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Ranil takes on Govt. on Weliweriya

2013 Aug 07

By Ashwin Hemmathagama – Our Lobby Correspondent
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe demanded that the Government reveals why the military was deployed to quell a public demonstration instead of police riot teams, and blamed the incumbent regime for grossly mismanaging the issue and allowing it to spiral into a full-fledged war.  Making a special statement in Parliament yesterday,
He charged that the routine protocols that should be adopted in controlling crowds of demonstrators had been abandoned in favour of a military solution.
“There are a number of methods to disperse a public demonstration or a protest. Deployment of riot control groups, water attacks, tear gas attacks and rubber bullets can be used.
Warnings should be issued in all three languages before shooting. But it appears that none of these alternatives had been performed,” Wickremesinghe told the House.
The Opposition Leader called for an impartial investigation into the clashes that left three people dead and dozens wounded. He noted that the two students and the factory worker killed during the Weliweriya clashes had not been involved in the demonstrations, making their deaths senseless. “The students Akila Dinesh Jayawardena and Ravishan Perera, and 29-year-old Nilantha Pushpakumara took no part in this demonstration. The student, Akila Dinesh Jayawardena, submitted to that attack when he was on his way to take his mother back home from her workplace, and the student Ravishan Perera had encountered this sad lot while returning home after classes. Nilantha Pushpakumara was subjected to this attack while returning to his abode after a day’s work,” he explained.
Wickremesinghe, who had visited the funeral home of the second victim, the 18-year-old Perera, twice, said that he had been preparing to sit his Advanced Level exams this year when he was killed.
Condemning the attacks on the persons who had sought refuge in a church nearby, Wickremesinghe said that the Government had to take responsibility for the incident. “Why didn’t the Government seek for a solution to this problem by having discussions with relevant parties before it turned out to be a battle?” he queried.
“After the conclusion of the demonstration, there was no block whatsoever made to the transportation along Kandy Road. If so, why did they enter Weliweriya area and create unrest? Why did the Army go to that area? Why was the Army, rather than the Police, deployed to Weliweriya area? An explanation must be made as to why, in the first place, was the Police not deployed to settle this clash,” Wickremesinghe said.
He urged the Government to take immediate steps to resolve the drinking water issue in the area that had resulted in the mass demonstration and pay adequate compensation to all those who have been killed and injured in the violence.
Meanwhile, Leader of the House Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said that the military had fired upon civilians because the mob had fired at the soldiers and thrown Molotov cocktails and stones at advancing troops.
“Angry protestors had started to destroy public and private property and the law enforcement agencies had taken action to control the tense situation, which injured the officer in charge of the Weliweriya Police Station and eight other military personnel,” he told Parliament.
Some terminated factory workers from the plant being accused by residents of contaminating the ground water in the area had been suspected of involvement in the mob attack, he added.

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