An enterprising effort by an investigative journalist using the Right to Information Act (RTI Act) to unearth the truth behind the killing of two University students in Jaffna as a result of the police shooting at them in October 2015 has resulted in a shocking discovery that the police explanations for the deaths were a string of lies and that particularly, the students had not been drunk, as claimed by the police.
Tharindu Jayawardene of Lankadeepa successfully applied for the post mortem reports from the Jaffna Hospital under the RTI Act which established that the police reports were false.
The two students, 24-year-old Sundiraja Sulakshan of Kandarodai in Chunnakam who had been studying media at the Jaffna University and Nadarasa Gajan of Kilinochchi studying political science at the Jaffna University died in late 2015 after police shot them allegedly for disobeying orders to stop their motorcycle at a roadblock at the Kulappidi Junction. It transpired that Sulakshan had taken his friend for a social event the previous day had been returning on his motorcycle to drop Gajan off.
The police had first tried to say that the deaths were due to an accident and then later claimed that the students had been drunk. However, the post mortem report found no traces of alcohol in their systems and found also ammunition lodged in the body of the rider of the cycle, Sundiraja Sulakshan while the death of the other had been caused by a grievous fall.
At the time, the Government Information Department declared that five policemen had been arrested in connection with the student deaths. After local protests, a special team from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) conducted the investigation but it is not clear as to the status of the court proceedings in that connection. The accused policemen were given bail late last year.
Trigger-happy law enforcement officers shooting anyone whom they see as errant roadusers on sight have been a major problem in Sri Lanka with several such incidents in the South as well, one being the shooting of Nawalage Kushan Thakshila Cooray (35) of Gampaha on 23rd October 2017.
No effective action has been taken either by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), the National Police Commission (NPC) which has been labeled as one of the least satisfactory independent commissions or by the Ministry of Law and Order.