By Basil Fernando –
On February 4 the chief monk of Sunandonanda of Egodauyana, Moratuwa was assassinated by a group of persons during the evening. According to reports, at 5:30 pm and again at 7:30 pm, the chief monk made complaints to the Moratuwa Police stating that he was facing an imminent threat to his life and sought the protection of the police. The complaint made at 7:30 pm was done in person at the Moratuwa Police Station. It was shortly after his return from the station that he was brutally assassinated. In fact, the chief monk made 16 complaints to the same police station, four complaints to Police headquarters and another four complaints to the Ministry of Defense.
Had there been any action relating to these complaints the life of this monk might have been saved.
However, police inaction into complaints does not come as any surprise in Sri Lanka. The Asian Human Rights Commission itself has many experiences of complaints being made, even to the Inspector General of Police himself, which have not led to any credible result. This includes the two most recent complaints made to the IGP regarding the complaint of a 43-year-old woman who was a rape victim against a chief monk at Kelaniya. During 2012 the AHRC made a total of 46 complaints regarding torture and ill-treatment of persons at various police stations around Sri Lanka. All these should have led to inquiries under the CAT Act, No. 22 of 1994 which prescribes 7 years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 10,000/= for acts of torture. At present no complaints relating to torture and ill-treatment are investigated.
What is worse is that in several cases, some of which involved murder, the Attorney General has filed papers with the magistrates withdrawing further inquiries into such complaints.
A request for protection following an imminent threat to life is one of the last pleas that a human being can make in an attempt to safeguard his life. When such a plea is made to the police it is a plea that is made to the state. It is from the state that the person is asking for protection at the final hours of his life. When the state does not respond even at that moment there is nothing such a person can do to preserve his life other than to resort to violence himself in self defense. If those who wish to harm him are better armed, as in the case of the chief monk, then he has no chance of that avenue of escape either.
It would be futile now, even to ask for action to be taken against the Officer-in-Charge of the Moratuwa Police Station for his neglect which caused the loss of a person’s life. Such a request for action against the police for the commissions and omissions which result in violations of other people’s rights no longer lead to any kind of reprisals from the higher ranking officers.
What this practically demonstrates is the nature of the transformation of the state that is happening in Sri Lanka. The most primary task for which the state was created was the purpose of the preservation of life by way of protection offered by the state. The very reason why people agree to obey the commands of the state is the offer that the state makes to them to protects their lives. In Sri Lanka things have come to such a state that the government does not even fulfill this basic task.
The loss of the chief monk’s life shortly after he requested help from the Moratuwa police is a grim reminder of the utter carelessness of the state authorities to fulfill their most fundamental obligations. Rizana Nafeek died in Saudi Arabia by way of beheading also after several years of failure by the state to make the most basic interventions on her behalf that the state owed to her. She died, charged for a murder which never happened and we in Sri Lanka were unable to defend her even in a situation such as that.
Perhaps the monk, when he went to ask for help from the police station was living in a dream world. That is perhaps what all of us are doing.
For further information please see the AHRC statement: