SRI LANKA: Three-wheeler driver shot to death for alleged traffic offence 


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-07-2003
ISSUES: Police violence,

The person killed —

T. A. Premachandra, 46-years-old, father of two children, driver of the three-wheeler and an electrician by profession attached to the Ceylon Electricity Board, formerly residing at Kajaduwa Watta, Dodangoda

The injured —

1. Edward Douglas Peters, 45-years-old, father of one child, driver of a three wheeler, residing at Kajaduwa Watta, Dodangoda

2. G. D. Sunil, 43-years-old, electrician at the Social Service Department, residing at Rahasgaha, Udumulla, Payagala


On 1 February 2003 at about 10:30 at night, T. A. Premachandra was driving his own three-wheeler (motorized trishaw) home from work, with two companions in the back. Two police officers of the police traffic unit, Kalutara South, overtook three-wheeler from the left side on their motor cycle and shot the driver in the head with a T56 gun, resulting in his death. He was shot in the head at close range; the bullet entered from the proximity of the left ear and came out at the right eye. The driver died instantly and the three-wheeler lost control and crashed into a lamppost and overturned. The two persons seated in the back of the three-wheeler sustained severe injuries.

When one of the passengers, despite his injuries, tried calling his family members using his mobile phone and tried to talk to the killer police officers, the police kicked him and forcefully took the mobile phone. A jeep from the Kalutara South police arrived shortly, took the two injured and the dead to the Base Hospital at Nagoda, where the dead body was handed over to the hospital and the two injured were taken to the police station and arrested. They were not even given water till the post mortem examination was conducted the following day, February 2. It was only after the post mortem that they were allowed to enter the hospital.

The ASP Jayantha Kulathilaka (Acting Superintendent of Police) who headed the post mortem investigation is making a desperate effort to let off the killers. The two police officers that are responsible for the murder have said that the driver was shot because of his refusal to stop the three-wheeler when ordered to do so. Besides, they stated at the post mortem that the shot was fired at the tire of the vehicle and due to the ruts on the road it went astray, and that there was no intention to kill anyone.

In a bid to justify the killing ASP Jayantha Kulathilaka has told journalists that it is perfectly within the law to act as the police did. ASP Jayantha Kulathilaka has taken charge of the case on the orders of acting magistrate Siri Perera.


The explanation given by the police is that the three wheeler was involved in an accident with a van, regarding which a complaint was received by the Wadduwa police by phone, and that the two police officers acting on that information had shot at the vehicle. They allege that the driver was trying to speed up without obeying orders to stop. The police officers were on a 220cc Suzuki motor cycle. The apparent absurdity of this allegation lies in the fact that a seven-year-old three-wheeler with an average speed of 25kph, carrying ten conduit pipes on its hood, could not possibly outrun this motorcycle.


Please write to the appropriate authorities. A suggested letter follows:


Dear —

Re: Extrajudicial killing of T. A. Premachandra by two police officers of Kalutara South Police Station

I am shocked to hear of the killing of T. A. Premachandra by two officers attached to the traffic police attached to the Kalutara South Police Station on February 1. That traffic police can use T56 guns to deal with an alleged traffic offence is barbarism beyond belief. That this is the case is not simply the fault of the particular police officers involved but also their superiors, who are responsible for the effective supervision of their subordinates. I find it impossible to believe that such things are allowed to happen.

In a properly functioning system much lesser offences by police are dealt with more severely and rules reviewed in order to avoid future occurrences. I urge you to investigate this matter and take action against both the perpetrators and their superior officers. I also urge you to ensure that compensation and express apologies on behalf of the state are extended to the family of the victim, particularly to his two children

Yours sincerely


1. Honorable Prime Minister

Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe

Cambridge Place

Colombo 7


Fax: +94 1 682905

Email: or

SALUTATION: Hon. Prime Minister

2. Mr. Ranjith Abeysuriya PC


National Police Commission

No. 4, Shavasthi Place,

Colombo 7


Fax: +94 1 674 148

SALUTATION: Dear Commissioner

3. Hon. Mr. K.C. Kamalasabesan

Attorney General

Attorney – General’s Department

Colombo 12


Fax: +94 1 436 421

Email: | or |

SALUTATION: Dear Attorney General

4. Mr. T. E. Anandrajah

Inspector General of Police (IGP)

New Secretariat

Colombo 1,


Fax: +94 1 446174

SALUTATION: Dear Inspector General of Police

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Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA-07-2003
Countries : Sri Lanka,
Issues : Police violence,