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Prisoners’ rights group unhappy with Police labelling deceased protestor as ‘drug addict’ 

By Buddhika Samaraweera

The Committee for Protecting Rights of Prisoners (CPRP) has expressed displeasure over a media statement issued by the Police regarding the youth who died due to an illness that occurred during the protest in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in Colombo on 13 July, in which it was stated that the deceased was a drug addict.

Commenting on the relevant media statement, the CPRP President and social activist Senaka Perera stated that the Police, in addition to including information that it previously failed to provide in the cases of suspicious deaths that occurred in the recent past, has exposed certain irrelevant details. 

“During a protest held in Rambukkana last April, a person was killed due to Police gunfire. At that time, the Police mentioned that there were some proceedings in court against the deceased. In this manner, the Police are trying to justify these deaths. In particular, they are trying to say that the deaths of people involved in the people’s struggle that is going on these days are justified.” he added.

Perera also noted that the Police had mentioned that the deceased youth was a drug addict even though there was no need to include this detail, while the Police had also failed to disclose the basis on which this observation was made.

Noting that there are reports that the Police have allegedly used expired tear gas to disperse the protestors, he also claimed that there is reasonable doubt as to whether the death of this youth was due to the use of such expired tear gas. 

When contacted by The Morning, Police Media Spokesman, Senior Superintendent of Police and Attorney-at-Law Nihal Thalduwa said that the media statement in question was prepared based on the post-mortem report of the deceased and information obtained from the Mahawa Police Station. Noting that the Judicial Medical Officer who performed the post-mortem had mentioned that the deceased was observed to be a drug addict, he said that the Police had only included that in the media statement. When queried regarding the Police’s alleged use of expired tear gas, SSP Thalduwa refuted such claims.

On 13 July, massive protests were staged in front of the Prime Minister’s Office on Flower Road in Colombo 7 and near the Parliament, demanding the resignation of the then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, and the Government. One person was killed and at least 85 others injured in the clashes between security forces and protestors during the said protests. The 26-year-old protestor, who was admitted to a private hospital in Colombo after being tear-gassed outside the Prime Minister’s Office during the said protests, died after developing breathing difficulties. He was identified as Jaliya Dissanayake, a resident of the Mahawa area and a father of two children.

On 14 July, the Police issued a media statement in which it was stated that the post-mortem examination of the youth had revealed that the youth had suffered a heart attack due to a blood clot, which led to his death. The Police also stated that the youth was observed to have been addicted to narcotics, including crystal methamphetamine and heroin.