1 October, 2020

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Undisputed That Troops Killed Three Protestors; Govt. Kneejerk Reaction Is To Deny Wrongdoing Says HRW

The Sri Lankan government should stop issuing misleading information and promptly create an independent and transparent inquiry into the deaths of protesters at Weliweriya on August 1, 2013, Human Rights Watch said today. At least three people were killed and several injured after security forces fired live ammunition at protesters who were demanding access to clean drinking water.

Meenakshi Ganguly

According to news reports, soldiers fired on local residents and Buddhist monks who were demonstrating for clean water on the Colombo-Kandy Road in Weliweriya, Gampaha district, about 25 kilometers from Colombo. The government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa claims that the soldiers reacted in self-defense against protesters who hurled rocks and petrol bombs and shot at them. The unclear circumstances leading to the deaths and injuries, as well as government statements exonerating the solders involved, highlight the need for an independent inquiry, Human Rights Watch said.

“It’s undisputed that security forces killed three protesters, but the Sri Lankan government’s knee jerk reaction is to deny possible wrongdoing,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of promoting the military’s version of events, the government should order an independent investigation and prosecute anyone who violated the law.”

It is not clear why soldiers were deployed so soon without giving the police and local authorities a chance to handle what had been a peaceful protest, Human Rights Watch said. Video footage shows soldiers with military assault weapons approaching the protesters. The protesters begin running from the scene, some throwing sticks and other objects, before the soldiers appear to fire first in the air and then at the protesters.

Some protesters sought safety in a local church, whose exterior walls were at some point struck by bullets. Church officials and eyewitnesses told journalists that armed soldiers entered the church and physically and verbally abused people hiding inside. Church staff were warned against supporting the protesters, with one nun being held at gunpoint, and journalists had their cameras broken. After the incident, journalists reported being threatened by military personnel against reporting.

The government’s immediate response to the shootings was to defend the army’s actions. Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa said the army was deployed at police request, promised an investigation, but warned that, “There are elements resentful of the popularity of the armed forces and President Rajapaksa. We are mindful of their strategy.” Earlier, insisting that the troops fired in self-defense, Nimal Siripala de Silva, the Leader of the House, said investigators would look into whether there were “external forces or parties, behind that incident, instigating people against the security forces personnel” – which in Sri Lankacarries the connotation that a militant group was involved.

The Ministry of Defense posted an article on its website making similar assertions and claiming that video footage of shooters in uniform were demonstrators, not soldiers. The article, “Attempting a Sri Lanka Spring Through a Civil Coup d’Etat,” says: “Let us also not forget that while the accusing finger points at the army there are also plenty of army deserters who continue to possess military fatigue…. So there is no ruling out of such individuals also being used.”

In the face of mounting public pressure, on August 3 the army announced a commission of inquiry to look into the protests. The National Human Rights Commission also announced an inquiry. Neither of these institutions are in a position to conduct impartial investigations that would be viewed as credible, Human Rights Watch said. The army commission is headed by Jagath Dias, a former general whose 57 Division was implicated in war crimes during the final year of Sri Lanka’s 26-year-long armed conflict. The National Human Rights Commission’s independence has in recent years been severely curtailed by the government.

Human Rights Watch called on the government to ensure that security forces responding to protests abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. The principles provide that security forces, including military personnel, shall “apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms,” and that “whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable,” law enforcement officials use force in proportion to the seriousness of the offense and the legitimate objective to be achieved, and minimize damage and injury. The intentional lethal use of firearms is only permitted when “strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.”

“The authorities’ decision to send soldiers armed with assault rifles to secure a demonstration is deeply worrisome,” Ganguly said. “The government needs to rethink its whole approach to ensure that people can peacefully and safely protest.”

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    Both Ministers Nimal Simenthipala Silva and Humbas Kota Dullas who spoke in Parliament on behalf of the MR govt. categorically stated that there were some who were armed with fire arms and petrol bombs who attacked the Army for them to shoot back at the demonstrators. If so why did the Army not shoot and kill them, instead of these poor innocent students? These Minister buggers are barefaced liars trying to save face of the BRUTAL Army? The people of Gampaha can not be fooled and now many of them regret having voted MR govt and despise the Forces totally.

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    This army appears to be the only one without a contingent of Military Policemen.
    In other countries,military police act to prevent excesses and unruly behaviour of the army in peacetime,and to maintain discipline.

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    when this draw this much international interest we can why govt wanted to react with military to stop this thing.

    Only thing is govt should explain to the Weliweiriya people how they were victimized by these people who ever they are.

    That would be best first response of the govt.

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    These statements will not do any difference to this brutal regime.HRW should take some effective meassures to prevent such things form happeneing again and bringing the culprits to the justice.Otherwise this is going to be just a bloody joke for them.

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    Dear Ms. Meenakshi

    Pleae get a translation of todays DIVAINA article by Manoj Abeydeera to study all aspects of the case. We cannot allow JVP thugs to run this country by thuggery. No factory should be allowed to be closed without proper investigation.

    There can be some mis handling of the issue by the Govt. I happened to read the `DIVAINA` Sinhala newspaperr today. An article was the3re where the writer gives a full scale report on what happened.
    You cannot close a factory just because some REDS want to do. Hayleys had got the factory established in 1994 after all approvals from Environment & BOI. Why did this contamination start. Because few months ago the company threw out 120 REDS for indiscilpine. They had surrounded the factory with the workers inside & was trying to burn the factory. Is this proper. Then rods were closed and traffic was disturbed and vehicles had to rustify for ocver 3 days. This is all REDS work.
    That writer says that name `RATHUPASWELA` name was given to the area because the soil is RED. Agriculture Dept recommends pineapple cultivation there due to this low PH content.
    This looks a planned attack by the REDS because of the grudge with company.
    Petrol bombs that were brought for the destruction of the factory was thrown at the Forces. Govt. should catch hold these fellows and punish them legally.
    Reds creata mayhem and then run away. Way side innocent people get into the catastrophy.

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      Dear Ranjith

      Thank you.At last someone is taking sense.The 3 people who got killed were shot by stray bullets aimed at rioters as happens all over the world.It is the villagers of rathupaswal who should take the blame for that.

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      Why don’t you raise your redda and look under it. You might find one of the reds hiding under it. The days of JVP thuggery are long gone you are either barking up the wrong tree or being deliberately misleading. I am a former employee of Hayleys I know dipped products ran a clean ship back then. But times have changed. The masters of thuggery, rape, murder, drug trafficking, brothel running are the Rajapakshes loud and clear unless you are living in La La land. It is quite suspicious that a company could have legally fired 120 employees in one go without violating some law or the other. There is a method to break up a protest established universally. It does not involve shooting live rounds from not just ordinary weapons but some very power full ones at unarmed civilians. Who ever who wrote this article you refer to is a government stooge. There are plenty of them and I am sure the Divaina will be very happy to publish any old garbage for people like you to keep quoting.

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    Where are the missing people of Weliveriya? Their bodies are appearing fro the northern seas.

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      Are the missing fellows the 120 RED fellows who started the tragedy.

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        Who started the TRAGEDY by not paying heed to the villager’s complaints of contaminated water, and the very individuals who were elected as Leaders by these very people from Gampaha, are the same who are totally responsible for this Tragedy and there are the nincompoops as these to distort the truth, to save the Alugosu Forces and exonerate the Corrupt, murderous Leaders. Way to go Sri Lanka.

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          Gamini:
          As usual, you are right.
          What happened is bad enough but that some less-than-human pandankarayas of an alugosu government seeks to lie in covering up the atrocities of those to whom they hold pandam is beyond description. Only in a hellhole like SL will this kind of thing happen.

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            Aney Appochchi, these sereppu supas of MR regime are insulting these poor villagers after inflicting injuries, which is even worse than the attacks. Some one should open the eyes of the villagers about this, so that next time around when Basil and Mervyn go for their votes they will be shown the broom stick.

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