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Sri Lanka: Police intimidate Rathupaswala witnesses


The Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) yesterday charged that officers attached to the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) are intimidating the witnesses who have given evidence on the Rathupaswala incident. The BASL charged that witnesses giving evidence at the magisterial inquiry, held in connection with the three persons who died during the demonstration by the residents of Rathupaswala demanding clean drinking water, were obstructed from freely articulating evidence by the CCD officers, who kept disturbing them with murmurs.

Attorney-at-Law, Upul Jayasuriya, who appeared on behalf of the BASL, made this accusation during the magisterial inquiry, when the OIC of Malwathu Hiripitiya Police Station, Chief Inspector Sanath Bandara Mahelagoda, was giving evidence before the Chief Magistrate of Gampaha, Tikiri Jayatileka. A number of lawyers who were listening to the proceedings in the Magistrate’s Court too stood up and confirmed the veracity of the accusation, saying they too understood what was going on, while adding, “We were also watching how the evidence was being recorded.”

Jayasuriya further said, “It is after securing Court permission that we interrogated the witnesses. We did not ask stupid questions. While we were questioning the witnesses, the police officers were making noises. We request the officers to allow the witnesses to tell what they really want to reveal.”

In response to the charge, Neville Silva of the CCD said, “We have no need to coach any witness on how to give evidence. We only objected to the repetition of the same question.

ASP Nuwan Wedasinghe said, “We have no necessity to murmur. We are only there to assist the Court at the Magisterial Inquiry. Nothing of what the lawyers alleged, happened here. They are trying to convey something else.”

The Chief Magistrate said, “The police and the lawyers can only render assistance to the Court. During a Magisterial Inquiry other parties cannot take part. Please understand that clearly.”

 By Ishara Ratnakara

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