Tamil detainee Ganesan Nimalaruban who died on Wednesday (4) was allegedly brutally assaulted by Sinhala prison officials, denied medical attention, kept in the prison hospital, despite the instructions by a prison doctor to transfer him immediately to the Ragama teaching hospital, and now the magistrate has refused to release the corpse of the deceased to his parents citing ‘national security concerns.’
The victim, a 29 year-old youth from Nelumkulama in Vavuniya was among Tamil detainees who were allegedly beaten up by the Sinhala prison officials. Last week, a group of Tamil detainees briefly held three prison officials hostage, demanding that four Tamil inmates who had earlier been transferred to the Bossa Detention Centre be brought back to the Vavuniya prison. The Police Special Task Force (STF) was deployed to rescue the three prison officials. The STF left the scene after the rescue mission. However, later instructions were issued from alleged ‘higher’ echelons to beat up the Tamil inmates as a ‘punishment.’ The prison guards in the Vavuniya prison, the majority of who were Tamil, declined to carry out the instruction.
Later, 25 prison guards including three prison officers were dispatched from Colombo and were authorized to assault the prisoners, it is alleged.
“Some of those guards later bragged that they hammered the prisoners like Gauls beat the Romans. They bragged that they took one prisoner each, beat them and threw them to the middle of the room, and then picked the prisoners randomly and beat them again,” Udul Premaratna of the Activists for Human Rights alleged.
Premaratna, an attorney-at- law and a former student activist who had been campaigning for the rights of political detainees and disappeared Tamils confided that he learnt through his sources that the assault had been allegedly authorized by the top echelons of the Prisons department.
“I was told that prisoners were hand-cuffed and beaten, that they were forced to kneel down and hit with poles. In short, it was a pretty brutal assault,” he said.
Later, the prisoners in the Vavuniya prison were transferred to Mahara, Anuradhapura and Bogambara prisons. At Mahara, out of 29 inmates who were transferred from the the Vavuniya Prison, six, including Nimalaruban had serious injuries and were admitted to the Mahara prison hospital on the night of July 2.
It was only on the morning of the following day that a prison doctor saw the wounded prisoners. At 11 am on July 3, the doctor who examined Nimalaruban, instructed that the patient be immediately transferred to the Ragama Teaching Hospital.
The doctor also wrote those instructions on the bed ticket of the patient.
However, it is alleged that those instructions were ignored by the prison officials while the condition of the prisoner deteriorated. Nimalaruban was dead by morning the following day. Prison officials thereafter took the body to the Ragama Teaching Hospital.
But the chain of events in this alleged brutality does not end there. Now the police have obtained a Court order to bury the body of the deceased in a cemetery in Kadawatha, sources revealed.
Udul Premaratna said he and several other attorneys made a request to the Mahara magistrate that the parents of the deceased be permitted to take the remains to his village in Vavuniya. However, the magistrate has refused citing ‘national security concerns.’
Premaratna says the parents of the deceased who visited Colombo to receive the remains of their son are kept ‘under virtual police custody.’ “They are not allowed to talk to lawyers or to tell their story to the media. I saw them in the Ragama hospital but I was prevented from talking to them by the police,” he said.
The post mortem of the deceased was held late last week and it failed to determine the cause of the death.
United National Party MP M. Swaminathan who earlier issued a statement demanding that the government disclose the circumstance of the death, told that this incident raised serious concerns about treatment meted out to Tamil detainees.
“If this incident happens anywhere in the world, the government in that country would be facing a serious public backlash. Here in Sri Lanka, the government should at least tell how this young man has died,” Swaminathan MP said.