The Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption has started an investigation into corruption through the misuse of police officers and resources to attack peaceful protests.
This investigation has been initiated under the number BC/1760/2022 based on a complaint made on September 22 by the Action Committee Against Repression jointly established by the Young Lawyers’ Association and the Young Journalists’ Association.
The complaint related to this investigation was as follows.
Sri Lanka Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption,
Regarding the crime of corruption through the misuse of police officers and resources to attack peaceful protesters
Corruption has been defined as the abuse of office by any public servant to gain advantage or loss to himself or another person. Apart from that, misuse of the resources of an organization is also a form of corruption.
For some time now, a large number of officers including The IGP C. D. Wickramaratne, Senior DIG in charge of the Western Province Deshbandu Tennakoon, OIC of the Fort Police Station Sagara Liyanage, OIC of the Maradana Police Station, OIC of the Slave Island Police Station have been abusing their positions and misusing police resources to serve the political interests of the government. In addition, they are using their positions to intimidate others.
This is a situation of ongoing serious corruption that goes beyond a single or few incidents.
Corruption has many forms. ‘Using one’s authority to make decisions and implement the law to make wrong and unjust decisions and implement laws that favour one group or person, wrongly implementing laws, and not having a practice of measuring the correctness and fairness of certain decisions’ are also abuse of power.
It is not necessary for a public servant to earn an unjustified financial gain to establish that they are involved in the crime of corruption. Misuse of power to the detriment of other persons is also corruption.
Accordingly, we would like to inform the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption that deploying large groups of police officers and vehicles to attack and intimidate protesters continually since the end of July, especially after President Ranil Wickremesinghe came to power, is corruption, and request that this be investigated and punished.
On September 24, the police deployed nearly 2,000 officers to attack the rally of the Socialist Youth Association, which was supposed to be a peaceful march from the Lipton Roundabout to Fort.
It was later found out that the anti-riot unit and regular police officers were deployed and that there were not enough police officers to carry out daily operations at several police stations in Colombo that day.
On that afternoon, the OICs of many police stations including Colombo Fort, Pettah, Maradana, and Slave Island and OICs of crime branches came to watch the protest and to monitor and direct the attack while neglecting their duties.
On that day, more than 10 jeeps from several police stations including Fort, Pettah, Maradana, and the Colombo Central Crime Division were used to repress the protest. Apart from this, nearly 10 Suzuki-type cars given to top police officers, over 20 trucks and buses, three water cannons were deployed.
The number of vehicles was not limited to the above information and even vehicles from remote areas like Veyangoda were used. We can submit the vehicle numbers and videos of a large number of vehicles deployed that day for investigations.
The police stated before the Magistrate’s Court that 18 policemen were injured in this illegal attack, that a water cannon vehicle was damaged and that the damage has not yet been assessed. The officers deployed to attack the peaceful protest are themselves responsible for this damage.
This is not the only case, and the police have brought a large number of officers even to protests and political meetings that are not large-scale and not marches.
On September 16, a number of civil and political organizations jointly held a protest at Hyde Park, Colombo, and more than two thousand police officers were deployed in nearly 20 police buses and trucks. There too, senior police officers from a number of police stations including Fort, and senior divisional officers stayed at the Apico Super Center parking lot near Hyde Park. An Apico Supercenter employee who did not wish to be identified said that Sagara Liyanage, OIC of the Fort Police Station, spent several hours leisurely looking at his mobile phone sitting on the seat of his car.
On September 22, at a petition-signing held at Galle Face, the Fort Police attempted to hijack the lorry containing the petition and when lawyers asked the legal basis for doing so, the police had no answers. The lorry was then handed back. On that occasion too, senior officers including OICs of many police stations, vehicles and other police officers were deployed.
Once, the OIC of the Fort Police came with a many officers to disrupt a kite-flying event at Galle Face carried out by some people including lawyer Nirupa Serasingha, stating that they cannot fly kites there. He had no legal basis to justify the disruption.
Thousands of officers were deployed the same way to attack a peaceful protest on August 18th. The artists who were at the front of the march were also attacked.
Activist Rajkumar Rajivkanth was arrested during a protest on August 31, and on the following night a large group of police officers went to his house in Trincomalee and interrogated his mother. They had no reason to go to his home after making the arrest in Colombo. Police officers were misused to intimidate Rajivkanth’s family.
A senior police officer arrived in a white van accompanied by a group of officers dressed in civilian and official clothes at the Maradana Social and Peace Center and disrupted a media conference saying that he wanted to ‘speak to Lahiru Weerasekera’.
There was a chase involving more than four jeeps and motorcycles to arrest Lahiru Weerasekera for a minor offence. A police OIC and another senior police officer had participated in the arrest.
A total of around 50 police officers, including several high-ranking officers from five police stations, were deployed in jeeps to arrest Joseph Stalin, the General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union.
Similarly, two police teams had gone to areas including Kadawatha, raided houses and caused a lot of wastage just to arrest two members of the Bank of Ceylon Employees’ Union. Those members of the Bank of Ceylon Employees’ Union who were arrested there were engaged in trade union activism regarding a loan transaction unfairly given Tiran Alas, Minister in charge of Police, so it can be considered revenge.
In addition to this, a number of agencies including the Criminal Investigation Department and the Colombo Crime Division are summoning hundreds of protestors for interrogations daily. They are questioning them about minor offences and democratic declarations that are not illegal, and so far many sections of the Criminal Investigation Department have not been able to perform their regular duties.
During these arrests, they have attempted to harm the reputation of activists, union leaders, artists and many others. Even the Police Media Spokesman Division is abusing its authority to publicize information that damages these persons.
We have come to know about cases where police officers and vehicles were not available in several police stations in Colombo to investigate thefts, assaults, murders and other violent crimes when officers had been deployed this way. In some cases, there had been no officers to write complaints, and no jeeps and three-wheelers for the officers to travel for investigations.
A police officer, who did not want to reveal his identity, told us that he is under a lot of stress because he is being regularly deployed for political purposes, and that he feels that police officers including him are being misused for the political aim of persecuting democratic protesters. He said that he would like to do his duties to protect the law, but is unable to do it because he is being deployed several times a week for political purposes.
During the earlier period, incidents of bodies being piled up near Galle Face were reported. A number of murders and serious crimes were reported. There were robberies as well as violent incidents as a result of economic pressure. In addition, long-awaited justice against large-scale corruption frauds and crimes remains a public need.
We are prepared to submit video and photo evidence related to the matters mentioned here.
We expect that as an independent commission, you will take action regarding this situation of mass corruption.
Action Committee Against Repression
Young Lawyer’s Association
Sri Lanka Young Journalists’ Association