The horrible military killings at Ratupaswala are nothing but mean and horrible killings. Nothing in the military terminology or strategic manuals could ever justify the horrible acts that happened at Rathupaswala. If there is some decency left in the military establishment in Sri Lanka, the first step that should be taken is to arrest the commanding officers who were in charge of these brutal acts of murder and the assaults committed at Rathupaswala. Nothing less than the immediate arrest of the commanding officers would demonstrate that there is any sanity left in the military system in Sri Lanka. If the President, as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, fails to have these officers arrested and brought before Court Martial for the horrible killings, he himself would be conniving with those who committed these horrible acts.
The people in the villages in Weliweriya are justifiably angry. The vast number of people that attended the funerals of the people who were brutally killed by the military itself shows how angry these people are. What answer has the government to all these people, as well as to all the people of Sri Lanka, who have seen this unspeakably low behavior of the military officers?
It is perhaps irrelevant to go into the history of the issue relating to the water contamination at this moment. Suffice it to say that people denied of water would rise in revolt anywhere in the world, for water and food are the stuff that people need in order to live. When the water they drink and use for other purposes is contaminated, people’s protests and even blocking roads in order to get attention are fully justified. The government should have acted long before people came to the road; they should have intervened and given people alternate ways to get water before anything else. A government that is not even able to provide drinking water cannot complain about people resorting to protest actions in order to get attention to the most basic of their needs.
However, the immediate issue is the behavior of Sri Lanka’s military under the command of some senior officers, who were sent to the spot to keep peace. What they in fact did is to behave worse than the worst of criminals. The price for their criminal behavior has been paid for by two school children and some others. The kind of injuries on the people who were assaulted by the military show the activity of madmen and not of any disciplined military.
The issue is as to how the Commander in Chief will respond. Will he not immediately arrest the commanding officers? Will he not demand that the commanding officers reveal all the details relating to the shooting? Who did the shootings that led to these deaths? How much ammunition has been issued and how much has been used? Anyone familiar with the military procedure that should have been observed can raise these questions. The question that the Commander in Chief should answer is whether all the soldiers who took part in this horrible crime should be not dismissed forthwith by the military. These are questions that should be answered first.
The question of justice needs to follow. However, any kind of ‘justice’ would be looked at with complete mistrust, and that would be quite justified if the Commander in Chief does not immediately arrest the commanding officers and take steps to bring them under court martial, together with the officers who did the shooting and other acts of violence at Rathupaswala.
*Statement by Asian Human Rights Commission