SRI LANKA: A hierarchy of Justice? The CID investigation into Gerald Perera's killing is dragging its feet
It has now been eighteen days since the shooting of Gerald Perera in broad daylight, while he was travelling to work on a bus. Gerald died three days later, on November 24th, from the injuries that he had sustained during this attack. Although the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) is now enquiring into the case as a result of substantial pressure from inside and outside Sri Lanka with the Director of the CID thought to be personally handling this investigation, no one has yet been arrested.
This delay is unacceptable. The blatant manner in which this crime was carried out; the presence of a number of eye-witnesses; the fact that the getaway vehicle has been identified; and that a policeman and potentially the bus driver or conductor seem to be clearly implicated in setting up the killing, should enable the CID to make rapid advances in its investigation and to arrest those responsible.
Policemen tortured Gerald Perera in 2002. In 2003, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court awarded him record damages for this violation of his rights and integrity. His shooting occurred a matter of days before his testifying before the Negombo High Court in a criminal case against the afore-mentioned policemen scheduled for December 2nd, 2004. This brutal shooting can only be seen as the silencing of a brave man, who was simply seeking justice.
The fact that the police is implicated in the killing is beyond doubt the Inspector General of Police admitted as much in a television interview last week. The act was clearly premeditated. The assailant, who initially followed the bus in the getaway car, was clearly aware of Gerald Pereras presence inside the bus, having most certainly been informed of this by telephone. The informant, thought to be policeman Mr. Jayashantha, who is also Geralds neighbour, must have previously been following him near his home. It is also possible that the bus driver or conductor were involved, as the assailant reportedly boarded the bus at a place that was not a regular bus stop. Communications in the days leading up to the attack between all these individuals must be traceable.
The continuing lack of arrests is engendering criticism, anxiety and suspicion in Sri Lanka, with a columnist for the Sunday Times having questioned whether this represented hierarchical justice. The murder of Justice Ambepitiya, which happened only two days before Geralds shooting, was resolved within a few days.
Gerald Perera's murder has raised many questions that will bedevil the administration of justice in the country. Under the Prevention of Torture Act (Act number 22 of 1994), direct indictments are filed in the high courts without non-summary proceedings. Thus if the chief witness dies or is killed, it may be possible for the accused to escape, as there are no previous statements made by the witness to any court that could be used as evidence in a high court trial. This will be an invitation for criminals to physically eliminate witnesses, which is a matter the Attorney General and the courts must deal with as a priority, in order to avoid further killings of this type.
Meanwhile, the killing of witnesses and judges indicates a new phase that poses a significant threat to the administration of justice in Sri Lanka. How this new reality will be confronted depends significantly on the manner in which Geralds assassins and their co-conspirators are brought to justice, and how soon this is performed.