SRI LANKA: Policing and pimping

A Dutch journalist, Jon Bottis, learned a lesson about Sri Lankan policing when he made a complaint about the theft of his personal belongings from his apartment in the holiday town of Hikkaduwa recently: “One policeman called him outside the station and asked him whether he needed a woman to have sex with.”

Having arrived in the country with a view to do a travel story to promote Sri Lanka, he would have learned the lesson that what is important for the promotion of a country is the degree of its respect for human rights and the rule of law more than anything else. There may be tourists who wish to obtain the type of information that the Dutchman received from the police officer, and it may not be the first time that the policeman has provided such information. However, the very depravity of the image of a law enforcement officer turning into a pimp is what Sri Lanka has to change if tourists are to be attracted to this beautiful island which was once known for the hospitality and decency of its smiling people. Today, bedecked with corruption and failed state institutions, that smile has disappeared from the faces of the people, and the sinister smiles, like that of this policemen who tried to exploit the baser elements of some tourists, have emerged instead.

The Dutchman has written to the president of Sri Lanka to complain about this incident. However, whether his letter will result in any genuine investigation is quite doubtful. The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and other human rights organizations have been writing for a long time to the president and other Sri Lankan authorities, like the inspector general of police, the attorney general, the National Police Commission and even to the now virtually defunct Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. There are no known examples though of any serious investigations in recent times. The presidential commission inquiring into some of the gravest crimes has not been able to make even an inch of progress. As the International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) has pointed out, this commission’s time is running out. The state of Sri Lanka has virtually abandoned its duty to investigate and prosecute serious crimes and human rights abuses. As a result, the type of law enforcement officer like the one who made the offer to the Dutch journalist has been created.

For the purpose of future records and a demonstration of the extent to which law enforcement in Sri Lanka has degenerated, it is worth reproducing this short news report in full.

“Dutch journalist alleges police harassment

“Dutch journalist Jon Bottis, who had been allegedly subjected to harassment, is to make a written complaint on his plight to President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremenayake shortly.

“Mr. Bottis told the Daily Mirror that some of his belongings worth more than 250,000 rupees (US$2,205) were stolen from his apartment room in Hikkaduwa recently; and when he went to lodge a complaint with the police, he was subjected to harassment.

“He said the police did not record a statement but wanted him to sign a document written in Sinhalese. ‘I did not want to sign the document because I did not know what it was,’ Mr. Bottis said.

“He further explained that one policeman had called him outside the station and asked whether he needed a woman to have sex with.

“‘I was astonished to hear such a thing from a policeman,’ he said.

“He said he came to Sri Lanka to do a travel write-up with the objective of promoting the country and was sorry that he was treated this way.

“Mr. Bottis alleged that someone must have used a duplicate key to steal his belongings.

“He had lost his Olympus digital camera, mobile phone worth around 60,000 rupees [US$529] and 12,000 rupees [US$106] in cash.”

When the United Nations Human Rights Council did not produce any resolution to provide assistance to Sri Lanka for human rights monitors, the Sri Lankan government and some diplomats who are part of its propaganda machine were triumphant. Their strenuous actions, they claim, had paid off.

What has all these propaganda gimmicks achieved for the people of Sri Lanka?

The best people to answer this question are those Sri Lankans and others who are facing similar types of crimes, or worse, as the one experienced by the Dutch journalist and who invariably must cope with the same neglect.

Take the case of the family massacre in Delgoda on May 26, 2007, which shook the whole nation. What tragically occurred was the killing of two people, allegedly arrested for the crime, who were later shot in police custody for supposedly trying to attack the police. About six neighbouring houses next to the one in which the crime took place were burned by a gang that was sent by a leading politician. There is one surviving member of the family, the rest of whom became victims of the massacre. She is the 12-year-old girl Denusha Madurangy, who is still in the hospital due to the injuries she suffered. According to reports received by human rights organizations, neighbours fear for the life of this young girl as she is the surviving witness to the incident. The neighbours have also reported that the actual culprits have never been apprehended and the true story of the massacre has been swept under the carpet.

The AHRC fervently hopes that the Dutch journalist will now understand that the best way to promote the interests of the people is not to write about the country’s unsafe tourist resorts but to ardently expose the gross human rights abuses in the country with a view to improve its law enforcement and the rule of law.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-240-2007
Countries : Sri Lanka,