Sri Lanka Police have come under severe criticism for violating their own guidelines in handling the investigation into the murder of Surendra Wasantha Perera, Chairperson of Sunhill Group of Companies, widely known as “Club Wasantha.”

The criticism arose from the release of footage showing the interrogation of one of the suspects, Dulan Sanjula.

Senior Media personality Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya sharing the guidelines on social media, questioned as to why the Police are not adhering to their own rules or the guidelines established by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL).

According to guidelines issued in 2022 by then Inspector General of Police (IGP) C.D. Wickramaratne, footage and images of suspects are not permitted to be released to the media without prior approval.

These guidelines were designed to protect constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights and to ensure that media circulation does not hinder the legal process, the IGP said. The guidelines clearly stated that any officer found violating these instructions would face disciplinary action.

Despite these guidelines, footage showing the interrogation of Dulan Sanjula by police officers, including DIG Western Province (South) Division G. Marapana, was disseminated widely across social media platforms.

The video, which went viral, showed Sanjula providing key information about the conspiracy to murder Club Wasantha, including details about its alleged masterminds and funding sources.

Human rights activists and legal experts have condemned the police’s actions. Saliya Pieris, former President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, criticized the police for their unprofessional conduct, stating, “A criminal investigation must be done in a professional manner with the aim of bringing an offender to justice, not with the aim of gaining cheap publicity. This sort of live ‘confession’ being shared on mainstream and social media will adversely affect the final outcome of the case. Disciplinary action should be taken against these police officers,” he said.

The HRCSL had previously addressed concerns about similar police action by Police.

In 2021, the HRCSL sent a letter to IGP Wickramaratne, highlighting Police Departmental Order D 05, which prohibits publishing information about suspects in custody through the media, as it could lead to administrative issues and violate the rights of suspects.

The HRCSL instructed the IGP to take measures to prevent such incidents in the future.

In response, Wickramaratne issued directives on 14 February 2022, through RTM 382, instructing all senior police officers to refrain from releasing images, videos, and other details related to investigations, including questioning and statements from suspects, to social media and other outlets.

As the investigation into Surendra Wasantha Perera’s murder continues, the actions of the Sri Lanka Police has come under intense scrutiny from human rights groups, legal professionals, and the public.