A Tamil lorry driver who was brutally attacked in public by a Sri Lankan police officer and had his shirt ripped, insisted that he “wants justice” and that “no one should ever have to face this kind of injustice”.
Kalaimakan Praveen, a Tamil lorry driver working in Pannipitiya, was thrown to the ground by a Sri Lankan constable who then proceeded to jump on his body.
Praveen, who works for a vegetable market in Dehiwala, stated that fatigue from working long hours without much rest had made him temporarily lose focus and caused him to accidentally clip a police officer lightly.
“I was coming towards Dehiwala in a lorry loaded with vegetables from Bandarawela. There was heavy traffic in the Pannipitiya area and I suddenly fell asleep momentarily without realising when I passed the traffic lights. At this time, I realised that the vehicle had left the road and headed towards the police officer who was on duty on the road. I did not know what to do. However, I thought I must somehow steer the car towards the road. Despite my efforts, the vehicle collided lightly with the police officer,” he said.
Despite only unintentionally hitting the police officer, Praveen was subject to being brutal assaulted and not given a chance to explain himself.
“In the immediate aftermath, for one or two minutes, I could process what had happened. It was then when another constable next to the police officer opened the door of my vehicle and pulled me out and attacked me. He didn't even give me a chance to explain what happened. Even those who were nearby could not see how he badly behaved for the mistake I made unknowingly. He attacked me brutally. He pushed me down, climbed on me and trampled on me.”
The 24-year-old driver from Haputale, had only been a lorry driver for around two months, but has now had his license revoked following the incident.
The Sri Lankan police constable attached to the Maharagama police department was arrested after a video of the incident was shared widely online and drew extensive backlash.
Following the incident, Sri Lanka’s police spokesperson Deputy Inspector General Ajith Rohana clarified in an interview that “self-defence can be used by the public if and only when the Police officer is misusing his powers while on active duty.” He added, “the public can defend themselves to protect their health and lives, as they are mostly unarmed”.
Across the North-East Tamils and Muslims are constantly subjected to police harassment, surveillance and violence. Police officers are known to intimidate civil-society members and are linked heavily with the military apparatus. Recently, Sri Minister of Public Security, Sarath Weerasekara announced that 190 new police stations will be built in Sri Lanka, adding to the existing 494 police stations, noting that it was a was a measure taken to “create a society free of fear and suspicion for the people of this country”. The North-East continues to remain one of the most militarised regions on the planet.