An Instance of Police Brutality and Sinhala Racism suffered recently by Alex Van Cuylenburg of Kohuwala

Alex Van Cuylenburg in Letter to Terrence Jayatilleke

“So I wanted to share [with you] what happened to me Friday night and Sri Lankan Police Brutality at the Kohuwala Police Station. I got home around 2 AM and standing outside my gate I was smoking a cigarette texting on my phone when a three wheeler showed up. Both the driver and passenger on my side were dressed in street clothes (tshirts, jeans, trousers and Bata slippers). At first I presumed that the three wheeler stopped thinking I was waiting for one. I was asked by the driver what I was doing which I ignored the question. Then the guy behind asked me the same thing. I thought I was about to get jumped. Then I noticed the third passenger was a policeman in uniform. They exited the vehicle and demanded me to give an explanation as to what I was doing claiming they were the police and one of them being the “OIC Crime”. I informed them that I was standing outside my gate and that it was my house. They said they suspected me as a burglar.

By this time my mother came out and they demanded for my ID. I pulled out my wallet and the one saying he was the “OIC” grabbed it from my hand. At this point I pulled my wallet back which was followed by him shoving me into my mother who fell back into the gate. The “OIC” demanded again for my ID which I produced. He told me he was confiscating it and for me to come to the police station the next day. In his words “thamuse varen heta polisiyata, umbata parippuwak thennan“. I told him if he was taking my ID I wanted him to issue me a summons with his PC number and name. He refused saying he did’nt have to. They then got into the three wheeler and drove off. I immediately went to the Kohuwala Police station to log an entry saying three persons claiming to be Police took off with my ID. When I got to the station, the same three-wheeler pulled up behind me. The ”OIC” grabbed me by my neck yelling that I wasn’t home no more and that I was in his house. There were around 8 Policemen during this time. He dragged me to the back room slammed my head into the wall and hit me three times on the left side of my face while insulting me in profanity. He further went onto say in Sinhalese, that he would tie me and my father to a chair while he raped my mother. After continuing his assault and profanity laced tirade he hit me on the back of my head while throwing me in the cell saying, “you better not mention what happened here as I know where you live”. This was followed by profanity and insults about my race, I am Burgher, and that we were nothing but “goo kariyo” as had a race in a whole. I decided to let this lunatic know that while he was enjoying his little moment that I would have my day in the morning. I was allowed out at 6:30AM after my mother spoke to the Chief Inspector of Kohuwala Roshan Rajapakse. After instructions to release me and my statements and fingerprints taken, the lunatic “OIC” who was back on duty put me back in the cell for another hour which according to him was to give me further “parippu”. Having found out that I was still not released things got heated and I was then taken to the Judicial Medical Officer at Kalubowila at the instruction of the C.I. Having completed my examination I was met by my boss who took me back to the Kohuwala Police demanding for an apology. I must say that the C.I. of Kohuwala Police was very professional, apologetic and disturbed over the incident and extended his help and service to maximum. He promised a full investigation as well as protection for my family in case of any retaliation. However I don’t plan on letting this matter stop here. This lunatic thinks he is above the law because he wears a uniform, which in this case he was not. I think it should be known to everyone that seeking help from the Police can sometimes come with unexpected problems and harassment like in my case. I would appreciate your thoughts on how to continue this matter further as his threat against my family and home is of utmost importance.”


Kohuwela Police Deny Assault – Victim Claims Otherwise
By Raisa Wickrematunge in Sunday Leader
The man who claimed that he had been assaulted by police attached to the Kohuwela police station had never filed an official complaint regarding the incident, Police spokesman SP Ajith Rohana said.
‘Once he has filed a written statement, we can begin investigations,’ Rohana said.
However, contrary to the police spokesman’s claims The Sunday Leader learnt through reliable police sources that the victim Alex Van Cuylenberg (26) had indeed made two statements to the police charging officers attached to the Kohuwela police station with brutal assault.
The first statement he made was at 3.15 a.m. on Friday April 27 and the second at 10.40 a.m. also on the same day. Details of his statement was subsequently shared extensively online.
According to SP Ajith Rohana the police officers had said that they were on the alert considering the number of drug-related cases. They had spotted a man outside a house, and not knowing who the owner was, had approached him, thinking he was trying to break into the house.
When they had approached him, Cuylenberg had reacted aggressively and spoken rudely to the policemen, they claimed. They vehemently denied assaulting him, but Rohana admitted that ‘there was an argument’.
Last Friday, Cuylenberg alleged, three people in a vehicle had approached him and asked for his identification, when he was standing outside his own house at Kohuwela. Two were in civilian clothes while a third was in uniform. They had then snatched his ID card and he had pulled it back, resulting in an argument.
The men had then taken Cuylenberg to the Kohuwala police station where he claims he had then been beaten on the left side of his face. The policeman had also threatened to tie his father (who was not there at the time) and him to a chair and rape his father, and had then gone on to insult his [Burgher] ethnicity in filth, Cuylenberg alleged.
   However the police officers vehemently denied the charges and said that while there had been an argument, they had never beaten the boy. ‘This is just what both sides have to say. We still have to investigate. We can only do that once he files an official written complaint,’ Rohana said.
**** ALSO SEE:  “Chilaw Police Illegally Arrested, Tortured an Innocent Man” =


Filed under accountability, life stories, racist thinking, sri lankan society, trauma

4 responses to “An Instance of Police Brutality and Sinhala Racism suffered recently by Alex Van Cuylenburg of Kohuwala

  1. Jake Milton

    There isn’t much you can do about this in present day Sri Lanka if you are not a Sinhala Buddhist Rajapakse pimp. Just imagine how they would treat a poor Tamil in this situation. They will charge him as Kottiya as well and throw him into jail under PTA..

  2. Olive Nelson

    What else would you expect? Would the police ever admit they assault people? Would someone who wants to break into a house stand outside it and smoke a cigarette? Would he not be more sneaky about it? The situation is rather frightening because the police never lets off anyone who exposes them. The young man returned to Sri Lanka to give support to his mother and sister who were going through a very difficult time looking after his father who had a severe stroke and is still unable to walk. Protection for the young man’s safety must be assured by the police.

  3. sach

    tell me what can we do, Even i am losing hope for this country day by day. We need a strong citizen movement to stop this police brutality. But i dont see anybody starting it.

  4. Dr.V.Raghavan

    When I was a young teenager I remember Colvin saying to all of us then young men in Bernard’Silvas garage in Fernando place that “as a country Sri Lanka is not yet ready for democracy” and Mrs.Bandaranyake is going drag the country into doldrums and he also said we would have been better off as a British colony” It sounded extreme at that time but today to think about it he was not far from the mark. If you think about it Sri Lanka has police made illiterate with uniform. We have Buddhist monks once again illiterate with saffron uniform, the LTTE another group of uniformed thugs they all had one thing in common power and authority without, dignity, intelligences or responsibility. Today you have Mr. N K Illangakoon – Inspector General of Police is once again poorly educated individual who does not prepared to listen to the public and bring his team to account. Without the knowledge and resolve he will never be able to bring any change in his team of police officers. We can write anything we like but it will take generations for this country to change and it is not going to happen in a hurry. We left Sri-lanka because we chose to.

Leave a Reply