Sunil Perera sold balloons as small business (not like Mt Lavinia photo)
Amma needed some balloons for Subu’s birthday. She called the Balloonman. Punchi needed some balloons when the little one turned three. She did the same. In April the Balloonman’s company provided 350 red, yellow and blue balloons for a sports meet in Ratnapura. On June 29th there was a bomb threat to the school. The teachers looked through their received calls and somehow found the Balloonman’s cell phone number. The police knock up to the house around midnight and take him to jail, beating the 55 year old man and his assistant in custody. Five days later he’s released, barely conscious. He dies two days later from his injuries. The charges were entirely baseless. The phone records listed no calls to the school. As if that’s a crime. An innocent man was just taken to jail and beaten to death. His name was Sunil Perera.
From the reports I read Perera’s company number was in someones phone at the school. Then the cops took him and his assistant Gamini Munaweera in for questioning. At midnight. The onus was on the distraught wife to investigate and get the phone records from Dialog. Not the, er, investigators. The wife has to wade through red tape and paperwork while her husband is being beaten in remand. He was diabetic and they weren’t giving him medication. According to Munaweera,
“They forced us to kneel and then they assaulted us with sticks. They also shouted at us in foul language. On one occassion they forced us to kneel continously for about 45 minutes.” Gamini said. He said the two of them were bleeding from their knees and they pleaded with the guards not to beat them but they continued to do so mercilessly. “About six of them beat us. I could identify some of them” (Sunday Times)
The story of the five days is the same as any dealing with the police. Nobody knows any sort of procedure and you bring one document to be told to go find another. I can stand the wait cause all I’m killing is time, but this woman has to run through hoops while the cops are killing her husband. I’m not sure it’s legal to even keep someone in remand without any evidence, court order, or – whatsitcalled – rule of law. It is certainly not acceptable to beat and torture anyone in custody. But it happens. And this time the man died.
Most police are surely trying to do their job, but police are but the servants of the law. All these physical entities ‘doing something’ serve words, they serve the constitution and they serve the law. They serve an ideal and a country where you can sell balloons and make phone calls without getting beat to death. Where you need some evidence before you’re dragged out of your home. Where you can get some insulin while you’re waiting in jail. This isn’t security and this isn’t justice. It’s just the trappings of law and order over a core of wanton brutality.
Photo and inane headline in Sunday Leader
I’m not asking for too much. I don’t have to live at the mercy of every soldier or policeman manning a checkpoint. They cannot drag me out of my house without charges, they cannot hold me without evidence. They can’t tell me when to drink or what to watch or what ads I see in the goddam magazine. It’s not right. The state is slowly becoming a parasite, feeding on fear, corrupting the causes of the poor and defenceless, spewing out diseased copies of itself. This isn’t Sri Lanka. We’re better that this. We have to demand rule of law, even when following the law may be inconvenient. As the retired admiral John Hutson said, “If you don’t apply it when it’s inconvenient,” he said, “it’s not a rule of law.” No temporary security measures are worth cutting corners. This wasn’t even a real bomb and there wasn’t any evidence. We’ve just cut corners in the name of ‘terror’ so many times that we’ve forgotten what real justice is. Justice means rule of law for everyone, in every situation. That is real security. Not this.