SRI LANKA: Diary of Terror Parts 14-16 — Asian Human Rights Commission

SRI LANKA: Diary of Terror — Part 14, February 23, 2010 
Sri Lankan Human Rights Watch

Amy officers raping a nine year old girl; can the new army commander maintain army discipline?

(February 23, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A nine-year-old girl studying in the 5th Grade was raped by soldiers attached to the Digiliwatiya Camp at Batticaloa. The victim is a student of the Sinthandiya School at Digiliwatiya.The rape has led to protests by the villagers of the area which in turn has led to retaliation on the part of the soldiers from the camp who have ridden into the village on their motorcycles to harass the villagers. One of the protesters was killed and his body found in a pond near the army camp.

According to reports the nine-year-old girl was returning home in the company of two of her friends when soldiers bathing near a well chased after her and raped her. The girl was admitted to a hospital and the medical reports confirmed that she had been sexually abused. It is also reported that the girl who is still being treated at the hospital is being questioned constantly by commando officers.

There have been continuous and ongoing protests about the behaviour of the soldiers of the camp towards the villagers. One of the villagers, Chandrasekaran Sugabalan, a 35-year-old man who participated in the protests has been killed and his body found in a pond near Digiliwatiya.

Inquiries are continuing into the rape and about 48 soldiers are due to be produced before the Magistrate for an identification parade.

The question of the soldiers attacking villagers and even engaging in the rape of a child indicates a significant loss of discipline among the soldiers of this camp. When the discipline has deteriorated to such an extent it is not enough to conduct inquiries into a single case of rape; it is essential that the military itself conducts inquiries into the breakdown of discipline in this camp. The three soldiers engaging in the rape of a girl, followed by attacks on the villagers resulting in the death of a man reveals an extremely serious incident which affects the relationship between civilians and the military. The man who was killed was a Tamil civilian which also indicates that the girl and the villagers involved are also from the Tamil community. Thus, the breakdown in the relationship with the minorities who are supposed to be under the protection of the military is itself an example of the breakdown in military discipline.

Under these circumstances there should be inquiries into the activities of the officers in charge of the camp and how the command responsibility is exercised.

One of the duties of the new army commander is obviously to enforce discipline within the armed forces, particularly in relation to the minorities living in the north and the east. The government talks about bring about a spirit of reconciliation and peace and that is not possible if the behaviour of the armed forces continue in this manner.

A deeper problem of army discipline could arise under the present circumstances when the army commander himself is involved in the arrest and detention of the former commander of the armed forces, retired general Sarath Fonseka. All kinds of allegations have been made against the former army commander which the soldiers in the country now know to be totally false. Such allegations were that he was involved in a plot to kill the president and his family; that he was involved in an attempted coup to overthrow the government and that with a group of other soldiers he was engaged in acts of violence against the government. All these allegations have now proved to be absolutely false. Meanwhile, other senior officers of the armed forces are also being forced to retire purely for political reasons. The overall situation does not contribute to a healthy mentality within the armed forces. Once they see the abuse of power at the top layers of the military due to the politicisation of the hierarchy this will lead to the demoralisation of the armed forces. Once demoralisation enters the armed forces the maintenance of discipline will become extremely difficult. Under these circumstances the soldiers may begin to behave in any manner they wish and engage in the type of activities which include the rape of this young girl, the murder of the young man and the harassment of the villagers they are supposed to be protecting. This kind of breakdown in discipline should be a question that goes to the very heart of the leadership of the new commander of the army and its ability to maintain a high level of moral under the present circumstances.

Police killing at Inginiyagala

A 39-year-old man, Saman Thilakasiri, was told to report to the police station at Inginiyagala and did so accordingly. However, the following day his body was found at a water reserve in the same area, the Senanayake Water Reserve. The news of his death has led to enormous protests in the area. A large number of people gathered at and attached the police station at Inginiyagala. They burned tires in the roads and engaged in many other forms of protest against his death. The widespread nature of the protests led to the reinforcement of the Inginiyagala police by officers being brought in from other police stations in order to control the protesters.

The police reported that while Mr. Thilakasiri was being taken to the station in a police jeep he escaped by jumping into the water reserve. The story has been rejected by the villagers as a fabrication for the purpose of exonerating the officers.

Mr. Thilakasiri, was a farmer and father of two school-going children. The problem of arrest leading to torture and ending up in a custodial death is a common feature at many Sri Lankan police stations. Several glaring examples of deaths at police stations have come to light in recent times and have caused scandals. In many places the people in the villages have protested at the local police stations when such deaths occur.

The Inspector General of Police has not taken any resolute action to deal with the constant use of torture at police stations or the issue of custodial deaths. While individual cases are sometimes prosecuted in courts, mostly due to public outcry the police department has not developed any kind of serious to the stopping of these widespread practices. Quite clearly, the command responsibility lies with the Inspector General of Police and his deputies to put out clear guidelines in matters relating to arrest and the supervision of staff. But most of the time what happens is that once these deaths take place fabricated stories are produced and often the police hierarchy themselves get involved in supporting the police version of the events. There is a clear failure on the part of the Inspector General of Police to maintain discipline in police stations.

The case of Sivakumar Ballawannum, who was killed at the Bambilipitiya Sea by a group of policemen that pursued him into the surf in an attempt to arrest him, exposed the type of brutality that goes with policing in Sri Lanka. The Inspector General of Police and the government have been ignoring this problem for a long time.

SRI LANKA: Diary of Terror – Part 15, 24 February 2010
Sri Lankan Human Rights Watch

Even Mahanayakes are not spared from threats, intimidation and blackmail

(February 24, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Reports of the Sanga Convention called by the three great chapters of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and signed by the four Sanganayakes led to severe and adverse reactions on the part of the government, and the result was that the three great Buddhist Mahanayakes were pressurized by government officials and through a section of Buddhist monks themselves to postpone the convention which was to be held on the 18th February. The details of the pressures that were brought on the Buddhist prelates are now public knowledge. This clearly indicates that now even Mahanayakes are not immune from threats, intimidation and blackmail by the government.

The theme of the meeting was a very simple one. It was to discuss to discuss the degeneration of democracy and good governance in Sri Lanka. The participants of the convention were to be the Buddhist monks of the country from all the different chapters of Buddhism.

The gathering of all the sanga in the country would have been a matter of historical importance. For many centuries there have been struggles for the regeneration of Buddhism and to unite the monks on agreements on the basics of Buddhist Dharma. In fact, the act of getting Buddhist monks together to agree on moral issues goes back to the origins of Buddhism itself and the times of the historical Buddha, as well as the great days of Buddhism under Dharmasoka of India. Unity between the monks was considered essential element of maintaining the influence of the religion in order to uphold the high moral standards within society

Buddhism differs from many other religious in its insistence of the priority of moral standards. Many other religions base their primary emphasis on the worship of gods and the maintenance of various kinds of pioustic traditions. However, the wheel representing the Buddhist dharma represents the basic moral norms of society.

Dharmasoka as one of the greatest emperors of all times realised the great role that Buddhism was playing in afflicting the moral standards of the day, and by adopting and supporting Buddhism, Dharmasoka taught a lesson in history on the duty of the ruler to uphold the norms of humanity. Dharmasoka is considered a rare ruler in the history of the world due to this approach as a ruler who was concerned with establishing the moral norms of society. He was opposed to the concept of power for power’s own sake.

Thus, the convention of the Buddhist Sanga, which was called by the Prelates, was an attempt to revive this great tradition of bringing in concern for high moral standards within society. Often the discussion on morals in Sri Lanka has been limited to issues such as the prevention of the use of liquor and issues of sex. However, greater morals in society are about the rules of the peoples’ participation in society. These are about the ways in which human dignity is maintained by human beings participating in the social discourse, and determining the type of society within which they live. The truly great contributions of religion are to those issues which determine the moral standards relating to the manner in which societies govern themselves. Thus, the theme chosen by the convention for the discussion on the revival of democracy and good governance are within the framework of great concerns that great religions have always been concerned with. Thus, the convention could have been a high watermark in the attempts that have been made in the past in order to bring the involvement of religions to strengthen the moral foundations of Sri Lankan society

However, the manner in which this attempt was denigrated and the initiators of the denigration were quite visible on the television and radio. Government ministers and monks combined in order to characterise the prelates of the three great orders as persons who had been mislead. The term “mislead” has in the past been used to describe youth who like those who were involved in the JVP rebellion of 1971 and thereafter, and the Tamil militants that formed the LTTE. The people who were involved in those movements were characterised as being misled. The monks supporting the government used the same terms against the Mahanayakes of the three great orders.

Some went to the extent of saying that one of the signatures had been taken from Sanganayake by misleading him and by forgery. A representative of the Mahanayake later condemned this attempt and explained to the public that the Mahanayake was very much saddened by this because he came to support the meeting after due consideration and a full knowledge of the importance of the decision.

The use of television and radio for blackmailing political opponents has now become routine in Sri Lanka. All political opponents are being blackmailed in the worst types of allegations. The most glaring example was the blackmail of Sarath Fonseka, the common candidate for the opposition in the presidential elections.

He was blackmailed by statements such as that he conspired to kill the president and his family, that he was engaged in an attempt to stage a military coup, and many other such allegations which later were abandoned by those who propagated them. That even the Mahanayakes of the three great orders of Buddhism are being treated in this manner is an indication of the depth of the repression that is taking place within Sri Lanka.

Circumstances leading to the postponement of the convention was explained by Executive Committee Member of the Sangha Convention, the Chief Incumbent, Mihintale Rajamaha Viharaya, Ven. Walawahengunuwewe Dhammarathana Thero in an interview published in Sunday Leader:

The group of monks initially threatened the Mahanayake by saying that they would leave the sect if the convention was not cancelled.

“The Mahanayake said that it was nothing new, and that in the past monks have left the sect,” Dhammarathana Thera claimed.

“Realising that such threats will not get the Mahanayake to cancel the convention, this group telephoned the President, who personally spoke to the Mahanayake, urging him to cancel the convention, but the Mahanayake had been adamant about holding the convention,” Dhammarathana Thero said.

“The group had then asked whether the Mahanayake would like to see two or three bombs go off at the ‘Mahamaluwa’ and whether he would take the responsibility if the Temple of the Tooth is damaged,” Dhammarathana Thero claimed.

He said that such threats led to the postponing of the convention.”

Today, throughout the country there is the development of abysmal lawlessness. This involves attacks on any person who asserts any kind of independence. Abysmal lawlessness is accompanied by the relegation of all individuals into a zero status. Nobody is considered to have any kind of dignity and therefore no one is immune from threats, intimidation and blackmail. Even the prelates of the three great orders are no exception to this.

SRI LANKA: Diary of terror – Part 16, 25th February 2010
Sri Lanka Human Rights Watch

Disabled soldier abducted and told to make false statement about General Fonseka

(February 25, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A former soldier, J. Asoka Kumara, gave an interview about his abduction and the incident that followed to Lanka E-News. This was published on the 23rd of April 2010. J. Asoka Kumara was a sergeant attached to the military and suffered serious head injuries during the war with the LTTE, as a result of which he has a metal plate inserted in his skull. During the presidential election he helped the former army general, Sarath Fonseka, who was an election candidate, and he worked in the office of the General during that time. Later Kumara worked at Fonseka’s district office for the election at Gampaha.

J. Asoka Kumara’s interview with Lanka E-News follows. The interview raises many questions about the type of society that Sri Lanka has rapidly become. This soldier is an innocent citizen living his own private life. He is the sort of person that any society would have had the highest sympathy and consideration for. As a soldier he has suffered a permanent head injury and carries the burden of that experience in his own skull by way of a metal plate and severe scarring due to bullet injuries inflicted by the enemy.

This permanently disabled soldier is being watched and followed by officers of the very same armed forces that he served. He is spied on and followed, not for any offense, but merely because he participated in an election and supported the very man who led the army that he fought for. He was waylaid on the road and abducted by persons who acted like police officers and abducted him. He is given something to drink by his abductors which sent him unconscious. When he awoke in some unknown place the person who spoke to him identified himself as a colonel. Thereafter, the people who dealt with him were persons that he identifies as higher ranking officers.

The purpose of the abduction and subsequent interrogation was to get him to make a false statement involving his former commander in criminal and some mean activities. The purpose of that exercise was to be able to show him over the television making such a statement against his former commander who has now become a politician. His former army is utilised in an attempt to discredit the former commander by way of a false statement.

All this happened with the use of expensive vehicles, officers moving here and there and inside what he thinks to be an expensive hotel.

All this is not a Bollywood movie. It is real life in the capital of Sri Lanka.

The soldier has identified himself and given the details of what happened to him in an interview which has been published. His photograph was also published. If the story is not true the government may deny it.

In any country where there is law, this would be a criminal activity of the highest proportions and as the persons involved in the act are alleged to be high military officers it would also be an offense under military law.

The Inspetor General of Police is under obligation to investigate the allged crime. The commander of the armed forces is obliged to investigate the alleged military offense. Both the top officers of the police and the military will be answerable to the law in the manner of the way in which they react to this incident. In a rule of law country the head of the state and the executive will be held responsible for the manner in which they deal with such a situation.

However, in Sri Lanka, in all likelihood nothing will happen. It is one more incident of the highest illegality and criminality that goes without being investigated or acted upon.

That is the nature of the terror that today prevails in the country. While the law is manipulated to punish political opponents others who commit crimes on behalf of the rulers are not held legally accountable in any way.

The Interview:

On the 11th February I went to the transport ministry to meet Minister Dalas when I was coming out of the ministry two people wearing police uniforms came and escorted me to a jeep and asked me to get in. I got in. I was taken for about 5 km to near an air force camp when the jeep stopped. At that point I was shown another van and told to get in. The people in the van were in civilian dress.

One person in the van was drinking from a bottle so I also asked for some water. I was given an unopened bottle. I drank one or two mouthfuls and that is all I remember. When I regained consciousness I was on a bed. When I tried to open the door of the room a person who had a cloth around his face came in. He told me “son don’t be afraid I am” then he gave me enough to eat and drink. He said he had to ask me some questions about general Fonseka. He wanted to take a statement from me saying that I was in charge of the General’s armoury. He said I will be provided with the arms to corroborate that and that after I am released they will protect me.

I was also asked to say that General Fonseka and the former parliamentarian [name 4.40] had an illicit affair with the actress during the period of the presidential election. I was also told to say that the General wanted me to allow him to have a sexual relationship with my wife in return for an adjustment my retirement pension.

When I refused to make such a statement to the media they gave me some documents and tried to force me to sign, I refused. They hit me on my head and hands.

I was then taken out of the room and introduced to some people in civilian dress. They took me to an area by the sea and told me that I was at Ambalangoda – the village of the General.

The people who questioned me did so with their faces covered with clothes. Before questioning me they asked whether I wanted to be questioned in Singhalese or English, I told them Singhalese. I was taken out of the room and questioned in a place that looked like a hall. While questioning me there were two people behind me taking down the statement.

The people who questioned me referred to each other as Commandant, Colonel, Air Marshall, Brigadier, ASP and such titles.

I asked them why they had taken me, they said when they question me I will find out the reason. I later learned that they abducted me to get to know about the protest regarding the bringing of war heroes to Colombo and to get information about General Fonseka.

In the room that I was kept there was a TV, a desk, a bed, a table, there were clothes and good kinds of drinks -it was a hotel near the sea, the room was on an upper floor. While being questioned I was taken out of the room. I saw rooms on both sides. Although I did not see any other people, I heard the voices of others shouting “do not hit me” several times.

I was then taken in a red vehicle which had numbers on it. They had land cruisers which may have a value of Rs. 5 million to 10 million, there were about 5 vehicles.

They told me that if you are needed we will not give you 48 hours, if we need we will not give you over 72 hours, we can send you to the other world.

The people who had their faces covered handed me to a group of civilians. Before I was released they took me to a place that looked like a 5 Star hotel and gave me something to eat. I have a feeling that this may have been the Galadara Hotel.

After taking me to Colombo, they said I can tell anybody I want. I can recognise the people in civilian clothes. Due to the assault on the side of my head and the subsequent operation that whole area is numb.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-034-2010
Countries : Sri Lanka,