Three police officers connected with the alleged assault of a teenaged autistic boy in Dharga Town have been interdicted, according to a statement from Police Headquarters released at 7.45 p.m on June 5th.
The interdiction follows an investigation into the incident, where dereliction of duties on the part of the three officers has been determined, says the statement.
The three involved in the incident are a Sub Inspector of Police and a Sergeant, both attached to the Police College at Kalutara, who were on secondment to the Aluthgama Police on special official duties and a Constable of the Aluthgama police.
The investigation follows video footage that went viral on Thursday, June 4th, showing a young boy being assaulted by policemen. The incident had occurred on the evening of May 25th. The commentary accompanying the video on twitter stated that the child was 14 year old Tariq Ahmed. The Police statement says, the boy is 16 years old.
According to former MP Ali Zuhair Moulana, who first went public via Twitter, with the CCTV footage showing the young boy being assaulted by policemen on duty at the Ambagaha Junction, Dharga Town checkpoint, Tariq had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder when he was four years old. Today, he has the mental capacity of a six year old, it was stated on Twitter.
It was also stated on Twitter that Tariq had ventured out on his bike and had headed towards the checkpoint when he had been accosted by the police.
Meanwhile the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) will be initiating its own investigations into the alleged assault on the young autistic boy.
Talking to Counterpoint, the Chairman of the NCPA Professor Mudidtha Vidanapathirana stated that following a complaint received on its helpline 1929, the video which shows the boy being assaulted has been forwarded to its Cybercrime Surveillance Unit for investigation.
At the same time, the Divisional Child Protection Officer for the Dharga Town area has also been instructed to investigate the matter, while officers of the NCPA’s psycho-social division have been assigned to work with the family.
‘Justice will be done’ the Chairman assured.
Interestingly, while the police statement released at 7.45 p.m. announced the interdiction of the policemen, a statement from Police Headquarters, released just hours before, at 5 p.m. to be precise, stated that the incident that took place had been over an attempt by the police stationed at the checkpoint, to stop an individual who was riding a bicycle, and was not wearing a mask. The statement added the individual concerned was well built, and that the policemen had assumed that he was under the influence of drugs. They had not realized he had a mental illness, the statement added.
It further stated that when attempts had been made by the police to hold the bicycle and stop the rider, he had lost control and had fallen on a nearby plank set up to sell fish. At that point, the biker had begun to shout and had attempted to run away and the police had tried to bring him under control. They had learnt of his mental disability from passers-by at which point his father had been sent for. The statement added that while the police had used some force, as necessary, to control the boy, there has been no indication, at the time the statement was released that the boy had been assaulted.
An internal investigation was being conducted to determine if any dereliction of duties by the policemen had occurred, as per instructions of the Deputy Inspector General of Police Kalutara District and the Superintendent of Police, Kalutara Division, the first release said.
A statement from the father of the boy had been recorded and the police was awaiting medical reports from the Judicial Medical Officer and the Psychiatrist, the release further stated, also adding that on the instructions of the Acting Inspector General of Police, a team of officers from the Children and Women’s Division has been assigned by the Division Head to investigate the matter.