The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information concerning Nawalage Kushan Thakshila Cooray (35) of the Minuwangoda Police Division in the Gampaha District. He was extra-judicially killed by Officers attached to the Special Task Force (STF) of the Sri Lankan Police Department. The victim was shot dead by the Officers while he was travelling in a vehicle with his friends. However, Police defended their action stating that the victim and his friends posed a threat to their lives by firing on them first. Police did not sustain any damage to their official vehicles. Why is that? The relatives of the victim recall their rights to justice through an independent investigation into the killing. This case testifies to the extraordinary collapse of the Rule of Law in Sri Lanka. The unwritten State policy of combating crime by killing suspects has allowed the Police to commit murder while enjoying impunity.
Following is information received by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) about Nawalage Kushan Thakshila Cooray (35) of Nilpanagoda, Minuwangoda in the Gampaha District. Kushan was a resident of the Minuwangoda Police Division. On 23 October 2017, Kushan was travelling with his friends in a vehicle belonging to one of them. A former member of the Western Provincial Council, with his security guards, was also in the car. They were travelling to take care of some personal affairs. They chose to drive along the Divulapitiya-Dunagaha-Ballapana Road to divert from the heavily congested main road. The many school buses cause traffic to be heavy at these times.
At 1 p.m., their car came under heavy fire from a vehicle following them and their driver stopped the car. Police Officers in camouflage dress came up to Kushan’s vehicle. They arrested all those inside the car. The Officers appeared to be following orders every step of the way. It is obvious that they did not follow any notices in respect to arrests and examination of civilians.
Kushan was shot, falling down on the floor of the vehicle. Kushan’s friends were taken out of the car and made to lie down in the drain duct on the side of the road. Officers brought a supposedly wounded Kushan to the Divulapitiya Government Hospital for evaluation. On admission the doctors pronounced him dead.
After some time, the Police issued a Media communiqué. They stated that a Special Task Force (STF) trailed a vehicle following information that a group of people were en route to commit a crime.
They stated that the STF vehicle was fired on first by people in Kushan’s car. Only then did they return fire.
However, Police never mentioned what crime was supposedly about to committed by Kushan and his friends. They did not come up with any other evidence either. Although Police later produced 2 revolvers which were said to belong to Kushan’s friends, they failed to reveal the fact that the legally issued weapons were for the protection of the politician in the car. The Police attempted to explain how Kushan’s car posed a threat to the Police van. If indeed they were fired upon first, how is it that not one of the Officers was injured at all?
Kushan’s relatives vehemently refuted the weak explanations presented by the Police. They elaborated the fact that if Kushan or any of his friends fired at the Police first, then some Officers should be hurt or at least injured. No Policemen were harmed. They categorically refuted all Police allegations. They accused the Police of unwarrantly, unlawfully and indiscriminately firing on unknown, innocent civilians and justifying the brutal killing by their Officers.
Kushan’s relatives maintain the position that he was illegally and extra-judicially murdered by the Police. Indications suggest that this is another shocking example of non-action by the Sri Lankan Police System. It extra-judicially kills, eliminating suspects who are often innocent, in the guise of crime prevention. (By AHRC)