An article by Arthur Silva published by the Asian Human Rights Commission

SRI LANKA: Police beating of an MP–Does It Matter?

Arthur Silva

A Member of Parliament yelled during a parliamentary session stating that police officers beat him up when he went to make a complaint on behalf of some people. He did this by way raising an issue relating to parliamentary privilege. While the speaker was mumbling something about looking into the matter, government backbenchers were shouting that in the past when they were in the opposition they were also beaten up. With that the matter ended.

The speaker promised to look into the matter. How will be look into the matter? Will he forget about it thereafter?

If the speaker were to act properly he would have called for an immediate report about the incident from the IGP. The IGP would not need more than twenty four hours to submit a report. The Speaker should have asked the IGP to take action under the criminal law and report the progress to parliament. There should have been no difficulty in taking action as the MP named the officers who assaulted him. There is no report of any such action being taken.

Even more important than criminal action was the support that all the members of parliament should have shown to their fellow members. In fact, the government MP’s were supportive of the assault by police. Party loyalties now go to the extent of allowing the ruling party to get the police to assault their opponents. This, in fact, is the crux of the matter. The Speaker cannot do much when the government itself is behind the police assault on an MP.

The result of all this will be impunity and benefits for the police officers involved. That will probably happen soon as the officers know how work their promotions. They have accumulated vast experience on that. If they need to assault a few more opposition MP’s for this purpose, they will do so happily and have their promotions sooner.

The MP during his speech to parliament asked, “If even MPs are assaulted at police stations like that, what must be the situation of ordinary folk?” He should have known that even before he got assaulted. Everyone knows how torture takes place routinely at police stations. However, MPs keep silent about that. Now with this personal experience, the opposition MPs should join together to fight against police torture. The prevention of police torture should be a major demand of the opposition.

So long as the opposition takes a hypocritical approach to police torture they will also get assaulted from time to time, There will be no one to bother about them when they get the same treatment as people and when police officers use such assaults to get promotions.

The views shared in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the AHRC, and the AHRC takes no responsibility for them.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Document ID :AHRC-ETC-010-2010
Countries : Sri Lanka
Date : 19-08-2010