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SJB protests in Parliament against custodial death

a year ago

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  • Panamura Police under siege; residents demand justice
  • SJB alleges police beating
  • Sarath Weerasekera claims suspect a drug addict who beat family and hung himself
BY Buddhika Samaraweera The main parliamentary Opposition, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), staged a protest in Parliament yesterday (17) against Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (Retd.) Dr. Sarath Weerasekera over a custodial death reported at the Panamura Police Station yesterday and the police obstructions to the SJB protest march on Tuesday (16). Speaking in Parliament yesterday, SJB Ratnapura District Parliamentarian Hesha Withanage claimed that a person who had attended the said SJB protest had been beaten to death by the Panamura Police after being arrested. “A person from the Panamura Police Division in the Kolonna electorate, which I represent, was beaten and arrested by the Police on 16 November. The said person by the name of Indika Jayaratne has died. The people of Panamura have surrounded the Police Station. We would like to ask as to what would be the end of this programme which has commenced now? Therefore, please conduct a speedy investigation into this and serve justice,” he requested. Meanwhile, SJB General Secretary and MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara said that the Government and Dr. Weerasekera should be held responsible for the death of the suspect at the Panamura Police Station. He also made a statement on the diversion of people who were coming to Colombo by buses to participate in the protest organised by the SJB. When Madduma Bandara was speaking, Opposition members displayed various placards protesting against Dr. Weerasekera in the Chamber. However, in response, Dr. Weerasekera claimed that it was untrue to say that the suspect concerned had died as a result of a police assault. He said: “The Opposition has made a serious allegation that a person who took part in yesterday’s protest was arrested and beaten to death by the Police. It is a complete lie. This person’s name is Indika Jayaratne. He was 37 years old and was heavily addicted to drugs. A large number of complaints had been made against him by his wife and children. On 12 November, his daughter had been admitted to hospital, saying that she was beaten up by this person. Since then, the Police were searching for him and it was only at 10.30 p.m. on 16 November that he was arrested.” Dr. Weerasekera further claimed that there was no connection between the incident and the protest (a reference to the SJB-organised protest). “At around 3.30 a.m. yesterday, after the Police arrested this suspect, he had tied his shirt to a cable in the cell where he was being held and had tried to hang himself. Then a police officer had seen this incident when the suspect was on the verge of death and had rushed him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. This has nothing to do with the protest,” he also claimed. However, SJB MP Eran Wickramaratne, who spoke in Parliament after Dr. Weerasekera, said that they did not fully believe what Dr. Weerasekera said. “Dr. Weerasekera made a statement, but the information we have received is different. Therefore, we don’t fully believe his statement. There is a reason for that. That is, the Government is responsible if a person dies in a police station or prison. Be they a murderer, politician, or any other person, if someone dies when they are in police custody or prison, the Government is responsible for such,” he added. Meanwhile, a tense situation had erupted near the Panamura Police Station after a group of residents surrounded the police station in protest over the death of the suspect in question. Residents of the area stormed the outside of the police station last morning and alleged that the deceased had been beaten to death by the Police. Traffic on the Kolonna-Embilipitiya Main Road had also been disrupted due to the protest. The villagers who had gathered around the police station at that time also expressed their views on the death of the suspect. “Family issues are a different story, but they can’t kill him like that. We need justice for this,” claimed a resident of Panamura. Meanwhile, a local monk had also arrived at the scene and was seen informing the public that the two police officers who were on duty at the police station at the time of the man’s death had been interdicted. However, when The Morning inquired about this from Police Media Spokesman Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Nihal Thalduwa, he said that he was, as of last afternoon, not aware of such an interdiction.
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