Investigations into the killing of two youth Dhanushka Aponso and Dinesh Tharanga Fernando while in the custody of the Angulana police, for a minor offence, took a bizarre turn after an eyewitness came forward to give an account of the events that unfolded on Wednesday night (August 12).
Police have recorded his statement and are carrying out their investigations into the killings that have not only angered the area residents but also shocked the whole country.
|Angry residents confront officers at the police station on Thursday.
The discovery of the bodies of the two youth, sparked a violent reaction from the residents in the area on Thursday morning, resulting in the arrest of the OIC and four other police officers who are now being held at the Mt. Lavinia police station. The Police initially claimed the boys were arrested for drug peddling but these claims were soon retracted as the anger among the residents welled.
The eyewitness to the incident, Damith Kumara, said he was arrested along with his uncle Basil Fernando on Tuesday August 11 and kept in the police cell without any food or charges against them for two nights.
Speaking to the Sunday Times Damith described what he witnessed from his cell the following night when Dhanushka and Dinesh were brought into the police station. “About 10.30 p.m. a woman from the area walked into the station with two others to complain that two boys had held her hand on the pretext of asking for a box of matches. An hour later the two boys were brought into the station and were severely beaten,” he claimed.
“The OIC (Thumbeydara Jeevi Newton) came around 11.30 p.m. and took the two boys into a room where I could hear them being beaten with belts. At one point I heard the OIC threatening to burn the two boys,” Damith said.
He said around 1.30 a.m. the OIC along with four others tied up the two boys, put black cloth sacks over their heads and bundled them in to a jeep. The police officers returned to the station around 4.30 a.m. and warned Damith and his uncle.
“They said if we open our mouths about what happened they would kill us too. After the villagers started attacking the police station the next morning I was taken along with the Angulana police officers to the Mt. Lavinia police station where I gave an account of what happened,” he said.
Hours after the pandemonium when the Sunday Times walked into the Angulana police station on Thursday, the police cells where the two victims were beaten had been washed clean with disinfectant while a number of empty liquor bottles were stacked in a corner.
A tear-filled Saman Aponso, father of 21 year-old Dhanushka speaking to the Sunday Times said, around 3.30 a.m. on Thursday he was informed by his sister Swarnalatha Aponso, the mother of the other victim, Dinesh, that their sons were being beaten up at the Angulana police station. On hearing this he had run to the station.
“When we got there two policemen on duty said the boys had not been brought to that station but we were told to return once daylight broke. However, when we returned we were told to go to the Mt. Lavinia police station as the boys had been taken there,” said.
“I asked my wife to go along with Dinesh’s father to the Mt. Lavinia station but I was soon informed that Dinesh’s body had been found in Ratmalana. I ran back to the Angulana station and demanded that they hand over my son to me. The OIC Newton himself told me I would find my son before 10 a.m. that morning,” the grieving father said.
He said the OIC had confirmed that the two boys had been taken in for holding the hand of the woman, who is said to be his lover, before assuring Mr. Aponso that his son would be found. However, what was found around 9.30 a.m.was the body of his son in the canal near Lunawa.
|Dinesh’s father and (right) Dhanushka’s father
||The eye witness: Damith Kumara
Mr. Aponso said his son was a good student and he was also an instructor at a gym in Ratmalana. He said he had three other children aged 25, 17 and 12 but that he had lost the will to live after Dhanushka’s brutal end.
“My son was never a burden to us. He was supporting his higher studies through his job at the gym and he was also helping my youngest son with his studies. They were innocent children,” he said.
Amidst the host of people who came to pay their final respects to the boys, Dhanushka’s friends from the Youth Council spoke to the Sunday Times.
Twenty-year-old Lochana Mahesh said Dhanushka was an intelligent boy who was following a six-month course on leadership building. “On August 21 we were hoping to go to Anuradhapura to complete the course and Dhanushka was to come with us,” he said.
Lochana described his friend as a bright and innocent boy who never got into trouble .
Dinesh’s father, Sangadasa Fernando spoke to us about the discovery of his son’s body. “On my way to the Mt. Lavinia police station I was told there was a body on the Ratmalana beach. When I got there I realized it was my son. The body was lying face down on the sand. I recognized him by the tattoos on his arms,” he said.
|Shattered glass lie scattered in the police station premises after
residents threw stones
|Dhanushka’s friends breakdown on seeing their friend now in a coffin
He along with his wife and Dhanushka’s parents went to the Mt. Lavinia police station to make a complaint regarding the Angulana police. The parents along with two eye witnesses were asked to be present at the Mount Lavinia Magistrate’s Court on August 26.
The people of Angulana who had gathered at the police station to vent their anger also spoke about the two victims. “Dinesh usually comes home around 3 p.m. after selling fish with his father and sometimes hangs out with his cousin Danushka who is an instructor at a gym. Danushka on most nights returns later after work and then heads home,” said Chanaka Yaddhigedasa a close friend of the two.
“If these two boys were part of the underworld and they had been shot we would have showered the Angulana police station with milk rice and plantains. But today we are so angry that we want to hurl stones at Balu Newton’s brothel of a police station,” said Shriyani Pieris an angry resident.
Ven. Henegama Amarananda Thera from the Ananda Bodhi Viharaya said he had known both boys from the time they were little children and recalled how Dhanushka attended his Daham Pasal.
“The entire area is not going to protest in such a manner if these boys were notorious drug dealers. The OIC has been bullying the local people for some time now and it is sad to see that these boys had been victimized by the people who are supposed to protect us,” he said.
Meanwhile, the woman who had made the initial complaint to the police against the two boys is missing while her wooden abode was burnt to the ground by resdients who said she hadn’t been living in Angulana even for a year.
A trishaw driver claims that while going on his rounds he had passed her house and had seen another trishaw pick her up around 3.30 a.m. on Thursday. “She is beautiful and in her late twenties. Everyone knows she was having an affair with a police officer,” he said.
The Superintendent of Police, Mount Lavinia said on Friday that the Angulana OIC T.J. Newton and Police Constables Bandaragodage Anura Pradeep Kumara, Gallwelage Indrawansa Kumarasiri, Rohan Bandara Nawaratne and Gayan Chathuranga Thotawatte were remanded on Thrusday night on the orders of Mount Lavinia Chief Magistrate Harsha Setunge.
Kalubowila Hospital JMO Suni Kumara who conducted the autopsy on the two victims’ bodies concluded there were multiple bullet wounds on the chest and legs of both boys while one of the victim’s had a bullet wound on the face and a few contusions. He said other than that they were both healthy boys.
Bishop Chickera condemns extra-judicial killings
Following the events surrounding the Angulana killings Rev. Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Colombo issued a statement denouncing the violent conduct of police officers and the extra-judicial elimination of persons involved in organized crime.
He claimed even though these people cannot be allowed to hurt others and undermine law and order, they must be dealt with in accordance with the Law.
“Our society should recognize that the culture of impunity and extra-judicial violence experienced mostly by the Tamil community over the past several years has turned some of our Police Officers into victims of a vicious system. They are unable to behave differently because they do not know a better way,” the statement read.
Rev. De Chickera also stated that the remedy should go beyond mere transfers or the punishment of offenders and that the 17th Amendment needs to be reactivated so that the National Police Commission could be established.
Police station turns into a nightclub every night
Several angry residents who were protesting against the police over the brutal killings spoke out against the activities of the police station.
T. Suraj Fernando, a youth who claimed he had broken a hand during a fight told the Sunday Times that by the time he was discharged from the hospital after treatment for six days the man who had beaten him up had been discharged after being in police custody only for two days.
“The man who had bribed the police with a bottle of arrack and some pork had been released even before I was discharged from hospital,” he said.
A trishaw driver, Vishva said he had met with an accident and had settled the damages with the insurance company but the police later called him to the station and demanded Rs.5000 warning him that if he failed to do so he would be produced in courts.
“Every night the police station turns into a nightclub with the officers drinking and smoking. They entertain women in the station as well and we kept quiet all this time,” he said.
Some residents charged that the police officers extorted money from them and threatened them that they knew the President personally. They also charged that many of them had lucrative dealings with drug dealers in the area.
Nipuna to file FR case against Vaas’ family and CCD officers
Nipuna Ramanayake student of the Sri Lanka Institute of technology (SLIIT) in Malabe is to file a Fundamental Rights case against those who were involved in an assault against him, including Colombo Crime Division director SSP Vaas Gunawardena, his wife, son and several officers from the CCD.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, Nipuna (22) said he decided to file an FR case as he feared for his life as some of the officers had been transferred to other police stations.
“Only a statement was recorded from me and there wasn’t even an identification parade. We are worried that the inquiries are being held up and that the culprits are still roaming free,” he said,
According to him a statement had also been recorded from his friend Chamil Maduka who was with him when he was dragged into a vehicle belonging to the CCD.
“The Defence Secretary should be thanked for ordering the IGP to appoint a committee to look into the assault,” Nipuna who is still in Hospital for leg and knee injuries caused by the assault said.