Magistrate berates CID over double standards

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Moratuwa Mayor Saman Lal Fernando, ‘Sinhale’ Organisation head Dan Priyasad and six other suspects, who were charged with attacking peaceful protesters at MynaGoGama and GotaGoGama on 9 May, were remanded till 25 May by Colombo Fort Magistrate Thilina Gamage.

The Magistrate also instructed the CID to probe officials who had failed to prevent the violent clashes at the two said protest sites and report to him accordingly.

When the case was taken up, suspects Fernando, Priyasad, Karandeniya PS member Sameera Chathuranga and the Chairman of the Seethawaka PS Jayantha Rohana, were remanded after being produced in Court.

Later, Magistrate Gamage ordered the remanding of four other suspects until the said date, when they would be produced before an identification parade.

DSG Lakmini Girihagama: A witness identified as Buddhika Umesh, has given evidence with regard to this incident. According to the evidence given by him, the sixth suspect in the case, identified as Suresh Priyasad alias Dan Priyasad, had attempted to assault the witness with a sword, whilst goons led by suspect Saman Lal Fernando, had attempted to attack the witness with iron poles and clubs. Furthermore, according to testimony provided by Ven. Matara Wimaladeva Thera, he had been accosted by suspect Fernando. Also another witness identified as Kasun Chandrasiri, has given evidence. A suspect indentified as Jayantha Rohana, is alleged to have destroyed tents, erected at the Galle Face Green protest site, whilst another suspect identified as Pushpalal Kumarasiri, has assaulted two Catholic Priests at the protest site. There are eye witness accounts to these assaults, at the said protest site. Hence, there have already been public riots taking place in this country, with regard to the enforcement of the law, against the assailants by the Police. Therefore I urge this Court, not to issue any order towards the release of these suspects on bail.

Counsel Jayantha Nanayakkara, appearing for Priyasad: Though there is evidence to suggest that my client had wielded a sword, there is no evidence to prove that he had assaulted anyone at the protest site. Hence, I request this Court, to enlarge my client on bail.

President’s Counsel U. R. de Silva, appearing for Moratuwa Mayor Saman Lal Fernando: During the meeting held at Temple Trees, my client had made a speech suggesting that former PM Mahinda Rajapaksa should remain in his portfolio further. His only motive had been that the ex-PM should have functioned in his former post. However, I must emphasise that my client had at no stage gone to GotaGoGama or been involved in the violent clash there. When my client had stepped out of Temple Trees, a rogue Buddhist monk (man in robes) had assaulted a supporter of my client. It was at that point that my client had brushed against the rogue monk (man in robes). Afterwards, that rogue monk had given a statement to suggest that he had been pushed aside. Hence, I urge you to release my client on any suitable bail condition.

Counsel Darshana Kuruppu, appearing on behalf of the aggrieved party: The two suspects Saman Lal and Dan Priyasad, had got involved in this incident, when they had been enlarged on bail in connection with a few other legal cases. Therefore, I urge you not to release these suspects on bail.

President’s Counsel Anura Maddegoda, appearing on behalf of the two Catholic Priests, who are said to have been assaulted by suspect Kumarasiri: This particular assault cannot be merely confined as one directed at my clients, but on a broader perspective, as an assault on democracy, freedom of speech and the rule of the law. Hence, I request this Court not to enlarge the suspects on bail.

President’s Counsel Maithri Guneratne, appearing for the aggrieved party: This entire incident had taken place, due to dereliction of duty on the part of the SDIG of the Western Province Deshabandu Tennakoon. The AG has already advised the Police Department, headed by the IGP, to arrest 22 suspects in connection with this case. This violent clash, could have been averted had the Police fired tear gas and water cannon at GotaGoGama. It is due to Deshabandu Tennakoon’s failure to carry out his duty, that several people lost their lives, damages worth millions of rupees had been caused to large number of public property and scores of others had been wounded, on 9 May. What I would like to state is there is no point in stars being affixed to one’s official uniform, if that person cannot carry out his or her duty according to the law and without any fear or favour. I must say that ex-Minister and SLPP MP Johnston Fernando is one of my allies. But, by the same token, I have to say that he has no God-given right to take the law into his own mitts. Hence I have to say, that each of the suspects named by the AG, in connection with this case should be arrested and produced before this Court. There is no use in arresting sprats, the Police must strive to apprehend sharks.

Later, the Senior State Counsel made submissions in response to the submissions made by President’s Counsel Guneratne.

State Counsel: The AG had at no stage advised the CID to arrest 22 suspects in this connection. He has only instructed the CID, to name the 22 persons as suspects, only if there is sufficient evidence and then to arrest and produce them in Court,in connection with this incident.

Magistrate Thilina Gamage inquired from the CID, why they had thus far failed to enforce the law against any official who had failed to prevent the violent clashes at the two protest sites.

Responding to it the CID stated that though they had recorded statements from a few officials, they are yet to ascertain the veracity of such statements.

But, the Magistrate expressed his displeasure at the response given by the CID.

Magistrate Thilina Gamage: The double standards currently being adopted by the CID needs to be called into question. To date they (CID) have arrested only 13 suspects, based on statements and evidence recorded by them. However, they (CID) are yet to ascertain the accuracy of such statements or evidence. Hence, it is crystal clear that the CID is adopting double standards here. I must state sternly that they should not select or choose suspects according to their whims and fancies. You should be prepared to enforce the law equally on all and the sundry, sans any favouritism. I am continuing to take a middle stance during the course of this particular  trial. Therefore, I order you to obtain adequate instructions from the AGs Department and to enforce the law against all officers who had been guilty of dereliction of duty or else I will hand out an order to that effect.

Further proceedings were fixed for 25 May. 

By Hansi Nanayakkara