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Friday, July 19, 2024

Allegations levelled against the police by Sri Lanka uni student leader, Mudalige are serious enough for in-depth investigation

(Editorial, the Morning)Inter-University Students’ Federation (IUSF) Convenor Wasantha Mudalige’s release is not just the end of his detention under the oppressive Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act (PTA). Given the nature and gravity of the allegations he levelled following his release, his release could also be the beginning of a new discourse on how State-backed oppression continues despite pressure from local and international actors against it.

Some of the allegations levelled by Mudalige are extremely serious, as they pertain to abuse of power by the Police, conspiracies against protestors, State-backed, systematic oppression, and death threats. Overall, these allegations raise concerns about the rule of law in the country.

Even though the Government and the relevant authorities are yet to respond to Mudalige’s allegations, needless to say, the court of public opinion has already found the Government and the Police force guilty. This judgement is based predominantly on the widespread crackdown unleashed by the Government through the law enforcement and defence forces personnel on anti-Government protestors. In a context where a number of clear cases of abuse of power, State-backed oppression, and violation of Constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental rights and human rights have been reported since last April, similar allegations levelled by a prominent student activist receiving support even before presenting firm evidence is not surprising.

The Government must understand that this is not a mere clash between Mudalige/protestors and the Government and that this is in fact a matter that has a direct and considerable impact on the country’s economic revival. Unfortunately, the President, who is said to have an exceptional understanding of, and experience in, maintaining healthy ties with foreign countries, appears to have forgotten that a lot of international parties that are in a position to assist Sri Lanka are seriously concerned about the state of human rights, rule of law, and democracy in Sri Lanka. In a situation where Sri Lanka’s economy is desperately in need of external assistance, giving the international community a major reason to doubt the sincerity of the Government’s promises about establishing the rule of law is simply alarming.

At the same time, at both the national and international levels, Mudalige’s incident is another prime example of how oppressive the PTA is, and how the PTA could still be used to oppress the people despite amendments. Most importantly, this incident shows that the Government does not hesitate to use the PTA when it feels threatened and that it is not concerned about the rule of law or human rights. Therefore, it is a national and international need to repeal the PTA, and the Government must take prompt measures to reverse the PTA’s adverse impacts on the people who have been detained indefinitely under the PTA.

The Government and/or the relevant authorities, especially the Police force, must launch an in-depth, impartial investigation into this incident. The objectives of these investigations should be about determining the reasons for allegedly taking Mudalige to various places unrelated to the allegations against him, allegedly detaining Mudalige at various places that had no jurisdiction over his charges, taking action against police officers that allegedly threatened Mudalige with death, and determining the truth behind certain police officers’ alleged statements implying the Police were behind several high-profile custodial deaths. If the allegations are found to be baseless, the police officers and politicians mentioned by Mudalige by name must pursue legal action against him for defamation in order to clear their names.

The Government must not hesitate to conduct the necessary investigations, because, if these reveal that Mudalige’s allegations are untrue, that will be favourable to the Government and the country’s reputation. If the Government decides to remain silent or merely verbally deny Mudalige’s claims, that will only further strengthen the notion that Mudalige’s assertions are true.

TM

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