BASL blamed for being ‘silent’

‘Media thwarted police ‘cover-up’ of Embilipitiya killing’


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Criminal lawyer Hemantha Warnakulasuriya, PC yesterday claimed that an attempt by the police to ‘cover up’ alleged killing of a father of one in Embilipitiya had failed due to relentless media coverage of the event.

The media onslaught thwarted a determined police effort to claim a brutal killing as a suicide.

Warnakulasuriya emphasised that the failure on the part of IGP N. K. Illangakoon to act swiftly and decisively in the wake of 29-year-old Sumith Prasanna Jayawardena’s killing as well as some statements made by Police Spokesman ASP Ruwan Gunasekera had caused irreparable damage. Warnakulasuriya called for Gunasekera’s resignation as the police spokesman.

Appearing on Sirasa ‘Pethikada’ anchored by Bandula Jayasekera, yesterday, PC Warnakulasuriya warned of dire consequences unless the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration

took tangible measures against those who had been allegedly responsible for the killing as well as the ‘cover-up.’

Warnakulasuriya pointed out that unlike in many other cases, there hadn’t been absolutely no political interference though police headquarters engaged in a despicable attempt to deceive the public.

The police top brass acted as if they were running a police state,

Warnakulasuriya said, castigating the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) as well as various other lawyers’ outfits for being silent. Warnakulasuriya stressed that the BASL and those who had been at the forefront of successful regime change campaign, too, should have taken up the cudgels on behalf of the Embilipitiya victim.

Warnakulasuriya flayed Police Chief Illangakoon for not handing over the Embilipitiya investigation to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) against the backdrop of public protests. The PC emphasised that the Police Chief could have avoided public criticism over his handling of the investigation by handing it over to the CID.

In an obvious reference to a statement made by Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake in Parliament, the PC said that the police action couldn’t be defended under any circumstances. Referring to various statements made by the victim’s wife, members of her family as well as those who had witnessed the police attack, Warnakulasuriya alleged that the incident had occurred because the police had demanded liquor. Acknowledging that poorly paid police were struggling to make ends meet, Warnakulasuriya stressed that a comprehensive investigation was required to establish the circumstances under which the police entered the premises where the alleged killing had taken place.

Responding to another query, Warnakulasuriya briefly discussed widespread incidents involving American police, particularly the killing of Blacks by white policemen. Warnakulasuriya also referred to courts dismissing some such cases involving white policemen and Black victims.

He also mentioned President Maithripala Sirisena releasing an LTTE cadre convicted for conspiring to assassinate him during his tenure as the General Secretary of the SLFP and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa accommodating in his Cabinet a UNP politician who had been involved in the LTTE. Warnakulasuriya said that the CID had established that the politician had facilitated the movement of an LTTE cadre tasked with assassinating the then President.

The much-touted National Police Commission (NPC), too, had been silent though the media vigorously pursued the Embilipitiya incident.

The senior attorney paid a glowing tribute to UNP MP Dr. Kavinda Jayawardana for backing the Embilipitiya victim’s family though he represented the Gampaha District. The young UNPer’s efforts should be lauded, the attorney-at-law said, adding that the failure on the part of the government to address the grievances would be a major setback to the Yahapalana administration.

Warnakulasuriya told The Island that the civil society and various other interested parties would have intervened if the incident had been of ethnic nature.

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