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NewsTorture, Threats and Harassment against Podikumarihami and her family by the Mahiyangana Police

Torture, Threats and Harassment against Podikumarihami and her family by the Mahiyangana Police

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Image: Podikumarihami.

(07th September, 2018)  Today there was an attempt to plant a parcel of Cannabis at Podikumarihami’s house. Her estranged husband had come home after many days, and planted it under her mattress. Having noticed him going near her bed, Podikumarihami had become suspicious of his behavior and gone to check under her mattress, only to find a parcel of Cannabis there. Thereafter, Podikumarihami and her son had questioned her estranged husband, and he had divulged that officers from the Mahiyangana police had given him the parcel to be planted in Podikumarihami’s house. Thereafter, Podikumarihami and her son had taken him to Mahiyanganaya police and complained about this incident. The police officers have dismissed her complaint by saying “these things happen,” and have not taken any action till now. So Podikumarihami returned home and burnt the parcel of Cannabis.

We the undersigned activists and civil society organisations condemn the continuous attacks, threats, persecution and torture against Podikumarihami and her family by the Mahiyanganaya police. We also strongly condemn the failure by the State including senior police authorities, independent commissions, the Attorney General and the judiciary to ensure effective protection for Podikumarihami and her family and hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

Podikumarhihami is a 50 year old mother of five children, the youngest aged 19 and 13 years. She is a street vendor who earns her living by selling coconuts, beetle leaf and other produce in Poojanagaraya, Mahiyangananaya, in the Badulla District of Sri Lanka. Since around 2006 Podikumarihami has faced serious and continuous violence and harassment by the police compelling her to give up the land which she owns so the police could profit by illegal sand mining in the area.

Podikumarihiami and her son have been arrested several times on false charges and beaten by the Mahiyangana police. On 05th of November 2017, her son, Sumesh, who was 17 years old at the time was severely tortured inside the Mahiyangana Police Station and hospitalized as a result of his injuries. The local Magistrate who was informed of the torture, refused to take action against the police and instead warned Podikumarihami that if she didn’t respect the police, the magistrate (was is married to a senior police officer), will teach her a lesson. Podikumarihami was later arrested on a baseless charge of failing to wear white attire to court and remanded for 14 days. The criminal case against her continues to date and she has been warned by the Magistrate not to retain any lawyer from the Mahiyangana bar and to represent herself.

In the most recent incident, on 15th August 2017, the Mahiyangana police attempted to arrest Podikumarihami from her residence and when she refused on account of a women officer not being present, they beat her and tried to force her into the vehicle. The police also severely beat her son-in-law, Asanka Dilshan who rushed to her aid. They threatened that they would find drugs at Dilshan’s house before the end of the day.

At around 4.30 pm on 17th August, a team of police officers from the Mahiyangana police, searched Podikumarihami’s and Dilshan’s houses, in their presence, and failed to locate drugs. The police conducted a second search at around 6 pm and on this occasion, family members were prevented from entering the house/being present during the search. However Podikumarihami who was looking through a window, saw the police plant a parcel (purportedly of illicit drugs) inside a brown cupboard in Dilshan’s house and inside a laundry bin at her house. The police ignored her objections that the drugs were illegally planted and arrested Podikumarihami and Dilshan that day. Podikumarihami was released on bail the following day and Asanka Dilshan was remanded on fabricated charges.

On 17th August 2017, at around 02.30 pm, a team of police officers entered Podikumarihami’s compound and attempted to arrest her daughter (Chamila Malkanthi). When she objected to the arrest, the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Mahiyangana Police slapped Podikumarihami to the ground and repeatedly kicked her in the stomach, chest and arms with his boots. When she knelt before him and begged not to arrest her daughter on false charges, the OIC kicked her in the back and two officers Senadheera and Wimalasena caught her by the hair and flung her head against the wall. The police threatened to shoot Podikumarihami if she complained about the attack. On 20th August 2017, Podikumarihami was summoned to the Mahiyangana Police Station and warned not to pursue any complaints against the police.

Despite these threats, Podikumarihami filed a complaint the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) bearing No. HRC/BD/147/17 and an inquiry was scheduled for 27th November 2017. On the date of the inquiry, Podikumarihami’s son, Sumesh, was arrested by the Mahiyangana police on false charges, in a clear act of reprisal. Although no drugs were found on his possession, the OIC of the Mahiyangana police announced that he would plant drugs on Sumesh. The OIC also directed a woman police officer to plant drugs on Podikumarihami and arrest her, although no officer stepped forward to do this. Under pressure from the police and due to lack of legal representation, Sumesh has since pleaded guilty to possession of 900 grams of heroin before the Mahiyangana Magistrate.

Podikumarihami has complained against the Mahiyangana police to the Attorney General (AG), and the National Police Commission (NPC) by letters dated 17.11.2017. She has also filed further complaints dated 23.11.2017 to the HRCSL, DIG (Badulla), NPC, Special Investigation Unit (SIU), and the AG, against actions of the Mahiyangana Police. Podikumarihami is informed that the police SIU has completed an inquiry into the incident of torture on 17.08.2017 and referred the case to the AG for framing charges, under the Torture Act. A fundamental rights application bearing No: SCFR 184/2018 is also pending before the Supreme Court.

Despite the measures by the SIU and the AG and the support of lawyers and civil society activists in the area, the Mahiyanaga police continue their campaign of harassment and threats against Podikumarihamy, pressuring her to withdraw all complaints against the police. The actions of the Sri Lanka Police have compromised the safety of Podikumarihamy and her family, violated their right peace, security and dignity, impact her son’s education and compromised her ability to earn a livelihood and support her family.

We call on the Sri Lankan State to ensure effective protection and redress for Podikumarihami and accountability for those responsible by;

  • Ensure the protection of Podikumarihami and her family, and provide guarantees against non-recurrence of reprisals and attacks by any member of the police force or their associates;
  • Call on the Attorney General to review the evidence and charges against Podikumarihami and her family members, and withdraw all charges based on fabricated/planted evidence;
  • Ensuring a credible and effective inquiry by the SIU into the incident on 17th August 2017 and providing Podikimarihami with clear information about its progress/outcome
  • Calling on the Attorney General of Sri Lanka to frame charges under the Torture Act without further delay and ensure timely prosecution of those responsible;
  • Calling on the National Police Commission to conduct an independent and impartial inquiry with immediate effect into the conduct of the OIC and other officers of the Mahiyangana Police Station and take disciplinary measures to hold such officers accountable.
  • Call on the Judicial Service Commission to inquire into the conduct of the Mahiyangana Magistrate, Thushani Thenabadu, who being the wife of a senior police officer, has purported to act in a partial manner that has seriously prejudiced Podikumarihami’s safety and increased the impunity with which the Mahiyangana police operate;
  • Call upon the National Police Commission to inquire into the large number of allegations against the Sri Lanka Police, who are accused of routinely planting false evidence/illicit drugs against persons in order to threatened, intimidate and obtain false convictions.
  • Ensure adequate compensation for Podikumarihami and her family for the damage caused by the actions of the Mahiyangana Police;

Signed by;
Individuals

  1. A. Don Kingsley Karunaratne – Rule of Law Forum, Colombo
  2. A. M. Bastian Coonghe
  3. Adrian Pereira – Malaysia
  4. Advocate George Pulikuthiyil – Jananeethi, India
  5. Ajith Dharmakeerthi MSc, CITP, FRAS
  6. Ajith Hadley Perera – Negombo
  7. Anaz Abuthahir
  8. Anberiya Hanifa
  9. Annouchka Wijesinghe
  10. Antonio Oposa Jr. – Philippines
  11. Anuradha Bernard – Independent Journalist
  12. Anuradha Udunuwara
  13. Asma Rahman
  14. Athula  Vithanage
  15. B. Gowthaman
  16. Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe
  17. Bruce Van Voorhis – Blogger, Chartered Software Engineer, Fellow of Royal Astronomical Society
  18. Buddhima Padmasiri
  19. Chathurika Senanayake
  20. Deanne Uyangoda
  21. Dharani Gamage
  22. Dharshanie Alles
  23. Dr. Muzzammil Cader – Moderator, Samadana/m
  24. Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu
  25. Dr. Sumathy Sivamohan
  26. Dylan Perera
  27. E.M. Bandara Menike
  28. Emil van der Poorten – A Defender of Human Rights
  29. Ermiza Tegal – Attorney-at-Law
  30. Esra Mandosir – Human Rights Defender, West Papua
  31. Euphrasia Silva
  32. Faizun Zackariya – Rights Activist
  33. Farah Mihlar
  34. Filo Hirota – Japan
  35. Godfrey Malarnesan
  36. Godfrey Yogarajah
  37. Hareesz Rasheed
  38. Harshani Bogahawatte
  39. Helan Thamaral – Sampath Sansada
  40. Herman Kumara
  41. Inthumathy Hariharathamotharan – Viluthu
  42. Jake Oorloff
  43. James Tan – Hong Kong
  44. Jaufer Uthuma Lebbe
  45. Jo Baker
  46. Joanne Senn
  47. Jude L. Fernando
  48. K.S. Ratnavale – Attorney-at-Law
  49. Kim Chishi – North-East India
  50. Kusal Perera – Journalist and Political Critic
  51. Lakshman Gunasekara
  52. Lal Wijenayake  – General  Secretary, United Left Front
  53. Lucille Abeykoon
  54. Luis de Oliveira Sampaio – Justice System Monitoring Programme, Timor Leste
  55. M. Kusum Silva – Human Rights Protection Shelter
  56. M.C.M. Iqbal
  57. Marisa de Silva
  58. N.M. Kalugampitiya
  59. Niranjani Roland
  60. P. Iranga Silva
  61. P.N. Singham
  62. Padma Pushpakanthi – Savisthri National Women’s Movement
  63. Patrick Earle – Sydney, Australia
  64. Perakum Liyanagama
  65. Philip Setunga
  66. Quintus Colombage
  67. R.M.B Senanayake (Retd C.C.S)
  68. Rajiva Wijesinha
  69. Ramya Vithanage
  70. Rev. Anura Perera
  71. Rev. Fr. Ananda Fernando – Sampath Sansada
  72. Rev. Fr. Bonnie Mendes
  73. Rev. Fr. Jeyabalan Croos
  74. Rev. Fr. Manoj Rasanjana, OP
  75. Rev. Fr. Reid Shelton Fernando
  76. Rev. Fr. Rohan Silva OMI
  77. Rev. Fr. Saman Perera – Moderator, Presbytery of Lanka, and Minister, Scots Kirk, Kandy
  78. Rev. Fr. Terence Fernando
  79. Rev. Sr. Beatrice Fernando
  80. Rev. Sr. Eymard Marie – Sampath Sansada
  81. Rev. Sr. Fatimanayaki
  82. Rev. Sr. Helen Fernando
  83. Rev. Sr. Mabel Rodrigo
  84. Rev. Sr. Mary Shirani (RGS)
  85. Rev. Sr. Matilda Lazarus
  86. Rev. Sr. Nichola Emmanuel
  87. Rev. Sr. Shanthini Fernando
  88. Rev. Sr. Sylvia Cullen
  89. Rosana Fodesta
  90. Ruki Fernando
  91. Ruvan Weerasinghe
  92. Sampath Samarakoon – Editor, Vikalpa
  93. Sarath Silva
  94. Shalomi Daniel
  95. Shenali De Silva
  96. Shivanthi Senanayake
  97. Shyamali Ranaraja
  98. Sooriyamoorthi Vivodan
  99. Srinath Perera – Attorney-at-Law & General Secretary, Free Trade Union Centre
  100. Sunanda Deshapriya
  101. Swasthika Arulingam – Attorney-at-Law
  102. Thushari Madahapola – Women’s Action for Social Justice
  103. Thyagi Ruwanpathirana
  104. Vasantha Premaratne
  105. Victor Ivan
  106. Visaka Dharmadasa

Organisations

  1. Alliance Development Trust (ADT)
  2. Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD)
  3. Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)
  4. INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre
  5. National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL)
  6. National Fisheries Solidarity Organization (NAFSO)
  7. The Grassrooted Trust
  8. The Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice
  9. Women for Justice and Peace in Sri Lanka (London, UK)

Human Rights Office – Kandy

¾ A, Digana Road, Nattarampotha, Kandy

+94 81-2424511 hrokandy@gmail.com

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