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Police to probe alleged Angunakolapelessa Prison assault

  • Prisoners’ rights group claims inaction on police/HRCSL complaints

By Pamodi Waravita and Ruwani Fonseka

Police Media Spokesman Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Nihal Thalduwa told The Morning yesterday (14) that an investigation will commence into the alleged abuse of two suspects detained at the Angunakolapelessa Prison Complex on 9 October.

“The Police don’t tolerate such acts and accept such behaviour, and therefore the prison officials will be questioned. The incident happened a few days ago but this will surely be investigated,” said SSP Thalduwa.

Speaking to The Morning yesterday, Committee for Protecting the Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) Chairman Attorney-At-Law Senaka Perera said that the two prisoners, Dulantha Rajapaksa and Amila Kumarasinghe, were arrested by the Angunakolapelessa Police on 8 October.

“Kumarasinghe and Rajapaksa own a small guesthouse. This guesthouse is popular amongst prison officials who come to consume alcohol. On 7 October, two prison officials had gone to the guesthouse and asked the two men for a bottle of arrack for free, which the two men had refused to do. The prison officials had then grabbed the key of a scooter of one of the workers at the guesthouse and left. The following day, on 8 October, Kumarasinghe and Rajapaksa had met the two officials in the Angunakolapelessa Town, where the four had fought. The two prison officials had then lodged a complaint against Kumarasinghe and Rajapaksa. They were subsequently arrested and produced in Court on 9 October, and afterwards, remanded,” claimed Perera. He further claimed that the two detainees had then been beaten on 9 October, following which they were transferred to the Matara Prison Complex. Kumarasinghe, he observed, is reportedly in a critical condition, receiving treatment at the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital.

“They have already lodged complaints about the beatings at the Angunakolapelessa Police Station and at the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL). However, no action has been taken on the matter yet,” added Perera.

In August this year, Saliya Withanage also died while in police custody following his arrest by the Mathugama Police Station. His wife, Renuka Withanage, claimed that she witnessed two officers from the Mathugama Police Station assaulting her husband prior to his arrest.

On 23 September, the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) Spokesman Kanagaratnam Sugash claimed that the phones of two journalists were confiscated by policemen in Nallur, when they were filming the arrest of TNPF Parliamentarian Selvarasa Gajendran for allegedly violating quarantine laws while attending a commemoration event of “Thileepan”, a former political leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

This year also saw the deaths of underworld figures Mabulage Dineth Melan Mabulage alias “Urujuwa” and Dharmakeerthi Tharaka Perera Wijesekera alias “Kosgoda Tharaka” within days of each other while in police custody. In a similar incident in October last year, Samarasinghe Arachchige Madush Lakshitha alias “Makandure Madush” was killed while in custody.

The CPRP also wrote to Inspector General of Police (IGP) Chandana D. Wickramaratne earlier this year about the cases of Sunil Indrajith, Chandran Vidushan, and Mohammed Ali, who died while in police custody and in the presence of the Police. Media reports of closed circuit television (CCTV) footage show that Indrajith was beaten up by a man on the orders of two policemen, after which he had fallen onto the ground, which was when a bus had then run over him. This has happened when Indrajith had gone in search of food during a quarantine curfew.

Subsequently, the two policemen had been arrested on charges of negligence of duty. In the case of Vidushan, who died while in police custody, family members have alleged that the Police have beaten him with poles. Ali was reportedly arrested for violating the quarantine law and had jumped out of the police jeep while being taken away. However, Ali’s wife has alleged that the Police had beaten him up and killed him.