SRI LANKA: Killing of a whole family at Eppawela 

This week an incident was reported from Eppawala where a couple and their two children, a son and daughter between 14 -15 years of age were murdered in the most brutal fashion. Their bodies were found only after their neighbours complained to the police about the foul smell emanating from their home. Their bodies were wrapped in clothes. The assassins after murdering the family closed and lock up the house before leaving. The police reports list this as a ‘mystery murder’ but have offered no further details. It is said that an inquiry is ongoing.

In recent weeks the people of Sri Lanka have heard extremely extraordinary types of crime from around the country. The mother of a 16-year-old student reported that her daughter had been abducted from outside her own home by and officer working at the Kalutara Courts. She was raped and held captive for 16 days. The incident was reported to the police with the name of the suspect on the day of her abduction but to-date, no arrest had been made with regard to this incident. After much pressure and the assistance of a politician the girl was released. Police filed a fabricated report in court that she had left the house of her own accord. Despite of the matter being highlighted in the local press and also internationally, no one has been arrested and according to the family this is due to the pressure being exercised by the family of the suspect and also some powerful persons.

There have also been other extraordinary stories of crime from around the country. In another incident a young couple traveling on a motorcycle was stopped and the wife’s wrist was cut as the thief tried to take her gold bangles. More atrociously her finger was severed so that the thief could take her gold ring. When her husband tried to intervene the thief then shot her. Thereafter the thief escaped and once again there are no reports of anyone being arrested.

From around the country there have been reports of the killings of beggars in different locations. About six cases have been reported so far. In each of these cases the victim was struck on the head with a stone which resulted in fatal injuries. In one incident the victim was a disabled person who sold lottery tickets from his wheel chair. No suspects have been arrested in several of these murders.

Such crimes are being reported everyday and there does not seem to be any attempt by the government to deal with them. Earlier this week, a retired Senior Superintendent of Police with 36 years of service gave an interview which has now been published on YouTube in which he stated that there has been a devastating degeneration of the Sri Lankan policing system. He attributed this to the politicisation of the whole system and the police officers being assigned to various tasks which are not part of their essential duties. There is neglect of the departmental orders which has been the code of conduct for the police for over a century. This retired officer said that the orders provide for the working of the policing system in great detail but that they are now completely ignored. There is a loss of command responsibility and the disorientation of the officers along with the failure of discipline.

On the one hand the crime situation is getting worse and on the other the only organisation that has the legal powers to deal with it, the policing department, is degenerating daily.

For many decades now the degeneration of the policing system has been noted and there have been many suggestions its reform. However, none of the recommendations of the various committees and commissions appointed for police reforms have been carried out. Instead the situation has continued to degenerate with the Executive President’s removal of controls over the public institutions thereby hampering the implementation of the disciplinary process.

The last attempt taking for the reform of the police was the appointment of the National Police Commission under the supervision of the Constitutional Council which was expected to deal with the appointments, promotions and disciplinary and dismissals of police officers on the basis of merit. This was done through a constitutional amendment known as the 17th Amendment to the Constitution. The Rajapakse stopped the implementation of the amendment as he saw it as an obstacle to the absolute power of the executive president.

At the moment there is no legal defense left within Sri Lanka for dealing with serious crime. As a result many persons take the law into their own hands and this leads to brutal activities and does not in any way help to ease the situation.

The European Union suggested to Sri Lanka the implementation of 17 points which would have helped to improve the rule of law system in the country. This included the implementation of the 17th Amendment. The government has refused to implement any of these suggestions.

While the government is talking about the sovereignty of the nation the people of the country are losing even the most elementary capacity to deal with crime. The state has failed to protect any of the rights of the citizens. This acute situation of the increase of crime is a major problem to people of all communities living in Sri Lanka. Naturally this affects the people living in the north and east more acutely than those living in the rest of the country. in the east the criminal gangs operate so freely that recently the abduction of a three-year-old child for ransom ended in the success for the abductors. Over Rs. 700,000/= was paid to the abductors for the release of the child. The families living in these areas have no defense against such abductions and other crimes. In the face of such a situation the people have no other recourse but to rely on the mercy of the criminals themselves.

Civil society is seriously hampered in their own activities due to the mentality of terror that can be generated when the crime is so easy to carry out. Attacks on civil society organisations and political opponents can easily take place under these circumstances and often such actions can be attributed to criminal gangs although the actual culprits may have been motivated by political designs.

In this situation when the government is refusing to act it is the duty of the opposition, above all things, to make the situation of the restoration of law and order and the rebuilding of the democratic institutions their priority. However, at this moment the opposition is not leading any kind of action in this direction. The opposition should be pressurised to carry out their duty to society, to bring pressure on the government to deal with this terrible situation. The international community too, under these circumstances, should give priority in their actions to assist the Sri Lankan government and the Sri Lankan society to deal with the crimes which are happening throughout the country.

To view the YouTube presentation please see:

Please also see the AHRC article: SRI LANKA: Retired Senior Police Officer talks about the Devastating Degeneration of the Police Department at:

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-149-2010
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Extrajudicial killings, Impunity,