19 September, 2019

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Gayashan’s Case Exposes An Embedded Lunacy

By Basil Fernando

Basil Fernando

Basil Fernando

Gayashan, who was missing, has surrendered to the Hambanthota Police Station. He has been wandering in various places for about 8 days after he fled the police station after being tortured. Finally, he telephoned a Buddhist monk, who intervened to help him to surrender to the police.

Thanks to media interest, the matter of the boy going missing was discussed all over the country. The Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara is reported to have spoken with the father of Gayashan, promising that he would do everything in his power to find the young man, or take serious action if something has happened to him.

There are several aspects of this case that are worth considering, particularly in the context of Sri Lankan police commemorating the 150th Anniversary of its existence. In fact, age-wise, the Sri Lankan police is much older than that, as it was started immediately after the British captured the Maritime Provinces. The year of founding is therefore 1795.

Gayashan

Gayashan

As the institution is that old, it is worth considering whether many of the things that are known to have happened in Gayashan’s case should have happened at all.

It is now well established that the reason for the arrest was related to the theft of paddy bags, from a storage house in the area. Three young men were arrested, and they were coerced to accept responsibility for stealing these paddy bags, despite them, in fact, vehemently denying any such theft or involvement. Surely, officers belonging to an institution as old as this one should have been given at least the elementary training necessary to investigate a matter that is, at best, a petty theft. Why did these officers, who are all mature men, decide so easily to do this “investigation” in the manner that they did? If this question is asked from any common person from any part of Sri Lanka, it is quite certain that the common answer would be that “this is what they do all the time”.

Surely the hierarchy of the police are quite aware of this common practice, of harassment of the ordinary folk by their police throughout the country, year after year. They know that this is what has happened for over 200 years. Still, neither has a finger been moved to stop this nonsense, nor have the persons who hold authority over them, the parliamentarians, the Ministers, given the slightest thought to ask whether one can ever build a nation when the police are engaged in this kind of sheer silliness.

The next stage is even more shockingly trivial. The young men are taken to a safe place inside the police station itself and then they are severely beaten up. For what? To get them to confess and admit to something that they claim that they have never done. Now, according to the law of Sri Lanka, as contained in the CAT Act No 22 of 1994, each of these policemen who directly or indirectly participated in this torturing, have committed a grave crime, deserving a punishment not less than 7 years rigorous imprisonment and Rs 10,000 as fine.

Here, again, there is a stark incongruity. The alleged stealing of a few bags of paddy, even if these young men have done it (there is no proof of it at all), is only a petty crime. What the police officers have done according to the Sri Lankan statutes is a grave crime. Surely, if logic has any place in policing in Sri Lanka, these officers, their superiors, and their masters should see this incongruity.

But perhaps, because logic has nothing to do with all this, no one is able to see, that this is what sheer madness is. And as we have stated before, this madness is not something that affects the police occasionally, it happens all the time, in all the police stations, throughout the country.

In terms of supervising each of these police stations, there are two persons with socially important positions. One is called the Officer-in-charge of the police station (OIC) and the other is called the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP). Officers who hold such ranks throughout the country see the kind of madness that is seen in this case, everyday. And they approve it as the proper function of policing. Again, we may ask why they have distanced themselves so much from reason and logic, let alone the law.

Even as the IGP has talked to the father, promising that he would do all that he can, there is no report at all about these police officers who have violated Sri Lanka’s law relating to torture and ill-treatment, arrest, and production before court. The only thing that has been done is to transfer these officers to some other police station. And we are expected to believe this is an ominous act of punishment. Again, if you go back to the earlier incident, three young men suspected of alleged petty theft are severely tortured but the policemen, who committed the graver crime of torture and ill treatment, are only transferred.

Even in this instance, we could ask what has the IGP done to the relevant ASP?

After all, it is the ASP who is the immediate supervisor of the Police Station. His functions are laid down in the departmental orders and these orders have also evolved over more than a century.
The fact is, no ASP has ever been taken to task for not doing the job that he is supposed to do, which is to supervise the police station. If, even in a small company, the supervisor fails to do his or her job, he or she would be sacked. But, if a senior police officer fails to do their job, there is no punishment.

Again if you go back to the original incident, alleged theft of a few bags of paddy leads to arrest, detention, torture, and disappearance. But when a senior police officer fails to do his job, there is no punishment.

What is the scale that is applied here about “right and wrong”? Surely, that scale is not usually applied in the rest of the society. It simply goes to show, what the society considers rational and what has come to be regarded as rational within police stations are indeed very different.

The parents and relatives of Gayashan took all the precautions possible to protect his twin brother, because they were afraid that the police would catch hold of the twin brother and claim that they had found the missing Gayashan!

If that had happened, it is likely the twin brother would also have been beaten up, to force him to confess that he is Gayashan. Now this is the way local people have understood the police and the way the police mind works. As always, ordinary folk with their common sense understand the social absurdities that others refuse to see.

Again, we see an incongruity, bordering on lunacy. But those who hold authority do not want to open their eyes and see such a state of absurdity.

Now, this week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice announced the appointment of many Committees, to look into all forms of human rights abuses in the country. These Committees are an addition to a large number of other commissions.

We are made to believe that these committees and commissions will bring us our deliverance.

Are we to merely see the same circus being performed again and again?

The answer lies not only in Gayashan’s case. It also lies in how the sheer irrationalities mentioned above will be addressed, or in how they will remain unaddressed.

After the surrender, the spokesman for the police said that the police officers had made false entries in the books stating that only two boys were arrested, while in fact they had arrested three, and that actions would be taken against them for that. However, the more serious problem is the fact of the torture of the three young men, and torture is a serious offence punishable with 7 years of rigorous imprisonment and a RS 10,000 fine under CAT Act No 22 of 1994.

It was to escape torture that Gayashan ran away. However, at present, the police are ignoring the fact of torture, maybe because torture is practiced throughout all police stations. For several years now, there have been no prosecutions under the CAT Act, despite there being complaints of torture almost every day.

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    The police stations should have CCTV installed. No one needs to monitor the cops 24/7. However, when something unusual happens they can pull it out and easily investigate.

  • 3
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    Even if the lanken police has lot more to be improved, I respect them lot more them today had been before.

    Most work without the basic facilities.
    Not for an adequate salary
    If the policemen in Hambantota may have recorded them wrong- that should be investigated, but to attack them the way many are used to should be made further.

    I happened to meet up with police for a family dispute latey during my 3weeks stay inteh country. Many of them were professional enough to help me there. I must not compare it with their counterparts in Europe, but in lanken context, they the police is doing a great job really.

    Ruling political will should focus on getting lanken POLICE improved to the higher standards within shorter period of time – also providing them with new UNIFORM to change the image fully. Proper trainings could be provided thorugh workshops- if embassies would make every efforts to get the assistance from EU countries. If a single group of policemen are trained that way, they can train their colleagues back in the country. We have resources if we the politicians make genuine efforts to achieve higher levels.

  • 3
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    And this story DEFINITELY brought much to the nation. TOday s youth involve in all illegal issues – in general. They must be warned with rigorous punishements if not, they would promote only crimainl gangs that would go aginst own parents and teachers of the society. Internet culture has made them so sick, no respect towards the elders are obvious in almsot every where across the island nation. They hand on with smart phones. The good they can do in term sof new gadjets are far from their knoweldge.

  • 3
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    Yes Basil, it unfortunately happens in all Police Stations and the whole thing boils down to the officers attached to each Station has to get a certain amount of cases… That is why the traffic police stop mostly 3 wheeler and motorcycles for no reason… That is why police officers, despite them knowing who sells what (narcotics), mostly busts the poor person who uses it, or they hit on someone off the road and the Police put the ganja or heroin. The Police should be happy citizens are breaking the Law less so they do crazy things so the OIC can get his Stars, and the ASP gets his, and the cops get theirs… and the poor Citizen is harassed. I have been busted for riding under the influence of alcohol a few times and would you believe those officers were high on alcohol themselves???

    I know a few cops, there are some who enjoy drinking alcohol so often, it amazes me, on just the bribes they get….

    I think we Citizens should start harassing the Police too, if we see them doing wrong, we should have a right to arrest them too… But they all support each other…

  • 3
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    Samuel and Sama – Police is better now than before. May be. But that does not mean that they observe the law. How will you react if this incident happened to your brother or son.

    Why should anyone be beaten up before the courts pronounce him/her guilty. even if found guilty by courts, there is a sentence and torture is out, out!

    Have you seen at least one torture victim? Please do not peddle this rubbish.

    • 5
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      Never forget we just start new reforms with Police and their functions with a new IGP being appointed and not keeping a media spokesman as well accepted by developed world. Even in Germany, they dont have media spokesman for police. Now with all the new steps being introduced, they have to go along in the line of turning to civilized police.

      And the fact, if the boy ran away, it should also be investigated.

      I simply believe, if we expect a better service, at least they the policemen and police women should be given the double of the salarly now they are entitled to. That can gear up their courage to improve their services.
      Be it in EUropean world or in poor countries such ours should focus on the basics of the police if we expect a better service. Politicians should focus on that thananything else, with the rapidly rise of the crime rates than had been a decade ago.

  • 2
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    Jayaweera: There is some sense and truth in what were said by Samuel & Sama. You cannot just say “do not peddle this rubbish” and sweep that TRUTH under carpet. Just read what is reported on a daily basis, the types of crimes in the country. Just imagine a brother committing suicide after his own sister is made pregnant by him. A father having sexually molesting his own daughter arrested. A paramour taking an under aged girl, daughter of the woman with whom he is having an illegal affair to a house in the city and sexually attack her. How many such unreported cases are there in the country? Even a 65 year old woman is not spared. Can a woman travel in a crowded public transport bus without being subjected to sexual harassment? Have you had any experience of driving on the busy roads in Colombo and other cities without being subjected mental strain and frustrations because of the way these Three Wheel and Motor Cyclists not forgetting those SUVs, drive their vehicles? These and very many other instances that are reported and unreported are FACTS and TRUTH of the present day. In midst of all this the Law Enforcement Units, such as the Police Force has to work. That is why it is very important and needed to REVAMP this Unit without further delay. I wonder whether the present day Police Commission and the IGP are committed to undertake such an exercise, other than to get engage in appointments, promotions, transfers and punishments. Simply commenting on shortcomings and faults will not bring results. There is a huge stinking garbage disposal and recycling that have to be undertaken and unless that task is done, we will continue with this type of naming and blaming.

    • 0
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      Douglas

      There is a word for people like you whose mind is preoccupied with the type of events you have mentioned.

  • 2
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    The right to a lawyer by an accused, must be enshrined in the constitution.
    In western democracies, this ‘right’ is conveyed to anyone arrested by police.
    No accused can be interrogated unless his attorney is present.
    The Bar Association too should demand this right.

    If this is done, assaults and torture by police will be minimal.

    P.S
    So far, no one has been prosecuted for the deaths of citizens in custody – of police and prison officers.

  • 1
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    Agreed with the article. Am surprised no one has called for the resignation of the IGP! If this move is started off with a huge campaign I believe it would go a long way in sending the message across to the cops and politicians on then new Sri Lanka where injustice is short lived and accountability will haunt you unless one serves responsibility.

  • 1
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    Hello Pakaya this has nothing to do with the IGP. May be you are one of the Jarapassa loyalist.

  • 1
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    It looks, In sinhalae Human right watchers do not have anything other things to report except reporting kid’s mischief as reported here.

    CT has uploaded a photo which is exactly the not that kid. He is a young man not the child as shown in the photo.

  • 2
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    Basil, through his article, loudly wonders, why a small theft meriting a small punishment is dealt in a criminal manner which will earn a much bigger punishment for the police, if the law regarding that aspect is implemented.

    The answer I can offer is that today a thing called performance is evaluated and one of the thorny issues could be unsolved crimes. If you can solve them hook or by crook then you are meritorious. Towards that extent there is a section of society too who wants that. Bust the crime, hook or by crook. “Ah! when so and so was the OIC, he used to give real works to the reputed bad eggs and there was hardly any petty thefts in those days”, which is a standard saying. Still worse is the saying made hush-hush “During his time he used to do something to them and in a matter of months they are dead an gone”. Framing some one is something that our law-enforcement and even the state lawyers are famed of.

    It is through the sense of fear that Police, from time immemorial earn extras from the society. This aspect in our society is not limited to Police. Take the other powers that may be. If you are ill and cannot afford private hospitals, you definitely are at the mercy of nurses and attendants. Even consultant physicians and surgeons take their side at the expense of the patient. Take the case of the Administrative Service, the cream of the public service. Unfortunately it is full of thieves who pinch only during office hours and they are so privilleged as not to face any disciplinary action.

    So this is a greater malaise of the society than what Basil portrays in his article, limiting its scope to Police behaviour in this instance.

  • 0
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    Soma: Thank you. So sorry, I cannot help you getting hurt with my comment. Anyway, please feel free to mention that “word” so that other readers would also know it.

    • 0
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      Douglas, no worries we are the minority in sl. Each time visiting the country I get disturbed by the very manner lanken youth are upto in public buses, bus halts or anywhere they roam -the indecency has been on a rise, rapid manner as no other times before. They dont care anyone today- even elderly have been attacked and treated with indifference. All these are signs to have no rigorous laws against crimes and crime controls.
      I dont take the side of police or the charged boy -but we too have young men within our circles would more likely run away when being arrested for their ill performances. So every household shold be very aware of this today.
      Hanging only on smart phones, they just distract their schooling or young life, if these young chaps would not have been warned about their thefts – he or she will never become a fair person to the society.

      May be police have threated or beaten to the boy or the others but investigations already completed proved that nothing like physical harm is seen on this body…. in this reality to further attack police is not what we have to do.
      In a country even every 2nd is no vigilent and anti for the sky rising level of crimes day to another, average people s thoughts should not be heard…. better to go to parliament and get new amendments related to rigorous laws passed in controlling the high crimes.

      Balumgala has been reporting that prisoners sitting inthe prisons have been connected to outside world in continue their criminal acts. Nobody seems to be alert on this.
      Please law and order men,… react accordingly else, we will have to see only the young chaps like Namals or Yoshita being grown in this society…

      Namal and Yoshita – will be come the synonyms to high crimes found among the youth today… they should have taken the life of that young man Wasim – no doubt about that…. we dont want mothers to loose their young sons that way… All gods should see it right let alone today.

  • 1
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    Basil fernando0 and the AHRC found themselves standing on their own tale on Gayashan matter.

    Suddenly basil Fernando & AHRC make gayashan episode evolve around Lunacy.
    It was Lunacy all right when Denmark foreign Office who has a finder on AHRC recognised the Eelam as a Country and back peddled on that statement.ITS LUNACY ALRIGHT IN DENMARK & AT AHRC.

    TORTURED??? Wonder Basil F’do who is wining and dinning in Sri lanka these days with Clergy and his cohorts read the report issued by JMO Matara after examining Gayashan. This is how NGOs twist the truth.

    [Edited out]

  • 1
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    Gayashan’s Case Exposes An Embedded Lunacy

    this is just bullying.

    Police should complain to govt human rights agency for bullying by AHRC.

  • 0
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    the only lunacy is basil,you sent everyone nuts here.anymore stuff from you and we all will become lunatics.He goes for a call of nature and when he comes out the policeman is not there.First time i think it has happened in the world,where you arrest a guy,he goes to the bathroom and the cop is missing.has the IGP interdicted that policeman?why only two people were arrested as per the records and not this chap too.Has the IGP interdicted the fellow who wrote the stuff?

    Ranil also smells a rat and wants a thorough investigation.he feels someone is trying to embarrass sirisena when he speaks at the UN.

  • 0
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    Ranil also smells a rat and wants a thorough investigation.he feels someone is trying to embarrass sirisena when he speaks at the UN. SHANKAR

    Ranil is coooooool !!! Smells nothing,he does not have to think of anyone to embarass anyone.
    Sirisena who says he gathers information from the media is an embarrasment to himself and will want to findout who spirited away the COP? Was it Basil F’do of AHRC or anyone else?.

    [Edited out]

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