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TORTURE, THREATS AND

HARASSMENT AGAINST
PODIKUMARIHAMI AND HER FAMILY
BY THE MAHIYANGANA POLICE

Image: Podikumarihami.

07/09/2018

(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
20thAugust 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
107. Alliance Development Trust (ADT)
108. Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD)
109. Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)
110. INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre
111. National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL)
112. National Fisheries Solidarity Organization (NAFSO)
113. The Grassrooted Trust
114. The Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice
115. 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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