Lasantha’s daughter, families of missing seek medical care for Shani

The daughter of slain journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge and the family members of a group of missing people have sought urgent medical care for former Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Director Shani Abeysekara.

The request was made to the Commissioner General of Prisons H.M.T.N. Upuldeniya, Director General of Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardena, Inspector General of Police Mr. C.D. Wickremaratne and Dr. Ananda Wijewickema, Consultant at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Angoda.

The letter signed by Ahimsa Wickrematunge and the family members of a group of missing people noted that between 2008 and 2009, their immediate family members were murdered or forcibly disappeared.

The letter said that investigations that uncovered the identity of those who took their loved ones from them were either conducted or supervised by Abeysekara, in his capacity as a senior officer and later director of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

“Abeysekara was one of the few impartial police officers who had the courage to seek justice for our families. If every public servant had the backbone, integrity and conviction of Mr. Abeysekara, our loved ones would still be alive today. By doing his job and seeking justice for  those we lost, Mr. Abeysekara’s own life is now in danger. We owe a debt of honour to speak on his behalf and prevent him from being harmed. Mr. Abeyeskara has been in remand custody since 31st July 2020,” the letter said.

The letter further notes that yesterday, they learned that while in isolation at the Mahara Prison Hospital, Abeysekara tested positive for COVID-19.

“Abeysekara has twice since been relocated without his consent, most recently to Gallella, on the other side of the country, without any authorization from any court. Persons placed in remand custody by a court are remanded to a specific prison and are usually not moved\ without the sanction of court. While Covid-19 health guidelines may permit prison or health officials to transfer a remanded person unilaterally to safeguard their health, this is not what has happened to Mr. Abeysekara. He was forcibly removed from the safety of his isolated hospital bed and denied two nights of sleep by driving him across the country with other prisoners. He is now being held not in a hospital, but in an army facility at Gallella. There was no medical reason to move him, and we are reliably informed that his health condition is rapidly deteriorating,” the letter said.

The letter notes that Abeysekara suffers from diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, all high-risk factors for Covid-19.

“He needs urgent medical care. Nowhere in the world are high-risk Covid-19 patients forcibly removed from hospitals and driven around for extraneous reasons,” the letter added.

The families have appealed to the authorities to take immediate steps to move Abeysekara to the Infectious Disease Hospital, where he can receive the critical care that he needs to survive this dreadful ordeal. (Colombo Gazette)

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