The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) directed IGP C.D. Wickramaratne to transfer SSP Romesh Liyanage attached to the STF out of Colombo until the conclusion of Police investigations into the assault on the media personnel of a private television channel on 9 July.
HRCSL said the Police Special Investigation Unit (SIU) is presently investigating the incident and as this has to be independent and impartial, such transfer is essential.
It was stated that investigations into the incident revealed that SSP Liyanage was the Unit Commander deployed for security at and near the private residence of President Ranil Wickremesinghe on the said day, with over 140 STF personnel under his Command.
“It is also not in doubt that the media personnel posed no threat to the Police on that day and the assault on the media was unjustified and intentional after being identified as media personnel by the STF and Police,” HRCSL observed, adding that these officers were under the direct command of SSP Liyanage.
SSP Liyanage denied being present at the time of the assault and denied any knowledge of the assault on the media personnel when he was shown a video which was submitted as footage of the particular event, HRCSL said, adding that there is a serious doubt regarding the credibility of the evidence given by SSP Liyanage to the HRCSL under oath.
“He is unequivocally responsible for the attack on the media personnel on this day. This is a gross violation of the people’s fundamental rights and, importantly, of the rights of the free media, which is an integral part of every democracy. This irresponsible behaviour from the high ranks of Law enforcement officials is severe, detrimental, and dangerous for the safety of a just society,” a statement issued by HRCSL said.
“The Officer handling the disciplinary inquiry informed that the perpetrators are yet to be identified, and identifying them in the present uniform is not an easy task and one of the major setbacks is the identity of the assailant for the Police investigation, therefore, the HRCSL recommends to the IGP that the camouflage uniform in the present description is not the proper uniform for civil operations,” the statement read, noting that the IGP must take cognisance of the uniform presently worn by the STF for civilian operations and take appropriate action to have a proper uniform, especially for civic duty.
HRCSL further summoned the Commandant of the Special Task Force (STF), DIG Waruna Jayasundera, SSP Liyanage, and SSP D.S. Wickremasinghe of the Special Investigation Unit to make statements in this regard.