Roshen’s family’s lonely vigil for justice while report lies at President’s office

Police killing at FTZ protest
By Leon Berenger in Minuwangoda

The family of Roshen Chanaka- the factory hand who was killed by police firing at the Investment Promotion Zone (IPZ) more than three months ago, fears that the case will be swept under the carpet and the real culprits allowed to go free.

"At present, there is no transparency in the ongoing investigations, except that two police officers have been charged in connection with the death, and even then, the two suspects are currently enlarged on bail", R.P.A.B.T. Madushan, the brother of the victim told the Sunday Times.

"President Mahinda Rajapaksa assigned former High Court Judge Mahanama Tillekeratne to conduct a one-man probe and come up with a comprehensive report within a week. The Commission’s report was handed over to the President’s Office, but no one is aware of its contents. We, as the aggrieved family, made several representations to the relevant authorities to be shown the report, but without success.

That is why we are concerned that the report itself may have questionable contents that could disturb the case, and the sooner we are given access to it the safer it would be", Mr. Madushan, a medical student, said.

He added that representations were even made to the main opposition United National Party (UNP) and even the highest Catholic clergy in this regard, but again to no avail. "The two policemen, who have been charged with the death of my brother, are just scapegoats. Somebody, somewhere at the top, gave the fatal orders as the labour unrest reached boiling point and became an embarrassment to the Government.

Our thoughts on the entire issue have also been endorsed in a sworn affidavit, and if necessary, it will be taken to courts as future developments unfold. What is even more frightening is that the other victims in the melee are jittery to come forward anymore, while witnesses are shrinking in numbers, fearing for their lives.

At the end, we will have to face the establishment alone", he said. W.D. Kanthi- the victim’s mother said that several pledges made by the authorities and regional politicians remain in limbo, while now, some officials are suggesting that we ignore the matter, simply because some compensation was paid in cash.

"We received Rs 1 million each from the President’s Fund, the Police Department and from the Board of Investment (BoI) as blood money, but all this will not bring my son back.” “At the time of our grief we never asked for any thing, it was the authorities and others who made random pledges which were even given wide coverage in the media”.

“For example, a regional politician promised to build our house, but now this man does not even answer the phone, while the promise of employment and education for my other children is yet to be fulfilled", she added.

"The family of a lady doctor who was killed by a drunken off-duty soldier at Hambantota, some two years ago, received Rs 5 million as compensation. It was also the same case with the killing of another doctor at Batticaloa. Why should it be different in this case? she asked

Therefore, we intend to ask the Government Rs 5 million as compensation, and towards this end, we have the backing of the trade unions and other individual organizations, with the matter even ending up in court", she warned.

She added that family will hold a silent protest on the first day of each month at the location where the victim was felled by a police bullet, until proper justice is meted out to those responsible for the bloodletting on that fateful day.

Anton Marcus of the Free Trade Zones & General Employees Trade Union (FTZGETU) said the family’s demand for more compensation and for more transparency in the investigations was justified.

"The Government cannot ignore this just demand, and must take immediate action towards this end. The family has lost a loved one, and the least the authorities could do is compensate it in a proper and fair manner", Mr. Marcus, who spearheaded the protest from start to finish, told the Sunday Times.

Roshen Chanika was killed and nearly 100 more factory hands injured, many seriously, in late May, as police opened fire to quell a protest against the proposed introduction of a controversial private pension scheme. The protesters feared that the new pension scheme would undermine their present Employees Provident Fund (EPF).

Since the protest, the Government has decided to put the scheme on hold, but not scrapped it altogether.

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