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30 per cent distrust the Police, 47 per cent keep mum fearing reprisals – Results of sociological survey in Kahawatte

State social services in the area dysfunctional with official neglect
As killings and abductions continue in the Kahawatte area of the Ratnapura district, a sociological survey conducted in the area has prompted the transfer of 31 policemen and officers out of the area on Monday, with more to follow
 The survey revealed that 30% of the Kahawatte area residents distrust the police, while 47% more opted to remain silent for fear of criminals interfering with their lives, as they are in cahoots with the police officers.

The Defence Ministry and the Sri Jayawardhanapura University had conducted a survey on the sociological factors affecting current criminal pattern (with special reference to the Kahawatte police area), under the guidance of Professor Mayura Samarakoon of the Sociology Dept of Sri Jayawardhanapura University.

As the survey findings were revealed, the second abduction within three weeks was reported. G. Wickramasinghe, a murder suspect in the U. Ariyawathi case, was abducted last Tuesday, from his house in Nilagama, Kahawatte.His family complained to the police on January 16, that an armed group, apparently security personnel, abducted the murder suspect. He had been released along with three other suspects for lack evidence, after being in remand for 14 months. One of the suspects who was released with him was killed in December last year.

The first abduction was two weeks ago, that of Sarath Nandana, 32, prime suspect in the first double murder which took place at the beginning of 2012. At the time of his abduction, he was residing with his sister-in-law in Weliweriya, Gampaha.

He was out on bail, after being in jail for 8 months, and court had ordered him to reside 100 km away from the Kahawatte region. The family had complained to the police that an armed group had abducted the former suspect. They also claim that the police have not taken any action to locate him.

The criminal activities in the Kahawatte area began with the killing of 56-year-old Sellaiya Maria on July 21 2008, when she was strangled to death at Kotakethana, in the Opatha Estate area.

The second killing was that of a 52-year-old woman also strangled to death on November 19, 2008, in Kotakethana. These were followed by two killings in 2010 and four killings in 2011, all women, bringing a total of eight women killed in the Kotakethana area.

At the beginning of the year, the first twin killing of 52-year-old Nayana Nilmini and her daughter, Kavindya Chathurangani, was reported from the area, which continued with two other double killings where the bodies were burnt.�Furthermore, the killing of a 66-year-old woman who was hacked to death, brought the tally to 15.

As the mysterious killings continued, a survey was launched in the Kahawatte region on September 17 concluding on November 7. The questionnaire had 102 questions based on 22 sociological factors, mainly on family background, attitude towards State institutions, socio–psychological aspect, economic background, interaction between State officials and the rural community, religious bonding, which affects the community in Kahawatte region and its neighbouring regions in the Ratnapura area. The survey results were handed over to Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa in the last week of 2012.

Professor Samarakoon told the Sunday Times that the Kahawatte community distrusts the police as a few corrupt officers and their politicisation have compelled the honest police officers to transfer to other postings, leaving the innocent civilians in the lurch.

“According to the research, the police had not taken any initiatives to investigate the first three killings, till the media publicised the fourth kiiling,” said Professor Samarakoon.

According to the survey, 293 people lodged complaints with the police on various personal issues, of which 122 were women, while 424 people live under constant threat from criminals. Consequent to the complaints, 52 males had been summoned as suspects. It is further revealed that, due to the negligence of the police, there had been conflicts among the public.

Women make up 53% in the Kotakethana area, while 7.79% are women above 60 years. Of the 1025 families 90 are with women as single parents, with 89% of the residents living in fear of being killed, and 90% of the community convinced that the killings were premeditated and the killers familiar with the lifestyle and habitats of the victims.

The survey further revealed that Skills Development officers, Child Rights Promotion officers, Youth Services officers and Social Services officers responsible for improving education standards and the professional development of youngsters, had neglected their duties, failing to provide the necessary guidance and impart professional skills, driving the youth to work in mines and rivers for precious stones at Rs. 500 a week.Professor Samarakoon stated that six persons hold degrees, 85 have completed the Advanced Level examination, 1,684 dropped out after Grade 5 and 430 had not gone to school.

The survey also revealed that the chief counsellor of the area, the monk at the temple, had neglected his responsibility in serving the spiritual and moral needs of the villagers, resulting in 16 killings and two abductions in the region so far. “The psychological background of the murder suspects is that of children who grew up within broken families, or brought up in a negative environment.” said Professor Samarakoon.

Senior SP Vaas Gunawardane told the Sunday Times that investigations are underway to find the two missing suspects and apprehend the armed group responsible for their abductions.
By Chamal Weerakkody and Lasantha Niroshana


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