"They caught me by my hair and dashed my head against the wall,
when I knelt and pleaded, I was kicked by the OIC with his boots,
they warned if I complained, that I will be shot"
“Everybody is harmed when one person is Tortured…."
“Let the survivor speak….
The International day in support of the survivors of Torture was held in Kandyan Arts Residency on the 29th June 2018 organized by the Human Rights Office Kandy, Sri Lanka. The focus of 2018 Torture day was on "Torture of women" as women victims are usually reluctant to speak of their ordeal of Torture. The Human Rights Office therefore broke the silent suffering of women victims of Torture by opening the stage to a courageous Torture victim, Podikumarihami, who was brutally tortured by the Mahiyanganaya male police officers
Podik Podikumarihami's Torture story was unfolded in a form of an interview led by Attorney at Law, Mr. Suren D. Perera before a panel of jurists on the International Day in Support of Torture survivors in Kandy. The panel comprised of Dr. Deepika Udugama - The chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission, Ven. Dr. Atipola Mangala Thero, Senior criminal lawyer Mr. Titus Manatunga and Mrs. Namalika Dissanayake, the Principal of the Blue Rose Special School. The compare was Rev. Fr. Nandana Manatunga - the director of Human Rights Office in Kandy.
The background that led to the brutal Torture of Podikumarihami, an innocent woman from Mahiyanganaya, in the Badulla District of Sri Lanka a mother of five children the youngest aged 19 and 13 years clearly described in her words "It all started with a two-acre land near the Mahaweli River in Mahiyangana which is ideal for sand mining”. One day a police constables attached to the Mahiyangana police station approached the 50 year old Podikumarihami living on the land and wanted the property sold to him. Podikumarihami then sighed and said "I had no other place to go and I loved that plot of land". She was selling betel and coconut close to the Buddhist temple in the Mahiyanganaya town for her living. Since 2006 from the time she refused to sell the land, Podikumarihami alleged that she had been facing serious threats and constant harassment by the police and the Officer-in-charge of the Mahiyanganaya Police officers
Harassment of Podikumarihami by the police went to the extent when she was arrested for not wearing a white saree when she appeared in the Magistrate court and the female Magistrate remanded her for 14 days. The criminal case continues against her and she had been warned by the said Magistrate not to retain a lawyer from Mahiyangana to defend her. Police officers then further extended harassing her 17 year old son and he was arrested several times. On November 5, 2017, she alleged that her son was arrested by Mahiyanga Police and severely tortured and was hospitalized at which point the Magistrate came to the hospital and remanded him at Badulla remand prison. She had also said that the Magistrate was married to a senior police officer.
Eventually Mihiyangana Police officers invented another charge, to introduce drugs, to harass Podikumarihami and her family. On August 15, 2017, Podikumarihami was arrested again and no female Police officer was present during the time of her interrogation. She said she was allowed on police bail and her son-in-law was then remanded for 14 days. On the same day, police officers from Mahiyangana Police arrived at her house and attempted to arrest her daughter but when Podikumarihami objected to the arrest, she was physically harassed by the OIC and two other constables named Senadeera and Wimalasena. They caught her by her hair and dashed her head against the wall. When she knelt and pleaded, she was kicked by the OIC with his boots. They warned if she had complained, she could be shot. By August 20, 2017, Podikumarihami was summoned to the Police Station and was warned not to pursue any complaint against the Police and if she did so, she would have to face dire consequences.
It is at this time that Podikumarihami complained to the Human Rights Commission. Her case No HRC/BD/147/17 was scheduled for hearing on November 27. Podikumarihami and Dilshan her son in law alleged that their arrest by the Mahiyanganaya Police was an act of reprisal.
Podikumarihami stated that she had written to the Police Commission, to the Attorney General, The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and the DIG Badulla range. The Special Investigations unit has already concluded their investigations. With tears in her eyes Pdikumarihami said that her safely, her dignity, her son’s education and her ability to engage in her livelihood is at stake.
The members of the panel were stunt when they listened to the brutality of the police officers who are supposed to be the law enforcing agency. The panelist appreciated the courage of Podikumarihami and sighted some brave acts of women who even challenged the corrupt judges and the system. A discussion followed the comments from the jurists and Podikumarihami who cannot read and write, answered the questions with exact names dates and times.
The journalist and the civil Society who were present passed and eight-point resolution in a form of a statement calling upon the state to ensure effective protection and redress for Podikumarihami. They also called on the Judicial Service Commission to conduct an inquiry into the Mahiyangana former Magistrate pertaining to these incidents and urged the National Police commission to inquire into the alleged conduct of the Mahiyanganaya Police
Concluding the International Day in support of the Torture victims, the HRO formally released the statement along with signatures collected since 2015, calling the attorney General to indict the Torture perpetrators and reactivate the Torture Act no 22 of 1994
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
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