By Basil Fernando –
Sri Lanka Deterioration of the legal intellect (6): Pattini Razeek’s body buried within a half built private house
The discovery of the body of Pattini Razeek buried under a half-built private house, in a remote village on Uddamaveli, in Valaichchenai, would have flared up the imagination of any detective. However, despite of the discovery on 28th July 2010, the case itself, remained buried till to date.
Mr Pattini Razeek who was quite a well-known community leader at the time, disappeared on 11 February 2010. He was last seen near the Jumma Mosque in Kaduruwela, Polonnaruwa at around 3.30 p.m. on the 11th of February 2010. According to an eye witness account, Mr Razeek was travelling in a van together with some of his staff members at the Community Trust Fund (CTF), when their van was intercepted by a ‘white’ van. Mr Rafeek stepped out of his vehicle and approached the men in the ‘white’ van and had exchanged greetings in Arabic. After talking to them for several minutes, Mr Razeek had come back to his colleagues and told them that he will be joining the group in the ‘white’ van, which according to him was heading to the Eastern Provincial town of Valaichchenai.
Following this incident, nothing was heard from him and his family filed a complaint relating to his disappearance with the police in Polonnaruwa where the incident took place, and also at the police station of Mundalama. The Community Trust Fund, of which Mr Razeek was the Head, also made a complaint to the police in Puttalam. Complaints were also made to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, the then President of Sri Lanka, the then Secretary of Ministry of Defence , to the Attorney General, and to the Inspector General of Police. Further complaints were made to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and to the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance. Besides these, several media reports also appeared reporting on his mysterious disappearance.
It was about five months after his disappearance, that the body was discovered and exhumed from within a half constructed building and the discovery was made on a lead obtained from a suspect. By then, it was reported that the case has been handed over for further investigations to the Criminal Investigations Division (CID). Several suspects were also arrested and produced before the Magistrate and later they were released on bail.
Mr. Razeek was the Head of the Community Trust Fund (CTF), which was established for the purpose of assisting displaced persons in the area. As displacement due to LTTE attacks in the area, particularly on the Muslim community was quite a significant issue at the time, the CTF played an important role in relief work.
Suspicion emerged that the kidnapping and the later murder and the disposal of Mr Razeek’s body within a half-constructed private house was related to disposal of monies relating to the CTF. The name of Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, figured prominently in the reports relating to the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Mr Razeek.
Regarding the handling of this case, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), has made the following comment in their final report.
“…(Paragraph) 5.31 “Among the many disturbing allegations concerning missing persons submitted to the Commission by the general public, especially during its visits to conflict-affected areas, the case of Mr. Razik Pattani in Puttalam, is referred to here on account of the Commission’s own disappointing experience concerning that case. It highlights the deplorable absence of conclusive law enforcement action, despite the Commission itself bringing this case to the attention of the concerned authorities of the area. Mr. Razeek’s body was reportedly discovered while the Commission was writing its report. Timely action could probably have saved this life.”
(Paragraph) 5. 32 “Mr. Razik who had been an official of an NGO providing assistance to the IDPs in Puttalam was abducted allegedly due to the fact that he had questioned the manner in which some of the expenditures have been incurred by the NGO as well as the purchase of some properties under the names of some of its directors. When inquires were made from the relevant Deputy Inspector-General of Police in the area as to why there was a delay in arresting the alleged abductor following a court order, he has reportedly said that the Police was not aware of the suspect’s whereabouts and if the people know where he was, let the police know so that they could arrest him. It was alleged in this regard that the suspect evaded arrest due to his ‘political connections’. If this is established, it must be mentioned that such an attitude would completely erode the public confidence, in particular in the Police, and make the maintenance of law and order much more difficult. The Commission is equally concerned that undue political interference has also contributed to the lapses on the part of the Police….”
Nothing is more important for the maintenance of a civilised society, than a serious commitment on the part of a government and the community to deal with any murder, with the utmost seriousness. Where even investigations into murder and prosecution of offenders cannot be guaranteed, there is hardly any reason to believe in a government’s will and capacity to enforce the law.
At a time like this, where good governance is being sloganized as the programme that the government will pursue with utmost seriousness, the question of the way investigations and prosecution of murder is dealt with should be used as a primary test of the authenticity and credibility of such a claim.
The uniqueness of Mr Pattini Razeek’s case is that the body of the murdered victim was discovered and the circumstances of his burial itself threw light on the deliberate intention of the perpetrators of this crime to ensure that their crime would not be discovered. The available evidence on the abduction, the murder, and the disposal of the body reveals a highly thought-out scheme, in carrying out this crime.
The failure to prosecute this case therefore, is not due to the absence of evidence. It suggests a deliberate scheme for preventing a due prosecution. Such a scheme for protecting a criminal/s is itself a horrendous crime.
The challenge now lies with the police investigating authorities, and the Attorney General. The Minister of Justice should intervene to ensure that the law is duly enforced. If, even that, is not possible, even at this stage, there is hardly any reason to trust the system of law enforcement in Sri Lanka.