26 September, 2020

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Weliweriya, Gampaha: Black Thursday 2013

By Dayan Jayatilleka –

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

Who deployed troops, clad in flak jackets (body armour) and armed with T-56 assault rifles to confront and disperse a crowd of protestors blocking a highway? Who was the ultimate decision-maker? The protestors were not armed, certainly not with lethal weapons. Therefore, no real harm could have come to soldiers in body armour. A ‘clash’ between lethally armed soldiers and protestors with stones and slippers is not a clash that warrants in any way, the use of lethal force.

The crucial question must then be posed: who gave the order for a military unit armed with deadly force to be deployed against an unarmed civic protest, in a situation where the normal law prevails and a state of Emergency has not been declared because it was manifestly not warranted? What was the chain of command responsibility? Why was the task not left to the riot police? The question of who gave the order to shoot and for what reasons is a secondary one.

I find it impossible to believe, that on his first day as Army commander, the able and sophisticated Gen Daya Ratnayake, a thinking soldier, would have made this decision. I find it no less implausible that Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose mode for decades has been to use the strengths of his personality for dialogue and dissembling, to charm Southern constituencies, would have opted for martial methods, at the commencement of an election campaign. So the mystery remains, if mystery it is.

What was the logic of sending in troops? Why were they wearing body armour? Why were they carrying T-56 assault rifles? Since when are troops sent in crowd control situations in which there are men, woman, children and clergymen, none of whom have been spotted as carrying lethal weapons? It is not as if the protestors were tossing Molotov cocktails at the police who could therefore not control the crowd.


What are the implications of the decision to deploy troops with assault rifles, when there is no State of Emergency? Is it that the army will henceforth be used against unarmed demonstrators in the South? In an earlier step on the escalation ladder, the STF had been used, against a protest by fisher-folk. Specialised army units were then used to suppress, with an entirely one sided result and massive casualties, a prison riot. Now the army has been deployed against unarmed demonstrators in the South or shall we say the non-former conflict zones.   

Ah, but could it have been a conspiracy against the country? Doesn’t the shooting come just on the first of the very month that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visits Sri Lanka, in fact just three weeks before the visit? Could it not been a force hostile to Sri Lanka that spread the rumour of toxic waste, brainwashed the protestors into excessive concern about the quality of their drinking water and the health of their children, bribed them into protesting on the streets, and armed them lethally with slippers and stones? Perhaps it was all part of an Arab Spring ‘regime change’ strategy—the crucial move of which was to send in the indispensable ingredient for the crime: troops with assault rifles and body armour. Thus we must be unafraid to ask ourselves whether it was the CIA, the NSA, the RAW, the ‘13A Nazis’, the Halal imposing Koran thumpers, Justice Wigneswaran, Karunanidhi and Jeyalalitha, or Fr Emmanuel and Lawrence Rudrakumaran who gave the order.

How will the world view Sri Lanka after the events of yesterday? Having known and sparred successfully in defence of our country’s sovereignty with two, not just one, UN High Commissioners for Human Rights – Louise Arbour and Navi Pillay—I can say with confidence and dismay, that Weliweriya would only substantiate the call for an international inquiry and the demand for the opening of an office of the High Commissioner in Sri Lanka. When I opposed it in 2007-2009, we could credibly claim to hold the moral high ground since we were fighting a fascistic foe. The demonstrators in Weliweriya who faced lethal force hardly fall into the same category as the suicide-terrorist Tigers and therefore our refusal of an office of the High Commissioner to monitor human rights abuses would lack the moral credibility it once had.

The obvious observations will be, if this is how the State authorities treat unarmed Sinhalese, largely Buddhist civilian men, women and children who are protesting against polluted water, how must that state have treated the Tamils in the closing stages of the war? How could authorities who didn’t care about possible casualties when sending in armed troops into unarmed crowds, care enough about Tamil civilians in the last days of and the morning after the war? If Weliweriya demonstrates the policy of the State and how the forces of the state behave towards the Sinhalese, how must they have conducted themselves in the North and East for thirty years and how must they be functioning in the former conflict zones today?

The argument of national sovereignty as currently deployed by the state and its ideologues, has a hole shot through it after the Gampaha killing. National sovereignty and popular sovereignty are twins. National/state sovereignty refers to external threats, those from outside our borders, and does not confer license to override popular sovereignty, the sovereignty of the citizen, most especially in a state constitutionally defined and designated a democratic Republic since 1972.

Coming in the run-up to the Northern Provincial Council election, the question cannot but be posed as to whether the Establishment which sent lethally armed soldiers to confront a crowd of unarmed civilians in the Gampaha district yesterday, will do otherwise, or deploy less force, if faced with peaceful protests over, let us say, issues of land seizure in the North. What if school-children, nuns, or elected members of the Provincial Council are shot or disappeared? Will that not trigger a surge in Tamil Nadu, followed by a demarche from Delhi in an election year? Will this not open the road to R2P?

30 years after Black July 83, a disturbing thought strikes me: Was Kuttimani right when he said 30 years ago, in his final speech in the Colombo High Court– months before he was slaughtered in Welikada jail– that the brutal methods used in Gurunagar army camp would come home to the south one day?

*Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka was Sri Lanka’s Ambassador/Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva 2007-9 and Vice–President of the United Nations Human Rights Council, 2007-2008

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    Pleae DON’T forget Sri Lanka has water problem – environmental problem:

    ‘’Large hotels are being built contaminating ground water and serving liquor near schools. When a Tamil industrialist (RAMCO) refused to restart KKS Cement saying the ecology cannot bear it, a Nepalese was brought in to tear our landscape apart. The police beat signs of Tamil aspirations into silence and do price controls to take bribes. Our institutions are mismanaged by political stooges” – S.Ratnajeevan H. Hoole, 30 June 2013, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/tamil-university-part-i-fr-xs-thani-nayagam-and-the-mannar-university/

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    Was the army rushed in and the Police asked to be ruthless because
    the industry involved was one in which the regime favourite and Royral family financier Dhammika Perera has wide interests.

    Heenbanda

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      heenbanda:
      YES!

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    a this was not a peaceful protest . these morons were throwing everthing they could at the soilders . it was bound to happen , dont make a mountain of a molehill . this happenned every year in university capuses for years ,

    I agree it is probably a bad idea to let the 58 th division and the coandos do crowd control . but any idiot looking at the video can see that there was ample provacation no matter the cause ,

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      ” but any idiot looking at the video can see that there was ample provacation no matter the cause “

      Does it mean that the Army had the right to shoot live ammunition at civilians who were Un-armed?
      I begin to wonder, IF there is something similar to the Arab Spring.. How many innocent people would be killed by live bullets…. that way… the Chinese were better in handling the Tinaman Square…incident…

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        are you retarded . they tried everything. no doubt they would have been better served with water cannons or something of that nature . Clearly the 58 the division and the commandos are not well suited for crowd control . but this happenned every year when I was at the university , the JVP organizes a protest , they make sure it goes violent the cops shoot somebody gets killed , and the JVP has won . This is why I hate those commie basterds . this is the stuff they live on .

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          Abhaya, monowada A-Baya-welada anduwata? You swallow everything that the government tells you. Every time the government does something stupid, they always come out blaming some one else, this time JVP, last time when BBS attacked muslims it was halal, before that when Tamils were attacked it was tigers, when the whole world asked for a war time investigation it was foreign countries and diaspora… The government does not have the guts to own up and above all when there are people like you to swallow everything the government says, why should they worry. There are enough “Modayas” in Sri Lanka (as the famous saying goes).

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          You seem more retarded than I am, you say they tried everything… seriously? what cowards to fire live ammunition on civilians who are not armed with weapons… well for you a water bottle may be a weapon of mass destruction? crowd control is the job of the police… not the Army … UNLESS a case of serious nature… well, now Army is involved in selling vegetables and running restaurants… so why not crowd control huh?

          Slowly but surely we are marching towards a dictatorship…or aren’t we already at the finishing line ? then we would see division between 2 brothers to be in power… That would be the day…… SL may have 2 deaths in one family simultaneously and see the dawn for the better… until then we got to shut up and buckle up and ride the tide…

          Wonder if GOATa’s trip to Uganda was to lay the groundwork to flee there with the war bounty and claim asylum… coz he wont be able to go to any other country… Yes US may want him too, to try for crimes against Humanity… US wont revoke his US citizenship coz they want to get him, at the right place at the right time… IF Snowden, a born American’s Citizenship could be revoked, why not GOATa’s who ” acquired citizenship after claiming refuge….? they have a plan….

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            no you are certainly more retarded if you dont beleive this happens every where in the world . the idiots were doing thew typical thing palastenians do in front of israile troops and reaped the same results . I dont care about gota or MR but if we are not careful the JVP basterds will come up with a third blood bath . they are just looking for the new cause .

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              Israel a different race from Palestine similar to Sinhala and Tamil.

              Here you shoot at your own unarmed protesters. These are the suckers who were asking blood donations when they run low.

              The respect 58 Div. had is gone along with the Military. I see them as assasins than soldiers. What could you expect from a Buffalo Solja when the top is also a Buffalo.

              Now people wonder if Ch.4 documentary is True and correct.

              Looking at the sky for the next humaniterian Drone Parippu drop.

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    Isn’t it a shame that Daya Ratnayake has been dragged into this totally Opposition inspired and excecuted trial run?.

    JVP militants and the ex employees have worked the villagers to a tee.

    And guess who was in the Village to reap the political harvest, or should it be gathering the spoils?.

    None other than the Right Wing Ranil who is currently and totally dependent on the support of the Christian members in the Executive.

    And to to top it all, John Amratunga has given a twist to make it a battle of the Christians vs Gotabya the BBS worrier.

    JVP, Ranil, and the Christians lead by John Amratunga , what a Holy alliance.

    Wonder how our renowned and well respected Political Scientist who normally plays to the sort of Broadway (or should it be Parisian) type audiences got down to Weliweriya?.

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      i think you got your thoughts in a twist my friend Leela alias ‘K A Sumanasekera) the protesting villagers are from a Buddhist area and not Christians
      nor is Ranil the man who asked the Army to pull the trigger….now that the army has pulled the trigger and a villager is dead,,,,vermin like you do the job of justifying it huh….!

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        This can’t be taken as similar to the terrorist wipe out which was long due even at that time. Had not it happen, these Internet heroes wouldn’t even open up their foul mouths.

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      KAS Please ask your friend Daya Ratnayake to resign.

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      Tsunamisekera:
      Why don’t you use your time (and this space?) to defraud a few more home buyers in another Lee Potter scam?
      You and that piffle-monger, Dayan Jayatilleke, belong in the shafts of the same double bullock cart, particularly since the Miracle of Asia will soon have even more of these on the super highways carrying firewood to people who can’t afford cooking gas!

  • 0
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    Dr. DJ,

    You have opened up your gun for a right thing. Continue to use it to defend helpless victims. But beware of your personal safety.

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    Ever since PSC was abolished in 1972 the civil service in particular the Police is awash with incompetent political appointees. This is hardly a major uprising. Although there is no confidence in the Police to handle even this. They would arrive stand by idle while crap hits the fan. You cannot blame the police either. Whenever bold decisions are taken they are transferred or penalised. As a result the Police have developed a culture of cowardice that holds them back even when Rome burns.

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    Its easy to see how it transpired. Civil disturbance breaks out. The local MP picks of the phone and asks Gota for help.

    The local MP should have not got involved at all. The Police should have been given the independence and space to act as they deem fit. Crowd control is their core competence. If the Police fails then suitable action need to redress those failures. The entire chain of command, reviews and procedures need to be revamped.

    Like the rest of the system there is no structure and overlapping authorities must be confusing. The defense in charge of “urban development”, Army controlling law and order its all a spagettii mish mash. Each pillar of state must become independent and clear structure must emerge for efficient governance.

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      well, the local MP = Basil Rajapaksa’s kingdom… hence the brother had to come to the rescue or Basil would not be able to represent this area in the future… NO matter what…now that the trigger has been pulled. I sincerely hope the VOTERS USE THEIR BRAINS the next time an election comes their way… and NOT be intimidated by the ruling elite or even the army….

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    Basil Rajapaksa Convenes All Party Meet to Find Short and Long Term Solutions to Weliweriya Water Crisis, 2 August 2013, http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/23590

    What about:
    Water crisis of the North = low water table
    Unsustainable development = ”development” promoted by Governor (retired military official appointed by President) without elected council = tourism perniciously promoted when people don’t have sustainable socio-economic development
    Sand scooped from seashores recklessly without a policy/plan based on SD but based on on military and paramilitary corruption

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    Gampaha became the Education Hub of this country, after the introduction of Swabasha in ’56. Some of the Sinhalese while pointing the finger at the Tamils for favouritism did the same to the fellow Sinhalese. Gampaha produced a large number of Teachers, school Principals and a Bureaucracy of mediocrity to man govt. Institutions. These newly qualified Vernacular mostly supported the SLFP govts who handled Elections, where the Postal votes bear testimony of their allegiance. Majority if not all were Olcot/Anagarika Buddhists. They are the ones who rejoiced most when the Forces suppressed the dissenting Tamils who took up arms to fight State Terrorism. Today these Sinhalese are tasting the ruthless State Power unleashed on them for demonstrating for a basic need of pure water. Way to go for the Dumb Moda Sinhalese.

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    A good article, expresses the outrage many of us feel. Rather than criticizing the writer we need to be concerned about what he says, particularly the heavy handed approach and worse, the use of the army.

    There appears to be fear driving the government leadership that makes them react with anger at the slightest sign of dissent, an inferiority complex as it were which makes them insecure, a siege mentality they cannot shake off despite being ensconced with such overwhelming power.

    Marginalizing the police has it’s own drawbacks,the service will get weakened and dependent on the army. This is happening now because both services are under one ministry. The two need to be separated and placed under different ministries. The police functions are vastly different. They are trained to deal with civilian issues. The STF is there for difficult situations. The army is trained mentally and physically for battle and they will see a protesting crowd as the enemy and not as ordinary people. Regular use of the armed services in civil matters and in enforcing law and order may also lead to ambitions to act independently. That is fraught with danger as many countries have found out to their cost. Therefore it is time for the President to restore the status existing previously before a bigger catastrophe befalls us.

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    Brilliant analysis Dr. Dayan. Thank so much for your very authentic and bold exposure of the military foundation that is being slowly but unmistakably laid down by a regime not only in the north but in the south as well to prolong their dictatorial rule by terrorizing and subduing the people who now begin to see their vile designs as anti-people.Dr.Dayan,you’re in your best element when you speak the truth and do it for the people.I consider this to be your best contribution in recent times.

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      Mahanama:
      Don’t you realize the reason for DJ’s “brilliance.” He has been one of the architects of that evil construct and is now critical only because he has ceased to harvest the benefits of the Rajapassa “governance.” Wake up, man, and smell the coffee!

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        Aney Apochchi!

        Don’t be a crazy ass. Dr. Dayan is not another Parliament Dhoby who cleans Rajapakse underwares for santhosam.

        The Hambanthota Tsunami carzy villege pimp Basta..d who came to power through fraudulent means think that Colombo educated, respectable Gentlemen could be duped to clean his under wares.

        But he could not do that with Dr.Dayan and many others. Now the Butcher look a like beareded Ponna…ya is left alone with a bunch of yes sir….no nothing uneducated donkeys.

        Let the crook Get ready to face the UN Navi Pillai and CHOGM springs, and pretty soon to face Hague. They are definitely coming.

        Yes the crazy pig eating shit is getting ready by practicing at Weliveriya Live Fire Humanitarian operation as a pre-condition to face CHOGM, UN and future protests.

        The Weliveriya second casulty is reported.

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    ARMY COMMANDER AND I.G.P. SHOULD KNOW THAT THEY ARE THERE TO PROTECT THE PEOPLE NOT TO KILL THEIR OWN PEOPLE.

    WE ARE BOUND TO HEAR SOME HOME TRUTHS FROM FORMER POLICE SPOKESPERSON.
    WHO HAS VACATED POST AND SEEKING REFUGE IN AUSTRALIA

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      wish he ( the police spokesperson)fled by boat and a mishap happened, for all the sugar coating he did on behalf of the ruthless regime…

      Payback is a bitch they say… sooner than later it will bite the ass well and good…
      btw how on earth could he ask for refuge I wonder, when he was the one who was telling the world that SL is not a country to consider as a hot spot…

      Mr Rudd… send him back to SL on the next available flight…. he is trying to use the loopholes of Australian Immigration for personal gain…

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    Unlike Sri Lanka 30 or 40 years ago, Sri Lanka has Sleuths working. Why the govt can not find any foreign influences in advance. If the govt say they can not handle it, then some people should resign and should hand over it to those who can do it.

    Chicken little stories would not work every day.

    OR are you accusing UNP and JVP have been bought by foreign forces ?

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      Dayan Jayatilake believes that due to his efforts he prevented the UN from conducting an inquiry against Sri Lanka. This was all UN drama where the Americans after helping MR to annihilate the surenderees, got these buggers to defend, for the Americans to use DJ type by giving him credit to divert the attention of the world. DJ was only cat’s paw for the Americans to cover their own involvement. That is all.

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        gamini

        Also Indian involvement.

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