Can the Police Department cope with the ever increasing crime rate in the country? This is the question that is foremost on everyone’s mind as the country witnessed some of the most gruesome multiple killings in recent history and incidents of extortion and abductions have become almost routine.
Last year recorded the highest number of grave crimes committed within a period of 30 years and the trend appears to be continuing, though official statistics are not available.
In the first nine months of last year, more than 45,000 grave crimes were recorded including abductions and kidnappings, rape, incest, homicide and drug related offences. Of these 15,840 were disposed of, investigations of 24,160 cases are pending while another 6,453 are before courts.
The highest crime trend had been reported from Nugegoda, Kelaniya, Gampaha, Colombo, Ratnapura, Mt. Lavinia and Anuradhapura.
A senior Deputy Inspector General of Police who spoke on grounds of anonymity said one of the main reasons for the increase in crime was that the police force lacked expertise and facilities to fight crime.
“We need to provide better training to the police force in local police stations. The criminals can get away because they have learnt the techniques and methods used by the local police stations to fight crime. The only way the police can reduce crime is by upgrading themselves,” he said.
Last Saturday’s brutal killings in Delgoda where five members of the same family were hacked to death and another was injured was followed by an incident on Thursday where a homeguard went berserk killing four and injuring another. These incidents came less than three weeks after two incidents where a father and two sons were killed over a land dispute in Akuressa and the other where a father killed his wife and three children and dumped their bodies in a paddy field in Ganemulla.
Last Saturday’s Delgoda massacre was seen as one of the goriest crimes in recent years where two little children and three other members of one family were hacked to death while they were asleep in their home in a small village off Meegahawatta.
The motive behind this multiple murder is believed to be a land dispute between two relatives. The dispute had been taken up in the Gampaha District court and its judgment was expected soon.
Police investigations have revealed that the land in question was a five acre plot of land in Kanduboda. The victims were identified as K.W.M Tilakaratne, his wife S.A Ramyalatha, their sons K.W.M Dilshan (4), K.W.M Lakshan (3) and the children’s grandmother S.A.D Pamavathi.
The only survivor was Tilakaratne’s twelve year old daughter K.W.M Dinusha who was cut by a sharp sword and is being treated at the National Hospital. Her condition is still critical.
By Sunday morning the police had apprehended the two prime suspects who were said to have been involved in the massacre. The two were identified as E. A. Amaradasa and his brother E.A Upasena.
Both of them were said to have been prominent JVP activists. Amaradasa had also contested the Biyagama Pradeshyasabha in the last local government elections but had lost. Tilakaratne’s older brother K.W.M Wimalaratne said that Amaradasa and Upasena had come to see the bodies on Saturday morning and had gone into hiding for a few hours when the police began their hunt for them.
“We don’t know how they could come and look at the bodies after committing the murder. These two brothers lead a solitary life and they don’t usually go for funerals. This is the first time I have seen them in a funeral in our village,” he said.
Amaradasa had come that morning and had looked at the bodies and had said, ‘Meka karapu unta henagahanna ona (may lightning strike those who did this)’.
According to neighbours in the area, after the killing, an angry mob of about 300 had come in trucks and torched the house in which Amaradasa had been staying. They had blocked the police and the fire brigade from coming to the vicinity. Police say vital evidence that might have helped in the investigations had been destroyed in the fire.
The two brothers who were taken into custody were later gunned down by a police team from Meegahawatta. The shooting took place when the police were taking the suspects to a house in Delgoda, where police claimed the suspects had hidden some of the weapons used to commit the murder.
The police told the Gampaha Magistrates court on Friday that they shot them as an act of self defence as the suspects had tried to lob a grenade at the officers.
The Magistrate had then given the judgment as “justifiable homicide in the act of self defence”. However questions surround the shooting of the suspects as well as the inability of the police to stop villagers from torching Amaradasa’s house.
“How did the police come to the conclusion that the suspects were definitely involved in the massacre without producing them in a court of law and proving the case beyond reasonable doubt,” is a question raised by some of the villagers who condemned the brutal massacre as well as the shooting of the suspects.
However, Delgoda Senior Superintendent of Police, Nihal Samarakoon told The Sunday Times that the police have no choice but to gun down suspecta if their lives are in danger.
Commenting on the torching of the house he said, “When we are involved in a high profile murder case we cannot give protection to their land too. We could have looked for more clues in the house but it is now burnt down. When the suspects try to do something desperate this puts police officers in danger and they have to act accordingly,” he said.
Another suspect, Jayasinghe, who is also a prominent JVP activist, has been taken into custody for questioning. Police detectives believe that he could be a key witness to the massacre as he was a close confidant of Amaradasa.
Hard on the heels of this gruesome murder, a home-guard who suspected his wife of cheating on him had gunned down his wife and three others last Thursday in Kebitigollawa. The home guard is now said to be in hiding.
What the IGP said last month
In April this year Police Chief Victor Perera declared that the Police may even have to go beyond the law to combat crime.
Addressing the news conference he said, they would maintain law and order by “hook or by crook”.
“I’m not deterred by influences. I’m ready for anything. By hook or by crook we will maintain law and order. We will try our best to work according to the law.
“Therefore, what I have to tell you is that we won’t allow things like extorting ransom from people, intimidating, threatening people with weapons to continue.
“We will not be deterred by those who are involved in these acts, whether they are from the underworld or persons with big names. We are also armed with weapons.
“We will not back down in fear of their weapons. Though you don’t have weapons we have sufficient number of weapons and also a cadre of about 77,000 to 80,000. For us the place doesn’t matter.
“If one police station cannot handle a matter I will bring police from some other area. There are people in this police force who can work.”