SRI LANKA: The government and the state media is silent about the murder of the complainant in a bribery and a torture case

On the 20th September Sugath Nishanta Fernando, of Negombo who was the complainant in a bribery case and a torture case in which the allegations were against several police officers of the Negombo area, was assassinated. The family has very clearly stated that they suspect no one else for this murder except the police officers who are either the accused or the respondents in the cases of bribery and torture. The deceased, Nishanta Fernando himself, made repeated requests to the Inspector General of Police and all the Sri Lankan authorities for protection against death threats. He was repeatedly threatened that he and his entire family would be killed if he did not withdraw the case before the Supreme Court. For the details of the assassination please see: SRI LANKA: Another complainant in a torture case shot dead, at

Despite of complaints made to the Sri Lankan authorities and the private media giving a great deal of information about this incident, neither the president nor the prime minister of Sri Lanka nor the Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights or any other spokesmen for the government, has made any statement to condemn the killings, to urge for credible and prompt inquiries, to provide protection for the family, to remove the alleged suspects who hold important police positions in the Negombo area from their posts or to promise any other action. No spokesman for the Sri Lankan police has made any comments about this assassination. The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and the National Police Commission have also remained completely silent.

The silence of the government media

Meanwhile the government media has also not given any publicity to this assassination. Even trivial crimes are publicised in this media but they have maintained a studied silence about this assassination of a complainant who has two cases, one before the Supreme Court and the other before the High Court of Colombo.

The killing of a complainant should have received enormous attention on the part of any government that cares for the rule of law and from the government media, as it has an obligation to report matters of public importance.

This silence on the part of the government and the media should be seen as an attempt to ignore the tremendous importance of the issue of the killing of complainants and witnesses. In international forums spokesmen for the Sri Lankan government have been making statements which are aimed at creating the impression that the government has a serious interest in protecting the complainants and witnesses. This statement of avowal to prosecute those who kill or harass complainants and witnesses is made against a local and global criticism on the failure of the government to provide witness protection. However, such statements are nothing more than empty words when compared with the complete silence in the face of the actual killing of witnesses.

The government has neither taken any steps to remove from the area those police officers who have been named as accused and respondents in the two cases. The respondents in the Supreme Court case are: Senior Superintendent of Police, Premasiri Vithanage, SSP’s Office Negombo; Superintendent of Police, Mahanama, SSP’s Office Negombo; Somarsiri Liyanage, Officer-in-Charge, Head Quarters, Police Station, Negombo; Inspector of Police Priyadarshana, Negombo Police Station; Inspector of Police Subasinghe, Negombo Police Station; Inspector of Police Bandara, Negombo Police Station; Inspector of Police Silva, Negombo Police Station; Sub Inspector Abeynayake, Negombo Police Station; Sub Inspector Rohana, Negombo Police Station; PC Leelasena, 19999, Negombo Police Station; PC Nihal, 51750, Negombo Police Station and Sergeant Silva, Negombo Police Station. The accused in the bribery case is Inspector of Police, Mahagamage Dhamadasa.

In Sri Lanka killing has become easy and cheap

The government’s silence and inaction in this case is no surprise. In fact, the ever-extending powers of the executive presidency are crippling all the government institutions including the institutions of justice and are aimed at creating a climate of fear and silencing the people. Within such a framework the criminals need to be given the assurance that their actions will not bear adverse consequences. Creating confidence among the criminal elements in the police and the armed forces and also the government supporters is a deliberate policy of a government that wants to suppress the operation of the law on an equal basis for everyone. Those who commit crimes that, directly or indirectly support the government policy of creating a climate of fear, are protected from inquiries or any other form of condemnation. Under these circumstances murderers, thieves and those who engage in corruption can thrive.

The manipulation of the media

The state manipulates the media in many sophisticated ways in order to trivialise the vital problems affecting the people. These problems may be in the field of economics such as basic food prices, medical care and the like or it may be on issues such as unemployment and poverty and it may also be in the area of basic security that is denied to the people. Under these circumstances it is no surprise that the government has no time to listen to the cries of the widow and the children of Nishanta Fernando.

The earlier case of Gerard Perera also showed sophisticated manipulation at all levels in order to deny justice to a witness who was pursuing his complaint against the police officers who tortured him. Naturally, effective action in that case would have discouraged others from engaging in similar acts. Perhaps Nishanta Fernando would not have faced his tragic death had the state ensured justice in the case of Gerard Perera. Now with two such cases in the Negombo area, if other police officers and the criminals who work with them are encouraged to engage in similar acts, the blame must be placed entirely on the Sri Lankan government.

The only way the government can answer the accusation against it that it deliberately encourages greater violations of human rights and the suppression of human rights is to demonstrate its will to investigate assassinations, such as the one of Nishanta Fernando. Each day that passes without the culprits being brought to justice will vindicate the accusation that the government wants this kind of act to happen so that there will be a climate of fear from which it can benefit. The very fact that the repeated requests for protection were denied by the government to Nishanta Fernando and his family leaves no doubt about the type of bleak climate of fear that is being deliberately cultivated in the country.

For further information on this case please also see: [Open Letter] SRI LANKA: A man who sought your protection against death threats from police officers in Negombo was shot dead yesterday, at


Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-247-2008
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Torture,