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Asian Human Rights Commission interviewed Sister M. Pradeepa on bad policing and torture in Sri Lanka

By William Gomes
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Sister M. Pradeepa, 34, is from Trincomalee and works at the Ampitiya Convent in Kandy where she is involved with various projects involving children and the elderly speaks out against bad policing and torture.

She also works as a support staff member of a local human rights group she also helps to shelter and assist young rape victims who are taking their cases through the courts.

Answering the questions”What do you think about the policing system in your country? “ she said “Surely it should be different. We were speaking just now about a young girl who was raped, but when she went to the police they didn't take the information at once - they sent her back home [until the next day]. I think they didn't take it so seriously. They knew what they should do; they had been in the police and they knew their job. There was even a female officer there and the victim was just a schoolgirl, only 15.

I think they need more training on how they should handle people when they come. They must know that they have a responsibility to protect and safeguard people. It's not only their mere job, they have a duty.

They need training that is not only physical, they need something more organised. Many are joining the police and army and all that now; there are enough people.

I don't have much experience in police stations but I have heard people say that when you go to the station they were not kind. Or if you knew somebody there they will take your case at once and get better treatment, but if you don't know, sometimes you'd go once day, then another day, like that - delayed.

Sometimes when they take people into custody they are also treated badly. “

Andwering another question “What do you think about the use of torture?” she said “ It is bad really. As human beings we don't have a right to torture somebody else to get things out. They must find out some other way, even if [a suspect] does not tell the truth. I don't know how police do things in other countries but we can get knowledge from such others and get better organised. We can't treat other people like that no matter what they have done. As the police they must do their duty, but using torture or violence is doing the same thing as the criminal; then there is no difference. Police don't have the duty to punish a person: that person has to be taken to the courts, and after that, punishment.”

Expressing her views on policing in answering the question What are your views on the public relations of the police? She said “They should be kind to people and respectful, not treat them like animals or worse. I don't think that all police are all like that but generally it's what we hear. In any relationship we have to have kindness, whether the person is a victim or whatever their story is.

People generally are afraid, or maybe indifferent. Nobody likes to go to the police station. Even if you go, you know very well you will not get fair treatment. Whether you'll be heard there or not, you don't know. “

While AHRC questioned her If you have a problem would you go to a police station to get help?

she said “I would not be confident to go alone. I may get help from someone. I think that it's a big office and there'll be lots of police and I'd need some company, so that if they ask questions and I don't know what they are asking, I could have some support.

As a Sister, because of this garb, if I went I would have some respect. They will see me and ask what is the matter Sister, why are you standing there, what's you problem? If I was a normal person it wouldn't be the same story.”

With a positive mind answering theAHRC “ Is there a domestic violence law in your country and what is your opinion of it? “ she said “Domestic violence is forbidden - I heard about it, though I don't know much about it. I have heard much of parents treating children unfairly, and punishment to children is one way of domestic violence.

Sometimes husbands drink and then come and beat their wives, especially men who don't go to work but the women do, and they also have to do the household work too.

In our society they don't like to take their problems outside. Even for a rape case, often it's closed up by the parents to keep the family's honour, rather than to tell it out, to go to the courts. They ignore it because they think they can protect their family name that way.

If a woman is courageous and thinks that she wants to stand up, they will take her complaint at the police station. She might have problems from the husband, or in-laws might say not to go. Then she may have to look after her children alone and earn her living. I have not come across such cases myself, though I heard of one once.

Even at home if they know they are treated badly, they should not keep quiet or just accept it for the peace of the family. It is not correct to accept the pain and keep quiet. Instead [a woman] must be courageous enough to tell [her husband] that this is wrong. I think something more can be done like this before going to the courts.”

he Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.