SRI LANKA: complaint to Inspector General of Police on death threats to staff and a lawyer of Right to Life, Negombo

We reproduce below a written complaint made by the President , Mr. Britto Fernando, to the Inspector General of Police regarding telephone calls received from an anonymous caller making death threats to staff members and a lawyer and stating that, ‘If you don’t stop your work two or three of you will be killed.’

This is the second time that the same caller has made such threats. These calls started after the assassination of Sugath Nishanta Fernando who also received death threats before he was killed on the 20th September 2008. Ever since his death Mr. Fernando’s widow has also been receiving death threats and her calls for protection have not lead to any action on the part of the police or any other government agencies.

We give below the following documents:

1. A translation of the written complaint to the Inspector General of Police together with a cover letter by Mr. Britto Fernando
2. A Press Release made by the AHRC on death threats to Amitha Ariyaratna, Attorney-at-Law.
3. A translation of an affidavit submitted by A.S. Sandamali Padmi Peiris, the widow of Sugath Nishanta Fernando to the Crime Branch of the Peliyagoda Police informing them of the constant threats to her and seeking protection.

26th January 2009

Cover letter
Inspector General of Police
Police Department

The Right to Life
Human Rights Centre
555 Negambo Road, Kurana,

Dear Inspector General of Police,

Re: making death threats by telephone call.

01. We have informed you on the 26th of September 2008 of death threats to a lawyer and our organisation.
02. On that complaint you directed the Criminal Investigation Division, CIU, to initiate an enquiry into this matter and we were informed.
03. On 24/01/2009, a Saturday, around 6:00 pm our office received a call to its telephone (031 2221604) and we were threatened with death.
04. The person who talked in a male voice called from a telephone number bearing 011 2260156.
05. I am sending you a written complaint regarding the death threats mentioned above.
06. Kindly direct your attention urgently on this complaint and please ensure a fair and competent investigation into the matter and also take steps to protect the lives of all the staff of my organisation.

Thank you.

Faithfully yours,

Britto Fernando

Complaint to the Inspector General of Police on Death Threats

This is the written complaint by Kanukulage John Britto Fernando, 54 years of age; male; Sri Lankan citizen; a Catholic; married. Employment: a consultant on labour law, the president of the Right to Life, a human rights centre situated at: No. 555, Negambo Road, Kurana, Katunayake.

I am making this complaint regarding the death threats made to our office for the second time by a threatening telephone call made on the 24th of January 2009. I am making this complaint to the Inspector General of Police. We have made a previous complaint regarding death threats to our organisation and our lawyers on the 26th of September 2008, by way of a written complaint to the IGP. Regarding that complaint CIU division of the Criminal Investigation Division called us and recorded our statements, and informed us that inquiries into this have begun. On the 24th of January 2009, in the evening between 6:08 and 6:10 there was a call to our telephone number at our office 031 2221604. That telephone call was taken by a staff of our office, Prasanga Fernando. The person who gave that call spoke in a male voice and asked in Sinhalese, “Is your big fellow there?” and Prasanga has answered asking “Who do you want to speak to?” Then the caller asked, “Who are you?” Prasanga answered, “Before I tell you who I am, kindly tell me who you are.” Then the caller angrily said “Who am I? Who am I? That will be told when you all have to pay with your lives. One fellow paid the price already… do you know? Where is your tie-kota?” (A derogatory reference to the lawyer). Then Prasanga asked, “Who do you mean by tie-kota?” Then the caller answered, “Who is tie-kota… do you really not know? I am talking to you for the second time now. No matter how many times you are told, you don’t stop? You all did a campaign in Puttalam? How many times have you been told, but you don’t listen. You fellows have not learned a lesson yet.” Then Prasanga said, “I don’t understand what you are talking about. Maybe you have got something mixed up. Maybe you are talking to the wrong telephone number.” Then, the caller answered, “Are you trying to be a baby? When two or three of your lives are lost, you will know who I am… you have your women and children, get ready and wait… if you don’t stop this…” Then Prasanga asked, “What is this about?” and the caller replied, “What is it about? You all get ready for a sacrifice… are you licensed thugs, you all go on the roads, let us see. Be ready and wait.” Then the call was disconnected. The telephone number of the person who called was 011 2260156, as noted in the caller display. We tried to call this number back but it was temporarily disconnected. We are frightened by the threats made to us and our lawyers continuously. Therefore we request you to conduct an inquiry into this and to arrest the persons who are making such threats. We also call you to take steps to provide protection for lives of our staff, including myself.

Affirming that all that was said above is true and correct, I set my signature below on this, 26th of January 2009.


AHRC Press Release – SRI LANKA: Human rights lawyer and activist facing death threat

Mr. Amitha Ariyaratne, Attorney-at-Law, was threatened three times with death on 27, January 2009 at the Negombo Police Station by some police officers. He was visiting the police station for an official business when this happened. Earlier he was threatened with death and the Bar Association of Sri Lanka passed a resolution condemning the death threats and requesting an enquiry from the Inspector General of Police (IGP). However, no officers were arrested or questioned on these death threats.

Yesterday evening when Mr. Ariyaratne arrived at the Negombo Police Station and parked his car near the police station, an officer spoke to him in abusive language. He complained about this matter to a superior officer at the station. When he was leaving the station another officer, Mr. Bandara, confronted him and threatened him with death. Bandara assaulted Ariyaratne on his shoulder.

Mr. Ariyaratne was the lawyer for Mr. Sugath Nishanta Fernando, who was a complainant in a bribery case. Ariyaratne is also representing Sugath’s family in a complaint of torture, where some police officers from Negombo Police Station are accused of torturing Sugath. Sugath was later murdered, an incident in which the role of some police officers against whom Sugath has filed the complaint are suspected to be involved.

A former officer in charge of the police has been charged under the Bribery Act for seeking and obtaining bribe from Sugath. In order to force him and his wife from giving evidence in that case, the Sugath, his wife and their two children were severely assaulted by a large number of policemen. It is this incident that resulted in Sugath lodging a complaint about torture. Sugath also filed a fundamental rights petition and the Supreme Court has granted leave to proceed.

While this was pending, Sugath and his wife were threatened by a group of persons to withdraw the petition within 24 hours or to face death. Sugath appealed to the IGP, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, National Police Commission and Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights to inquire into the death threats and grant him protection. However, on the 20th of September 2008 he was gunned down. At the inquest the Sugath’s family members stated that the only persons they suspect for the committing of the murder were the policemen against whom Sugath was a witness in two cases. It was during the inquest proceedings in this case Mr. Ariyaratne was threatened with death for being the legal representative for the family of the deceased.

On the 26th of January, in the afternoon, an anonymous caller telephoned the Right to Life Centre, a human rights organisation in Negombo and wanted to speak to ‘the boss’. When the staff who answered the call requested the caller for the name of the person he wanted to speak to, the caller used abusive language and threatened to kill everyone in the organisation. The caller threatened, ‘…you people were told earlier to keep out of this work and you don’t seem to listen, and three or four of you will be killed.’ When the staff asked the caller to identify himself with his name he refused and continued his verbal abuse over the telephone. The caller also said that this is the second time he is calling to the centre.

The Right to Life Centre lodged a complaint with the IGP about the call and referred to the earlier call of similar nature which was given close to the date on which Sugath was assassinated. The centre requested the IGP to inquire into the matter, and also informed senior officers of the Negombo area about this incident.

Following the assassination of Mr. Lasantha Manilal Wickramatunge, a prominent journalist of Sri Lanka, there have been a series of threats to many persons including journalists, lawyers and human rights activists. The government is not taking any action to stop this. Under these circumstances the life of Mr. Ariyaratne and the human rights activists associated with the Right to Life Centre are in serious danger.


The affidavit of A.S. Sandamali Padmi Peiris submitted to the Crime Branch of the Peliyagoda Police

The following is a translation of an affidavit sent by A.S. Sandamali Padmi Peiris, the widow of Sugath Nishanta Fernando.

An affidavit

I, Annakkarage Surange Sandamali Padmi Peiris, living at No. 349/2A, Jayamatha Dalupatha, Negombo, being a Sinhalese Roman Catholic hereby declare oath and state honestly and truly as follows:

1. I am the declarant named above and the widow of the deceased Siyaguna Kosgodage Anton Sugath Nishanta Fernando.
2. There is case No. B/479/8/NS at the Magistrate’s Court of Negombo regarding the assassination of my husband, above named, and up to date other than the evidence given by me and the members of my family no other evidence has been uncovered about the murder of my husband.
3. I also state that under these conditions the persons who assassinated my husband, those who conspired to assassinate him and others who helped in that assassination are moving about freely.
4. By now continuously there have been various types of threats to the effect that me and my children will be assassinated and due to such threats none of us can live freely.
5. And that is the circumstances that we are facing. I have a reasonable ground to believe that the same persons who killed my husband will also kill me and my children and I have made complaints to relevant authorities regarding this threat.
6. As I have stated very clearly at the inquest proceedings into my husband’s death I believe the persons who have killed my husband are those working in collaboration with and connected to the officers of the police station at Negombo whom I have named.
7. The reason for the murder is complaints I and my family members made on very reasonable grounds against a number of police officers of the Sri Lanka police ad because we are to give evidence against them before courts.
8. By now we cannot under any circumstances live in our houses in Negombo or places close to Negombo and it is not possible to live openly in any other part of the country also.
9. At this moment we are living in hiding in a helpless condition with the help and sympathy of many persons and there is no protection for us at all to live freely.
10. About this matter I have forwarded an affidavit dated 1/11/2008 to the Negombo Magistrate’s Court and thereby revealed to the court all the circumstances under which w have been living without protection and a copy of that affidavit has also been attached to this.
11. My daughter who was expected to take part in the exam for the GCE ordinary level is living under shock and mental anguish due to these threats and also is confused and depressed due to the murder of her father and therefore did not sit for the said exams.
12. Under these circumstances we are now living under serious threats and therefore we need protection. However we are afraid to get any protection from the officer of the Negombo police or from any police station near Negombo.
13. At the same time it is not possible to live in hiding indefinitely and that if we receive proper protection we are willing to live even in our own houses.
14. Therefore at this moment we can have faith only in the officers of the Criminal Investigation Division and we request that you provide us the protection of these officers and the protection should be brought under the supervision of an Inspector General of Police.
15. We request to provide this protection until this incident and until the end of giving evidence in several of the cases. And that if this protection is guaranteed to us we will divulge the places where we are hiding to the officers who are authorised to give us protection.
16. Given the serious situation we face we are in great need to be guaranteed protection and we have an expectation and a hope that such protection will be provided and as soon as a reasonable proposal for our protection is provided to us we will without fear accept such protection and that whatever we have stated here does not mean the imposing of conditionality but arises from the severe threats and the pressures we are facing.

After reading and understanding this statement affirming that it is true and correct I set my signature on 7th December 2008 before Supun Rathnayake – attorney at law and a commission of oaths and company secretary, signed A.S. Sandamali Padmi Pieris, declarant

Supun Rathnayake
Commissioner for oaths & company secretary
145/7 Mullagama, Ambathana, Kandy
071-3423099, 0814927364

A request: The Asian Human Rights Commission requests everyone to write to the President of Sri Lanka and the Inspector General of Police urging to inquire into these complaints and to provide protection to the staff of Right to Life, a human rights centre, Negombo, to the lawyer, Amitha Ariyaratne, and to the widow of Sugath Nishanta Fernando.

His Excellency the Hon. Mr Mahinda Rajapakse
President Socialist Democratic Republic of Sri Lanka
C/- Office of the President
Temple Trees, 150, Galle Road
Colombo 3
Fax: +94 11 2472100 / +94 11 2446657

Mr. Jayantha Wickramaratne
Inspector General of Police (IGP)
New Secretariat
Colombo 1

Fax: +94 11 2 440440/327877

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Document Type : Forwarded Statement
Document ID : AHRC-FST-004-2009
Countries : Sri Lanka,