Police commence probe into Panamura custodial death
- Two on duty cops suspended for negligence, interdicted
- Public Security Ministry denies police assault
BY Buddhika Samaraweera
The Public Security Ministry has said that the Police Department has commenced an investigation into the death of a suspect at the Panamura Police Station on Wednesday (17), and has suspended and interdicted two police officers who were on duty at the said police station at the time of the suspect’s death.
A 37-year-old suspect from Panamura had, according to Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (Retd.) Dr. Sarath Weerasekera, died on admission to a hospital on Wednesday after hanging himself in the cell where he was being held at the Panamura Police Station.
Accordingly, Public Security Ministry Secretary Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Jagath Alwis yesterday (18) told The Morning that the Police Department has commenced an investigation into the incident. “This suspect did not die in a police assault. However, the police officers who were on duty at the time should have paid attention to him. Since it is apparent that the police officers have not done so, an investigation is being carried out into their dereliction of duty,” he said. He further added that the two police officers who were on duty at the police station at the time of the death of the suspect have also been interdicted in order to carry out the relevant investigation in a transparent manner.
Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) Ratnapura District Parliamentarian Hesha Withanage claimed that a person who had attended the SJB protest on Tuesday (16) had been beaten to death by the Panamura Police. “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. Therefore, please conduct a speedy investigation into this and serve justice,” he requested.
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 the SJB’s protest was arrested and beaten to death by the Police. It is a complete lie. This person’s name is 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 SJB protest. “At around 3.30 a.m. on 17 November, 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 however pronounced dead,” he claimed.
A tense situation had also arisen 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 on Wednesday and alleged that the deceased had been beaten to death by the Police.
Furthermore, the SJB staged a protest in Parliament on Wednesday against Dr. Weerasekera over the matter. During the protest, SJB General Secretary and MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara said that the Government and Dr. Weerasekera should be held responsible for the death of the said suspect.