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    Sri Lanka Police Face Questions After Tuesday’s Firing on Protestors

    GovernanceAccountabilitySri Lanka Police Face Questions After Tuesday's Firing on...
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    Sri Lanka Police Face Questions After Tuesday’s Firing on Protestors

    An on-spot magisterial enquiry into Tuesday’s firing on protestors has been accompanied with voices of condemnation from the US Embassy in Sri Lanka, the delegation of the European Union and Amnesty International’s SouthAsia office in Colombo.

    A judicial enquiry into the incident has begun after a magistrate rejected a police report and undertook an on-site probe into the police firing on Sri Lankan protestors on Tuesday. Residents showed the magistrate blood stains on road about half a kilometre away from the place in which the terror had occurred. People said that there were more places with blood stains that had been washed away.

    The police statement before the court had many loopholes and observers pointed to discrepancies in the account the police offered in the court. There were also divergences from the account the police media spokesperson and the inspector general of police had provided to the media.

    The government was also stunned as the government attorney made a remark on social media and published photographic evidence matching the residents’ version of the story.

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    According to media reports and videos circulating online, people were participating in a largely peaceful protest before the police began using tear gas and water cannons to disperse protestors, and it escalated quickly with a bus being set on fire.

    Police had clashed with protesters on Tuesday and fired into the crowd, shooting dead one, in what police officials described as “minimum force” to disperse the angry unarmed crowd. 24 people, including eight police personnel, were injured.  The police said that they had only used tear gas.

    Other sources said that over 5o people, including journalists covering the incident, have been arrested and dozens more injured – many assaulted and subjected to torture or other ill treatment in police custody. A curfew was also imposed in an attempt to control the situation.

    Minister justifies police action

    In the face of protests from the opposition benches in Parliament on Wednesday, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Public Defense, Prasanna Ranatunga said that the police firing on the protestors in Rambukkana was in accordance with the police ordinance that includes rules of engagement and standard operating procedures.

    He said that the police have the necessary powers to do so, adding that the police action was in response to protesters attempting to set fire to a bowser containing 33,000 liters of fuel, endangering all of Rambukkana.

    Calls for impartial inquiry

    The United States ambassador in Colombo has called for impartial investigations into the violent State action against protestors that killed at least one.

    US Ambassador to Colombo, Julie Chung said she had a discussion with the Human Rights Council of Sri Lanka and urged for a fair, impartial investigation.

    “Discussed with Human Rights Council of Sri Lanka the injustice of violence against unarmed protesters and need for a full, transparent investigation of the Rambukkana violence,” Chung said in her official Twitter feed.

    Simultaneously, human rights watchdog Amnesty International too raised concerns over the violence at the protest.

    “There must be a prompt, impartial and effective inquiry with a view of holding perpetrators to account,” Amnesty International said in a Twitter message.

    “The Sri Lankan authorities must not use unnecessary or excessive force to disperse protesters who are suffering the consequences of an economic crisis that is spiralling out of control,” read a statement from Yamini Mishra, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.  “Even in instances where protests turn violent, law enforcement officers must only use force where absolutely necessary and it must be strictly proportionate to the situation,” she said.

    European Union Delegation too came out with a statement saying it deplores the loss of life and injuries after the Rambukkana events.

    “Any violence has to be condemned and the EU reiterates the need for restraint from both authorities and demonstrators. EU encourages all parties to find political solutions to the current crisis,” it said.

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