SRI LANKA: Open letter to the Honourable Speaker of the Parliament on the murder of two businessmen Rathgama Bussa area and General state of murder in the Island

An Open Letter from the Asian Human Rights Commission to the Honourable Speaker of the Parliament on the murder of two businessmen in the Rathgama Bussa area; and on the General state of murder on the Island

Mr. Karu Jayasuriya
Honourable Speaker 
Parliament Approach Road 
Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte 

Tel: +94 112 777 100
Fax: +94 11 2777227

Dear Honourable Speaker:

SRI LANKA: Open letter to the Honourable Speaker of the Parliament on the murder of two businessmen Rathgama Bussa area and General state of murder in the Island

We reproduce below an open letter written by the Asian Human Rights Commission to Honourable Speaker of the Parliament in Sri Lanka.

Honourable Speaker, the Asian Human Rights Commission is taking this extraordinary step of writing to you about the murder of two businessmen in the Rathgama Bussa area, allegedly by some police officers of the Special Crime Investigating Unit of the Southern Province, where two Police officers have already been arrested. Some body parts of the two businessmen have been found in an area not far away from Rathgama Bussa. In fact, the two cases fall into the category of enforced disappearances, which you know has been a problem besetting the whole island for three decades or more.

During the stage of state-sponsored disappearances of alleged “rabble elements” in the south, north, and east of the Island, the Asian Human Rights Commission predicted that in the near future the habit of enforced disappearances would spread to other sectors of society, particularly to that sector of persons who have some wealth. This has already happened many times: a famous case is that of former Deputy Inspector General of Police Vaas Gunawardena, who is now on death row for the killing of businessmen.

During the early stages of enforced disappearances, orders were given by officials of then existing governments, for the alleged purpose of controlling “rabbles elements.” Those orders were carried out by policemen and other security officers. Thus it is not surprising to find the same experienced policemen and security officers, who previously conducted those crimes, now committing the same criminal acts, the totality of which consists of enforced disappearances, for their own benefit. “Their own benefit” means taking money from these victimised individuals for themselves. Truly one section of the police, and apparently it is the more elite section of the police who are seeking to enrich themselves by such criminal activity, is posing a moral threat for everyone on the island

A further phenomenon is the wide-spread habit of the murder of civilians that regularly taking place. The citation of each murder supports the complaint that Sri Lanka has become a dangerous place and that the basic standard of protecting life has ceased to exist. Locally it is well known that the police or other security personnel are directly or indirectly involved in some of these murders. Even internationally this is known to a certain extent, as it has been recorded by a Dutch documentarist in his documentary film entitled “Murder Land,” which chronicles what occurred in Sri Lanka in the eighties.

I need not tell you that the most primary function of the state and governance is the protection of the lives of all those who are living in the country. Several sucessive governments neglected their duty to protect lives, and even wrongly stated that each person must look after his or her own security. Politicians were able to ensure their own security by hiring bodyguards and using corrupt police officers for that purpose. However, how are ordinary citizens able to protect themselves in a political climate where the use of guns has become so widespread?

The state has a primary duty to mobilize its full capacity to put its house in order: this implies that those who are called the guardians of society are measured by the highest moral standards, so that they could protect all the people living in the country. The abject failure by the guardians themselves to fulfil their function of providing protection, both by their acts of omission or worse their commission of crimes, threatens the very survival of society, as well as the social and psychological wellbeing of the people.

It is a primary duty of Parliament to intervene to ensure that discipline is maintained among the guardians. The fact that watching the sessions of the parliament once is a law moral among the parliamentarians themselves demonstrates that there is a failure to keep the house in order. Judging by the stories of murders, and other crimes of bodily harm, that have been recorded all over the country, this failure now threatens the lives of many people.

We therefore urge you to do all that is within your power to ensure protection for all the people living in our country. Due to the neglect of many governments in recent decades, it may already be too late. However, the time has come to take extraordinary steps to improve discipline and to ensure that the members of police force and other security personnel observe the expected high moral standards of the disciplined services.

A first step is for parliament to expose and condemn the present situation described above. A second step is for parliament to allocate adequate resources to improve the quality of the police and security forces inside the country. Those who are alleged to have engaged in serious crimes, such as the extrajudicial killings and torture, should be dismissed as a first step in putting in order the security system of the country.

Given our past history, these are difficult tasks. However, our economic, social and cultural development very much depend on the ability of the government to overcome this great menace to our security. If businessmen remain in a state fear because of threats of extortion, and worse threats to their life and liberty, by security officers and remain in their homes rather than being actively engaged in business pursuits, how can economic activity flourish in our countryside? These are profound questions. Given your position as a speaker of the parliament you have a great responsibility to address this problem.

I’m sure you don’t condone the present state of the serious laps of security and the resulting price that people have to pay. Therefore, we rely on your goodwill to initiate a process of action within parliament and also to work with the Prime Minister and the President to address this problem and not to let it go neglected for any longer.


Yours Sincerely,

MD Ashrafuzzaman
International Affairs Section
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong