors including the leaders of the Frontline Socialist Party, lawyers and women were arrested. Order to brutally attack the protest had come from a top defence authority, sources say. However, the protestors were released later on police surety because of orders from a higher authority, sources say.
Killing of suspects while being arrested or under police custody is also reported often and the clarification of the police to justify the assassinations is retaliation to the attacks against police or attempts to escape.
However, the killing of suspects ultimately destroy lots of vital evidence of crimes. A group of officers of Narcotic Bureau of Sri Lanka police are now under arrest for engaging in drug trafficking.