SRI LANKA: Wife of Mathugama police custodial death victim writes to the IGP

A Statement from Right to Life Organization forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

1. Chairperson,
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka,
No. 14,

R. A. De Mel Mawatha,
Colombo 04,

2. Inspector-General of Police,
Police Headquarters,
Colombo 01

3. Attorney General,
Attorney General’s Department,
Colombo 12

4. President,
National Police Commission,
Block No 9,
Bauddhaloka Mawatha,
Colombo 07

  Written complaint

Kolambaarachchige Renuka, aged 36, married, 3 children, N.I.C no.: 847662808V, Address: No.49, Yatadolawaththa Mathugama, Contact no.: 076 – 4778859,
Date: 23.08.2021

Bellanawithanage Saliya Dhanuka, aged 40, Occupation: Selling firewood, is my husband I am residing at the above address on a rental basis with children aged 17,15 and 8 years.

On the 22nd of August, 2021 around 1.30p.m. my husband went to a nearby store to buy betel nut. In the meantime, I heard my husband screaming and I ran into the street and saw two men attacking him. They attacked him with broomsticks and kicked him with hands and legs. Then they handcuffed my husband and dragged him into a three-wheeler parked there. I asked them why they were taking my husband. They said that it was because of violating quarantine regulations. There was a police officer wearing the uniform in the driver’s seat of the three-wheeler. I identified that the blue three-wheeler belonged to the Matugama Police station. My husband shouted, “Renuka, come to the police and take me.” I can recognize the two officers who assaulted my husband if I saw them. Several people witnessed this incident.

I went to the police around 2.30pm. The officer at Reserve asked me to wait downstairs until he called me in. I was waiting outside for about two hours. At that moment, a police jeep went outside and there were four policemen inside including the two officers who assaulted my husband. They took a man covered with a cloth on the back floor of the jeep. Then I went back to the police. I told that I wanted to see my husband who was brought to the police station. The officer at Reserve said that such a person was not brought. I told him that the police had brought him in a blue three- wheeler. The officer then said that my husband had been taken to the hospital and is in a critical condition.

I quickly came out and called Anoma Akka who was living close by to our house and asked her to take a three wheeler and come to the police station. She met the OIC with me. I informed the officer that my husband had been arrested, beaten by the police and had been taken to the hospital. Then the officer said, “Yes, he is in a critical situation, he had a heart attack, his life can also be lost”. And then I cried asking “How can I live with three kids? We are living in a rented house and the rent has not been paid in four months. It costs about rs. 5000.00 per month to get treatments for the hole in my small child’s heart”, I screamed, “what happened to my husband?”. The officer said, “We will build a house and we will carry out his funeral activities as well.” I said that I wanted to see my husband and asked them to show me. Then he asked me to go to the hospital. I went to the Weththawa hospital with Anoma akka. My husband had been put on a trolley in that hospital and his face was swollen. There was blood on his hand. There were two nurses. They said that my husband was already dead when he was taken to the hospital and the police were responsible for this. Then we came home. It was about 7pm when we got home.

Anoma Akka was called by the police again around 7.30pm. Police had asked her to come to the hospital immediately as the judge is coming to the hospital. We went to the Weththawa hospital around 8 p.m. The hospital informed us that the judge had come and gone. Then, the police again asked us to come near the Mathugama market. We went there and later; the police took us to the magistrate’s official residence where the magistrate took a statement from me. I told that the police assaulted my husband and that his death is suspicious. The magistrate asked me to go to the police station the next morning as an investigation will be done on my husband’s death and his body will be handed over for burial after that.

According;y, this morning (23rd of August 2021), my relatives and I went to the Mathugama police station. The officer in charge (OIC) asked me if I could accept the body without cutting it. I said, “No, because I suspect that he was beaten to death by the police” Then he threatened me saying, “Yes, tell that he was beaten by the police, tell that the police killed him as you told the media yesterday” he also told me that a post mortem would be performed only if the PCR reports were received today and if body is tested positive for Covid, they’d send the body to Batticaloa. I said, we want to see the husband and the kids want to see their father. Later, we were sent to the Nagoda Hospital. Sergeant who goes to court also joined. The autopsy was not performed. I was informed to come tomorrow.

Later, I went to the Superintendent of Police Office, Kalutara. I met the Superintendent of Police. He asked me about the incident. I asked him to grant justice by punishing the officers who assaulted my husband. Then the Superintendent said, we are conducting a fair investigation and the officers will be punished after the inquest. When we see children, we feel pity because we also have children. But a complaint or statement was not recorded.

I request
1. The Mathugama Police to be removed from the investigation and the assign the investigation to an independent police team,
2. Those who are responsible for assaulting my husband and killing him should be brought to justice immediately.

Yours sincerely,
Kolambaarachchige Renuka, (wife)


The views shared in this statement do not necessarily reflect that of the AHRC.