Angry Dompe crowd seeks justice

Victim dies in police custody; mob attacks station; cops looking for culprits.
Leon Berenger at scene of rioting

They came for him at around 4.30 pm on Thursday. Officers in mufti from the Dompe police station informed the household that Gayan Nilan was required for questioning in connection with the theft of a water pump and other items.

Two hours later the young man’s wife, Rasika, along with their one-year-old toddler, visited the Dompe police station to enquire about her husband, but he was to be seen anywhere. The officer manning the front desk informed the woman that her husband had not been brought to the police station and suggested she looked elsewhere.

Dompe residents are demanding answers and justice. Photos: Susantha Liyanawatte
Police vehicles smashed when mob descended on station on Friday

When she insisted that her husband was arrested by the Dompe police, another officer, from the station’s crime branch, told her that Gayan had been taken by the Officer in Charge (OIC) to the scene of a robbery. He suggested she returned the next morning as there was an inquiry in progress.

At this point, the station OIC arrived at the police station in his private vehicle. He was to oversee the evening shift. He apparently was not aware of Gayan Nilan’s arrest. The young woman insisted she would remain in the police station until she saw her husband.

She little knew that during the time she was on the police station premises, her husband was only a few metres away, at the back of police station, allegedly being beaten up by the police. This she discovered only later, that evening.

As it was getting dark, Gayan Nilan’s wife decided to head home. Home is some five kilometres away from Dompe town. It was only the next day, Friday, that she learned that her husband was dead, and that he had died at the Dompe hospital from body injuries.

The police told her that her husband had fatally injured himself when jumping out of a moving police vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the Dompe hospital, which is a 100 metres away from the police station.

When news of the young man’s death reached the village of Katulenda, in the Dompe electorate, hundreds of residents marched to the police station. The hundreds soon grew into thousands. The Dompe police station was surrounded by screaming people accusing the police of cool-blooded murder. The crowd then broke into the police complex and set it on fire. In the ensuing melee, 16 police vehicles were damaged, record books were burnt, furniture smashed, and cell doors ripped off their hinges.

Armed soldiers and commandos from the elite Special Task Force (STF) were rushed to the scene to restore law and order and secure the police station.

Before the arrival of reinforcements, some 40 police officers on duty fled the complex through a back door. A fire engine rushed to the scene was forced to retreat when the mob pelted the vehicle with stones and bricks.

Assessing the damage

Victim’s mother and wife
G. A. Nilan

The Police are looking for those who attacked the police station on Friday. “We are investigating the death of a man while in police custody and also those who carried out the brazen attack on the Dompe police station,” said Director CID, Mahesh Perera.

‘System favours the bad guys’

W. A. Lalani Ajanthi, mother of victim Nilan Gayan, said the police were not only law enforcers but also judge and executioner.

“People like Sakvithi Ranasinghe, who swindled investors out of billions, is free and living off the state as he awaits justice. The system is on the side of the bad guys,” she says.

Father of victim is cop’s drinking buddy

G. A. Nilan, father of victim Gayan Nilan, claimed he and the Dompe police station OIC were “good buddies” and drinking companions.

Mr. Nilan, a retired People’s Bank employee, has appealed to the media to report fairly on the matter, because erroneous information would only add to the mental burden of a grieving family.

“For the past two days, sections of the media have gone along with the police version that my son died in an attempt to flee custody by jumping off a moving jeep.”

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