Asela Sampath seeks asylum
Consumer rights activist claims threat to life
To protest before diplomatic missions
By Dinitha Rathnayake and Buddhika Samaraweera
Consumer rights activist Asela Sampath is to seek political asylum due to his concerns over alleged death threats made against him and his family, claiming that he is afraid of leaving his home due to the current situation.
“I have a fear that the ministers involved in the current Government will assault me and my family due to my active participation in matters involving the general public. I was never afraid to talk about these matters, but now it feels like abductions have started already,“ he alleged, speaking to The Morning yesterday (28).
Sampath also said that he is preparing to stage protests in front of foreign diplomatic missions over the coming weeks, if the Government fails to take action to ensure his and his family’s safety.
He added that he expects to make a written request to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in this regard.
“I urge the President, the Prime Minister, and all others concerned not to allow what happened to former All Ceylon Three Wheeler Drivers’ Association President Sunil Jayawardena to happen to me,” he added.
Speaking about his recent arrest by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Sampath further claimed: “I was at home on 25 June night, waiting to watch President Rajapaksa’s speech which was supposed to start at 8.30 p.m. Around 8.25 p.m., a white van with 20 people came into my house. Someone showed me a CID identification card and, in complete violation of the quarantine regulations, beat me up severely, and dragged me into the van (bearing number NE 0883) without giving a reason or showing a warrant.
“I was ill treated by CID officers. None of the CID officers who arrived at that time were wearing personal protective clothing. I wasn’t even allowed to wear a face mask. Who would be responsible if I became infected with Covid-19? And why is the CID coming to do their job only at night?”
According to Sampath, he was questioned about a recent press conference in which he had referred to the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covishield Covid-19 vaccine.
After the incident, he was granted bail by the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court on 26 June. The next hearing date of the case is 22 July.
Meanwhile, Police Media Spokesman Senior DIG Ajith Rohana said that Sampath was arrested based on a complaint filed over the alleged propagation of fake news and misleading information.
He noted that the National Medicines Regulatory Authority (NMRA) General Manager had filed the complaint with the CID, accusing Sampath of making false claims on social media and YouTube with regard to the AstraZeneca vaccine. Sampath was accused of claiming that the AstraZeneca vaccine was being mixed with another substance before being administered to the public.
He also added that a special team of the CID and the Piliyandala Police had arrested Sampath in the Palanwatta area and that he had then been brought to the CID. Senior DIG Rohana further added that the investigation was carried out after studying all the comments made by various people regarding the relevant videos and statements.
In the meantime, some parties have claimed that Sampath has a connection with Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and that they had both planned the staging of this purported falsehood together. When The Morning questioned about the picture circulating in social media, where it shows Sampath and his wife chatting with Premadasa after the former’s release by the court, he claimed that Premadasa was the one who had helped him and his family during a difficult period.
“Premadasa provided my daughters with a tab and a scholarship to study after this incident, since the CID took one of daughters’ phones and she now has no way of studying online. It was a great help since I don’t have money to feed my family. My friends are the ones who feed my family at the moment,” he further claimed.
In this regard, human rights activist Ruki Fernando claimed that this entire incident looks like an abduction-styled arrest.
“According to the family members, the arrest hasn’t been done in a proper way. There is a particular way to conduct an arrest,” Fernando said, adding that it is dangerous to see the Police take such an action.
Senior DIG Rohana, however, rejected all allegations against the Police and said the arrest was done in a proper manner.
Previously on 13 April, the Police arrested Sampath based on an open warrant issued by the Colombo Fort Magistrate’s Court in April 2019, in connection to an incident where some Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) officials have allegedly been interrupted in their duties by him. However, it was later reported that Sampath, during a media briefing, had criticised the Rs. 1,000 relief package provided by Sathosa, and Minister of Trade Bandula Gunawardana had openly stated in Parliament that Sampath should be arrested over the remarks he made about said relief package.