In a bizarre display of state power, authorities arbitrarily detained a Sri Lankan Monk for challenging the overnight detention of three children resident to the St. Josephs Boys Home in the nation’s capital of Kandy. Fears regarding the state’s disposition toward Christian minorities in Sri Lanka continue to surface as increasingly frequent events of abusive state intervention into private religious affairs continue to be recorded. The majority of contention revolves around Sri Lankan laws mandating the registration of religious entities with that of the state, a trendy tactic increasingly employed by repressive governments in an attempt to regulate all religious activity within a given nation state.
06/27/2013 Sri Lanka (Asia Human Rights Commission) – On the evening of 14 March 2013 Bro. Anton Joe observed a quarrel taking place between some of the boys and on this particular occasion he advised the three boys to be more disciplined and to be silent. The three children involved were Lakshitha Dilusada Wijerathne (6 years old), Kanchana Lakmal (6 and half years old) and B. F. J. Ashan Madushanka (6 and half years old).
The following day while the children were studying in the school the teacher saw some marks on the hands of the children and reported the matter to the principal. Thereafter, the principal reported the incident to the Kandy Headquarters Police Station.
On 16 March, the police officers attached to the Women and Child Care Bureau of the Police Station obtained statements from the victims at around 10:00 am. Moreover, the police officers informed Bro. Anton Joe to come to Kandy Headquarters Police Station to record a statement regarding the incident. When he was entering the Women and Child Care Bureau he observed that the children were sitting quietly inside the office. After taking his statement the officers asked Bro. Anton Joe to bring dinner for the children. When he returned with the dinner at around 7.00 pm, he was surprised to see the children inside a police cell. Ashan Madushanka was sleeping and other two were awake and waiting for help without knowing that what was happening to them.
Bro. Anton Joe was appalled to see the children detained inside the police cell. He states that according to the law any child under 18 years of age cannot be detained at a police station without the presence of a woman police officer or a matron. He inquired from the on duty police officers about the reason of detaining the children and particularly as to why they were locked in a police cell. He further stressed to the officers that the children were not suspected of committing any crimes and therefore, could not be detained as criminals. When he asked about the availability of a woman police officer or matron he found that the officers had not thought to provide either.
On 17 March, when Bro. Anton Joe went to the police station at around 8:00 am with another Brother. They had to remain outside the office of the Women and Child Care Bureau until 9:00 am. When they were called inside Bro. Anton Joe questioned the officers as to the reason for keeping the children inside the police cell the previous night. He realised that the officers were angry about his questions and it was evident that they intended to take revenge against him. Later, Bro. Anton Joe learned that the police officers had visited the St. Josephs Boys Home and obtained statements from the other children.
After the police officers returned to the station they informed Bro. Anton Joe that he was now under arrest and forced him to contact Mr. Nanda Senanayake, Attorney at Law, by telephone for legal representation. When he did so, Mr. Senanayake informed him that he would represent him but that the cost will be high since it was a Sunday. Without informing Bro. Anton Joe where they were going the police officers took him along with the three children to the residence of the Acting Magistrate Mr. Upali Bopitiya. The acting Magistrate refused to grant bail and asked Bro. Anton Joe to make an application the following week.
Bro. Anton Joe remained in detention for 11 days and was finally released on bail on 27 March 2013 and the case is proceeding now at the Kandy Magistrate’s Court under Case No: B24512. The three children were sent to another Boys home under the care of the Probation Department